Is this IoT, IIoT or Industry 4.0?

The fourth Industrial Revolution goes by many names, but the basic principle is the same: Connecting devices that previously couldn’t be connected to gather more information for industrial applications to make better decisions. See four IIoT considerations for hardware, application integration.

By Paul Hunt December 4, 2021
Courtesy: Brett Sayles


Learning Objectives

  • The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) encompasses many aspects of manufacturing and will continue to do so.
  • Communication, device types, storage and analytics are things to consider with the IIoT.
  • Device security, particularly when it comes to cybersecurity, are critical as devices become more interconnected.

The topic taking over many conversations and decisions involving control integration is the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT). This has also been expanded to IIoT (Industrial IoT) and some are even celebrating it as the 4th Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0).

Honestly, the chosen name can be a little strange if just hearing it for the first time. After many seminars, webinars, expos and even some recent college information technology (IT) courses, I am still asking, why did they choose “things”?  Here is a brief description of what the “things” are using an excerpt from Wikipedia:

“…vehicles, home appliances, or any other device that contain electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity which allows these things to connect, interact and exchange data”

With the use of IoT, there is, of course, the ability to monitor any of these devices when connected.  From your truck or car to any device inside the home. IoT devices can learn, connect in multiple ways and even learn where and how to connect. This is often done through mobile apps and open-source software.

Four IIoT considerations for hardware, application integration

Here are some key points to focus on when thinking of hardware needed for a new application or including older controls into the web that is IIoT or into a manufacturing execution system (MES).

  1. Communication
    1. How many different protocols (gateway(s) needed?)
    2. Distance or area needed to cover
    3. Number of connections
  2. Levels to encompass for desired information
    1. Control systems, including programmable logic controllers (PLCs)
    2. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)
    3. MES
    4. Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
    5. Cloud systems and devices.
  3. Storage (local, remote, size, ease of expansion, cost)
  4. Type of analytics and control such as dashboard(s) and structured query language (SQL).

IIoT security is critical

Beyond these points, security needs to be at the top of any to-do list when deciding on implementation of IIoT technologies. This becomes more important as the number of devices that are connected and communicating grows.

ERP and MES will be discussed when delving into the IIoT realm. Some considerations will need to be addressed from the start. These include data storage (let’s add “Big Data” to the keywords here), analytics the stakeholders are interested in viewing and cloud access. All are tied heavily into security as well and will need to be discussed.

Having a plan is essential. Keep a focus on the key points of the system needed. Depending on what’s important for the application, there may be a need to design from the storage availability backward to the plant floor or vice versa. Be sure to build in and maintain expandability options and room to grow. Start with one process or one building if there are many to choose from.

Maintaining ease of start-up and visibility on the new implementation is crucial. This makes it easier to see efficient gains and cost savings to help pay for the growth as the project progresses as well as being sure money isn’t going down the drain.

Paul Hunt, automation engineer, Fort Wayne Metals. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology,


Keywords: Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT, Industry 4.0


What aspects do you consider the most when choosing a new IIoT-enabled device?

Original content can be found at Control Engineering.

Author Bio: Paul Hunt, automation engineer, Fort Wayne Metals.