How the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Is Spurring Innovation

How this tech trend will drive innovation in the coming decade


For years, the American railway industry had been dogged by preventable accidents and slow service, even though it had one of the most advanced railway infrastructures in the world. For instance, Amtrak, a major railway service in the US, had at least one in every five trains delayed in 2016.

Enter Siemens, the German company using elements of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to disrupt the industry. The company uses over 900 sensors planted on Amtrak’s locomotives to help detect failures before they happen, ultimately reducing delays and cutting down on maintenance costs.

Siemens’ work in the railway industry represents a growing number of traditional companies using elements of the IoT to disrupt regular operations.

IIoT, the industry-level implementation of the Internet of Things (IoT), often refers to the network of machines, devices, infrastructure, and other 'things' capable of autonomous communication and, in advanced systems, decision making in real-time.

It’s an enormous market too. A report by the Boston Consulting Group predicts that IoT-related expenditures will exceed $300bn by 2020, with half of that coming from transport, manufacturing and utility industries. Some experts even estimate that the IIoT will have an economic impact in excess of $11 trillion by 2025.

So, with IIoT attracting big money, here are a few ways that this tech trend will drive innovation within the coming decade.

1. Industrial Analytics and Predictive Maintenance

In an industrial setting, the IoT can connect multiple devices and whole systems within a large geographical area, with each device acting as a data collection point. The large amounts of data collected at these points can be aggregated in real time and used to highlight problems before they occur.

And because many industries are naturally wired to be reactive, only fixing problems when they occur, predictive maintenance is one of the biggest areas that can benefit from IIoT.

Take Caterpillar for instance. The heavy equipment manufacturer started using data from its connected machines, devices, engines, and other equipment for data analytics, enabling dealers to anticipate problems and schedule smart maintenance activities on their way to capturing up to $18bn in revenue.

2. Using Sensors to Improve Industrial Efficiency

Sensor-driven computing is another huge area in IIoT that has developed in recent years. It basically involves the use of sensors to detect and convert external conditions such as temperature and voltage into measurable insights that humans can use. And with the size and cost of sensors coming down drastically over the past couple of years, we’ll see new, advanced methods of data collection within the IIoT driving the next wave of innovation in manufacturing and allied industries.

Additionally, advanced algorithms and energy-efficient sensors (or 'things') will help drive product innovations. Dangerous and highly technical industrial procedures such as high voltage testing and fuel efficiency tests will benefit immensely from sensor-driven computing.

ZF Friedrichshafen AG is among global brands that are putting these advanced sensor-driven technologies to use. For its GPS product, the company reduces transmission-related repairs and fuel consumption by analyzing the driver’s behavior, coupling that with data about topography to help save trucking companies millions of dollars in maintenance and fuel expenses.

3. Smart Factories and Machines

Industrial analytics and next-age sensors are among IIoT trends that are helping to usher in the next age of smart factories, or “Industry 4.0.”

IIoT provides the necessary infrastructure for real-time data analytics, an important element for critical factory applications and processes such as employee safety and quality control. Real-time decision-making also means greater responsiveness and efficiency, which ultimately allow businesses to increase overall value to end-users.

In addition to improved data analytics, intelligent, interconnected machines have the capability to transform how consumers interact with products.

For instance, back in 2014, BMW and SAP launched a pilot program that would allow BMWs around the world to be interconnected, which takes the whole concept of IoT to the next level. Cars would receive offers and promotions as they passed by accredited BMW merchants or get firsthand information on a vacant parking spot.

Preparing for the Future

There’s no question about the future of the IIoT and what it means for industries. Companies, professionals, learning institutions, and every other player in affected industries must be prepared for the inevitable future of connected devices.

Companies in affected industries must tweak everything in their current setups to integrate IIoT; from making improvements to networking infrastructures, to adopting IIoT-friendly communication and marketing strategies to benchmarking existing security and network designs for scalability, everything counts towards successful integration of the IIoT.

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