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5 Key Issues Facing the Industrial IoT

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) vastly enhances efficiency and productivity while creating a new set of connectivity challenges.

Key takeaways:

  • Top 5 challenges for the IIoT:
    1. Maintaining connectivity
    2. New security risks
    3. Staying up to date on data best practices
    4. Education and training
    5. Monitoring networks to keep them healthy

The Internet of Things (IoT) is taking over almost every sector, and manufacturing and other industrial settings are no exception. The IoT in the world of industry, also known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), provides amazing capabilities. But it's also facing new challenges each year as more devices are introduced, new technologies are implemented, and everything must work in conjunction with existing workflows to maintain productivity.

IIoT devices must be monitored and updated with unique considerations in mind since workflows depend so heavily on the successful transfer of information. Otherwise, supply chains may be disrupted, or safety issues may result. 

Here are some of the key challenges for the industrial IoT and the equipment enterprises depend on:

1. Maintaining connectivity

There will be an estimated 46 billion IoT devices in 2021. This equipment ranges from smart home appliances like refrigerators and thermostats to AI machines working on factory floors. These devices must stay connected to each other via the internet to do their jobs. 

In manufacturing, the IIoT is growing rapidly. It is comprised of many different smart devices and sensors that must be used daily and consistently for data to be gathered and crucial processes to be completed. 

Without a strong Wi-Fi connection, this equipment cannot track, gather, store, and transfer the info that keeps manufacturing and distribution floors moving. Key connectivity-dependent workflows include scanning products, fulfilling orders, and tracking movement. Many different devices are necessary to fulfill these functions, and the number is expanding.

Thus, one of the biggest challenges for these environments is making sure that network congestion from so many tools doesn’t impact connectivity.

2. Security risks

The IoT, in general, has brought some new security challenges. Many smaller and more mobile devices don’t always have the built-in security features of traditional computers. 

As such, industrial organizations must be sure that they put updated practices in place to address shortcomings. For example, IoT devices must be thoroughly vetted by a company to use on the network, strong cybersecurity best practices should be implemented, and the IT team must ensure that the latest software is used and regularly updated on any approved smart device. 

3. Using data analytics and gathering best practices

One of the biggest benefits of the IIoT is the unprecedented data available. Metrics are easier to identify and track, and businesses can improve based on this information. But for these processes to be fully implemented and successful, data analytics and gathering best practices must not only be followed—they need to evolve along with the technology.

Enterprises may need to increase the number of sensors deployed or adopt new interfaces and analysis tools. Devices must communicate with one another and work together to deliver insights that team members can usually view in a cloud-based dashboard. And the entire effort relies on company-wide efforts, including procedures for cleansing and storing data and integrating new equipment and information streams.

4. Education and training

With all the moving parts in the IIoT, it can be a significant challenge for industrial organizations to adopt new technology without sufficient training. For example, the IoT Signals report from Microsoft found that 29% of companies struggling to adopt the IoT blame a lack of knowledge, and 29% lack the budget and staff resources. 

There is thus a need for more awareness and training. Manufacturing companies should prioritize learning to use technologies to their fullest ability, which will have the greatest impact on productivity and ROI.

5. Monitoring networks and keeping them healthy

Finally, keeping tabs on a network to ensure it’s doing its job can be an ongoing challenge with the IIoT. Manufacturers need constant visibility into throughput, network capacity, quality, and overall performance. A wireless network monitoring solution delivers that visibility to network engineers and managers so issues can be discovered and addressed before end-user devices experience significant problems.

Numerous issues can affect wireless performance, but interference is a particular concern in industrial settings. Factory floors and warehouses tend to have steel construction coupled with a lot of connected machinery, making interference a common problem. Wireless network monitoring helps solve this issue by providing visibility into where and how signals are interrupted, enabling network revisions and designs that improve connectivity. 

Interference is only one of the challenges that 7SIGNAL’s Wireless Network Monitoring platform helps network managers identify and solve. Our Sapphire Eye® software and sensors measure a wide range of crucial metrics that identify configuration, coverage, and congestion issues in industrial facilities. In addition, it supports rapid troubleshooting and enterprise deployment for constant user experience agreement (UXA) testing.

With 7SIGNAL, your teams can find the root cause of a problem—often before any user notices it—helping you maintain productivity in factories, warehouses, distribution centers, and other industrial settings. Contact us to learn more.

7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise wireless experience monitoring. 7SIGNAL provides a cloud-based platform that continuously monitors wireless networks and identifies elusive performance issues impacting application performance and digital experience. By taking the “outside-in” approach to monitoring, 7SIGNAL has visibility into the edge of any enterprise or home Wi-Fi network where complex device interaction exists, and user experience matters most. The platform maximizes employee productivity, operational efficiency, and network ROI. Sapphire Eye® and Mobile Eye® are designed for and deployed at the world’s most innovative organizations, educational institutions, healthcare systems, and government agencies. Learn more at www.7signal.com.