The term “Internet of Things” was coined in 1999, and although 20 years have passed, discussions are still ongoing as to what it can be specifically classified and where the dividing line between ordinary networked devices and IoT is located. Apparently, the situation is complicated by the emergence of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Discover the most important differences between them to help you define your needs.
As we mentioned in the introduction, not every device that communicates with others belongs to the Internet of Things. The garage door opened via Bluetooth or home monitoring system responsive to movement are useful gadgets, but they definitely cannot be qualified as IoT devices. Why? Because they do not use additional data in the Cloud that would support their operation and expand functionality.
Which device will meet the IoT defining conditions? For example, an air conditioner communicating through the cloud with a control system or a self-propelled vacuum cleaner that will not only remember the arrangement of furniture in the apartment but thanks to communication in the cloud will improve its algorithms of moving in space.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The phenomenon of the Internet of (Every) Things can best be described as a combination of at least two elements:
- advanced mechanisms applied in electronic devices, which are designed to measure and study the environment and send data,
- cloud in which they are processed (often thanks to artificial intelligence algorithms) and exchanged data from devices.
IoT devices include electronics with a wide range of applications. Among them are:
- Wearables, or “wearable devices” – smartwatches, bands and clips monitoring sleep and the general condition of the body, smart-glasses, etc.,
- smart home systems,
- intelligent security systems,
- tracking devices,
- …and many others.
IoT devices in themselves can be a source of income for a company (as a product offered to customers) or provide additional value by providing data on the habits and preferences of customers, which allows offering products that meet the needs of a wider range of people.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
As the name suggests, these are IoT devices used in the industry.
The large-scale implementation of IoT devices requires knowledge of many issues in the field of, among others: IT security, robotics, inter-machine communication, automation, the Cloud services, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and Big Data.
Despite the high level of complexity, proper IIoT implementation has a number of benefits, e.g. more accurate monitoring of quality and production rate, resource and supply chain management, and improved workplace safety.
The most important differences
Although some IoT devices may have the same functions as their industrial counterparts, not all IoT devices will also belong to the Industrial Internet of Things. Take, for example, a camera with face recognition. Implemented in the phone, it is designed to unlock the screen only when the device is held by its owner. Although it works as a safety measure, it may use less accurate algorithms and have a more limited comparative base compared to its industrial counterpart used at factory security gates.
The most important factors that differ IoT and IIoT are:
1. Scale of operations
IIoT networks consist of dozens or even hundreds of controllers, robots, and other devices. This requires synchronization and continuous analysis of much more data than a single IoT device would be able to generate at all. Data flow and decision making based on it must, therefore, take place on a much larger scale.
Lack of trust in specific solutions hinders the pace at which the market adopts new technologies. This is not surprising! Downtime in a hacked system of a factory or a bank can cause million-dollar losses, break into a hospital network may even result in loss of human life.
In practice, various types of security measures are used, from authorization systems to data encryption to advanced threat detection systems.
Everyone’s data security is just as important, but due to the scale of operations discussed earlier, more extensive security systems are used in IIoT. As the code is optimized and the devices are miniaturized, some solutions can be adapted by IoT.
3. Service life
Personal devices resistant to various weather conditions are gaining popularity. Telephones with high classes of resistance to dust or water have long left the construction sites and are used, for example, on family trips outside the city. The durability of such devices is, of course, much higher than standard models, but the service life cannot compete with industrial units. Factory robots are manufactured with really long usage in mind. Their service life sometimes exceeds 30 years. It should also be remembered that this is often work in conditions of extreme humidity, temperature or dust. Naturally, all components of such a device must be adapted to long-term operation in a specific place and a fixed load, which can be established thanks to climate tests.
It is directly linked to the previous point. Devices operating in extreme conditions must be better protected to maintain their service life. Most often, numerous protective layers are added at the design stage to protect sensitive electronics from destructive factors. This, of course, results in reduced machine mobility. In contrast to IoT devices, however, this is rarely a factor that significantly affects the possibilities of using the device.
In branches of the economy, where the highest quality and precision of operation are important, IIoT devices have to meet much higher requirements than IoT for home use. Especially in areas such as aviation, space conquest, or medicine, where the slightest mistake can result in a threat to human life or high losses. The synchronization time of IIoT devices and decisions made is calculated in milliseconds.
6. Service options
Anyone who had to have a phone or a computer serviced knows that repairing electronic devices can be problematic. There are even voices suggesting that some manufacturers deliberately age the parts of devices, the practice which is supposed to shorten the lifetime of the equipment and force consumers to replace it faster. Unfortunately, many personal IoT devices are rather disposable. Replacement of parts outside an authorized service center is rarely possible, and the cost of post-warranty repair sometimes exceeds the cost of changing to a newer model.
The situation with industrial equipment is completely different. The possibility of self-repair and low costs of professional service significantly extending the life of the device are one of the most important factors determining the purchase of a specific model.
7. Flexibility and scalability
The lack of compatibility of the sockets or data formats used is one of the ways in which manufacturers of personal IoT devices enforce fidelity to a particular device brand.
Meanwhile, the creation of an IIoT network covering the entire workplace requires the synchronization of many machines from different manufacturers. Each device included in the IIoT network must cooperate with its other elements, regardless of the hardware or firmware used in them. When choosing or designing IIoT devices, one should always have in mind that the company’s network should remain flexible for many years and offer development opportunities parallel to the growing needs of the company.
While discussing IoT/ IIoT, you can’t forget about Industry 4.0. It arises directly from the concept of the Industrial Internet of Things. The name comes from the German government program promoting the computerization of industrial production.
The main task of Industry 4.0 is the various aspects of digital transformation, such as:
Progress in selected aspects is achieved thanks to IIoT devices. In this approach, the Industrial Internet of Things provides a technological foundation for industrial change. Thanks to the data collected by devices directly from the environment, companies can compete with each other with the utility of manufactured goods. It is the customer who decides which products or services best meet his requirements. As a result, this leads to a shift of the economy in the direction dictated by results (the outcome economy).
The main goals of IoT and IIoT devices can sometimes be similar. However, by necessity, their design, parameters, and resistance to external factors differ significantly.
Understanding these differences will not only help you choose technologies that will optimally support your business goals. It is also a chance for better orientation in the business world, which increasingly depends on the use of appropriate devices belonging to the IoT/IIoT group. They are the engine of the ongoing industrial revolution that directly affects the strategy and activities of companies from all sectors of the economy.