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The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is built on the principles of efficiency, optimization and cost saving. However, there is much more to the IIoT than making things leaner, quicker and cheaper. The IIoT is creating value where there was none, it is supporting development outside its set definitions, in fact the IIoT seems to discover new game-changing opportunities wherever it explores.

“IIoT presents a transformational opportunity for industry as the trends of urbanization, electrification and digitization all converge,” states Schneider Electric EVP and CTO, Prith Banerjee, in an article for CIO Review. “Whether for the supply chain, manufacturing line, energy grid, pipelines, water system or smart city, a new wave of applications for IIoT is currently being developed, mirroring the proliferation of ‘apps’ driven by the omnipresence of the consumer internet.”

We can trace the IIoT concept back at least a decade, emerging on the back of technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID). Its full implications, however, are still not well understood, and a clear definition is still not broadly accepted. More recently, the emerging understanding of the IoT has been translated onto the IIoT alongside other defined initiatives such as Industry 4.0, but as new ways of using the IIoT continue to surface these definitions blur and the implications swell.

Drivers of the IIoT include increased visibility of information, deeper integration of specific functions, and increased device and system capability. But perhaps the most significant value is in the rapidly escalating amount of information and associated analytics that is turning data into intelligence.

The early days of the IIoT saw businesses chasing energy efficiency while optimizing the performance and reliability of assets. Connecting and monitoring assets using RFID tags and readers for example, but in those early days the cost of these technologies was prohibitively expensive for entire inventories.

In the years since, greater adoption of such technologies has driven the price down drastically. RFID tags, for example, have gone from a few dollars each to just a few cents each within a couple of decades. Moreover the emergence of the IoT has brought down the cost of a whole variety of sensor technology, making possible a sensor rich world that was, until recently, economically inconceivable.

The comprehensive asset coverage now possible using the IIoT means that every asset within the supply chain can communicate its position, status and condition. Where previously only a sample of assets were monitored and that information extrapolated. The impact of such complete inventory connectivity cannot be overstated; it has lead to the convergence of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) that is maximizing productivity, efficiency and profitability.

In the same light, these IIoT concepts being applied to industrial and manufacturing processes, connecting components and systems for optimizations and predictive maintenance. They are also being fed back into the IoT through their use in smart buildings, homes and cities Applying IIoT style monitoring analytical systems that draw on all kinds of other information including calendars, occupancy and even weather. Here the lines blur between the IoT and the IIoT all in the name of efficiency and cost saving.

There is more to the IIoT than cutting costs however; industrial connectivity is creating new opportunities wherever it is applied. The IIoT has become a huge driver of growth, with some experts suggesting that the total impact of the IIoT on global GDP could reach more than $14 trillion by 2020.

Take smart parking and traffic systems for instance, individually and together they reduce congestion and improving traffic flow across a city. These factors alone create direct economic advantages such as reducing fuel consumption but also less tangible benefits such as improved health from reduced pollution or greater productivity from reduced traffic or parking related delays.

Unsurprisingly, the world’s leading companies and most progressive governments are fully embracing the IIoT. The level of IIoT adoption around the world is almost as staggering as the implications of that adoption. Taking on the IIoT is not only allowing businesses to be more profitable, it is making our entire world more efficient and responsive in ways we can hardly grasp.

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