The industrial internet of things can be of great benefit when companies implement it successfully. However, the early stages of such projects don’t always go smoothly. Here’s what IIoT is and the top five obstacles associated with using it.
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What is IIoT?
IIoT represents a network of connected sensors, actuators and other components used to enhance industrial processes. The widely held belief is that using this kind of connectivity throughout a facility enables better data collection and visibility, giving decision-makers more information they can use to act confidently and solve problems. However, even when industrial leaders recognize the potential benefits, implementing IIoT doesn’t always happen easily.
Top 5 IIoT implementation challenges
1. Failing to specify the purpose and scope
Some decision-makers feel compelled to adopt IIoT because they believe competitors have already done so and they don’t want to fall behind. That can be one of many factors, but it should not be the main reason for the adoption.
Instead, organizational leaders should think carefully about what they want to achieve by utilizing IIoT. How could the technology help them address weaknesses while capitalizing on strengths?
It’s also important to narrow down the extent of IIoT implementation. Will it only relate to a single machine or department at first? Figuring this out in advance is a great way to keep the budget under control and ensure everyone’s on the same page about what the implementation will entail.
This can also help people stay motivated if they focus on the likely rewards of IIoT implementation. Rewards could include fewer equipment breakdowns or a safer work environment made possible by smart data collection.
2. Experiencing data-related issues
The data-collection potential for a consumer IoT device is usually more limited than one associated with IIoT. While a homeowner might have an IoT device that collects data about a single residence, an IIoT network could span sites all over the globe and collect data from hundreds or thousands of pieces of equipment at any given time.
That reality is why so many IIoT implementation challenges relate to data collection. Decision-makers may feel uncertain about how to handle all the incoming information and process it most efficiently. They may also have doubts about what data to collect.
Knowing the data that’s most relevant to gather means understanding what the company hopes to achieve with IIoT. People must set goals and then figure out what types of data connect to those milestones. Perhaps the goal is to reduce the number of equipment outages per year. In that case, company leaders would probably want data about machine temperatures, unusual vibration patterns and total operating hours.
It’s also necessary to ensure that the data gathered and used is of the highest possible quality. If the information is duplicated or otherwise incorrect, it could be worse than not having data available.
3. Struggling to keep a connected infrastructure secure
IIoT’s vast connectivity broadens the attack surface for potential cybercriminals. Since a company using IIoT could have connected equipment throughout a facility, it’s easy to imagine how online attackers could wreak havoc.
Decision-makers aren’t powerless when it comes to making improvements. For example, penetration tests can uncover the vulnerabilities hackers may exploit to gain access. They can even highlight human-related threats, such as those that occur when a person responds to a phishing email.
A 2022 report by Barracuda showed 72% of organizations had implemented forms of IIoT and operational technology security at their companies. However, a more worrisome takeaway is that 93% experienced failures in their IIoT security projects. Only 49% of organizations polled could handle security updates themselves. That could mean security measures stay outdated for too long.
Things must get more manageable for IIoT to stay sufficiently secure. Blockchain could be a vital part of making those security improvements. Many experts view the technology as a major disruptor to various industries. Since it stores information on a digital, immutable ledger, blockchain may be instrumental in ensuring the necessary transparency while preventing tampering.
People in charge of IIoT implementations should also carry out cybersecurity audits. The results of those will show individuals in an organization how they’re doing well in terms of security and where there’s room for improvement.
4. Encountering scalability difficulties
Scalability is another challenge faced by professionals trying to make progress with their IIoT implementations. Bain’s 2022 study of IIoT decision-makers indicated that 80% of those who purchase IIoT technology scale fewer than 60% of their planned projects.
The top three reasons why those respondents failed to scale their projects were that the integration effort was overly complicated and required too much effort, the associated vendors could not support scaling, and the life cycle support for the project was too expensive or not credible.
One of the study’s takeaways was that hardware could help close gaps that prevent company decision-makers from scaling. Another best practice is for people to take a long-term viewpoint with any IIoT project.
Some people may only think about what it will take to implement an initial proof of concept. That’s just a starting point. They’ll have to look beyond the early efforts if they want to eventually scale the project, but many of the things learned during the starting phase of a project can be beneficial to know during later stages.
5. Dealing with resource shortages
An IIoT-related endeavor is more likely to experience issues if it lacks the necessary resources at any stage. Unfortunately, resource shortages are more commonly associated with IIoT projects than some people might think.
An Inmarsat study of global respondents showed that 37% of them had insufficient in-house resources for their IIoT projects. More specifically, 50% of respondents in that group said they didn’t have enough cybersecurity talent. In addition, 49% needed more data science and analytics talent, while 32% said they had the C-suite or senior leadership expertise necessary to fully integrate the IIoT into their business strategies.
Don’t let challenges stop IIoT projects
Challenges exist whenever companies plan to work with new technologies. These are some of the biggest obstacles. However, people should try to stay focused on their goals and positive outcomes rather than being overly discouraged by possible issues.
If you’re working toward implementing IIoT within your enterprise, selecting the right software is critical. There are hundreds of IIoT platforms and each one is slightly different from the next, so how do you choose? This article, including links to TechRepublic Premium resources, can help.