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What is Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

What is Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)? When we hear the term “things”, it is inexplicable that one begins to wonder how the internet could be related to things and what exactly “things” in that context could mean.

What is Industrial Internet of Things

Table of Contents

Internet of Things (IOT)

Let’s define “things” as any natural or man-made object that could be assigned an internet protocol (IP).

A more general definition, the internet of things is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals, or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the inherent ability to transfer data over a network with minimal human or machine intervention. 

Internet of things (IoT) also defines an aggregate collection of network-enabled devices for which intelligent appliances form an integral component.

The primary goal of internet of things application is to have devices that self-report in real-time, bringing information to the surface more efficiently.

The internet of things (IoT) highlighted goal provides immense benefits for many applications, where industrial applications form a critical use case.

The industrial internet of things (IIoT) is thus a significant application of the internet of things outside the consumer space and enterprise IoT market.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT)

Let’s define IIoTs as an industrial framework where a large number of devices or machines are synchronized and connected through the use of software tools and third platform technologies in a machine–to–machine context.

Generally, a user in an IIoT implementation should have access to the machines/sensors/actuators, perform some level of processing and data analytics, have internet connectivity and connection to an edge or cloud-based service, and be able to receive access to alerts relating to queries.

In the industrial internet of things (IIoT), there is a core focus on machine-to-machine communication (M2M), big data, and machine learning.

IIoT is an intersection between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), where operational technology refers to the networking of operation processes and industrial control systems (ICS).

IIoT allows for transformational business outcomes by providing a means for advanced data analytics and the enablement and deployment of intelligent industrial operations comprising of humans, machines, and computers.

IIoT uses intelligent sensors and actuators to enhance manufacturing and industrial processes.

IIOT is also known as the industrial internet or industry 4.0. This is because it leverages the power of intelligent machines and real-time analytics to elicit knowledge from the data produced by otherwise “dumb machines”.

The health and future of any business are greatly representative of the decisions taken in real-time.

However, industrial processes that operate with dumb machines would be inundated with slow decision-making and poor knowledge elicitation.

This will be significantly alleviated with connected sensors and actuators, as real-time data analytics will aid the quick detection of inefficiencies and other related problems.

This will ensure time and money are saved, in addition to offering support to other business intelligence efforts.

IIoT system has four stages:

  • sensor/actuator
  • internet gateway/data acquisition
  • Edge IT
  • Data center/Cloud.
IIot flow

Typical industrial environments have “things” comprising of mainly analog devices. However, without an IIoT implementation, the majority of these devices are dumb.

The connection of sensors to provide information related to the state and operation of the machine/system is what makes it an intelligent system.

Stage 1 depicts the adoption of sensors and actuators to otherwise dumb machines.

The sensors and actuators could be either of the wired or wireless kind, where the choice of either communication mode depends on the application of use.

In the stage 2 phase, data acquisition is accomplished by applying relevant signal conditioning methodologies, while stage 3 and 4 comprises the data processing and analytics phase, as well as data management and archiving on the cloud/data center.

Summarily, an IIoT ecosystem provides intelligent assets that can communicate and store information they sensed about themselves, communicate to and through a private/public data communications infrastructure, and data analytics for generating business information from raw data.

The essential requirement for an IIOT architecture are primarily:

  • Scalability
  • Real-time capability
  • Interoperability
  • Data protection
  • Security.

Edge computing devices (sensors, actuators, and intelligent devices) are integral to satisfying these requirements.

IIOT technologies, Benefits and Security Risks

There are diverse IIoT technologies out there, either at a theoretical stage or in the production stage:

The wireless evolution for automation (WEVA)  architecture consisted of sensors, actuator boards, motes, operating systems, protocols, and access gateway services.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) uses tags and readers for identification using radio waves.

The Intelligent Edge depicts the place where data is generated, analyzed, interpreted, and addressed, which ensures secure and faster computing and data processing, electronic logging devices (ELD)

And many more technologies provide diverse benefits to a typical industrial or manufacturing process, such as:

  • More rapid detection of productivity weakness and problems
  • Lower failure rates and increased production efficiency
  • Reduction of error rate and improved quality control
  • Costs saved by avoidance of unnecessary repairs
  • Improved technical customer service
  • Fewer machine failures and better availability
  • Optimization of business processes through remote monitoring action

Despite these benefits of using the IIoT approach, there are also inherent security risks that need to take into consideration, such as

  • Device hijacking
  • Data siphoning
  • Denial of Service attacks (DDOS)
  • Data breaches
  • Data theft
  • Man in the Middle Attacks

Depending on the application of use, a breach of an IIoT environment could result in a leak of vital confidential information, unauthorized access to data related to business processes, or a complete sabotage/compromise on a product being manufactured or damage to industrial control systems.

Thus, efficient security protocols must be adopted to prevent unauthorized access to the IIoT environment.

This can be achieved using powerful IoT platforms, which securely analyze the collected data from the devices and send instructions back to the devices.

Examples of such platforms are Microsoft Azure which many companies rely on, and platforms from other manufacturers such as Amazon, IBM, ORACLE, Hitachi, SAP, etc.

IIoT also benefits immensely from 5G technology as it allows for extremely high reliability, real-time capability, low latency, high data throughput, greater mobility, much tighter networking, and IT security.


The world has gone beyond the over-reliance on human wisdom and insight, especially regarding the real-time analysis of big data.

Industrial processes generate lots of data, which, if properly harnessed, would optimize business processes and lead to higher profitability due to reduced cost and improved efficiency.

The industrial internet of things provides an environment for generating critical business insights by eliminating “dumb” devices/machines/technologies and integrating intelligent devices for real-time monitoring, operation, and control.

Advancements in sensor technologies, 5G technologies, Cloud-based technologies, and data centers would result in IIOT being adopted by major and small industrial players to ensure they reap its benefits.

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