Solve Forward

Solve Forward® is a journal of learned lessons and experiences from the digital transformation front-lines. We are here to share our experiences, and interview others who Solve Forward and learn along the way.

Published on

Industry 4.0 - An Industrial Internet of Things Primer

Headless Commerce

The term Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has become synonymous with industrial production innovation. It is becoming increasingly pervasive throughout industrial operations as digitalization rapidly becomes a business priority for organizations of all sizes.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

IIoT ecosystem combines powerful machines, advanced analytics, and people. IIoT is the system of many industrial devices interconnected by communications technologies resulting in systems that can examine, accumulate, exchange, analyze, and convey valuable new insights like never imagined. These insights can then help drive smarter, swifter business decisions for modern industrialized enterprises.

There is a strong focus on machine-to-machine (M2M) interoperability, big data, and machine learning, enabling IIoT to empower industries and organizations to have better efficiency and reliability throughout their operations. IIoT ecosystem incorporates industrial applications, including but not limited to:

  • Robotics,
  • Medical devices, and
  • Software-defined production processes

The Industrial IoT ecosystem supersedes the average consumer device-driven inter-working of physical devices associated with the IoT. Forming a clear distinction as far as an information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) network. OT refers to the networking of:

  • Operational processes and industrial control systems (ICSs),
  • Including human-machine interfaces (HMIs),
  • Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems,
  • Distributed control systems (DCSs), and
  • Programmable logic controllers (PLCs)

The merging of IT and OT networks to support industries with greater system integration in automation optimization and enhanced visibility across the supply chain and logistics is a fundamental realization of IIoT. Greater accessibility is realized by intelligent sensors and gateways, remote access, and control, which monitor and control physical infrastructures in industrial operations, including the agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, and utility industries.

In 2012, GE coined the term Industrial Internet, estimating that the Industrial Internet could easily surpass a staggering $255 billion market by 2021.

IIoT is transforming commerce as we know it. It is changing the way industrial companies operate daily. Intuitive software solutions powered by IIoT native data sources are driving powerful business outcomes, which enable:

  • Predictive analytics to detect deterioration or hazardous events in processing plants,
  • Providing real-time production data to uncover additional capacity in a manufacturing facility,
  • Fast-tracking product development by feeding operations and service data back into the production and design lifecycle

Big data solutions are moving companies forward to achieve significant gains in efficiency, availability, and permanency, ensuring that digital transformation for industrial organizations remains achievable at scale.

The unique arrangement of IIoT machine-to-machine communication with modern business big data analytics drives exceptional efficiency, implementation, and yield and causing transformative operational and financial benefits in industrial companies.

IIoT is integral to how virtual-physical systems and products are transforming with big data and analytics. In the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), real-time data from sensors, buttons, GUIs, and other data sources facilitating industrial devices and infrastructures to predict insights and determine specific actions. Machines are becoming more and more enabled to automate more complex tasks; IIoT is a crucial component to leveraging connected ecosystems or environments, creating smart cities, and building intelligent factories.

The consistent capturing and transmitting of information among "intelligent" devices and machines support industries and enterprises with many exciting development opportunities. The data allows sectors and enterprises to pick up on errors or inefficiencies and immediately address them, thus pushing for day-to-day operations and finance efficiency.

Integration of IIoT provides industrial entities with a more accurate view of how their operations are moving along, helping them make informed business decisions while pushing for increased productivity. The industry leaders in IIoT deployment, connectivity, and interoperability are a diverse group.

Seven Industries IIoT is Rapidly Transforming

By 2025, most industrial data locally generated will move out of the company environment and into the "edge" (containers that run AWS services). Here, businesses drive IIoT closer to where critical determinations and results occur in the field, like how IoT allows everyday consumers to have better user experiences at home, commutes, workouts, and play. This shift in information signifies a seismic leap from the limited set of industrial data at the edge today.

The seven industries experiencing a transformative shift leveraging Industry 4.0 include:


The smart car is not far down the road. The automotive industry has begun the rapid implementation of IIoT globally across both infrastructures and vehicle production. Driverless vehicles are advancing through trials, and soon, these vehicles will turn data into actionable insights through the interoperability of IIoT-connected devices. The new age of autonomous cars has begun as IoT developers are busy creating immersive experiences such as voice recognition, self-parking, and self-braking systems, not to forget various visibility and display improvements.

Logistics and transportation

Connected fleets are turning the transportation and logistics sector into more of an intuitive and intelligent environment. IIoT integrations enable transportation engineers to address age-old problems like driver and passenger safety, inefficiencies in user and asset management, and missing deadlines. IIoT for the transportation industry is developing fleet control, logistics and supply chain management.


With improved resource management and improved distribution comes the result of IIoT implementation throughout the energy sector. Vast amounts of connected devices gather and share information in real-time, enhancing the power grid's efficiency while improving reliability. IIoT has begun to transform the energy landscape into a more autonomous and customer-centric field.


IIoT deals with three significant aspects of the manufacturing sector - efficiency, productivity, and safety. It assists manufacturers in unlocking the potential of machines through automation and increased operational efficiency. With IIoT, it is becoming easier to optimize production while ensuring enhanced security and worker health and safety. Through IIoT implementations, the manufacturing industry is becoming much more intelligent. See our predictive monitoring and 5G enabled Industrial IoT journal entries to learning more.


Data Analytics, machine learning, and AI are not new terms for leading hospitals. IIoT technology is assisting healthcare professionals in alarm prevention and patient treatments during critical care conditions; this, along with, IIoT is boosting telemedicine in numerous user-focused ways. IIoT has streamlined the even notification process, making it easier to get, store, and analyze protected patient data in real-time through an IoT-connected ecosystem.


Innovative farming practices are a reality as farmers have started using sensors to get real-time data about things like soil composition, air quality, weather, and water usage and levels. Though countless acres of farmland are still out of reach for IIoT system to manage, the farming sector extends many opportunities for this technology into the future. IIoT is facilitating how farmers monitor their operations, ranging from harvest to market delivery. In a way, the industry remains a perfect use case for IIoT concept.


IIoT can increase supply chain effectiveness, and just in time inventory - improving customer service. In other words, retailers will improve their customers' shopping experience. The retail sector will be a significant beneficiary of IIoT. IoT, in conjunction with IIoT, is the future of retail.

Security concerns for IIoT systems

Connecting the Operational Network (OT) to the internet invariably makes businesses more viable to cyber attacks of various forms. With the many sensors and connected devices at the factory floor and the real-time data generation, these ecosystems are very lucrative systems ripe for data breach risks. Failing to invest in cybersecurity undermines the great benefits; this is where formal embedded security approaches are an essential part of the process. Building a centralized security operations center (SOC) unit can be mission-critical in dynamically scrutinizing and protecting against the vast number of threats that can affect connected environments. This centralized unit allows industries and companies to oversee the significant number of notifications and alerts they may encounter and enable quick responses.

SOCs are beneficial for facilities requiring improved visibility and uninterrupted analysis of their security posture. SOC teams' goal is to detect security incidents or any abnormal activity and immediately address issues before any data compromise event occurs; this approach addresses legacy systems' challenges, low system visibility, latencies, and slow response times. With a SOC, alerts are prioritized, and threat association is optimized to handle IT and OT efficiently.

However, shifts in the threat landscape and manufacturing and engineering infrastructures require adaptation of security protections for any new and unknown threats that may be encountered. Adopters of IIoT should have a SecOps team for tackling security in an OT environment. This group of security experts should understand different threat categories and take quick action to mitigate the effects of attacks on industries and enterprises if they are to thrive amid the IT/OT convergence.

Having a whole stack of protection purposely built into the different IIoT implementations enables industries and enterprises to conduct their operations securely; these security layers consist of the but are not limited to:

IIoT SecOps teams should understand how manufacturers and service providers transmit and store information. And in a security incident, manufacturers and service providers should notify corporations of any threats and the steps necessary to resolve the situation.

Networks are a gateway to IIoT systems that gather data from machinery; it is here where organizations need to have state-of-the-art intrusion prevention systems (IPSs) to monitor and detect potential threats. This gateway is where there is a control center that issues device prompts and controls. A control center is an important place where enterprises should implement security hardening to safeguard against malware invasion or breaches.

The IIoT Analytics cloud is where providers need to have security implementations that run server-based protection to mitigate security risks.

Securing IIoT systems requires connected threat defense and end-to-end protection, from the gateway to the endpoint, that can provide:

  • Routine monitoring and detection of malware infection.
  • Improved threat visibility and early anomaly detection
  • Proactive prevention of threats and incidents between IT and OT
  • Server and application defense beyond the data center and the cloud
  • Secure data transfer: next-generation IPS avoiding attacks from vulnerability exploration

Adopting IIoT

Adopting IIoT can revolutionize how industries operate, but there are three main areas an Enterprise should consider: user experience, availability and scalability, and security. Industries and organizations that handle operational technologies must be well-versed in all aspects of these facets. Nevertheless, given that OT networks are being integrated into the internet, companies are witnessing the establishment of more intelligent and automated machines at work, which invites a slew of new challenges that would require knowledge of IIoT's environment's inner workings.

As IIoT sensors, gateways, and networks become more robust and capable, we will see more applications come to light. Measure twice and cut once has been Solvative's mantra when designing new IIoT systems that connect across IT and OT networks. If you have any questions, please feel to reach out!

If you have questions about digital transformation that you’d like for us to cover, please email or @solveforward on Twitter. We’d love to hear from you!