IIoT: Defining the terms

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has its own lexicon and as it continues to expand and become commonplace it becomes imperative to understand some of the terms associated with the IIoT.


The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will spark a plant floor revolution. Here's how to get ready for it. Courtesy: CFE MediaWith the new technology around the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), there is a new lexicon that goes with it. Here are a few terms and simple definitions that should get you started on the road to understanding and implementing this tech solution.

Internet of Things (IoT): A concept that connects virtually everything on the planet—humans, animals, and machines-to each other through a network of nodes on the thing that transmits data via the Internet. There are plenty of examples of this today. If you deposit a check via your smartphone, that's Internet of Things. If you get an alert warning on your computer tablet that tells you your security system has been triggered at home, that's Internet of Things. The concept has been around for more than 15 years, but it is now gaining momentum due to massive increases in data-storage capacity in the cloud and the proliferation of smart devices (smartphones and tablets). Plus, it now has a name that is beginning to be used more often.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): Same concept, applied to machine-to-machine communication in the manufacturing space. The current connected system in plants will be able to interact with one another to deliver information about equipment health, supply chain issues, parts availability, and other data. Further, it will allow specific pieces of data to be delivered to specific workers through mobile devices. For example, a plant maintenance worker needs to know when the temperature on a motor is out of range and moving higher. He receives an alert on a mobile device. If work needs to be done on the motor, it can be scheduled via the mobile device when the maintenance worker is at the machine.

The parts manager doesn't need to know the temperature of the motor; his only concern is that a part needs to be ordered. Only that information is transmitted to the parts crib for procurement. The billing department doesn't need to know anything other than a part has been ordered and a check must be cut to pay for it. A historian will store the report on the repair for future reference. All of those functions can happen through one decision by a maintenance worker on one device from a remote location.

Industrie 4.0: A term coined by the German government to provide a framework for the connection of cyber-physical systems that would lead to the "fourth industrial revolution." To recap the first three revolutions:

  • First Industrial Revolution: Mechanization of production through the use of steam and water power
  • Second Industrial Revolution: Mass production through electric power
  • Third Industrial Revolution: Automation through electronics and information technology.

Industrie 4.0 is similar to an effort from a number of American companies, led by GE, which call their concept "industrial Internet."

For all intents and purposes, the stated goals and objectives of IIoT and Industrie 4.0 are the same: an interconnected, interdependent, and integrated manufacturing process that leverages data to deliver greater information, and from that promises greater productivity with less waste.

Smart Factory: The manifestation of IIoT. The Smart Factory includes all that IIoT has to offer, but adds the human analytics of the data produced by the IIoT. The IIoT can tell you if that motor is hot; it cannot repair the motor or shut down the line before the motor fails. The cyber-physical and human systems work together in the Smart Factory.

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