KT Connections Blog

The IIoT is the Future of Manufacturing

The IIoT is the Future of Manufacturing

According to the World Economic Forum, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will transform many industries such as manufacturing, oil and gas, healthcare, aerospace and more. These industries combined account for nearly two-thirds of the world economy, making the IIoT a force to be reckoned with.

When we think about the differences between the IoT (the Internet of Things) and IIoT (the Industrial Internet of Things), it is important to first understand that instead of being a separate entity from IoT, IIoT is in reality a part of it. The IIoT is focused on increasing the efficiency of industry, while at the same time improving worker safety. Comparatively, the Internet of Things is an umbrella term for any device that connects to the Internet for additional utility.

Moreover, while the IoT includes primary consumer-grade technologies such as smart devices, the IIoT focuses on industrial applications such as manufacturing or agriculture.

The Age of Communication

The fundamental mission of IoT is to increase communication between devices as a means to increase their value to the user. For example, instead of having the lights in your home on a timer or even a motion sensor, with the IoT, your lights are part of a “smart” home network and are communicating with an app on your phone which can mimic your normal activity to appear that you are home, or turn on the A/C when you get close to home.

The IIoT works in the same way in which machines and other industrial infrastructure ‘speak’ to each other and report their status; the data collected can be used to gain insight into how the machines are operating. For example, a pump valve can be connected to Wi-Fi and either be opened or closed manually from an application, or be told to open and close automatically based on the temperature reading from another device.

The Insights of IIoT 

Some of the insights of the IIoT provide opportunities to increase productivity, reduce expenses, and improve worker safety. An example of how the IIoT can do this would be in predictive maintenance. KT Connections provides the ability to monitor and maintain your IT; when transferred to the world of IIoT, we can see several benefits.

While scheduled maintenance can catch device failure before it occurs, there is still the possibility that it will break before the scheduled maintenance, increasing expected expenses. Additionally, what if the machine doesn’t need maintenance, but because it’s on the schedule you spend resources to ‘maintain’ it; wasting time and money when it may not be required.

With the IIoT active, manufacturers are better able to collect data being generated by their machines. When analyzing the data, combined with machine-learning (remember the benefit of the IoT is that devices can communicate with each other), it can allow for a more personalized maintenance program. This provides the ability to maintain machines and enact repairs when they are needed, not when we think they are saving resources. This can make for substantial savings when considering the cost to maintain machines which can enter into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Investment in IIoT

While the IoT would seem to dominate the marketplace due to the sheer number of consumers and consumer-grade products, we see that the IIoT is ahead in some ways. Why? The cost of the technologies and the push for cost-cutting and efficiency-increasing technologies, two things the IIoT excels in.

When we think of IoT devices, we focus on disposable devices, fitness trackers, appliances, and other technologies with a short lifespan and relatively low cost to purchase. While your coffeemaker breaking may be annoying, it won’t cost you thousands of dollars to repair it or cause incredibly labor-intensive downtime to replace. If you’re, for example, an aerospace manufacturer, your replacement part won’t be a 10-minute away drive to Wal-Mart; so it’s critical to remain ahead of the curve, and the IIoT allows for that. This encourages high-stakes industries to invest in the IIoT at a level higher than consumer-grade businesses can do.

IIoT Vulnerabilities

While there are differences between the IoT and IIoT, unfortunately there remains one similarity: risks to security. As we noted previously, the IoT and their devices can be a security risk unless it is managed and treated as part of an all-encompassing security strategy.

While your smartwatch getting ‘hacked’ can be a risk to your home (and business) network, imagine the risk large manufacturers such as the aerospace industry may face. A cyber attack on such industries could risk financial damage or even place the health and safety of workers at risk. So before your business hops on the IIoT bandwagon, you must spend the time to develop a plan to protect your business from data breaches.

We’ve already seen specific examples of this, where vulnerabilities in a IIoT device gave outside entities the ability to control it. In fact, one of the most complex, frightening instances of malware did exactly that:

The Stuxnet Worm is possibly one of the most expensive-to-produce viruses of all time. It was likely designed by multiple national intelligence agencies with the singular purpose of replicating and spreading itself until it found its way into very specific industrial control systems found in uranium enrichment facilities. Once there, it reports incorrect data to the logic controllers and the operators, causing the facility to operate improperly in order to gradually damage it.

Stuxnet isn’t the only case of this, but it certainly is a shining example of just how scary this can get.

The Future of Manufacturing is IIoT

As the IoT is spreading to an ever-increasing amount of devices, so does the IIoT to a variety of industries, from robotics to transportation and others. What is exciting about the IIoT is that new industries will be created to take advantage of the new normal and will shift the type of training usually associated with heavy industries. In a world where experience in analytics, system and network integration, and of course cybersecurity come to the forefront, the image of the blue-collar worker will have to evolve, as the technology does.

There is no question that, as we progress into the information age, the IIoT will only continue to increase and dominate manufacturing and your business will need to be prepared for it. For help securing your business in preparation for this shift, or to simply learn more about the Industrial Internet of Things and the Internet of Things, give KT Connections a call at 605-341-3873.

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