Articles, IIoT, Industrial IT

How the IIoT Can Boost Sustainability

This post was guest-authored by Kayla Matthews, technology writer and the editor of Productivity Bytes.

In the industrial sector, you often come across a variety of new benefits and improvements after adopting new technologies or processes. That’s because a lot of the conventional methods and equipment used in the sector is, well, outdated. That’s exactly where the concept of Industry 4.0, and in some aspects, Industry 3.0, have come into play.

The entire sector is undergoing widespread digitization with a push toward more efficient and data-oriented operations, many of which can be automated in full, thanks to modern technologies. As a result, the Internet of Things is sweeping through the industry right now, which is better designated as “IIoT,” or the “Industrial Internet of Things.” It calls for the use of modern, connected devices and sensors to create a smarter and more efficient space. It brings a lot of operational and performance improvements, as one might expect, but it also introduces a number of environmental benefits too.

Sustainability Improvements

The most prominent change that most industrial facilities or “smart factories” will experience is a huge boost in sustainability. But that term is, admittedly, quite complex. The UN World Health Commission on Environment and Development describes sustainability as a form of development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” So, a less accurate description would be processes or operations that don’t produce excess waste and don’t consume more resources than they put out. Unfortunately, in modern industry, a “sustainable” development or operation is not necessarily one that is totally “clean.” Sustainability also refers to the eventual improvement of operations as companies cut down on total consumption, waste production and environmental impact.

IIoT can provide incredible improvements to a company or organization’s sustainability across a wide variety of processes and developments. For example, a real-time sensor might measure how much energy a machine is using, cutting down access when levels surpass a certain limit. Another IoT sensor might measure heat dissipation and activate a cooling system to deliver spot-treatments. Cooling a system more precisely helps cut down on eventual wear, energy usage, and resource depletion — such as the fuel used to run a cooling system.

Smart Manufacturing and Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

With the help of IIoT devices, incoming data drives the necessary systems and processes required to fully automate operations. This is beyond anything that’s been implemented in the past. We’re not just talking about conventional robots doing a single job on the factory floor. It incorporates modern elements of artificial intelligence and machine learning to handle repetitive tasks, but they are incredibly advanced. An example would be a smart assistant or chatbot that handles customer service in such a way that most people wouldn’t know they’re talking to a computer bot. Inside the factory or plant, however, smart manufacturing and RPA will be used to build a greener, more efficient system.

Energy Efficiency

Old news or not, back in 2013, the International Energy Agency revealed that manufacturers waste upwards of $80 billion in electricity because of outdated equipment and processes. Things like smart lighting, energy management and more efficient equipment will contribute to a reduction in energy consumption. Smart lighting, for instance, can be coupled with motion sensors to turn off lights in parts of a factory that are not being used.

Waste Management

Sustainability also refers to the direct impact an organization or team has on the environment, which relates to waste production. In most cases, the more waste that is created, the bigger the impact on the surrounding environment — particularly when that waste must be disposed of, cannot be reused and does not break down naturally. By cutting down on total consumption, and making better use of existing resources through IoT gear, there’s also a significant reduction in produced waste.

Renewable Energy

Due to the high power and reliability requirements of most factories and plants, renewable energy has been off the table for a long time. But thanks to IoT and smart technologies, that’s no longer the case. By upholding the UL and IEC standards, engineering experts are helping to highlight new energy alternative sources in the industry. For example, wind, solar, and geothermal energy have become vastly more viable solutions, allowing companies to distance themselves from traditional fossil fuels. Energy is not just more manageable — there are opportunities to store excess amounts and cut down on dependence entirely.

Increased Output

In the industrial world — especially in manufacturing and development — there’s a loop of growing demand. As demand increases, companies must boost output, producing more of an item, which requires sustaining higher levels of supplies, the consumption of more resources and the production of more waste. It makes logical sense: the more you need to produce, the higher everything else will be as a result. But IIoT can turn this concept on its head. Because factories and plants have the opportunity to be more efficient, boosting output already, that means there’s less of an impact when demand grows.

New Opportunities Abound

Finally, there’s the point that new technologies also introduce a growing field of opportunity. There are ways that the industrial industry can and will improve that we have yet to discover. That’s the beauty of a sustained improvement culture: the idea that organizations, teams, and processes must continually grow over time. IoT encourages this idea as sensors and devices are used in new ways to measure, analyze and predict dizzying amounts of improvements.

Just consider the concept of blockchain and how it applies to modern industry. Originally developed to help sustain cryptocurrencies — Bitcoin being the most obvious — blockchain technology has branched off and is now being used in a tremendous number of ways. It influences more than just the industrial sector, too, as it’s being rolled out to retail and the supply chain, healthcare and even media distribution.

There’s no telling what solutions are on the horizon, and IoT plays a direct role in that.

Discover the next era of IIoT – Now!

Coming back for the 4th year, Industry of Things World USA is the only event running over 3 days that focuses on the impact of the industrial IoT on business models, manufacturing processes and operations across all major industries. This event is part of the award-winning Industry of Things World global event series and has turned into the meeting point for senior executives wanting to deepen their knowledge and broaden their network in the Industrial Internet. With a special focus on automation, M2M communication, interoperability, new business models, predictive maintenance, industrial data analytics and cognitive manufacturing this is the must-attend industrial event for 2019.


07 – 08 March | Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina, USA