Demystifying IIoT: Terms Every Manufacturer Should Know

  • Modern Manufacturing

By now, you’ve heard a lot about the industrial Internet of things (IIoT). It’s a network of always-connected things and systems that produce a steady stream of data, which can generate compelling synergistic analytics that could be used to increase the overall efficiency of a manufacturing operation among other things. 

IIoT is simple in theory, but the terminology around it can sometimes be confusing. If you’re researching IIoT and feeling like your head is spinning, here's our advice: stop, and focus only on what’s really important.

As a manufacturer, you don’t always need to be an expert on the technology behind IIoT. You only need to know enough to be an informed consumer of this technology.

With that in mind, here are the IIoT terms that we believe are most important for manufacturers to know.

Data Terminology

Much of IIoT terminology revolves around data—specifically, the massive amounts of data that IIoT generates:

  • Big data. A very large data set that can be analyzed for patterns and trends.
  • Public cloud. Computing services offered by a third party over the public internet, making them accessible to anyone that wants to use or purchase them (as opposed to build local / physical infrastructure). We will reserve the “benefits” for a separate post.  
  • Private cloud. Computing resources deployed and available over a Private IT infrastructure. Data center resources may be located on-premises or operated by a third-party vendor off-site.
  • Hybrid cloud. A computing environment that uses a mix of on-premises, private cloud and third-party, public cloud services with orchestration between the two platforms.
  • Streaming data. Data that is continuously generated by different sources.
  • Sensor data. The output of a device that detects and responds to some type of input from the physical environment. The output may be used to provide information or input to another system, or to guide a process.
  • Time-series data. Data that collectively represents how a system, process, or behavior changes over time.

Business Process Terminology

You’ll also hear a great deal of terminology that describes specific business processes:

  • Condition monitoring. The process of monitoring physical parameters (e.g. temp, vibration, etc.) that indicate the health of a machine and might signal any developing faults. Condition monitoring is a major component of predictive maintenance.
  • Predictive maintenance. Techniques that are designed to help determine the condition of in-service equipment to predict when maintenance should be performed. This approach promises cost savings over routine or time-based preventive maintenance because tasks are performed only when warranted.
  • Operational intelligence. A category of real-time, dynamic business analytics that delivers visibility and insight into data, streaming events, and business operations.
  • Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). A measure of how well a manufacturing operation is utilized (facilities, time, and material) compared to its full potential, during the periods when it is scheduled to run.
  • Asset monitoring. The process of monitoring all activity associated with a particular machine. Including but not limited to production, performance, quality, health, etc.

Technical Terminology

Need a crash course in IIoT technical terminology? Here you go:

  • Application Programming Interface (API). A set of functions or procedures that allow one application to access / interact with the features or data of another application or service
  • Gateway. A device (usually physical but could simply be an application) that receives information from many points and transmits it to another network.
  • Edge gateway. A physical device or software program that connects the cloud to local controllers, sensors, and smart devices.
  • Ignition. Server software from Inductive Automation that acts as a hub for system integration on the plant floor.
  • Kepware. Server software from PTC that acts as a hub for system integration on the plant floor.
  • Open Platform Communication (OPC). A series of standards and specifications for industrial telecommunication.
  • Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). An industrial digital computer that continuously monitors the state of input devices to make decisions (to control manufacturing processes and equipment) based on pre-programmed logic.  
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). A wireless communication technology that uses radio frequency to power passive tags (small circuit antenna) to uniquely identify people or objects.
  • Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). A control system architecture that uses computers and networked data communications to monitor and control factory floor equipment.

Security and Standards Terminology

Finally, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with security and standards terminology:

  • Identity and Access Management (IAM). A framework of business processes, policies, and technologies that manage digital identities (for e.g. used for authentication and access management)
  • Modbus. One of the manufacturing communication protocols used for transmitting information between electronic devices.
  • Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT). A messaging protocol that works on top of TCP/IP. Designed for use cases with a low code footprint or limited network bandwidth. 
  • MTConnect. An open source communication protocol based on open standards. Many modern machine tools have it built in.
  • Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). The language used to access the Internet.
  • Ethernet IP. One of the manufacturing communication protocols used for transmitting information between electronic devices. Ethernet IP was originally developed by Rockwell Automation.
  • HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). The underlying protocol used by the World Wide Web. HTTP defines how messages are formatted and transmitted, and what actions Web servers and browsers should take in response to various commands.

With an understanding of this basic terminology, you’re ready to keep researching IIoT and determining your options.

But don’t stop here. Find out how cloud ERP can enhance any IIoT strategy by downloading a free white paper: How Cloud ERP Turns IIoT into a Critical Success Strategy for Manufacturing.

About the Author

Anurag Garg, VP and Head of Analytics & IoT, Plex Systems

Anurag Garg is the vice president and head of Analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) at Plex Systems, and is responsible for strategy and delivery of Plex’s Connected Manufacturing and IntelliPlex products. As the former co-founder and CEO of DATTUS, which Plex acquired in 2018, Anurag has been featured in Pumps and Systems, Smart Industry, and Manufacturing Automation. He was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2017, included in the list of 40 under 40 Midwest Energy Leaders by Midwest Energy News in 2016, and named a Clean Energy Power Player by environmental entrepreneurial group E2C in the same year. Anurag received his bachelor’s and master’s degree from Purdue University, both in electrical engineering, and dropped out of his PhD program in pursuit of entrepreneurial endeavors.

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