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6/5/2019 | By Maker.io Staff

Using Sensors in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

One more “I” -- from IoT to IIoT

The Internet of Things has been around for the better part of a decade (Wi-Fi sensors were available before 2010), but it took awhile for the term IoT to be coined. Now that designers are looking for excuses to integrate Wi-Fi capabilities into anything and everything, it comes as no surprise that their eyes are set upon industry devices.

However, unlike the seemingly frivolous internet-enabled toasters and color-changing light bulbs in vogue in some circles, industrial processes and factories are very quickly seeing the advantages of integrating Wi-Fi devices into their product lines. The result is the Industrial Internet of Things (or IIoT).

Potential IIoT Sensor Uses

The IIoT allows production line managers to monitor their production lines and understand when equipment may require repairs, replacement, or maintenance. It can also be used to improve efficiency and adjust machinery for environmental factors. So, what sensors could you incorporate into your machinery, and what can it potentially tell you?

  • Temperature – The ambient temperature around the machine may affect the final quality of a product. The temperature of the machinery may indicate failing parts or overheating.
  • Humidity – The humidity around machinery can have a drastic effect on the final product and can be useful to determine if the product will meet quality needs (or if other processing will be required).
  • Vibration – Vibration sensors are exceedingly valuable to an IIoT device. Machinery that vibrates can make vibration patterns that could indicate worn-out bearings, motors that are failing, or loosening bolts. Vibration data can pre-warn managers of impending failure or warn nearby engineers if a catastrophic failure is about to occur.
  • Sound – The pitch of machinery can indicate what state the machinery is in, so sound sensors can provide information in a manner similar to vibration sensors. High-pitch sounds could indicate a lack of lubrication, while low-frequency rumbles may indicate incorrectly connected power cables.
  • Pressure – Pressure sensors can be used to monitor the ambient pressure around the machine as well as the pressure of fluids and gasses. Ambient pressure may determine the final quality of sensitive components, while the pressure of fluid and gasses can be used to determine the quality of pumps inside the machinery.

Coupling AI with the IIoT

The list above shows how different sensor types can be used to identify immediate problems in production lines, but if used with AI, other problems that would otherwise be hard to determine become manageable.

For example, the quality of a finished product may be dependent on atmospheric conditions, but the proportion of each factor may be impossible for humans to determine. An AI system, trained with data recorded from atmospheric sensors coupled with the finish quality of products, could produce a neural net that could link all the sensor data with product quality. This system could make determinations as to what each production stage should be doing (e.g., fine tune drill speeds, adjust heating cycles etc.). The result could be products that are far more consistent, saving the product line money on materials costs and time (as there would be far fewer rejects).

Conclusion

IIoT has gotten manufacturers excited about the possibility of further automated production lines, as well as improving efficiency and saving costs. Of course, we should not jump the gun on sensory data, as this could lead to attackers taking an interest in either stealing potentially valuable data - or worse, interfering with production lines. Security is something that should not be understated as we continue to explore the possibilities present in IIoT sensors.