When people think of the Internet of Things (IoT), they often imagine smart devices used in the home, like the Amazon Echo or Google Nest. These devices, while convenient, are really just a subset of the possibilities brought by the IoT; the same technology is being used to revolutionize healthcare, automobiles, and most importantly, the industrial sector. IoT technology applied to industry is known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The Industrial IoT refers to the digitalization of the elements of production – interconnecting industrial sensors and equipment with computer applications that collect and analyze the data generated by such equipment. This digitalization is bringing significant changes to processes in all aspects of industry, much like the electrification of factories did in the early 20th century. Just like electrification, while there will initially be many pain points to overcome, the resulting boost to efficiency and production will make the Industrial IoT essential for future growth.
The underlying theme of the process changes brought by the Industrial IoT is increased communication between machines in the form of collection and sharing of data. At its most basic, the IIoT involves connecting industrial devices, machinery, sensors, and equipment to a network, enabling them to share data and communicate with each other. The data collected and shared in the Industrial IoT includes information about machinery performance, energy consumption, environmental conditions, and more, providing valuable insights that help industries optimize production processes, resource allocation, and overall operations.
This new level of data collection and sharing also enables extensive automation – for example, systems that predict failure and initiate maintenance automatically. Remote monitoring of industrial processes and equipment is made possible, allowing operators to oversee operations from a distance. And with the Industrial IoT bridging the gap between physical devices and digital applications, legacy embedded systems are being replaced by cyber-physical systems (CPS) in smart factories, allowing algorithm-based control of physical elements.
The introduction of new systems and infrastructure is often necessary in preparation for this new revolution in industry. In particular, the data historians traditionally used by industry are not always prepared to handle the requirements of the Industrial IoT in areas such as data centralization and system scalability. To assist with their digital transformations, an increasing number of industry leaders are looking toward a new generation of data historians as an alternative or complement to existing systems.