It feels like just yesterday that the term ‘IoT’ entered our vocabulary. Since the emergence of this new breed of technology, smart or IoT-connected devices have been finding their way into our homes in the forms of smart speakers, TVs, printers, and even kitchen appliances. The IoT has more than demonstrated its capabilities in the realm of consumer electronics as well as our day-to-day lives. So – with the sheer potential demonstrated by the IoT as a concept – why has the term continued to evolve?
In the past few years, you may have been spotting the term ‘IIoT’ popping up in trades magazines or perhaps even in your own investment portfolio. The first time it popped up, you may have brushed it off as a typo. We’re here to tell you exactly what the IIoT is, and the role that this new technology is set to play in the evolution of virtually all modern industries.
What is the IIoT?
Simply put, the ‘IIoT’ stands for the ‘Industrial Internet of Things’. The IIoT can be applied to a wide variety of businesses and industrial applications. For example, the mining sector can use an industrial IIoT platform in order to manage a variety of different machinery or other smart equipment used on any one site, thereby providing site supervisors with a central hub wherein they can oversee all site operations.
The IIoT technologies in this example include the centralised platform as well as all devices connected to that platform. This technically means that all smart equipment on-site like sensors, communications devices, wearable technology, control panels, and trackers, are classified as IIoT devices.
If you’re thinking that technology like sensors and trackers have been around for years, then you’d be correct. The IIoT is by no means a new concept, even if the term itself has only been coined in recent years. In truth, we’ve been using IoT technologies in professional environments for decades now. So what sets the IIoT technologies of today apart from those in our past?
The IIoT at work
With the rapid digitalisation of industries across the globe, more and more workspaces are adopting IIoT technologies as a means of streamlining their organisational operations. Manufacturing plants are utilising IIoT technologies in production lines to ensure greater uniformity across their fabrication processes. This can involve swapping out outdated machinery for 3D printing tools or CNC (or ‘computer numerical control’) machines, that provide users with the ability to programme production processes down to a razor thin margin of error. Both of these modern alternatives to traditional manufacturing technologies, use computing capabilities to communicate with software in order to deliver highly precise and high-quality production results.
The IIoT has demonstrated an ability to boost organisational productivity in numerous other industries and other workplace settings as well. Let’s return to the example of a mining corporation. Mineral extraction using traditional methods can result in the consumption of resources like water and energy. As these resources are becoming as precious as the metals the mining sector seeks to unearth, it’s in the industry’s best interests to optimise their processes and boost the overall sustainability of mining operations.
IIoT technologies can actually play a vital role introducing sustainable operational alternatives in the mining industry. For starters, IIoT technologies like pressure sensors can allow mining operators to accurately detect airflow and subterranean or other hidden sources of pressure in pit or quarry mining sites which could point to the presence of mineral deposits. Being able to pinpoint where to excavate can help mining operators drastically reduce the frequency at which they use drilling and other excavation equipment, thereby reducing the need for resource consumption on-site.
How has the IIoT impacted global industries?
With the features and applications of IIoT technologies that we’ve outlined so far, it’s clear to see that these technologies have held an overwhelmingly positive impact on a range of industries across the globe. We’re currently seeing IIoT technologies being introduced not only in manufacturing and mining, but also in the agricultural sector, the health sector, and even in the defence sector. IIoT technologies have been observed to streamline workspaces across the board, reducing hazards in a wealth of professional environments, and bolstering industry outputs without relying too heavily on manual labour.
Does this mean that IIoT technologies have the potential to kill jobs? Well, yes. But with the emergence of new technologies in virtually all global industries, there will be new jobs. These new jobs will likely revolve around the operation and management of IIoT technologies, meaning they will require technical proficiency and specialised experience or on-the-job training. In other words, the IIoT also has the potential to eradicate unsatisfying and potentially hazardous menial jobs from many of our industries, increasing the likelihood that generations to come can experience higher rates of job satisfaction and workplace safety than we are capable of attaining in the present day.
There’s also every likelihood that these new jobs can be performed on-site or even remotely, as IIoT technologies do boast the potential to connect up to software like industrial management platforms that can be securely accessed anywhere by authorised personnel. This could mean that professionals working in the mining, agricultural or defence industries that may find themselves living out of state for work during select periods throughout the year, could look forward to a future where they can work without having to leave their families for weeks or perhaps even months at a time.
What can we expect from the future of IIoT technology?
As we mentioned, the IIoT has the potential to not only improve upon industry outputs, but can also play a vital role in the improvement of industry standards and regulations. Alongside this, future generations of working professionals can expect greater rates of job satisfaction, workplace safety ratings, and perhaps even enjoy more career progression opportunities or workplace learning opportunities than are currently available in the major global industries of today.
With all that stands to be gained from the development and utilisation of IIoT technologies in virtually all industries, it’s no wonder that this particular breed of digital tech has been given a classification of its very own, separate from the ‘Internet of Things’ as we once knew it to be.