All of us regular people are awash in a world of the Internet of Things (IoT). That’s where we, as consumers, use WiFi-connected devices to control the world around us. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), on the other hand, works through smart sensors rather than devices and refers to industries: health care, retail, agriculture, government, and so forth. The ramifications are significant and have more diverse applications with a world-changing impact.
Internet of Things (IoT)
In the broadest sense, the term IoT encompasses all the regular “dumb” things connected to the Internet, like smart toasters, attached rectal thermometers, and fitness collars for dogs. You use your internet-connected device, usually a smartphone, to “tell” the physically connected object how to act. For example, the device prompts the connected object to react when, where, and how you want it. It also feeds you real-time information on its physically connected object.
Review some examples:
- Wearable devices and fitness trackers (e.g., Jawbone Up, Fitbit, Pebble). You program these accessories through the internet; they monitor your health.
- Home Automation (e.g., Nest, 4Control, Lifx). These internet-controlled applications monitor and control home features such as lighting, climate, entertainment systems, security, and appliances.
- Industrial asset monitoring (e.g., GE, AGT Intl.) is an internet-connected solution that remotely monitors and tracks your assets and facilities.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Here’s where the world outside our doors uses the digitally connected world to feed it automatic and real-time reports on the safety, productivity, and economics of industries and their workers. Unlike IoT, communication comes to us through inherently programmed sensors rather than directly through our devices.
Industry stakeholders use these smart sensors to receive immediate information on their assets that help them monitor, collect, exchange and analyze incoming data. In addition, entire cities operate off these sensors; they’re called smart cities. In effect, the whole developed world is one substantial Industrial internet of things since we’re all connected and interconnected through these sensors.
Review some examples:
- Energy: water and sewage utility services rely on distributed but connected self-service water kiosks to gather real-time data on water quality.
- Health care: hospitals and healthcare institutions use networks of intelligent electronic devices to monitor patients' health status 24/7.
- The automotive industry: smart cars use sensors to “feel out” their environment and predict danger.
Technologies That Fuel (I)IoT
IoT and IIoT work through the following technologies:
- AI and ML that train these devices to respond as they do
- Cybersecurity for insulating their systems from attackers
- Cloud computing for storing their functionalities and data in cloud storage for scalability and security
- Edge computing brings their data storage closer to the actual location for faster response time
- Data mining that collates information on their experiences to prevent problems and improve their operations
Pros and Cons of (I)IoT
It would be a sorry world without (I)IoT. Babies would be left crying; pets would be lost, thieves could more easily break into homes, more older people would die from falls, and so forth. That's as regards IoT. Now with IIoT, just think how many lives have been saved through heart and EKG monitors—products of IIoT. There’s also Amazon’s same-day shipping that’s achieved through IoT-programmed robots stocking shelves and loading trucks.
On the other hand, IIoT can be extremely dangerous. All it needs is one malicious actor to crack one single endpoint of the system to place hundreds of thousands of lives at risk—or even to stall an entire country.
Review some examples:
Hijacking vehicles. Modern vehicles have an OBD II device that’s connected to the internet. So it’s difficult but not impossible for intelligent hackers to remote-hack these vehicles that include ambulances and planes and terrorize a nation.
“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” - but also the creator of worlds aptly describes the ramifications of IIoT. Consequential!
Other terms that are slightly similar to (I)IoT are:
- M2M (machine to machine) communication, primarily used in the telecoms sector to refer to IP-transmitted data
- Web of Things that more narrowly relates to software architecture
- Industry 4.0. to name our ongoing revolutionary era of smart manufacturing and industrial automation
- Smart systems or Intelligent systems which use AI- and ML-trained innovations that help us manage and predict
- Pervasive computing for embedding computing into everyday objects that transforms them into intelligent things
The rock-bottom difference between IoT and IIoT is that IoT is B2C (business-to-consumer), while IIoT is B2B (business-to-business). The first is user-centered, while the second deals with groups, communities, cities of people. As such, the second is more consequential than the first. Nevertheless, both categories provide valuable connectivity, efficiency, scalability, time savings, and cost savings for individuals and groups/ industries alike.
When it comes to Google Cloud, its robust architecture provides IoT and IIoT operators with the tools they need to build the future.
Leah Zitter, PhD, has a Masters in Philosophy, Epistemology and Logic and a PhD in Research Psychology.