Industrial Internet of Things needs data, clouds, and analytics

Cover story: Without data there can be no big data, clouds, or analytics. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) differs from the Internet of Things (IoT); IIoT’s things make IoT’s things. Open standards are an important requirement for IIoT, and Ethernet and software standards are available to deliver data for control and information for decision making.


Everyone seems to be excited about the IIoT's clouds and analytics, but without data there can be no big data, clouds, or analytics. This is part of the June Control Engineering cover story on Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things to help make smarter factories.

Who put the "Industrial" in the "Industrial Internet of Things"?

Figure 1: IIoT does not overlap with, nor is it a subset of IoT. Things in IIoT make the things in IoT. Courtesy: PI North America

The Internet of Things (IoT) without "Industrial" seems to be a consumer meme. The level sensor in the milk carton tells the refrigerator to add milk to your smartphone grocery list. The coffee maker tells the toaster that it is ok to start toasting. But the IIoT is about making the coffee maker and toaster, not about the coffee maker and toaster communicating. IIoT is not a subset of IoT-the "things" are too different, as are many other aspects of the two approaches. The things in IoT are toasters, coffee makers, and refrigerators; the things in IIoT are programmable logic controllers (PLCs), input/output (I/O) blocks, drives, and vision systems. (See Figure 1.) 

Industrial data for IIoT

Maybe IIoT should be called the Industrial Internet of Data. Without the data there can be no control, no operator interface, no historian, and no analytics to improve the industrial process. In IIoT, the data comes from these things: switches and buttons, sensors and actuators, and drives and vision systems. From these devices IIoT extends into controllers, such as PLCs, distributed control systems (DCS), or programmable automation controllers (PACs). There data gets used to create actions by combining data from different devices. From this point the data turns into information to be communicated to human-machine interfaces (HMIs), historians, and analytics packages using OPC Unified Architecture (UA) [a connected framework defined by OPC Foundation]. 

IIoT standards

According to recent Control Engineering research, most users felt interoperability and open standards were the most important benefits of IIoT (more so than analytics). When asked about Industrie 4.0 (of which IIoT is one component) the majority thought the most useful feature was real-time capabilities.

Fortunately open standards already exist. The Industrie 4.0 group has looked with favor on Profinet and OPC UA as suitable open standards, calling OPC UA a "recommended standard for Industrie 4.0."

Figure 2: Ethernet will be too expensive to include in the hundreds of millions of simple switches and actuators already in place. Rip and replace is not an option for most of those devices. Courtesy: PI North AmericaProfinet is an open-standard, real-time, deterministic Ethernet with cycle time down to 31.25 microseconds. And in Profinet's case the open standard extends below Ethernet to existing fieldbuses like Profibus (governed by PI North America, along with Profinet) and DeviceNet (governed by ODVA). Not all devices will have an RJ45 connector. (See Figure 2.) Ethernet will be too expensive to include in simple switches and actuators, and there are hundreds of millions of those devices already installed. Rip and replace is not an option for most switches and actuators. The Profinet standard includes proxies to integrate such nonEthernet devices. Proxies are like gateways, but they are defined in the Profinet specification, fulfilling the open standards requirements. These proxies integrate data from nonEthernet devices that are also connected by open standard networks. In addition to Profinet and DeviceNet, HART (FieldComm Group), AS-interface (AS-International), IO-Link (PI North America), Foundation Fieldbus (FieldComm Group), Interbus (PI International), and many more networks have proxies defined in the standard. 

Real-time data for control

Carl Henning is deputy director, PI North America. Courtesy: PI North AmericaIIoT differs from the IoT. IIoT's things make IoT's things. Open standards are an important requirement for IIoT, and those standards exist today in Profinet and OPC UA. Profinet can deliver real-time data for control, and OPC UA can deliver information for decision making.

- Carl Henning is deputy director, PI North America; edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

Key concepts

  • IIoT is not an IoT subset. They don't overlap. IIoT's things make IoT's things.
  • Open standards are important for IIoT.
  • Profinet and OPC UA are among standards that can help with IIoT and Industry 4.0.

Consider this

As part of IIoT and Industry 4.0, do you have a plan for improving information flow? 

ONLINE extra

See "Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 webcast: Overview and practical advice for today." 

More about Carl Henning

Carl Henning was a founding board of directors member for the Profibus Trade Organization (PTO), from 1994 through 2000. PTO is now PI North America. He joined the organization as director of Profinet marketing in February 2005 and was named deputy director shortly thereafter.

Earlier positions included vice president of international operations at Perseus Development Corp., senior vice president and general manager for the Avantis Business Unit of Wonderware Corp., and director of FactorySuite marketing for Wonderware. He had previous experience with controller manufacturer Eurotherm, system integrators, and a machinery original equipment manufacturer (OEM). He has an electrical engineering degree and is an IEEE Life Senior Member.

Click here for more information from the Industry 4.0 and IIoT June Control Engineering cover story.

Anonymous , 07/26/15 09:36 PM:

I personally agree. The first step to IIoT is to use digital networking from the very first meter, from the sensors and actuators, instead of 4-20 mA and on-off signals. That is, sensors and actuators connect though digital fieldbuses. It will be a mix of fieldbuses and wireless sensor networks depending on the application. Modern plants are built on fieldbuses from scratch. Existing plants can easily be modernized with wireless sensors in addition to existing automation.
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