The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is much more advanced than the commercial IoT, primarily due to the prevalence of connected sensors in the industrial world, which are the "things" in the IoT. Hundreds of millions of connected wired and wireless pressure, level, flow, temperature, vibration, acoustic, position, analytical, and other sensors are installed and operating in the industrial sector, and millions more are added annually, increasing value with additional monitoring, analysis, and optimization.
Sensors connect to a variety of higher-level software platforms, both on- and offsite. On-site connections are often via a local intranet, creating an Industrial Intranet of Things. Offsite connections are usually made through the Internet, often via a cloud-based storage system.
Higher-level software platforms include control and monitoring, asset management, and specialized data analysis systems. At remote data-analysis centers, sophisticated Big Data analytics are performed by dedicated experts to reveal patterns, problems, and solutions.
The IIoT connects sensors to analytic and other systems to automatically improve performance, safety, reliability, and energy efficiency by:
- Collecting data from sensors (things) much more cost-effectively than ever before because sensors are often battery-powered and wireless
- Interpreting this data strategically using Big Data analytics and other techniques to turn the data into actionable information
- Presenting this actionable information to the right person, either plant personnel or remote experts, and at the right time
- Delivering performance improvements when personnel take corrective action.
For example, IIoT technology was implemented by a major US refiner to connect vibration, acoustic, level, position, and other sensors to an asset management system via both a wired fieldbus network (FOUNDATION Fieldbus) and a wireless network (WirelessHART). The wireless network connects instruments to the refinery's control and monitoring systems via a wireless mesh network consisting of wireless instruments and access points.
Sensor data is sent to asset management software with specialized data analysis applications for valves and smart meters. The software analyzes sensor data and transforms it into actionable information. Control room operators view this information on human machine interfaces (HMIs), and mobile workers view it on handheld industrial PCs connected to a plantwide Wi-Fi network.
Capital expenditures were reduced because wireless cut sensor installation costs, and ongoing operational benefits included increased capacity and avoided capital investments through wireless tank monitoring. The asset management software allowed consistent setup and reduced commissioning costs, along with reduced call-outs through the use of alarm management software. Safety was improved by automating vibration monitoring in hard-to-reach locations, which were previously checked via manual rounds, and energy was saved with wireless steam trap monitoring.
The refining operation now has WirelessHART infrastructure in place for data collection, analysis, and distribution. This existing infrastructure makes it quick and inexpensive to add more wireless sensors to deliver further operational improvements.
For more information, please visit the HART Technology page on the FieldComm Group website.