The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is one of the most diverse and fast-moving segments of the wider IoT landscape – and it shows no signs of slowing down in 2019. Indeed, if anything, public focus on the IoT looks likely to shift over the coming year, from being primarily concerned with consumer applications to paying closer attention to the IoT’s industrial potential.
The IIoT might not be as immediately attention-grabbing and ‘sexy’ as concepts like self-driving cars and smart fridges, but its potential for driving dramatic innovation and improvements in businesses should not be underestimated.
Here are some of the most exciting IIoT concepts to look out for in 2019, as they shift from being niche interests and paper-based theories to tangible realities.
As the name suggests, digital twins are digital replicas of physical assets such as robotic arms or manufacturing equipment on a production line. By virtually mimicking the physical assets’ actions, the digital entity is able to gather detailed information as to its twin’s performance and condition, which feeds into more sophisticated approaches to predictive maintenance than ever before. The upshot? The useful lifespan of physical assets is maximised, and a more proactive approach can be taken to maintaining and optimising equipment.
AR is not a new concept – indeed, consumers are already familiar with it thanks to the popularity of apps like Pokémon Go. However, the shift from consumer-focused games to work settings looks set to go stratospheric in 2019. The IIoT can make use of augmented reality on production lines, equipping manufacturing staff with AR headsets, tablets and applications to be guided through complex tasks. Or, the same principals can be applied in field service settings where technicians need to be able to review a physical asset. These industrial applications of AR will multiply dramatically over the coming year.
Compliance and risk management
The explosion in IIoT possibilities brings with it certain risks and responsibilities. The more endpoint devices an organisation has on its network, the more potential points of vulnerability exist in its infrastructure. As with so many technology trends, the IoT and the IIoT have led with use cases – now the time has come to embed security into devices from the ground up. It won’t be long before a major security incident or data breach is reported as a result of an IoT-related vulnerability. Will this happen in 2019? Time will tell.
In spite of all its potential, the IoT – and by extension, the IIoT – have serious barriers to adoption including cost, scalability and security as outlined above. Blockchain has, by design, a centralised architecture, and so is already being discussed as a potential solution to the IIoT-related challenges of retaining enormous volumes of data in one location. Expect this to be further explored in 2019, and some high-profile use cases to begin to appear.
The move to self-learning systems
The ultimate destination of the IIoT is industrial settings with a greater degree of automation than ever before, where information is collected from all over the environment, automatically analysed and turned into tangible insights, and those insights automatically feeding back into business decisions. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will be added to the mix, ensuring that these processes are continually improving, and the IIoT ecosystem learns from itself. We are already on that journey, and it will not slow down in 2019.