Industrial IoT (I-IoT) and IoT…what is the difference?

As if IoT in itself was not a jargon that you were trying to understand, you may run into another one- I-IoT (Industrial IoT). Since I-IoT is the technology behind smart factories, if you are a Manufacturing professional trying to get up to speed with digital manufacturing aspects, it is essential that you understand the difference between IoT and I-IoT.

The fundamental technology architecture for both are very similar so what are some of the aspects or attributes that differentiate I-IoT and IoT? I will discuss some of those attributes below to help you get a better understanding of the differences.

  • Cyber security: is a critical topic for any digital solution, but its implementation in the industrial world requires special attention. This is because the OT systems and devices in industry have a much longer life cycle and are often based on legacy chips, processors, and operating systems that are not designed to be connected over the internet. This means they live in an isolated LAN, protected by a firewall from the external world.


  • Business continuity: It is critical to ensure that industrial digital devices stay running; any temporary disruption can imply a large economic loss.


  • Co-existence with other systems/platforms: I-IoT solutions must co-exist in an environment with a significant amount of legacy operation technologies. They must also co-exist with different devices acting as data sources, including SCADA, PLCs, DCS, various protocols and datasets, and the back-office enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems as well.


  • Specialized application: Industrial networks are specialized and deterministic networks, supporting tens of thousands of controllers, robots, and machinery. I-IoT solutions deployed into these networks must, therefore, scale tens of thousands of sensors, devices, and controllers seamlessly.


  • Complexity: Physical objects in the industrial world are more complex and have a wider range of typologies when compared to the consumer world.


  • Robustness and availability: In the industrial world, robustness, resilience, and availability are key factors. Usability and user experience, however, are not as relevant as they are in the consumer world.


  • Flexibility: Industrial and OT systems, from programmable logic controllers to machining equipment, are frequently reprogrammed and reconfigured to support new processes. I-IoT solutions must support and provide the same flexibility and adaptability to support operations.


  • Intellectual Property Security: Intellectual property is a sensitive and important topic in the industrial world. Consider, for example, the design of a new machine, an engine, or a new food or drink recipe. The IP is often what differentiates a company in the market, and this cannot be lost or violated, since it is often managed by the company as a trade secret rather than covered through a patent.

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