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    IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things)

    The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has appear as a general concept of the application of the Internet of Things to the industrial sector. Effectively, it is a generalization of Industrie 4.0, which appears to focus more on industrial process efficiency. The IIoT vision includes all aspects of industrial operations, focusing not only on process efficiency but also on asset management, maintenance, etc.

    The Internet of Things (IoT) has already brought a revolution to our understanding of applications in a wide range of human activity. This trend is expected to increase in the near future, as the potential economic impact of IoT is expected to be between 900 billion USD and 2.3 trillion USD on a yearly basis up to 2025. IoT applications are spreading to various sectors including smart energy, manufacturing, agriculture, health, security and safety, smart cities, smart buildings, and smart environment. All these application areas repeat the same basic model: a large number of smart devices, interconnected over wired or wireless media, interacting and coordinating to achieve a goal.

    Although the basic concepts are the same, i.e., interconnected smart devices that enable remote sensing, data collection, processing, monitoring, and control, the parameters that identify the IIoT subset of IoT are the strong requirements for continuous operation and safety as well as the operational technology employed in the industrial sector.

    As an example, one can consider the difference between a consumer service such as a health monitoring application on a smart watch and an industrial service such as the monitoring of a steam pump. Although both applications collect real-time data, e.g., steps or body temperature in the health application case and pressure or steam volume in the steam pump case, transmit the data, identify events, and provide feedback or commands to operators/consumers and subsystems, clearly, continuous operation and safety place stricter requirements in the steam pump case, where the potential effect of a failure is significantly more catastrophic and may lead to costly operation down time and even human injuries or loss of life.

    These characteristics of the industrial sector – technology and requirements – lead to specialized, demanding solutions for technology and services, justifying the focus of the industrial sector on a specialized IoT concept. This has resulted to the strong interest of the industrial sector in the development of specialized concepts, from strategy to application and technology.

    The General Electric Company introduced the term Industrial Internet in 2012, as a leader of the Industrial Internet of Things, identifying also the technologies of machine-to-machine communication, SCADA, HMI, industrial data analytics, and cyber security as the main constituents of the IIoT vision.

    IIoT Architecture

    The development and deployment of IIoT systems and services require the development of architectures that enable efficient and effective operations as well as interoperability considering the anticipated end-to-end services and the large number of stakeholders involved for devices, cyber-physical systems, communication systems and networks, service providers, and business developers. Thus, significant effort is being spent to develop standards and reference architectures that will be accepted and adopted by the various stakeholders.

    Basic Technologies

    The basic technologies that enable the evolution of IIoT are the sensors, cyber-physical systems, and the related communications and networking technologies that enable their connectivity, among them or to other systems, including enterprise networks.

    As basic technologies, we designate the ones that are all common to all application domains and use cases.

    RFID (radio-frequency identification)

    A fundamental technology for IIoT, and IoT in general, is the technology of RFID (radio-frequency identification) which enables the transmission of a microchip’s identification information to a reader over wireless media. It is one of the first technologies that enabled and supported the IoT concept, because RFID technology enabled the automatic identification, monitoring, and operation execution related to RFID-equipped tags. For this reason, RFID technology spread widely since the 1980s in the applications for logistics and supply chain management.

    WSN (Wireless sensor networks)

    Wireless sensor networks (WSN) constitute another fundamental technology for IIoT, considering their widespread employment in industrial automation and their increasing deployment in critical infrastructures. The solutions for effective WSNs need to address a large number of issues, ranging from communication reliability and real-time requirements to low-power communication due to the deployment of a large number of battery-operated sensors in the field.

    Applications and Challenges
    Applications

    IIoT applications span a wide range of IoT application domains. Operational technology (OT) systems have become the basic computation platform for the operation and management of most critical infrastructure. The high processing and storage capacity of PLCs, their ability to manage real-time applications with high availability, and their easy management by available SCADA systems have made them quite popular as building blocks of large infrastructures beyond the manufacturing floor, for which they were originally introduced. Today, a large portion of infrastructure is based on industrial control systems (ICS) and makes this critical infrastructure a potential provider of IIoT services and user of IIoT technology. The energy sector is probably the most demanding one on the use of ICS, since the production and processing of energy is part of a country’s heavy industry and thus, naturally, includes large ICS platforms. In addition, ICS are used heavily in power distribution networks, such as the electricity network. Considering the emerging smart grids that provide monitoring devices, i.e., PLC-like systems, to customers, it becomes apparent that ICS are the main computing infrastructure in power systems end to end, from production to consumption.

    A large number of distribution networks follows this ICS-based model of operation, including water distribution and management networks and water processing sites. Importantly, oil and gas distribution networks use this technology managing pipelines and storage tanks as well as the overall network’s operation. Transportation also presents a significant area of application, where ICS and other cyber-physical systems are used for traffic management, i.e., operation and management of traffic lights, for toll payment, etc.

    All these application areas of IIoT will require additional deployment and adoption of components, especially cyber-physical and ICS in particular, in order to provide the envisioned services at a large enough scale to improve the lives of citizens significantly.

    Challenges

    Installation of IoT technologies at a large scale, as in the case of buildings, energy networks, and production lines, requires appropriate processes, mechanisms, and tools. The tools for deployment and configuration for the IoT, and especially IIoT, subsystems constitute a challenge because of the high complexity and heterogeneity of the cyber-physical systems used. The problem becomes more acute when considering the limited resources of wireless embedded systems, the strict requirements for initialization of secure wireless connections, and the requirements for monitoring the parameters that are used for scheduling in real-time wireless networks, such as IEEE 802.15.4e, IETF 6TiSCH6top, and ISA 100.11a.

    In contrast with small-scale deployments, e.g., in home environments, installation processes at a large scale are error prone, despite their formalization, and lead to installations that have significant costs for reinstallation or reconfiguration when new devices are added or when changes are made, e.g., an office floor reconfiguration. A characteristic example of a formalized, but error-prone, installation method is the “outside-in” installation sequence, where sensors, actuators, and controllers can be installed by technicians before the network, and IT infrastructure in the building is installed. Clearly, it is necessary to develop effective tools for the management of IIoT resources such as wireless sensors and their networks.

    IoT technologies, in general, are easily adopted in the industrial and enterprise environments, while the addition of wireless cards for the identification of products and materials enables the management of their complete life cycle. Thus, there is a need to integrate these smart and identifiable objects in the industrial enterprise infrastructure and processes. Considering the heterogeneity that characterizes industrial enterprise environments and its layered management, from high-level ERP systems to low-level production management systems, the integration of these devices achieving interoperability is a clear challenge. However, when the challenge is met, the resulting system enables the flexibility of industrial processes and their mapping and distribution on “things” of the IIoT, increasing autonomy within the enterprise.

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