The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a specific segment of the Internet of Things (IoT) involving connected devices used at the industrial level rather than for household or consumer use.
Thanks to the IIoT, company managers are alerted if parts need replacing or if machinery isn't set up correctly. It's also possible to use IIoT metrics to gauge the overall output of a company, or its teams and individuals.
The increased potential for IIoT applications also means the data they produce is steadily going up. As a consequence, there's an impact on data centers.
By 2020, the worth of the smart city industry is expected to reach $400 billion, with a total of 600 cities using connected technologies. Government officials increasingly realize that IIoT technologies are essential for helping them keep those cities running smoothly and gather data properly.
Analysts say data centers are essential for smart cities, especially because those locations have so many elements that send or receive information. Some municipal authorities are venturing into smart city territory by installing intelligent street lights.
In Edinburgh, Scotland, a network of 64,000 such street lights also provides Wi-Fi for residents. That kind of double-duty tech highlights how data centers are responsible for helping a connected city's infrastructure work as it should while providing amenities for residents.
The focus on IIoT tech by smart city officials means it's crucial for data centers to continue to innovate and provide extremely reliable technologies. After all, it's frustrating enough if a website goes down, but if parts of the whole city become inoperable due to an outage, catastrophes are the result.
When manufacturers want to benefit from IIoT, one of the primary steps to take is typically to outfit their existing equipment with sensors so it works with connected technologies. Then, it's not necessary to buy entirely new pieces to start taking advantage of the IIoT. This practice means the amount of information for data centers to store is steadily going up.
Plus, the managers of those facilities often don't have on-site IT staff, and it's rare for them to have in-house data centers. Fortunately, much of what today's data centers offer is cloud-based that they can have information sent there and study it at times that suit their schedules. However, it's essential for data center managers to think about IIoT-specific needs and how their facilities could meet them.
It's common for companies to confer with specialists to help them decide whether it's worthwhile to retrofit equipment or if they should buy new products that work with the IIoT. During those consultations, the business's IT needs are often brought up, particularly if the facility needs a cloud-based data center or external IT support.
The leaders of manufacturing plants may also decide that investing in the IIoT helps them retain competitiveness and facilitates less outsourcing of work. In that case, the domestic economy benefits in numerous ways. According to 2015 statistics, U.S. manufacturers contributed $2.17 trillion to the nation's economy that year, in turn boosting employment opportunities while driving the growth of locally owned businesses.
Data centers frequently serve clients that aren't in the immediate vicinity. That means manufacturers can benefit from what the IIoT offers despite the potential lack of nearby facilities to handle data center needs. Data centers must remain visible by marketing to customers in all relevant areas instead of being restricted by geography.
Data centers also need to be prepared for the arrival of the 5G network. Some companies are already testing their technologies on it, and it's likely the faster network will be instrumental in helping companies get the most out of their IIoT equipment. Forecasts indicate that IIoT applications could generate more than $300 billion over the next couple of years, which is more than double the amount expected for consumer IoT apps.
It's likely the 5G network will lead the way in making those applications profitable. One of the reasons why people are so excited about 5G is that it should offer ultrafast speeds and virtually no latency. Experts have weighed in and said that the IIoT poses exceptional challenges, but it's a good fit for short-range 5G use.
The 5G network uses shorter antennas than 4G connections require and, for comparison, can support about 1,000 more devices per meter than the other network. That means people everywhere will have more access to connectivity. Going back the IIoT sector, data centers must ensure their facilities can support the increased data from consumers without affecting IIoT requirements.
Many industrial facilities are still evaluating how they might adopt the IIoT, and others are further along in their innovation journeys.
In any case, it's evident that applying IIoT technologies in today's industrial environments will not pay off without well-equipped data centers that are familiar with how industrial plants require reliable uptime and low latency, among other things.
The data centers that take the needs of their IIoT clients into account and invest in improving their facilities as needed should discover they can thrive as more entities in the industrial market explore how to harness the power of connected equipment.
Kayla Matthews writes about data centers and big data for several industry publications, including The Data Center Journal, Data Center Frontier and insideBIGDATA. To read more posts from Kayla, you can follower her personal tech blog at ProductivityBytes.com.