Challenges and Opportunities of Industrial IoT Technology

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the culmination of progression by wireless connectivity and sensing, as well as support given by processing, control and power management devices in recent years. The stage is now set for the IoT to start seeing widespread deployment in both consumer and industrial spheres. The following will describe challenges and opportunities of Industrial IoT (IIoT).

Highly integrated solutions to help seize the huge business opportunities

Industry analyst firm Market & Markets estimates that by 2022 the global IIoT business will be worth around $195 billion annually. Predictions about the number of connected IoT nodes that will be in operation vary quite considerably. The most ambitious suggests there will be 50 billion by 2020, while others claim 20 to 30 billion is a more realistic figure by that stage. What is certain is that there will be tens of billions of objects being connected to the Internet over the course of the next few years, and around 50% of these will be for some type of industrial application.

IIoT can enable higher degrees of automation and thus raise productivity. It can also help companies to broaden the array of services they can offer, heighten safety, avoid downtime, better control their assets and also become more ecologically responsible. 

There is a multitude of different connectivity technologies offered that will support IIoT. Some of these are already established, while others are still in the process of emerging. They include traditional industrial wireline protocols (such as CAN bus, FieldBus, Hart, KNX, Ethernet, MBUS and PLC), as well as wireless protocols. The wireless connectivity options can be categorized as either cellular-based ones that cover the wide area network (like LTE−M and in the future, 5G) or short-range, power-efficient ones (like Wi-Fi®, LoRa, ZigBee®, Z-Wave® and BLE) for the ‘last mile’ implementation.

IIoT presents an opportunity to control different mechanisms remotely via cloud-based automation infrastructures, including activating lighting, driving of motors, opening/closing actions, etc. Li-Fi communication technology is now permitting the ability to interface with what were previously conventional standalone actuators. Likewise, different sensor technologies can be employed in an IIoT context, such as when the temperature at which an industrial process is being conducted, power consumption and capacity load during equipment operation, the ambient light and moisture levels in a large commercial greenhouse, or nitrogen-oxide content in gas leaving the exhaust flu of an industrial boiler. 

For sensor connected networks, the power consumption of the object is likely to be significantly less than will be the case for connected actuators; hence, battery-powered objects will represent the vast majority of deployments. This is likely to prove critical to IIoT proliferation, as many applications will rely on sensors that have been deployed in remote locations (and therefore sending engineers out into the field to regularly replace batteries will be uneconomical). The power consumption and connection range of the radio interface will potentially represent a significant impact on the lifespan of the battery (so BLE and other ultra-low power RF protocols will be preferable). In some cases, energy harvesting will be employed to take care of the power supply problem, enabling batteries to simply be dispensed with. 

In addition to the limitations placed on IIoT hardware due to battery-powered operation, the electronics located at each node is likely to have other constraints. The large number of nodes deployed could mean that low bill-of-materials costs need to be adhered to. Furthermore, available space may also be restricted. 

The cloud will be the foundation upon which IIoT data processing and storage activities are reliant. IIoT-based data must be managed under extremely strict control procedures and with authorization of the owner of this data. To mitigate the potential threat of industrial espionage, hacking or even acts of terrorism, a fully secure service offering needs to be employed. 

ON Semiconductor recognized early on that something was needed to be done about the disjointed situation that exists between the hardware and software aspects of IoT/IIoT development. The result of this endeavor was the ON Semiconductor IoT Development Kit (IDK). This presents engineers with a ready-to-use single platform that exhibits a high degree flexibility, upon which the demands of both hardware and software are fully accommodated. Based on the company’s highly sophisticated NCS36510 system-on-chip (SoC) with a 32-bit ARM® Cortex® M3 processor core, it has all the necessary hardware resources for constructing highly effective, differentiated IIoT systems, along with a comprehensive software framework to attend to interfacing with the cloud. 

By attaching different daughter cards to the IDK baseboard, a wealth of connectivity (Wi-Fi, SIGFOX, Ethernet, 802.15.4 MAC-based radios enabling ZigBee and Thread protocols, etc.), sensor (motion, ambient light, proximity, heart rate, etc.) and actuator (with stepper and brushless motor driving, plus the ability to drive LED strings) options can be added to the system.

The Eclipse-based integrated development environment (IDE) that accompanies this hardware consists of a C++ compiler, debugger, code editor and a collection of application-related libraries. It allows them to configure the IDK in the way that best fits with their particular application, but simultaneously still benefiting from powerful security features and real-time diagnostics/analytics. The IDK provides a highly configurable platform that will help engineers achieve their system design goals while accelerating development timeframes – thereby deploying systems quicker and with greater cost effectiveness. 

IIoT applications promise huge business opportunities. Through the leverage ON Semiconductor's IDK, you will be able to speed up product development speed to seize market opportunities. It is well worth your in-depth experience and understanding.

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