The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a natural component of Industry 4.0. The modern factory has IIoT sensors in virtually every corner. Whether it is a machine on the factory floor or a plumbing system, there will always be a sensor set up for monitoring. And as with any other component of the industrial infrastructure (OT and IT), these sensors need to be monitored to ensure their proper functioning and data collection.
Experts from Paesslera company specializing in network monitoring, analyzed IIoT sensors, their main applications and typical architecture, as well as the most common ways to best monitor them.
IIoT sensors: the best allies for Industry 4.0
The most obvious definition is that IIoT is the IoT for industry. This means that the appliances are intended for general use in factories, such as measuring the temperature of machines or the status of a manufacturing process.
Although these sensors are similar to commercial IoT sensors typical of smart homes, Paessler confirms that they have some features that make them different. Industrial sensors, for example, need to be much more accurate, as a variation of a fraction of a degree or a few millimeters can result in a useless product. Furthermore, IIoT devices are often adapted to operate under the harsh conditions of the industrial environment, such as offshore oil platforms where moisture is everywhere. Thus, resistance to dust, water, shock or heat is the basis.
From raw data to targeted analytics to process optimization
Typically in industrial technology, an architecture has multiple IIoT sensors that transmit data to an edge gateway. Transmission can take place in several ways, over a wired connection or, more often, wirelessly. Depending on factors such as the location of the sensors, the frequency with which they are to send data, and the amount of energy they use, the transmission protocols may be based on mobile technology (4G and 5G) or on low-power geographic networks (LPWAN). Edge gateways collect this data and, if necessary, convert the protocol so that the data can be sent to an ERP or other analytical system.
Paessler experts explain that sensors collect data from cars, buildings and vehicles. This data is then transferred to analysis software and used to manage and optimize operations. The information from IIoT data can therefore be used for various purposes: predictable maintenance, process automation, building management, reduction of energy consumption, measurement of environmental measurements, retrofitting of the most obsolete machines, safety.
How to ensure ongoing monitoring
Given their importance in the industrial infrastructure, IIoT sensors must be constantly monitored to ensure their operation and data transmission as expected. Among the most common ways to monitor these sensors, Paessler reports:
- The webhook works to retrieve data from an IIoT sensor. Webhooks are generally triggered by some events to send information to a predefined URL. This data can then be incorporated into a dashboard.
- The transfer protocols. The protocol OPC UA it is a common choice as it defines not only the method of communication but also the data structure. Another popular protocol is MQTT. In this case, the sensor is e.g. connected to an MQTT broker, and messages are published and received between the sensors connected to the broker. By having access to MQTT, it is possible to get information about the devices that do not respond, about the broker’s health and about the payloads sent by the devices.
The most important thing, of course, is always the big picture. Bringing IIoT data into a broader monitoring concept that also includes IT and OT is not only useful but necessary. The monitoring software PRTG of Paessler provides the necessary tools to monitor the entire industrial environment, including IIoT devices.