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Inside Industrial IoT: The promises and the challenges

Way before IoT became a buzzword, industrial verticals had connected systems – now, networking industrial devices to enterprise IT is unlocking great potential, and big challenges.

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Sensors on factory floors and connections among all sorts of manufacturing equipment were around for decades before the recent rise of IoT, where disparate, everyday items like thermostats, washing machines and even cars are being hooked up to the internet and probed for valuable data.

Networked industrial devices were called connected systems but were essentially isolated from the world of enterprise IT. IoT is changing that.

The industrial internet of things, IIoT, is a branch of IoT that involves connecting devices and machinery in the energy, transport and other industrial sectors to systems and applications for monitoring, control and data analysis. It involves the merger of classic enterprise IT with  operational technology, or OT – essentially, the instrumentation of physical devices and processes.

IIoT promises great productivity gains

IIoT systems allow companies to, among other things, automate, monitor and control  machines, vehicles and production processes; track items in supply chains; and collect, store and analyze data for predictive maintenance and inventory management. In this way, IIoT can lead to cost optimization, greater companywide efficiencies and new services for customers.

IIoT has also helped spark the creation of complementary technology and concepts such as  digital twins, replicas of physical devices that can be used for prototyping and simulating the activity of machines before they are deployed.

IIoT poses security risks, and hurdles to implementation

Along with great promise, IIoT poses great challenges. To cite just one complication, there are a wide variety of different networking technologies and protocols involved in machine-to machine communications.

In addition, because IIoT involves critical transportation, industrial and utilities infrastructure, system failure or a crippling attack by hackers could likely be much more serious, and even life-threatening, than hacking consumer items.

Ultimately, IIoT initiatives are too complex to be attempted unless well-defined, overarching business purposes are driving them and shaping their architecture. To accomplish this, staff from the OT and IT side of the house need to come together to shape strategy.

Inside Industrial IoT: The promises and the challenges