Impending Paradigm Change
The rise of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will lead to growth in a number of connected devices globally. Oil and gas, chemical and petrochemicals, healthcare, automotive and transportation, power generation, and smart grid are the major industries that will play a pivotal role in increased adoption of connected devices. Among other trends, urbanization, personalized healthcare, personalized banking, integrated mobility, and virtual retail stores are the key trends that will strengthen the market for connected devices. IIoT platform is supported through wired and wireless sensor networks. There is a continuous shift towards wireless network and it is expected to significantly drive the growth of sensors in IIoT applications. While implementing wireless sensor network-based IIoT solutions, market dynamics need to be carefully considered.
Real-time monitoring and awareness
Factory automation requires real-time data. Real-time process monitoring reduces waste and improves efficiency. The ability to optimize resources, both energy and workforce, is greatly increased when data can be accessed remotely. Asset tracking and workforce mobility will fuel adoption for the IIoT market.
In process control and automation applications, in case of any variation in performance, the operator would be warned in advance to schedule maintenance operations. Hence, unplanned downtimes can be avoided. Due to improved efficiencies of machines and economies of scale, maintenance costs will reduce dramatically.
Monitoring in hazardous and inaccessible locations is also likely to boost growth. For example, safety of personnel is at risk when monitoring parameters of alcohol tanks, especially if the tanks need to be opened. Additionally, wireless sensor network-based IIoT solutions could also be used to find miners who are trapped and help direct rescue teams to the right spot.
Asset tracking and workforce mobility
IIoT is an enabler for remote asset tracking. The position of an asset or location of a worker can be immediately identified via sensors. Tracking assets helps keep tabs on property and ensures the prevention of losses that might otherwise result in increased overhead costs. Another benefit of remote asset tracking using IIoT platform is that workers can access data from a particular system on a portable electronic device, improving the mobility of the personnel. In retail applications, sensors can detect stock levels and help manage inventory and replenishment. Networks can also be deployed along the supply chain to ensure appropriate delivery of goods.
Hazardous and inaccessible locations
Monitoring parameters in hazardous locations is often tricky to execute manually. Moreover, the use of wires is not advisable in areas where sparking can lead to fire. As mentioned earlier, safety of personnel is at risk when monitoring parameters of alcohol tanks, especially if the tanks need to be opened. With wireless sensors fitted onto the tank, putting personnel at risk is not necessary. Wireless sensor networks (WSNs) could also be employed in mining applications to monitor conditions such as temperature, carbon monoxide level, and presence of methane within the mine. Additionally, they could also be used to find miners trapped within a section of the mine and aid in directing rescue teams to the right spot. Therefore, sensor networks enhance data availability from hazardous locations and allow communication in regions that were previously not monitored.
Scalability and lower cost
Scalability and cost become an issue when a network needs to be scaled up to accommodate for future expansion plans or adhere to new regulations without excess overhead. Use of wireless devices obviates the use of cables, resulting in significant cost reductions of up to 25% to 30% in some cases. Using scalable technologies allows rapid response capability in lieu of a dynamic environment.
Need for more valuable information to increase plant efficiency
End users acknowledge the importance of measuring the various critical parameters that are available within a factory automation environment that could be used for improving production. Wireless devices assist in monitoring these parameters and provide valuable information, helping to increase plant efficiency. The impact of this driver will be medium throughout the forecast period. As the technologies become advanced and specialization kicks in, end-user markets will have greater need for information that will result in continuing the medium impact.
Networking Issues and Connectivity Challenges
- In IIoT, moving large data packets through the network is a significant challenge. Currently, the networks deployed with 50 to 100 nodes are considered small, given the enormity of data that is processed. Neither 32 bit IPv4 nor 48 bit IEEE bit addressing are sufficient (too small). To solve this challenge, test demonstrations of 800-node networks have been undertaken recently. However, fully implementing such solutions may take time. There are other network and connectivity challenges as discussed below that need solutions.
- Another network challenge is that 128 bit IPv6 addresses are generally too large and small devices do not have the requisite level of energy to transmit such large addresses.
- Mobile and broadband access issues exist for smart grids, smart cities, and smart industries. This connectivity challenge impacts the effectiveness of a robust IIoT wireless sensor network.
- To resolve data link issues, the energy/bit needs to decrease by a factor of 1,000, but, in reality, energy/bit has gone down by a factor of 2 per year. Bluetooth classic operates in a low-power environment, but not low enough to make IIoT a reality.
Networking and connectivity challenges, if not resolved, may be an impediment to large-scale adoption of IIoT platform.
Standard Compliance and Charging Issues
- Lack of standardization is causing concerns regarding interoperability of devices. The seamless data flow without any data packet losses and correct data interpretation requires convergence of all existing standards. For example, certification from the FCC for medical devices is an ongoing challenge.
- Because the devices are remote and, in some cases, inaccessible to wired power, source wireless charging is the only solution. For a wireless charging technology to be adopted worldwide, various factors, such as induced electric field, frequency, and specific absorption rate, must be integrated into a single standard.
- In wireless charging, the efficiency gets reduced while charging, resulting in 70% efficiency compared to 85% provided by wired chargers.
- Frequency selection with respect to electromagnetic interference (EMI) and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) to suit the charging standards for the device has been an issue for quite a while.
Robust Software/Hardware Selection Crucial for Market Penetration Challenge
Type and quality of interface determines the type of data that needs to be transmitted and analyzed. Deployment of appropriate software and hardware interfaces facilitates seamless system integration at the data streaming send.
- Development of more robust application programming interfaces (APIs) and integration techniques for interfacing devices with existing networks is a challenging task.
- Other technical issues concern managing data on the application layer that comes in from sensors.
- The choice of form factor and hardware platforms on which a sensor application can be implemented is important.
High Volume/Velocity of Data and Its Movement through Low Bandwidth Connections Challenge
- Analytics are needed to optimize the data for better insights.
- Bandwidth constraints lead to restricted flow of seamless information.
For wireless networks currently available, bandwidth for usage is limited and; hence, to achieve suitable performance from the wireless devices, a significant amount of network planning needs to be undertaken by the end users. This not only involves time, but also money and end users are not receptive to this at the moment, especially when they are not fully convinced of the benefits of wireless technology. They prefer to wait till the adoption of such devices by their competitors. Therefore, delay is expected in the adoption of wireless sensor networks.
- While the cost of a sensor system is declining, it is still sufficiently high enough to affect adoption. Although conventional chargers come almost at no cost with the device, the wireless chargers cost $50 extra.
- Even energy harvesting-based batteries and thin film batteries come at a higher cost than conventional power supplies. In lower volumes, micro-electrical-mechanical systems (MEMS)-based sensors, nano-sensors, and implantable smart sensors can be more expensive than regular general propose sensors.
- Owners rarely have the budget or business case to change over to new and upgraded devices and sub-systems.
Robust Legacy System
- Legacy System is a time-tested system, so why change? Moreover, ZigBee networks are just one of the many choices of node identity that provide robust networks.
What to Watch Out For
The rapidly changing technology ensures leads to improved chipsets, smart and intelligent sensor-based devices, and fast and highly intelligent gateways. Lack of common standards for hardware development and software creation can lead to incompatibility which may limit IIoT solution quality.
As the IIoT platform evolves, data analytics is becoming increasingly important. This is likely to result in a change of business model, with data analytics playing a key role in informed decision making. Analytics is going to be an important revenue generator. Analytical software upgrades are likely to be perennial sources of revenue for hardware companies.
Software needs to be updated periodically to suit improved analytical needs. This needs to be implemented to ensure steady revenue from software up-gradation and customization.
System integrators are likely to play a larger role in integrating hardware and software on a common IIoT platform. Hardware vendors will transform to be complete solution providers, rather than just supplying sensors.
IIoT enables large data that can be un-manageable at times. IIoT users are beset with the dilemma of how to use the large amount of data generated or transmitted. More often than not, the analysis of the data generated may not be used immediately and; consequently, lose its effectiveness. This is a big issue and is experienced through the value chain.
In spite of this and many other issues, sensors in IIoT continue to be in a double-digit growth mode, with increasing deployment of sensors witnessed. The sensors in IIoT applications market generated $4.41billion in revenue in 2015. This revenue is at the packaged sensor level and not at the systems level.
Industrial control applications is the largest market, but is estimated to exhibit high growth. To take advantage of market opportunities, modification of both sensor hardware and software is required to ensure high precision and seamless sensor integration. eHealth is the second-largest end user with IIoT compatibility.
IIoT platform deployment is growing despite all its challenges. Sensor researchers, software developers, and networking vendors are increasingly interfacing with each other to solve issues of large data transmission and analysis in real time to ensure uninterrupted operations in diverse applications, such as a process plant, service sector, or safety operations within mining sector.
It is expected by some that mobile devices will act as a user-friendly platform for remote monitoring through IIoT, whereas others believe that IIoT will make objects flexible; thereby, the significance of mobile devices and apps will erode with time. This trend will allow customers to use devices on the go, providing convenience. Apart from portability, it also helps to capture real-time data and improve the user experience. With time, IIoT is likely to be the lifeline for remote monitoring and control operations and is going to be a universal platform for most connected sensors and field devices across applications from manufacturing plants to service sectors.