The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a sublet of the IoT phenomenon, referring specifically to connected technologies in the manufacturing industry. IIoT technology captures data by monitoring and controlling production processes, which improves overall documentation and quality management.
By 2020, revenues generated from the IIoT market will be about $225 billion. What’s more, companies are already reliant on data captured from jet engines, gas turbines, and MRI scanners. The information collected helps enterprises utilize resources more efficiently, create more advanced models, and drive more societal adoption of these connected machines.
However, despite the rapid growth of connected smart devices and sensors, the transition from M2M to full IIoT presents challenges that manufacturers and enterprises must address in order to reap the benefits of connected tech.
Even in this IoT-driven era, there are still many existing devices that are not Internet enabled and that use proprietary protocols, and currently, there is not a definitive answer to whether or not these devices can become even a limited part of a connected enterprise. Within a fully connected enterprise, all devices must be able to work in unison in order to assemble a high-performance structure within the organization.
According to IT pros at TechTarget, “Strategy and tactics for implementing IIoT must align with a company’s goals and concerns. An all-in commitment means the eventual replacement of non-compliant controllers and devices so that all detailed data is available to the network and authorized remote users.” This makes security vigilance essential to IIoT success within an enterprise, especially in ensuring that all user access is properly authenticated.
Manufacturing factories are becoming smarter and, as a result, the production processes are becoming more technology-driven. Connected machines and devices capture data and then broadcast it to shop floor managers in real-time. As revolutionary as this is, Ron Carr, President and Managing Member of Access Control Technologies LLC, observes in this article that “Any ‘thing’ or device that is controlled by network communication that ‘faces’ the Internet is vulnerable to being hacked.”
As with IoT, the IIoT poses a myriad of threats ranging from eavesdropping to malicious attacks on privacy and personal data. IIoT device success relies on the steps developers take to secure them before they hit the market.
To protect against security threats, industrial enterprises should consider how they could integrate an advanced cyber threat protection solution into their network. For example, DigiCert Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is a proven comprehensive solution for securing communication transmitted between IIoT devices, sensors, and machines using digital certificates. PKI can be used because it requires higher levels of authentication and identity proofing to confirm the identity of all parties involved in the communication. It also validates the information being transferred.
As embedded systems and networks expand further into enterprises, it is increasingly important that they maintain reliable supply chains. Brian Carpizo, who leads the manufacturing and supply chain team at Uptake, says the following in an interview with Forbes: “Advanced automation, complexity, and lean supply chains increase the probability that things can go wrong in manufacturing settings—and the cost of those disruptions are massive.”
Organizations should consider how they can best maximize transparency and standardization in the manufacturing process. Device development must be an open standard across the industry, in a way that can confirm to all consumers that the proper hardware, software, or firmware is included, and that can allow them to trust the connected products manufacturers are putting out.
Any evolution in new tech will cause organizations strategic realignment, new costs, and company disruption, but with that comes the opportunity to improve overall operational performance. The IIoT is at the forefront of the future of manufacturing, and while the key challenges of the IIoT are certainly daunting, the problems associated with connected device implementation, security, and integrity can become more precautionary than insurmountable if companies prepare for them accordingly.