What on earth is IIoT?

I decided to write this page because I couldn't find a page out there that could adequately answer the question above without straying into the overly technical. If you encounter MQTT, SQL, Node Red and REST API in one sentence, without knowing what it is, you're likely to mentally shut down ( and probably just did). I have been there and I want to help. 😊 

So, we will start small. What do IIoT and IoT mean? They mean the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Internet of Things (IoT). 

Now you might think "Okay, but what does it do and why should I care?"  Well, let's start with what it does.  

The "Thing" In IoT

Think about your average light bulb, a simple thing. Have you ever wanted to turn on that light on your way home? Or from across your house? You could call a friend to turn on the light (if they're home), or do a ton of wiring. But there's another way too. 

Internet Connected Bulb

Electronics have become incredibly small. What if we put the stuff in this bulb that it needs to connect to the internet? If this could be done we would be able to connect to the bulb from anywhere. We could even put a tiny switch in it to turn it on or off.

"Thing" On The Internet

If we have the light bulb on the internet, and it has a switch in it, we can turn it on or off from anywhere. All we need is a connection to the internet and a computer of some kind. The most commonly used computer today is the smart phone, but any computer will do. The language used to talk to the bulb is called MQTT. 

An Internet Of Things

Now that we have our light bulb on the internet and we can turn it off and on we realize other possibilities. We could do this to all kinds of things. The light bulb can tell us if it is off or on. I could have an alert show up on my phone  if the light has been on too long.  Sound systems, washing machines, refrigerators, ovens, window coverings, pumps, wells, tanks, vats, entire plant processes! All could be internet connected things, all together making an Internet of Things. When used in industrial processes it is called Industrial Internet of Things. 

But Why Should I Care?

IoT is going to become a greater part of our lives throughout the coming decade and beyond. People like the technology for different reasons depending on their needs. People at home like the conveniences it brings such as remote control lights, smart thermostats that save energy and refrigerators that order food for you. Within the industrial realm the needs change dramatically. 

Industrial Things

The industrial market needs to better serve their customers with reliable processes that produce consistent product quality. Whether they are making beer, bread, water or bolts they needs data to maintain low cost and good quality. Connecting sensors and switches to the process and connecting them to the internet opens a realm of possibilities. Each ingredient or conveyor becomes a "thing" that can be analyzed and acted upon in real time. Gone are the days of analyzing data and adjusting the process days later.  It happens in near real time now. 

Data Everywhere

Computers can do all kinds of stuff with data from these "things". IBM Watson is a data service online that has a range of helpful services. One of which can even help prevent failures by seeing that there is a problem before there is a major breakdown. Some are interested in collecting data for regulatory reasons. Municipal water, for example, must record chlorine and pH and report it to regulators. Others would like to watch their bottom line by monitoring building power usage in real time and making adjustments.  The possibilities are endless. We can keep all of this data in a database that uses SQL language for retrieval.  


We almost forgot, how can we connect these "things" to the internet? There are people that specialize in doing this, they are often called integrators, automation technicians and automation engineers. They use computers like the one shown to the right. This is called a rack. On it is a controlling computer (the thing with the antenna) this computer can drive and entire process automatically on its own. To the right of the controller are removable cards that can connect to "things". Each card is different, some send on/off signals, others take in temperature signals or send and receive serial data. The combination used depends on what you are connecting to. Many racks can be combined to drive many "things" if needed. The controller is able to talk with outside computers on a network  and share information about what it is doing.

Bringing it all together

The rack connects to the thing and the rack is connected to a local network (like in your house). But you need to do something with your data and you need to be able to use your "things" from the internet. A computer is often used for the purpose of showing moving and collecting data as well as sending the info to your phone so you can operate "things". Many people use the Raspberry Pi single board computer for small projects. For large and industrial jobs we like to use the red computer to the left called groov. An industrially hardened computer.

Groov can interface with the rack then show an interface to your "things" on your phone or any other computer. It can also send rack data to services like Watson. Watson can send commands back to the rack or out to a cloud database (plus much more). To set up communication with various systems integrators use the Node Red software and the REST API built into the rack controller.

Stanford Engineering and Automation is IoT certified by Opto 22 and has the knowledge and experience to help you bring your system up to speed and help you get the most out of your home and your business.

You made it!

You made it to the end! I hope you understand a bit more about what IoT is and what it is capable of. Almost anything can become a thing on the internet. Maybe there is something you thought of while reading that we could help you make a reality. Contact us and discuss it, we love new ideas. 

See a live demonstration of a groov box located at the Opto 22 factory hereEnter username: trial and password: opto22

Information about IBM Watson can be found here.

Keep coming back to check for new links sharing what IoT can do.