IIoT machine monitoring: What it is and how it works

June 4, 2024
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What is IIoT machine monitoring?

Machine monitoring for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) allows you to keep an eye on the health and performance of your industrial equipment. 

Tiny sensors attached to machines collect data on things like vibration, temperature, and output. The sensors send this data to a central monitoring system for analysis.

Key components of IIoT machine monitoring systems

To monitor your industrial equipment, you'll need a few essential components. First, you need sensors — lots of them. 

But what else? Let’s take a look: 

  • Sensors embedded in machines collect data on temperature, vibration, pressure, and other parameters to provide real-time insights into machine health and performance.
  • Wireless networks transmit the sensor data to the analytics system. The most common network options include Wi-Fi and cellular connections. Bluetooth connections are less popular due to their shorter range.
  • Cloud computing provides a platform to store and analyze the sensor data. The cloud also hosts the monitoring software and dashboards.
  • Big data analytics then applies machine learning and AI to detect patterns in the sensor data and gain a better understanding of your equipment's condition. These systems identify anomalies, predict failures, and more.
  • Dashboards give you a visual overview of your machines' health and performance based on the analytics. Quickly see warnings, spot trends, and drill into details.

How IIoT machine monitoring works

As we’ve established, IIoT monitoring uses sensors, networks, and analytics to automatically track the health and performance of industrial equipment. 

The sensors measure all-important metrics like temperature, pressure, vibration, and flow rate. Then, wireless networks relay this data to a central analytics platform.

With the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence, the analytics software spots patterns that indicate the machine’s condition. It can spot anomalies that signal potential issues, as well as trends that point to gradual wear and tear over time. 

If anything is out of the ordinary, alerts and warnings are generated automatically to notify operators about any potential concerns so that they can take action before a failure occurs.

Also, you get a customized dashboard providing a bird’s-eye view of your equipment’s status in real-time. You can drill down into any area for a more detailed view of the data and insights powering the alerts. 

Many systems offer predictive maintenance capabilities, forecasting when parts are likely to fail so that you can schedule service at the optimal time.

Technologies enabling IIoT machine monitoring

These are some technologies making IIoT machine monitoring happen:

  • Edge computing enables local data processing and analysis, reducing latency and bandwidth requirements.
  • Digital twins are virtual replicas of physical machines that are used for simulations and testing to optimize performance and predict failures.
  • Cybersecurity measures safeguard sensitive machine data and protect against cyberattacks.
  • Industrial protocols standardize communication between machines and systems, ensuring interoperability and data integrity.
  • 5G connectivity offers high-speed, low-latency communication for real-time data transfer and remote machine control.

The benefits of implementing industrial IoT monitoring

Advantages of industrial IoT monitoring include: 

  • All-around increase in efficiency: Industrial IoT machine monitoring gives you deep insights into your equipment and processes. By tracking key metrics like uptime, downtime, and output, you can optimize operations for maximum efficiency. You’ll know exactly when machines need maintenance or repair before issues rear their ugly heads. 
  • Major cost-cutting: With industrial IoT monitoring, you can switch from reactive to proactive maintenance that anticipates issues ahead of time. This preventative approach costs less than emergency repairs and extends the lifespan of your machinery. Monitoring also optimizes energy usage, which positively impacts those utility bills.
  • Life-saving features: Sensors can detect unsafe conditions like extreme temperatures, airborne chemicals, and more. Alerts notify you immediately if thresholds are exceeded so that you can resolve the situation. You’ll also gain visibility into the location and activity of workers and assets for improved coordination and emergency response.
  • Sizable quality gains: IIoT monitoring gives you end-to-end visibility into your operations and product quality. Track materials, components, and finished goods to ensure optimal conditions are maintained. Sensors detect deviations from specifications so that you can make corrections quickly. With a holistic view of your processes, you can identify bottlenecks and make data-driven decisions to boost quality.
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Challenges in implementing IIoT monitoring

Implementing an IIoT machine monitoring system doesn’t come without some hurdles, though.

IIoT monitoring challenges can include these points: 

  • Retrofitting existing equipment that wasn’t designed for IIoT can be tricky. You’ll need to get creative to connect sensors and monitoring devices to machines that predate the latest smart tech. This may require custom engineering solutions to capture data and transmit it to your IIoT platform.
  • Cost is another factor to keep in mind. While IIoT technologies are more affordable than ever, implementing a comprehensive monitoring system across your entire facility still requires a serious investment. You’ll need to evaluate if the benefits outweigh these costs for your specific use case and operations.
  • Data security and privacy are still major concerns. Sensitive operational and machine data will be transmitted and stored, so you’ll want to make sure it’s properly encrypted along with restricted access. Work with your IIoT platform provider to ensure they have strong security practices and protocols in place.
  • There’s an undeniable uncertainty with new technology implementation. Your team will need to learn new skills to leverage an IIoT monitoring system. There may be hiccups or downtime as you optimize the system and work out issues. Proper planning and training minimize disruptions, but some trial-and-error is unavoidable.

Examples / applications of industrial IoT monitoring

Ultra-smart factories

Industrial IoT monitoring enables smart factories with connected machines and automated processes. Sensors track equipment usage, material flows, and defect rates. By analyzing this data, factories can optimize asset utilization, minimize downtime, and improve overall quality control.

Upping supply chain visibility

IIoT monitoring provides visibility into complex supply chains with many moving parts. Tracking sensors can monitor the location and condition of goods as they move between suppliers, manufacturing facilities, distribution centers, and customers.

Companies measure temperature, humidity, vibration, and other environmental factors to ensure products stay within specified ranges. Any deviations trigger alerts to take immediate corrective actions. 

Upgrading asset management

For companies with expensive heavy machinery, power generators, and industrial tools, IIoT asset management is mandatory. Connected sensors monitor key parameters to track asset health, utilization, and performance over time.

Maintenance teams get a single view of the operating status of all assets so that they can schedule predictive and preventive maintenance. Unusual activity patterns may indicate impending failure, so technicians will need to perform repairs before the asset goes down. 

Summing up

IIoT monitoring can help transform your operations through actionable insights. While it takes careful planning and investment to implement, the payoffs in efficiency, uptime, and cost savings are great. 

One thing remains certain: As sensors, connectivity, analytics, and integration continue advancing, IIoT will become even more powerful and necessary. 

Next steps

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