Is ‘The IIoT’ a Real Thing, a Vague Umbrella–Or Both?

umbrellasThere is a big problem in the Industrial Internet of Things. It is very clear as I attempt to write about it. I am sure that the difficulty is even more apparent for folks trying to plan products and services for the IIoT.

The problem is focus. The salient question is simple: What is the Industrial Internet of Things?

The topic is basic and complex. The secondary questions offer a bit of context: Is the IIoT so pervasive and broad that it defies any real definition? Is it a real thing in and of itself, or just an umbrella term for technologies aimed at creating industrial-grade non-human communications meshes?

The Industrial Internet of Things includes all industries and networks. It covers virtualization, machine-to-machine, cloud, WiFi, 3G, 4G and 5G. It is enabled by software-defined networks and network functions virtualization. It’s everywhere. It lives in the center of interactive cities and factory floors – but overlaps with the most commercialized elements of the consumer IoT.

On the surface, it’s all good. After all, there is nothing like a big potential market.

In other ways, it’s a problem. Such ubiquity and scale means that there is no center. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, is there a there there? The specific becomes the general as more disparate things need to be squeezed under the umbrella. The danger of being spread across so many industries and so many technologies is a recipe for inertia.

Is the IIoT itself an actual thing, or is it a vague term to collectively refer — without a lot of specificity — to technologies and approaches that are cobbled together to creative massive fabrics of non-human communications?

On one level, the IIoT can be thought of as a unifying theme that helps organize all the technologies mentioned above via business cases, best practices and standards. On another, it it is the next step in the long-standing automation of the work place and of industry. And, finally, it is its own distinct category.

In order to create, optimize and monetize the IIoT, it is important to understand precisely what it is and the highest level.

(Image: Matej Duzel via Flickr)

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