The Internet of Things (IoT) is a rapidly evolving technology that has many exciting opportunities to offer. A cross breed of innovations in the field of computing and communications, IoT and the range of smart devices that it connects will revolutionise not only user-machine interactions but also interactions between multiple machines. The IoT is rapidly growing and expanding into many sectors of the market. One of the most exciting sectors where IoT has vast opportunities is the industry vertical. Along with other verticals such as automotive, healthcare and energy, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is rapidly shaping up the technologies of the future. Increasingly, devices such as automated robots and industrial systems are being connected to the internet to achieve more efficiency and ease of operations. The IIoT has the capabilities to affect the future in a positive manner, bettering not only the industrial systems but enriching the lives of people involved and raising the living standards. We can see the implications of IIoT in smart healthcare and smart power grids, efficiently enabling the lives of people in countless ways and helping develop new manufacturing technologies that are controlled by self-aware machines and systems. However, if we have a close look at the entire system that is being created by the IIoT, many challenges come to the fore. Devices that can connect with each other via the internet threaten industrial control systems that are vital for the smooth functioning of sectors such as energy, nuclear reactors and the like. This write-up is dedicated to highlighting such challenges when the IIoT is implemented across various verticals of the industry.
First and foremost, as multiple devices are being increasingly interconnected, challenges arise with the different capabilities that such devices bring to industrial systems. While deploying such systems where devices are being connected, questions arise about what type of information should be collected from such devices, how is this vast amount of information going to be stored, how are we going to analyse such a vast amount of information and what kind of decisions need to be taken based on such rigorous analysis. While an analysis of the economic returns and ROI can reveal what kind of IIoT systems can be deployed where still there are a lot of questions that remain to be answered. Some of these questions pertain to the type of industrial systems that can be connected to the Internet of Things and the degree to which such connectivity is offered. Industry leaders much identify the operational requirements and completely understand the capabilities of technologies they wish to create. For this, a deep understanding of the real-time production equipment to which these devices would be ultimately connected to is important. Otherwise, there may be a mismatch between the requirement and functionality parameters.
Functionality is not the only yardstick on which the IIoT needs to be judged. When the IIOT is applied to critical sectors such as healthcare, infrastructure and energy, the responsibility of protecting the supply chain integrity lies with the manufacturers. Concerns will arise related to politics, public opinion, and other perspectives. In order to tackle such legitimate concerns, industries must consider how they can make such systems more transparent, open for scrutiny and on the other hand also maintain standardisation in the manufacturing process. Such kind of standardisation needs to be evaluated independently so that the above-listed concerns are mitigated. In addition, there are concerns of security that the industry needs to tackle at the foremost level. Any network of devices that are connected through the internet faces security issues, especially when the incidence of hacking and cybercrime are rising day by day. Industries need to pay a serious heed to this threat and devise ways through which the critical infrastructure of the Industrial Internet of Things can be protected. Besides the security issue, the IIOT planners must also address the issue of the bridging of gaps between various disciplines so that a viable system can be put into place without any significant drawbacks. Thus, IT engineers need to understand the difference between business processes and manufacturing processes. On the other side of the spectrum, control engineers must also expand their horizons and understand the concepts of networking and security. Maintaining such levels of interdisciplinary understanding will lead to the design and development of a better IIOT ecosystem with an emphasis on productivity, profitability, customer service and sustainability.
There are many formidable challenges that need to be tackled during the design and development of the IIoT. While this is just the beginning, care should be taken to ensure that the system that is being developed is robust, safe and secure, spanning through the understanding of various disciplines and identifying the exact requirements of the public and their concerns and effectively mitigating these concerns. Keeping these parameters in mind, the IIoT that will take shape will not only be efficient and more productive but will also be transparent and secure so that the ultimate aims are fulfilled.