The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industrial IoT is among the foremost technologies of this decade. Since 2018, Gartner has come out with an annual IIoT Magic Quadrant, and the list of companies providing IIoT platforms has increased ever since.
This is because of the huge number of Industrial IoT use cases that cut across horizontals and verticals. From F&B to construction, from supply chain planning to fleet management — there is virtually no limit to Industrial IoT use cases, thanks to the versatile nature of this technology. Before we discuss the top five use cases for Industrial IoT and how they could be relevant to your company, let us understand how it works.
What is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?
Industrial IoT is defined as an ecosystem of connected devices, appliances, equipment, and objects with networking capabilities that creates an environment of interconnected data flows and workflows to enable automated actions and smarter decisions.
It is an offshoot of the Internet of Things (IoT), which has many applications in the consumer sector. For example, using a smart home appliance like Amazon Echo, powered by Alexa voice recognition, to turn off the lights remotely is an IoT use case.
In the industrial sector, the same technology is put to large-scale commercial use in environments characterized by complex infrastructure and heavy machinery. Instead of turning off the home lights, however, IIoT lets you remotely control an entire factory’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. This is just one example of an Industrial IoT use case that makes it simpler and more efficient to manage enterprise operations.
Industrial Sectors Benefiting Most from IIoT
The notable sectors benefiting from Industrial IoT include:
- Manufacturing: Manufacturing plants and factory floors have the potential to be hubs of IIoT implementation. Several manufacturers today use the technology to build smart factories or even “lights-out” factories, which are 100% automated and do not require any manual intervention.
- Retail: As offline and online retail sectors witness dynamic growth in demand, it is essential to accurately predict and plan goods supply. IIoT helps retail organizations keep up with demand flux, minimize waste, and use the available real estate efficiently.
- Food and beverage (F&B): The F&B sector has always posed a complex logistical challenge as it deals with perishable goods. Therefore, it presents a viable Industrial IoT use case, by using sensors and tags to monitor F&B items and ensure their proper shelf-life.
- Automotive: In the automotive sector, industrial IoT use cases may be found in the design to development value chain. IIoT allows automotive companies to optimize their product design g specifications perfectly, down to the most minute detail. It speeds up testing and manages both risks and costs.
- Energy & utilities: In the energy industry, IIoT can help monitor the supply of services and also simplify field operations. For example, one can use IoT-enabled drones to inspect a new mining site before investing. Remote field service assistance is another IIoT use case, as it allows remote subject matter experts to interact with, and support field service professionals.
- Healthcare: Healthcare systems can be embodied with IIoT components to collect and analyze clinical data. It can also assist in medical storage by monitoring temperature and humidity conditions. Further, it could improve hospital operations by digitizing building and occupancy management.
- Agriculture: Agriculture is among the newest sectors to explore Industrial IoT use cases. Some of these include agricultural drones to survey fields and farms, automated greenhouses in horticulture, predicting weather conditions, and cattle monitoring.
In addition to these sectors, any company relying on large warehouses and intricate supply chains can gain from IIoT.
Top 5 Industrial IoT Use Cases
Some of the most promising applications of IIoT include the following:
1. Safety sensors in manufacturing
Improving workplace safety is one of the key Industrial IoT use cases in manufacturing. IoT devices are capable of detecting various signals and picking up on data that would be overlooked by a human supervisor.
For example, it would be able to flag instances where a factory worker is venturing into a hazardous area or working with dangerous equipment. This is enabled by safety sensors embedded in Industrial equipment — for example, trucks and forklifts. A good example of an Industrial IoT use case is KION North America, an industrial equipment company that uses safety sensors to detect overcrowding, goods left in unexpected positions, etc.
“These [sensor-based] technologies are really about improving operations by building driver awareness of their surroundings, which is critically important today with the labor challenges the industry as a whole is facing,” said Mick McCormick, a director at KION.
2. Asset and inventory monitoring in retail and supply chains
IIoT components embedded in shipments, fleets, and product packaging can help track the movement of inventory from start to finish. It should also keep the supply in line with demand by monitoring inventory levels. PepsiCo is one such company that takes advantage of this Industrial IoT use case. It uses a wide range of technologies to respond to market demand, maintain visibility in inventory systems, and automatically tailor replenishment policies.
3. Environmental tracking in food & beverage (F&B)
Success in the F&B industry relies hugely on the ability to produce and store goods in optimal environmental conditions. Industrial IoT solutions can track changes in the environment to alert floor managers before any spoilage can happen. An excellent example of this Industrial IoT use case is in alcoholic beverage distilleries, which operate under fragile environmental conditions. Distillation plant provider, Frilli, recently implemented IIoT technology for an Irish spirits brand to enable automation, efficiency, and consistent process flows.
4. Digital twins in the automotive sector
Digital twins are an Industrial IoT use case where a powerful set of sensors are used to create a model simulation of a product or manufacturing environment, accurate as per every detail and physics properties. Automotive company, BMW, uses IIoT, AI, and immersive technologies to create a complete digital twin of an entire factory. This allows the company to design, test, and optimize products in a realistic environment without any of the associated costs or risks.
5. Remote monitoring in the energy sector
The energy and utilities sector uses massive operational infrastructure, often in hazardous environments that are not suitable for human operators. In these cases, IIoT devices can collect and convey key operational data without someone being physically present. For example, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) is rolling out a Green Hydrogen Plant in Gujarat, India, which will use remote monitoring. L&T can minimize operational and energy costs using IIoT and obtain real-time insights into the energy plant’s performance.
Conclusion: What Are the Technical Prerequisites for Industrial IoT?
Due to use cases such as these, IIoT is now a booming market. According to IDC’s 2022 report, IIoT expenditure will reach $89 billion by 2025 in the Asia-Pacific alone. Further, a June 2022 report by Meticulous Market Research Pvt. Ltd. predicts that the global Industrial IoT market will be worth $276.79 billion by 2029. This indicates growing demand and an increasing number of Industrial IoT use cases for companies to explore, powered by advancements in 5G and artificial intelligence (AI). The other prerequisites for IIoT are:
- Cloud computing infrastructure and edge networks
- Robust cybersecurity, preferably Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)
- Big data analytics and data dashboards for industrial operators
- Low-cost and energy-efficient networked objects
- Equipment and machinery compatible with IIoT integrations
In fact, as these supporting technologies evolve, IIoT is poised to become a staple for industrial sectors like manufacturing, retail, F&B, automotive, and energy & utilities, starting with the top use cases discussed in this article.