What is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) and What are its Benefits?

Alex Regev

Alex Regev CoreTigo Head of SW R&D

| 1 May, 2024
From manufacturing and energy to transportation, wireless IIoT is driving innovation and unlocking new opportunities for businesses.
Alex Regev
The benefits of wireless IIoT are undeniable, making it a key focus for companies seeking to gain a competitive edge in the increasingly connected and digital industrial world.

What is IIoT and How Does IIoT Work?

The term Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) refers to the application of Internet of Things (IoT) technology in industrial settings. It involves the interconnection and communication between physical devices (such as industrial sensors and industrial actuators), machinery, and systems used in various industries, enabling the collection, analysis, and exchange of data to optimize industrial processes, increase efficiency, and improve decision-making.
At its core, IIoT operates through a network of interconnected devices, and machines that communicate with each other and transmit data, but retrieving the information from these in industrial environments is not always easy or possible. Many IIoT companies do not provide full connectivity for true IIoT to take place. Industrial facilities are characterized as being harsh in terms of communication. Noise, vibration, rotation, humidity, heat, and more contribute to this being a very challenging task. This is where IO-Link Wireless comes in. By enabling real-time industrial cable-grade communication, it allows getting this information from the different components and machines, factory-wide, thus empowering IIoT and making it a reality.
The IIoT implementation process includes the deployment of sensors and other IIoT devices across industrial environments. These devices collect data related to various parameters, such as temperature, pressure, humidity, vibration, and more, depending on the specific use case. The collected data is then transmitted from the IO-Link Wireless Device to the IO-Link Wireless Master, and from there to the PLC via OPC UA and other Industrial Ethernet protocols (such as Ethernet/IP, PROFINET, or EtherCAT), and via MQTT or OPC UA to cloud-based and On-premise applications, where it is stored and analyzed. The configuration of the IO-Link Wireless system and the MQTT publishing is done via a designated IO-Link Wireless Software. As many machines use sensors and components manufactured by various vendors, it’s critical for the data-collecting ability to be vendor agnostic, as in the case of IO-Link Wireless.
In the cloud, advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms are employed to process and interpret the collected data. These algorithms can identify patterns, detect anomalies, and generate actionable insights. The analyzed data is then presented to stakeholders in a meaningful way, often through dashboards or reports, enabling them to make data-driven decisions and optimize operations. Additional Machine Optimization Platforms may be integrated into the system to ensure process efficiency is maximized.
Advanced IIoT systems also leverage edge computing, where some data processing occurs at the device or Gateway level itself. This approach reduces latency and allows for faster decision-making in time-critical applications. Edge computing is particularly useful in situations where a rapid response is required, such as in manufacturing processes or predictive maintenance scenarios.

Industries Using IIoT Technology

Numerous industries are embracing IIoT technology to enhance their operations and gain a competitive edge, as they realize data harvesting and analyzing enables generating beneficial insights and yielding better outcomes. Some of the prominent sectors utilizing IIoT include Manufacturing and Industrial Automation, Consumer Packaged Goods, Automotive, Pharmaceuticals, Metalworks, Logistics & Transportation, Energy & Utilities, Healthcare, and Retail.
Utilizing the many benefits offered by the Industrial Internet of Things enables these to achieve higher efficiency, reduce costs, and improve product quality. Wireless industrial control & monitoring assures that these are done in the utmost efficient way, while reaching previously inaccessible places, without compromising the integrity of the data. By harnessing the power of IIoT, different industries can streamline operations, improve customer satisfaction, and stay competitive in an increasingly digital landscape.

Industrial Internet of Things Examples

The potential applications of wireless-based IIoT span across a wide range of industries, as every industry has something to gain by implementing IIoT methods into its operations. Here are a few examples of how the industrial internet of things is being utilized in various sectors:

1. IIoT in Manufacturing: IIoT manufacturing enables manufacturers to monitor and optimize their production lines in real-time. By collecting data from wirelessly connected IIoT sensors placed on equipment, manufacturers can identify bottlenecks, predict maintenance needs, and optimize production schedules to increase efficiency and reduce downtime, as well as perform supply chain optimization, and inventory management. In some cases, this data complements the one also being received and analyzed on the HMI (human-machine interface) and the one being sent directly from the PLC.

2. Energy and Utilities: IIoT is transforming the energy sector by enabling smart grids, smart meters, and intelligent monitoring systems. This technology allows utilities to monitor energy consumption, detect faults, and remotely control devices, leading to better energy management and improved grid reliability. Here the crucial ability to withstand harsh conditions comes into play once more, as the need for the IIoT devices to wirelessly withstand varying and extreme physical conditions is key to success.

3. Logistics and Transportation: IIoT is revolutionizing the transportation and logistics industry by providing real-time and enhanced visibility and control over the shipping and handling of goods. With IIoT devices wirelessly integrated into vehicles, containers, and warehouses, logistics companies can track shipments, optimize routes, and streamline operations to enhance efficiency and reduce costs. The fact that all moving and stationary actors in these processes communicate lets these operations function with high efficiency.

4. IIoT in Healthcare: Both IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and IoT (Internet of Things) are transforming healthcare delivery by enabling remote patient monitoring, smart hospital infrastructure, and wearable health devices. With wireless IIoT, healthcare providers can gather real-time patient data, monitor vital signs, and remotely track patients’ conditions, leading to improved healthcare outcomes and reduced hospital readmissions.

5. Industrial Internet of Things in Retail Industry: The use of IIoT in the retail industry has altered the way businesses operate and connect with their customers. With IIoT, retailers can now gather real-time data from various sources such as wireless sensors, and RFID tags, enabling them to optimize their operations, enhance customer experiences, and drive greater efficiency. Retailers can track inventory levels accurately, monitor product performance, and automate renewal processes, ensuring that products are always available on shelves. Additionally, IIoT enables personalized marketing and customer engagement through smart shelves and interactive displays, delivering targeted promotions and recommendations based on individual preferences.

6. Automotive: IO-Link Wireless-based IIoT empowers the automotive industry by enabling unprecedented connectivity and data exchange between machines, infrastructure, and production facilities throughout the production process. Through the integration of smart sensors, real-time data analytics, and wireless communication protocols, IIoT has enhanced the vehicle manufacturing process extensively. In the automotive manufacturing process, IIoT enables seamless coordination between robots, assembly lines, and logistics systems, optimizing production schedules and reducing downtime.

7. Consumer Packaged Goods: The Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry is one of the industries which have gained the most from IIoT, as IO-Link Wireless is reshaping the way products are manufactured and distributed. Integrating smart sensors via wireless connectivity, IIoT has enabled real-time monitoring and data collection throughout the supply chain. Manufacturers can now track inventory levels, monitor equipment performance, and optimize production processes to ensure seamless operations and reduce wastage.

8. Pharmaceuticals: In sterile environment production and manufacturing, such as in pharmaceuticals, IO-Link Wireless brings about significant advancements – in drug manufacturing, supply chain management, and more. Over the past years, we have witnessed an emergence of pharmaceutical industry growth with the industrial IoT approach. There, wirelessly connected 2-way-smart sensors allow creating the cable-free sterile environment and real-time monitoring & control required in the manufacturing processes. Pharmaceutical companies can track critical parameters such as temperature, humidity, and pressure, preventing deviations and minimizing the risk of product spoilage. Moreover, IIoT enhances supply chain visibility, enabling real-time tracking of drugs during all levels of the packaging process. This ensures that drugs are manufactured and packed with optimal efficacy and safety.

9. Metalworks: The Metalworks industry is also being transformed and revolutionized by IO-Link Wireless connectivity and the IIoT applications deriving from it. The way metal products are manufactured, monitored, and maintained is now changing drastically. IO-Link Wireless sensors and devices are used in hard-to-reach places, in extremely challenging conditions, allowing precision, control, and optimization during production and processing. This raises both the quality and speed of the product, while reducing the danger to human life, by replacing a human operator with wireless sensors. As in the other use cases, the predictive maintenance enabled is a game-changer in Metalworks, allowing for smart manufacturing and predefined shutdowns for repair and maintenance – sensors monitor the health of equipment and machinery, detecting potential issues before they lead to costly breakdowns. Additionally, wireless-based IIoT enhances workplace safety by providing real-time monitoring of environmental conditions and alerting workers to potential hazards.

Challenges of Adopting IIoT

While the potential benefits of IIoT are significant, there are several challenges that organizations face when adopting and implementing IIoT solutions. Though posing a threat to the implementation of IIoT solutions, these challenges are easily solved when implementing IO-Link Wireless into the process. Traditional challenges include:

1. Industrial IoT Security: Low-level IIoT systems introduce points of vulnerability, as more devices are connected to networks. Protecting sensitive data and ensuring the security of IIoT devices and networks is crucial. In addition to IT-level security measures which are implemented in industrial facilities, IO-Link Wireless introduces several other precaution measures, such as Adaptive Frequency Hopping – where each transmission is being done in a previously unknown and random frequency, Authenticated Pairing Process with a unique ID, only predefined I/O data being exposed, and Cyclic Redundancy Checks (CRC).

2. Interoperability: IIoT involves the integration of diverse devices, sensors, and systems from multiple vendors. Ensuring seamless interoperability and data exchange between different components can be challenging. Being a Universal Standard, IO-Link Wireless is interoperable with other vendors’ IO-Link and IO-Link Wireless products. CoreTigo’s products are also compatible with Digital and Analog devices, enabling them to connect to virtually any device. In addition to this, IO-Link Wireless coexists with other wireless networks (such as Wi-Fi and BLE), thus allowing fluent and uninterrupted work throughout the facility.

3. Scalability: As IIoT deployments grow, managing and scaling the infrastructure becomes increasingly complex. Organizations need to plan for scalability from the outset, considering factors such as widespread connectivity, and allocating resources to support a vast amount of sensors and other devices. IO-Link Wireless was specifically developed to ensure excellent performance in terms of low latency and high reliability, even when accommodating a significant number of devices. Within the IO-Link Wireless system, a single IO-Link Wireless Master has the capability to connect and control up to 40 IO-Link Wireless Devices (IIoT Devices). To facilitate efficient communication, these devices are distributed across 5 separate tracks, with each track having the capacity to support up to 8 IO-Link Wireless Devices. An IO-Link Wireless Cell has the capacity to accommodate up to 3 Masters, allowing for a total of 120 IO-Link Wireless Devices to be connected and managed within a single work cell. Thus, a number of devices can even be exceeded with near-field antenna technologies, enabling even hundreds of IO-Link Wireless devices in a single machine or workcell area.

4. Legacy Systems Integration: Many industries still rely on legacy systems that were not designed to be part of an interconnected ecosystem. Integrating these systems with IIoT technology can be complex and require additional investments. Retrofitting existing infrastructure or gradually phasing out legacy systems is often necessary to fully leverage IIoT benefits. In the case of IO-Link Wireless, CoreTigo offers an array of devices to allow easy retrofit for either a single device via Bridge, or multiple devices via Hub. New devices may be integrated with IO-Link Wireless system-on-modules at the design phase, thus making the retrofit redundant.

5. Workforce Skills and Training: Implementing IIoT requires a skilled workforce capable of designing, deploying, and managing IIoT systems. Organizations need to invest in Industrial IoT courses and IIoT training programs to develop the necessary expertise within their teams. Furthermore, the introduction of IIoT may also change job roles and require upskilling or reskilling of existing employees. To support the smooth transition to IO-Link Wireless-based IIoT, CoreTigo offers as part of its services; specific application design; customer support; and a profound accessible data base via the CoreTigo Customer Portal.

IIoT Vs. IoT

While the terms IIoT and IoT are often mistakenly used interchangeably, there are some key differences between them. Understanding these distinctions is essential to grasp the unique characteristics of IIoT and the applications each of these two is suitable for. These are some of the primary differences:

1. Focus: IoT encompasses a wide range of applications across various domains, including consumer electronics, smart homes, wearable devices, and more in domestic areas and everyday life. IIoT, on the other hand, specifically refers to the application of IoT technology in industrial environments, with a focus on improving industrial processes, automation, and operational efficiency. Being a pillar in Industry 4.0, IO-Link Wireless enables simplifying previously complex IIoT applications.

2. Environment: IoT devices are typically deployed in consumer-oriented environments, such as homes, offices, and public spaces. IIoT devices, however, are utilized in industrial settings, including factories, power plants, refineries, and supply chain operations. Industrial environments often present unique challenges, such as harsh conditions and high-reliability requirements. These demand their own set of solutions and technology to be able to back these up.

3. IIoT Connectivity: While IoT relies on various common communication technologies, such as Wi-Fi, cellular networks, and low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs), IIoT requires more robust and reliable connectivity options in the form of an industrial-grade wireless protocol. This is where IO-Link Wireless comes to prevail, meeting the stringent demands of industrial applications.

4. Data Connectivity: IIoT deployments typically involve a higher volume of data generated by sensors and devices in industrial environments. This data is often more complex and requires advanced analytics and machine learning techniques to derive actionable insights. IoT devices, while generating significant data, may not always have the same complexity or volume of data as IIoT devices. The IO-Link Wireless Master is able to gather this information and transmit it forward to a PLC via various Industrial Ethernet protocols. The IO-Link Wireless Gateway and Software are also able to publish it via MQTT to cloud-based and on-premise applications.

Benefits of IIoT

The adoption of IO-Link Wireless based IIoT brings numerous benefits to industries across the board. With some the key advantages:

1. Enhanced Efficiency: IIoT enables real-time monitoring and optimization of industrial processes, leading to improved efficiency and increased productivity. Thus, data collection is being automated and enabled everywhere in the facility, reducing the need for manual operations and data collection. By collecting data wirelessly and analyzing it, organizations can identify inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and maintenance needs, allowing them to make informed decisions and optimize operations.

2. Predictive Maintenance: IO-Link Wireless connected sensors facilitate predictive maintenance, which helps organizations move from a reactive maintenance approach to a proactive one. By continuously monitoring equipment and analyzing data, wireless IIoT systems can predict when maintenance is required, minimizing unplanned downtime, and reducing maintenance costs.

3. Cost Savings: Cross-facility constant monitoring enables organizations to optimize resource utilization, reduce waste, and identify cost-saving opportunities. By leveraging wirelessly harvested data-driven insights, organizations can streamline operations, minimize energy consumption, optimize supply chain management, and improve asset utilization, ultimately leading to cost savings.

4. Quality Control and Product Traceability: IO-Link Wireless-driven IIoT enables organizations to conduct ongoing quality control throughout the production process. By monitoring and analyzing data from wirelessly connected sensors and devices, organizations can ensure product quality, detect defects early, and track product traceability, enhancing customer satisfaction and reducing malfunctions.

Conclusion

IO-Link Wireless-based Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) represents a transformative technology that is revolutionizing the industrial space around the globe. By leveraging the power of interconnected devices and sensors anywhere in the factory in combination with data analytics, this form of advanced IIoT enables organizations to optimize their processes, increase efficiency, and make data-driven decisions. From manufacturing and energy to transportation, wireless IIoT is driving innovation and unlocking new opportunities for businesses. Despite the challenges associated with the adoption of its none-wireless versions, the benefits of wireless IIoT are undeniable, making it a key focus for companies seeking to gain a competitive edge in the increasingly connected and digital industrial world.

Alex is an experienced engineering leader with over 10 years of experience in networking and communication system design both in physical embedded systems, networking protocols and application design. Prior to CoreTigo, he held multiple engineering and leadership positions at Mellanox Technologies (acquired by Nvidia). Alex has led multidisciplinary activities at CoreTigo, ranging from development to professional services and industrial IOT innovation. He currently leads CoreTigo’s software engineering organization as Head of Software R&D. Alex holds a BSc. in Electrical Engineering from Tel-Aviv University.