With its ability to harness massive quantities of data to create energy savings, more efficient processes, and real-time snapshots of facility activity, the Industrial IoT (IIoT) has transformed operations for manufacturing, supply chain, and processing facilities around the world. For organizations not yet leveraging the benefits of data sourced through connected industrial devices, the IIoT can be a complex entity and raises a variety of questions regarding real-world value, scalability, and its integration with legacy infrastructure.

1. Besides energy management, what are additional use cases for the IIoT?

We may be biased, but one of the most efficient ways to instrument the IIoT is through intelligent LED fixtures working in tandem with intelligent lighting control software. The intelligent LED fixtures are spread evenly throughout the facility and transmit lighting and non-lighting data, enabling customization, controls, and automation that maximizes facility lighting to drive energy savings of up to 90%. However, the operational benefits and use cases can extend far beyond energy management:

IIoT Use Cases

  • Leverage data from embedded smart sensors to map occupancy and optimize floor space to improve employee pathing or inventory placement
  • Validate, manage, and assign manufacturing costs through production or machine-level metering of air, water and electricity usage
  • Improve productivity (and accuracy) through automation of previously manual tasks such as meter reading or environmental monitoring
  • Ensure product quality and consistency with real-time visibility into a facility’s environmental conditions
  • Deploy smart sensors to gain insight into intervening or auxiliary spaces that are rarely monitored but are critical to the overall health of the facility

Many of the more qualitative benefits above may not provide a return on investment (ROI) as rapidly as a solution such as intelligent lighting, but over time each of can save businesses significant money, minimize or eliminate production downtime, or create an archive of historical facility data that help organizations map and measure performance, trends, and anomalies.

Businessman's hand connecting digital dots across a screen to symbolize the IIoT
Global discrete manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and utilities verticals are set to spend $40 billion each on the IoT by 2020

2. Is the IIoT a necessity?

Industrial IoT solutions are no longer experiments deployed only by forward-thinking or capital-heavy industrial companies- they are rapidly becoming crucial for remaining competitive. Based on the increased spending on IIoT solutions, the trend of IIoT as a universal business resource is well underway. Global discrete manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and utilities verticals are set to spend $40 billion each on the IoT by 2020. Global companies are installing IIoT infrastructure so that they can automate manual tasks, reduce energy costs, and adopt more streamlined processes which call all drive more revenue and profits.

Currently, the consumer-driven Internet of Things (IoT) is the largest segment out of all IoT solutions, including the IIoT but that will change in a few years as more businesses implement IIoT solutions. A recent report by the GSMA states:

The industrial segment – which encompasses both IoT technology deployed within enterprises and vertical-specific applications – will make up more than half of the connections, reaching 13.8 billion, while the number of IoT connections in the consumer segment will reach 11.4 billion.

The forecasted IIoT growth is so massive that it will outshine the consumer IoT market where products like Amazon’s Alexa live and thrive.

Close up on hands a work desk
A considered, cross-functional approach will also help garner the support of senior leadership, which is a critical factor in the success of your project.

3. Who should lead an IIoT project?

Coordination and teamwork from all stakeholders is a necessary component to instrumenting the IIoT in any facility, site or enterprise, and the ideal project lead may vary by organization. Project teams should include leaders from operations, facility and maintenance, environmental and health services, IT, energy conservation and sustainability, finance, and more. Each one of these departments can add valuable insight to the cross-functional team, and can likely realize value that further justifies implementation of an IIoT solution:

  • Facility and Maintenance teams know building and site specifications inside and out and have a number of reasons for helping to implement the IIoT such as the automation of manual tasks, massive energy savings, and environmental monitoring.
  • Operations has deep institutional knowledge which can help to move projects forward and will be interested in data-driven insights and automation or productivity improvements made possible through the IIoT.
  • Environmental Health and Safety understands what standards need to be met to create a safe, comfortable workplace that promotes productivity. The IIoT can provide them with detailed data regarding environmental conditions and the ability to use ambient lighting to meet foot candle requirements.
  • IT can provide important technical requirements and evaluate how the IIoT can integrate with other technology already in place. It’s critical to include IT as early in the project as possible, especially (but not only) if there’s an opportunity to leverage a cloud-based solution.
  • Sustainability focuses on running the most efficient operation as possible in accordance with energy codes. The IIoT can help companies to achieve massive energy savings and help to curb utility waste.
  • Finance knows how much the budget can allow for an IIoT project and help calculate an ROI goal. The dynamic reporting capabilities available for IIoT solutions also create the opportunity for more robust analysis of operational expenditures that can be valuable to your Finance organization.

Together as a team, you can determine primary business goals and secondary opportunities that may not have been obvious at first glance. A considered, cross-functional approach will also help garner the support of senior leadership, which is a critical factor in the success of your project.

 4. Is there a difference between Industry 4.0 and the IIoT?

Even though they are related, the IIoT and Industry 4.0 are not the same.  According to Boston Consulting Group, Industry 4.0 is a manufacturing movement where the adoption of digital industrial technology can lead to shifts in the workplace itself and redefine the competitiveness of companies and regions. Meanwhile, the IIoT encompasses connected devices, a wireless network and some kind of software platform which all work together to provide greater efficiencies across industrial facilities, sites and enterprises.

Below is a diagram detailing how the IIoT is one on of many contributing technologies to Industry 4.0.

5. What challenges should I be aware of in implementing an IIoT solution?

There can be obstacles around implementation of any new technology, and the same goes for IIoT solutions. Some of the top challenges companies instrumenting the IIoT contend with are 1) cybersecurity and 2) integration with legacy equipment. Because the IIoT operates across connected devices, wireless networks and cloud-based platforms, securing all of those elements is a top concern and challenge for any business adopting the IIoT. According to a survey by TripWire, 96 percent of cybersecurity professionals expect increased attacks on the IIoT. While the threat of a cyber attack on the IIoT may loom, that doesn’t mean it is imminent, and there are proven ways to ensure security across your IIoT network- some as simple as practicing proper password security guidelines.

Another challenge faced by many businesses is how to facilitate the IIoT within (or around) outdated infrastructure. Digital Lumens provides one simple solution for this, in the form of our Digital Light Agents (DLAs). These versatile lighting controls transform existing light fixtures from virtually any manufacturer into smart lights, and enable advanced control capabilities, customizable lighting automation, and centralized energy usage and occupancy data, while also instrumenting the facility for the easy deployment of additional, non-lighting IIoT solutions such as SiteWorx Sense.

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