What are IIoT sensors?
IIoT sensors are industrial sensors with integrated sensor and computing functions that are connected to larger systems via wireless communications technology. They are a key part of the industrial internet of things (IIoT), the industrial extension within the internet of things (IoT): In this emerging paradigm, the connected nature of the internet extends to the physical world, where individual objects receive their IP address, technology, and wireless connectivity. The increasing availability of compact, high-quality, affordable sensors is a major driver for IIoT. This synergy between the digital and physical worlds is particularly important for industrial applications, where sensors have traditionally operated in isolation and required local monitoring.
Ideally, IIoT sensors combine a high-quality, compact design with easy installation and operability, as well as the use of advanced wireless networks such as LoRaWAN. Industrial environments are often sensitive, high wear, or hazardous: As a result, IIoT sensors must fulfil these strict requirements, such as protective housing to shield electrical components or ATEX standards for explosive environments. To successfully interlink widely diverse technologies and systems, IIoT networks also depend on unique infrastructural innovations such as open architectures and interface standardization.
IIoT sensors deliver the automated measurement of the condition and state of industrial equipment and devices. Their wireless connection to centralized systems enables round-the-clock monitoring, analysis, and control of process elements such as liquids and gases, vibration and temperature, device position, and flow.
Wireless IIoT sensors transmit asset data and alerts wirelessly to platforms such as Control Systems or Edge that provide global management of all company technical systems such as CMMS as well as to the Cloud. This data contributes to the pool of all company data, which then undergoes cutting-edge analysis and visualization for optimum decision-making. Sensors and actuators often work in tandem, but there are differences between them. While a sensor monitors conditions and signals when changes occur, an actuator receives a signal and performs an action, often in the form of movement in a mechanical machine. IIoT sensors enable remote, automated control of physical processes based on the actionable data they generate (smart decisions).
What are the benefits of IIoT sensors?
The benefits of IIoT sensors should best be viewed as a collective revolution in industrial systems rather than a series of one-off advantages. Sensor functionality has traditionally been networked locally – for example, at an individual production line or workstation. Some individual sensors even need to be checked manually at a specific machine. Adjustments or emergency interventions may fail because human operators miss notifications or alerts, or manual responses are inadequate. Even in a best-case scenario, there will still be wide technical gaps between individual plants and stations, which are further separated from central management by an even wider gap in data, communications, and know-how.
IIoT transforms not only individual plants and systems but also the entire organization into a cohesive unit that is intelligently connected at all times. The result is an extreme degree of agility, integration, and data exploitation that makes IIoT sensors a strong driver of digital transformation.
Concretely, IIoT sensors have significantly contributed to the increase of quality, efficiency, and profitability and reduction of downtime. In contrast to monitoring rounds by human staff which are costly, intermittent, and vary by operator skill, IIoT sensors provide 24/7, real-time information at consistently high quality. The integration of IIoT sensors into intelligent digital systems expands not only the organization’s data insights but also the reach of its control of physical processes. Additionally, IIoT sensors enable much safer and better access to hard-to-reach or hazardous locations.
On the other hand, IIoT sensors also have some limitations, such as scan time, battery performance, and the fact that some smart sensors can’t meet the same accuracy that traditional wired sensors can. IIoT is an important advancement, but not a perfect solution. While not better than traditional sensors per se, IIoT sensors offer the advantages of cost, ease of deployment and connectivity.
But overall, IIoT sensors provide a foundation for connectivity and interoperability in an Industry 4.0 context. As a source of big data, they also greatly enable any industrial enterprise to become more data-driven. This makes IIoT sensors indispensable for data availability, knowledge growth, trend analysis, and improving company models and products. Combined with artificial intelligence and machine learning, IIoT sensor data serves as the basis for predictive maintenance. With IIoT, not only maintenance and troubleshooting but also upgrades, process configuration, and resource routing are no longer reactive. Instead, they accurately anticipate future developments.
What are the most important types of IIoT sensors?
The field of IIoT sensors is very broad, though there are a few key types that are relevant for most industrial applications.
The most important function of IIoT sensors is covering process- and safety-critical components. Because vibration often signals potential problems, for example, vibration sensors are one of the most critical types of IIoT sensors. Pressure sensors help avoid damage, and temperature sensors monitor potentially dangerous assets and prevent product spoilage. Ensuring that plant assets are operating correctly – both individually and together – requires physical data from wireless positioning and proximity sensors.
What are examples of other smart sensors?
IIoT sensors are part of a broad family of smart sensors that can add value to industrial organizations. Sensors for managing materials are an example of that. Paired with digital infrastructure and fire safety systems, smoke and gas sensors enable automated safety measures and help evacuate human staff. Real-time data from flow sensors and level sensors ensure efficient process control for liquids.
For dangerous or off-limits areas, security sensors identify security breaches and infrared sensors detect the presence of humans or animals. Optical sensors are not only important for computer vision, but they can detect any kind of light or electromagnetic radiation. Image sensors help integrate drones and robotics into IIoT systems and visualize spaces invisible to the human eye.
IIoT continues to grow
The emergence of IIoT sensors has brought IoT to industrial applications. New organizational approaches have also expanded the strategic landscape: Plant asset management combines the operational and economic significance of equipment data, enabling the efficient, systematic management of industrial systems in harmony with business goals.
IoT has yet to become the norm – and IIoT is still in its infancy. The fundamentals – sensor and automation technology, analytics enhanced by AI and machine learning, IT/OT convergence, and agile, holistic models – can be seen today. However, implementing these sweeping changes at scale will take time. As IIoT continues to grow, the optimized operation of industrial organizations will also see the improved integration of drones, robotics, and advanced AI. The ultimate destination is industrial autonomy, where industrial organizations run optimally with minimal or no human intervention.
See this video about Yokogawa's IIoT Sensor: “Road to Smart Manufacturing with Sushi Sensor and AI”.
Read more about the Sushi Sensor: A wireless solution for Industrial IoT.
Sushi Sensor | Yokogawa Europe
Questions? Check out the 7 Frequently Asked Questions about the Sushi Sensor.
Sushi Sensor: 7 Frequently Asked Questions | Yokogawa Industry Blog Oil & Gas
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