IIoT: Defining Solutions for the "Same-old"


The results are in: Despite the industry’s best efforts and deployment of legacy systems, the top two challenges faced by manufacturing organizations are still a lack of collaboration and disparate systems and data sources.

Source: LNS Research

Even in an era where everything seems to be changing and growing more connected, these challenges haven’t budged. The IoT, the emerging solution that’s central to any conversation about modern manufacturing operations, hovers as a lofty solution. It’s at the absolute peak of the Gartner Hypecycle, it was the number-one technology at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (the largest show of its kind) and search interest on Google has exploded. Yet 44% of respondents to a recent LNS Research survey reported not knowing about the IIoT and how it will impact their business.

IoT: The key to understanding the IIoT

As with any new technology, education is critical as we move from early adopters to the mainstream and begin to capture broad based business value. This involves both clear demonstration of business cases and ROI, but also clear definitions of the underlying technology.

At LNS Research we start by defining the broader IoT, where… 

The IoT can be understood as the network of networks encompassing the use of standard Internet Protocol (IP) technologies to connect people, processes and “things” to enable new cyber-physical systems.

Of course, there’s a lot of nuance that often needs clarifying. For example, a common question I hear is, “Does a thing only include ‘physical devices’ or does it also refer to the broader ecosystem of people, processes and physical devices?” Different people and organizations have different takes, but we believe it’s useful to take as liberal a definition as possible when thinking about what “things” are, and subsequently what the IoT is. In fact, taking a broad definition of “things” lends itself well to how the Internet itself has evolved over time from networked computers and applications in the beginning, to connected people through mobility over the past decade, and now to connected devices with cheap and ubiquitous sensing.

With the IoT defined, we can now move on to defining the IIoT. The IIoT can be understood as a subset of the IoT where the application of the IoT technology is in the production of physical goods or maintenance/operations of assets used in the production of goods.

Again, there are differing definitions of the IIoT in the marketplace of ideas, but taking a relatively narrow definition is useful—specifically because the use cases and business justifications are well defined in this space and differ from other areas of the IoT. The IIoT is about reliability, energy efficiency, uptime, visibility, safety and transformation of business models. However, in consumer-focused arenas of the IoT, the space and opportunity can be much less well defined without clear business models or value propositions.

The solution space for the IIoT is evolving fast but a common definition and common understanding will make it much easier for industrial organizations to move forward with technology deployments, and move on from their well-documented industry challenges.

What challenge are you most looking forward to leaving behind?

Matthew Littlefield's picture

Matthew Littlefield

Matthew Littlefield co-founded LNS Research in 2011. In his current role as President and Principal Analyst, he oversees LNS’s coverage of the industrial value chain. A recognized industry expert, Matthew contributes to the widely read LNS Research blog, GE's Intelligent Platforms Industrial Internet blog and many other industry publications. 

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