The Industrial Internet of Things: Fueling a New Industrial Revolution

Industrial Internet of Things IIoT focuses on the optimisation of operational efficiency and rationalisation/automation/maintenance. Internet of Things opens plenty of opportunities in automation, optimisation, intelligent manufacturing and smart industry, asset performance management, industrial control, moving towards an on-demand service model, new ways of servicing customers and the creation of new revenue models, the more mature goal of industrial transformation.

Industrial Internet of Things in evolution: from operational efficiency to innovation

The core focus in most Industrial Internet of Things deployments and in the majority of organisations de facto is still on operational efficiency, along with cost optimisation. Such a holistic strategy already exists in more ‘mature’ industrial organisations, which have shifted to the business model, service and new revenue opportunity side with tangible results and innovative solutions. They are poised to be disrupters in their respective industries where competition is already intensive and market conditions uncertain and complex.

Reaping the benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

The IIoT connects sensors to analytic and other systems to automatically improve performance, safety, reliability, and energy efficiency by:

  1. Collecting data from sensors (things) much more cost effectively than ever before because sensors are often battery-powered and wireless
  2. Interpreting this data strategically using big data analytics and other techniques to turn the data into actionable information
  3. Presenting this actionable information to the right person, either plant personnel or remote experts, and at the right time
  4. Delivering performance improvements when personnel take corrective action.

IIoT in action

IIoT technology was implemented at Ergon Refining’s Vicksburg, Miss., facility. This IIoT implementation connects vibration, acoustic, level, position, and other sensors to an asset management system via both a wired fieldbus network (Foundation Fieldbus) and a wireless network (WirelessHART). The wireless network connects instruments to the plant’s control and monitoring systems via a wireless mesh network consisting of wireless instruments and access points.

Sensor data is sent to asset management software with specialized data-analysis applications for valves and smart meters. The software analyzes sensor data and transforms it into actionable information. Control room operators view this information on human machine interfaces (HMIs), and mobile workers view it on handheld industrial PCs connected to a plantwide Wi-Fi network .

Capital expenditures were reduced because wireless cut sensor installation costs, and ongoing operational benefits included increased capacity and avoided capital investments through wireless tank monitoring. The asset management software allowed consistent setup and reduced commissioning costs, along with reduced call-outs through the use of alarm management software. Safety was improved by automating vibration monitoring in hard-to-reach locations which were previously checked via manual rounds, and energy was saved with wireless steam trap monitoring.

Future vision

The Industrial Internet of Things will drastically change the future, not just for industrial systems, but also for the many people involved. The full potential of the Industrial IoT will lead to smart power grids, smart healthcare, smart logistics, smart diagnostics, and numerous other “smart” paradigms.

It will enable manufacturing ecosystems driven by smart systems that have autonomic self-* properties such as self-configuration, self-monitoring, and self-healing. This is technology that will allow us to achieve unprecedented levels of operational efficiencies and accelerated growth in productivity.

New types of advanced manufacturing and industrial processes revolving around machine-to-human collaboration and symbiotic product realisation will emerge. It will truly be amazing to see all of the many benefits and technological advances that can be gained if the full potential of this technology is achieved.