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In Lighting the Path to Innovation Blog
authored by The Role of Sensors in the Industrial IoT

“A big part of the Internet of Things isn’t so much about smart devices, but about sensors. These tiny innovations can be attached to everything from yogurt cups to the cement in bridges and then record and send data back into the cloud.  This will allow businesses to collect more and more specific feedback on how products or equipment are used, when they break, and even what users might want in the future.”  – Bernard Marr, Forbes

Defining the Industrial IoT

Defined by TechTarget, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the use of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in manufacturing. IIoT incorporates machine learning and big data technology, harnessing the sensor data, machine-to-machine communication and automation technologies that have existed in industrial settings for years. The driving philosophy behind the IIoT is that smart machines are better than humans at accurately, consistently capturing and communicating data. This data can enable companies to pick up on inefficiencies and problems sooner, cutting costs and supporting business intelligence efforts. In manufacturing specifically, IIoT holds great potential for quality control, sustainable and green practices, supply chain traceability and overall supply chain efficiency.

In a recent report from Accenture, they note operational efficiency is one of the key attractions of the IIoT, and early adopters are focused on these benefits. By introducing automation and more flexible production techniques, for instance, manufacturers could boost their productivity by as much as 30 percent. Predictive maintenance of assets is one such area of focus, saving up to 12 percent over scheduled repairs, reducing overall maintenance costs up to 30 percent and eliminating breakdowns up to 70 percent. For example, Thames Water, the largest provider of water and wastewater services in the UK, is using sensors, analytics and real-time data to help the utility company anticipate equipment failures and respond more quickly to critical situations, such as leaks or adverse weather events.

Sensors in the Industrial IoT

Looking at the definition of IIoT, as well as some of the benefits and real-world use cases, it’s critical to examine how sensors play a role in this equation. While software, machine-to-machine learning and other technologies work together to analyze data from physical objects – the sensors are key to gathering the information. If software is the brains of the IIoT, sensors are the nervous system collecting continuous streams of data to be processed. Industrial systems rely on sensors for reliable, consistent and accurate data in all aspects of automation. One could even argue the IIoT is nothing without sensors to measure parameters such as strain, temperature, position, and pressure.

Bill Lydon, editor of agrees, stating, “innovations in measurement technologies are required to fully leverage the Internet of Things concepts. More powerful, effective sensors will provide the big data for analytics that will, in turn, improve manufacturing processes. Simply adding software on top of automation systems will only add a limited amount of new value and functionality. Sensors that leverage embedded computing will create refined, intelligent real-time information at the data source and then communicate that information back to the supervisory or control system. The increased embedded computing at the sensor level will become more important as you further implement industrial wireless and cellular communications infrastructures at your facilities.”

Although the IIoT market is relatively young, it is already valued at just over $102 Billion USD according to a report by Markets and Markets.  By 2020 the market will be worth over $150 Billion USD indicating a significant global interest in IIoT technologies. Perhaps the question decision makers should begin asking themselves is not ‘should I invest in IIoT technology’ but ‘what IIoT technologies will most benefit us?”  Organizations across industries that invest in implementing IIoT technologies early will reap significant benefits as the market matures.

To learn more about sensors and IIoT, see some of our favorite readings including:

Sensuron is a leading global provider of fiber optic sensing systems that use light to test, measure, control, inspect, assist with operation and ensure safety of innovations across aerospace, medical, automotive and energy industries.

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