The Industrial Internet of Things [IIoT] covers quite a large field and has taken the world by storm. Essentially in the manufacturing industry, there are many applications for programmable logic controllers [PLC’s] which we have had for some years now, in fact as early as 1980, however there are some revolutionary changes that have become apparent recently.
The Internet of things, industrially speaking, refers to a large number of objects embedded into various devices such as PLC’s, actuation devices, sensors detecting and passing information back and forth, even motor cars. There are various pieces of electronic equipment operating in a real-time mode, that establish connectivity. How is this accomplished? By wireless and the internet.
For example, to make it easy to understand. There is a reservoir drawing water into a tank which supplies water to a machine or a particular process. This must be accomplished in measured quantities, at a certain pressure, at certain times of the day and or night. So, firstly, the hardware is installed to make this all happen, consisting of:
- The wireless communication system, and there are many types, must be installed.
- A pump to deliver the water*
- A timer to initiate the pumping function to the tank*
- A piece of equipment that turns off the pump when the tank is full or at a predetermined level, such as a solenoid valve and a flow indicator*.
* All embedded with electronics. Once this level is reached a series of things can happen such as
- A timer instructs a valve to open at a predetermined time in order to feed another pump supplying the equipment requiring the water, thus allowing the flow of water to the machine
- A pressure regulator that maintains a certain pressure of water to the machine
- Another valve supplies the machine as and when it is required to
So, one cycle is established. However, the tank of water will become empty unless the pump feeding the tank is instructed to refill at a certain point or level, and the whole process starts all over again. Every piece of equipment in this small operation is embedded with wireless devices and can inform the supervisor that all is working correctly. Not forgetting that, the operation is programmed to run between certain hours in the day, when the supplied equipment is functioning.
Assuming all these pieces of equipment, valves, pressure switches, timers, level controls are all working efficiently when they are required to, they communicate this to the supervisor which can be a person or a computer programmed to accept certain parameters, by wireless. The communication is the all essential part as without it, a breakdown occurs.
And there are many more instructions that must be communicated to inform the operator or computer that everything is working satisfactorily. Even more complicated, the reservoir may be some kilometres away from the plant and the operator/computer.
Important in this simple process is that all the instructions are correctly interpreted and passed to the supervisor or computer. If a malfunction occurs someone has to be told that there is a problem.
If you put the system together with a superior wireless communication network, everything works according to plan and everyone who matters is notified. This whole small insignificant outlined operation is so important to the manufacturing facility and is all encompassed within the Industrial Internet of things or IIoT.
Once correctly operating, the supervisor on duty, owner of the facility etc. can be informed that all is correct, simply by glancing at his/her mobile phone.