there is no need to build internal networks or data centres from scratch.
With low-cost, high-quality sensors becoming more accessible, the IoT
may soon become ubiquitous in industrial processes.
“Industry has used computing and data communication technologies
for many years...these systems were typically built with infrastructure that
was independent of public Internet networks,” said Nathan Peter, digital
systems lead for SRC’s Development Engineering team. “IIoT is accomplishing
the same remote monitoring and control objectives, but with
But there are still challenges to face before IIoT systems are commonplace.
Security and data quality are the most obvious hurdles, which
require a level of expertise to assess needs, plan equipment and install systems
safely and efficiently. If critical processes are involved – which is often
the case in industrial workplaces – concerns about privacy, reliability and
remote access are extremely important.
The challenges of end-to-end design for IIoT systems is something
SRC’s Development Engineering team work to resolve. Peter identifies the
three most important considerations when developing an IIoT system:
• Network security and reliability – protecting data in transit
through encryption and working within the constraints of network
communications, including limitations around bandwidth, latency and
continuity (e.g., how communications are affected by network outages)
• Data security – managing big data and controlling access to vast
amounts of sensitive information, including financial, technical and
• Remote access to field devices – making sure only authorized
personnel have access to devices that have real-world functions, such as
cameras, actuators and output switches. This includes being aware of
back-door vulnerabilities embedded in the hardware.
What opportunities does the Industrial
Internet of Things create?
An IIoT system can be any number of Internet-connected sensors embedded
in a process that help experts diagnose problems and make decisions
from anywhere in the world. It can be as simple as a network of sensors
tracking pressure cycles along a pipeline, or it can be part of a larger automation
SASKATCHEWAN RESEARCH COUNCIL
Mundane or repetitive tasks that once required personnel can be programmed,
improving data reliability and removing humans from potentially
harmful environments. And as more affordable sensors make the
technology accessible, companies are pressured to create new, innovative
ways to operate more safely, efficiently and at a lower cost with competition
driving the process.
Here are a few key areas where the IIoT may excel in industrial
• Transparency – Access to real-time data, which can be instantly logged
and reported, may improve how companies meet their regulatory
requirements. The data is instantaneous and may be more reliable as it
removes the chance of human error. It also benefits companies by saving
time that would otherwise be spent conducting in-person inspections
• Optimization – Expenses can be reduced as “intelligent” systems are
theoretically able to find where inefficiencies are cropping up and then
manage them. This could be like automating specific functions, so they
occur during times of lower operating cost. Data can also be used to
monitor the condition or wear-and-tear of mechanical parts, allowing
for preventative measures to take place and reduce downtime.
• Safety – A continuous flow of data means problems that would
otherwise be missed between inspections can be detected immediately.
This has enormous implications, not only for industry, but for the
public, too, as applications in environmental monitoring may build
more robust advance warning systems.
• Remote operability – In a decentralized world, the ability to perform
duties from remote locations is a major advantage. This allows
technologists and experts to diagnose complex problems, regardless of
their geographic location.
The main feature of the IIoT is the enormous amount of data it collects,
making the list of potential uses almost boundless. The question becomes
one about innovation and finding new ways to harness a wealth of data for
PHOTOS COURTESY OF SASKATCHEWAN RESEACH COUNCIL
54 | Quarter 1 2020 | saskheavy.ca