IIoT vs. IoT: What makes them different? With examples

April 17, 2024
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IIoT vs IoT: Key points

IIoT, or Industrial Internet of Things, refers to the use of smart sensors and actuators to connect industrial equipment and processes to the internet.

In contrast, IoT typically refers to consumer-based connected devices like fitness trackers, smart speakers, and smart home gadgets. 

While IoT is focused on convenience and efficiency, IIoT aims to improve productivity, reduce costs, and enable new data-driven business models.

What is IoT?

Picture a world where everyday objects talk to each other, sharing information and even making decisions on their own. That's the idea behind the Internet of Things (IoT).

It's a vast network of connected devices — everything from smart thermostats to factory sensors — that gather and send data to each other seamlessly, without the need for constant human input.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • It’s not just “being online”: IoT devices often share data over the internet, but they can connect using other technologies like Bluetooth or private networks.
  • Data is absolutely central: The real power of IoT lies in the data these devices collect and what can be done with it.

A major part of the IoT is that it allows you to sense and control objects remotely across existing network infrastructure.

This opens up opportunities for more direct integration between the physical and digital worlds. When you combine IoT with sensors and actuators, the tech becomes an instance of the more general class of cyber-physical systems.

You can also identify each separate object as a part of the larger computer system, and they’re able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure. 

Some experts believe that the IoT will connect to about 30 billion objects by 2030.

Some popular examples of IoT devices are: 

  • Smart thermostats: Allow you to remotely control the temperature in your home.
  • Fitness trackers: Monitor your activity levels and vital signs like heart rate and sleep quality.
  • Smart doorbells: Lets you see who's at your door and talk to visitors remotely.
  • Connected security cameras: Enable remote home monitoring and security.
  • Smart speakers: Allows you to play music, control smart home devices, get news/weather updates, and more using voice commands.

Understanding Industrial IoT (IIoT)

IIoT, or Industrial Internet of Things, refers to using smart sensors and actuators to connect industrial equipment and devices to the internet. 

This allows for remote monitoring and management of equipment in factories, utilities, and other industrial environments.

Some examples of IIoT applications include:

  • Smart sensors on factory equipment like conveyor belts that can detect issues and alert operators to prevent downtime.
  • Connected mining equipment with sensors that monitor performance, detect anomalies, and schedule preventative maintenance.
  • Smart meters that provide utility companies with data on energy usage to improve demand forecasting and outage detection.

There are several (huge) benefits to implementing IIoT solutions:

  • Operational efficiency goes up. IIoT allows for continuous monitoring and optimization of industrial systems and processes. This can reduce waste and improve productivity.
  • You can predict when equipment needs maintenance. By analyzing sensor data, you can predict when equipment needs maintenance and service it just before failure. This prevents unplanned downtime.
  • Much better safety. Smart sensors can detect hazardous conditions like gas leaks, fires, or structural issues and alert workers immediately. This helps avoid dangerous incidents.
  • Way more informed decision-making. IIoT provides real-time data and analytics on the performance of industrial systems. Leaders can use these data-driven insights to make smarter operational decisions.

Major differences between IoT vs IIoT

So, what’s the difference between IoT and IIoT? 

Here they are in detail: 

Scale and scope. 

  • IoT: Typically consists of consumer devices like smartwatches, home assistants, and fitness trackers. 
  • IIoT: These systems are much larger in scale, comprising industrial sensors, robots, and actuators integrated over wide areas. For example, an IIoT system could connect all equipment in a power plant or connect components across a nationwide rail system.

Reliability and security.

  • IoT: While reliability and security are important for IoT devices (think smart home systems), the stakes are far lower. A malfunctioning smart speaker is inconvenient, but not catastrophic for a whole production line. 
  • IIoT: Industrial systems demand extreme reliability. Downtime can halt production, create safety hazards, and cause massive financial losses. IIoT solutions prioritize redundancy, robust security protocols, and constant monitoring to prevent disruptions and protect against cyberattacks.

Data and analytics.

  • IoT: Data from IoT devices often focuses on personal convenience (“Did you leave the garage open?”) or optimizing daily life. As a result, analytics tend to be simpler.
  • IIoT: Generates vast amounts of machine data. Advanced analytics are crucial to extract actionable insights that drive major operational improvements. IIoT's powerful data analysis enables predictive maintenance, real-time process optimization, and the identification of potential bottlenecks.


  • IoT: IoT systems often involve connecting consumer devices and focusing on user experience. Integration, although important, might be far less complex.
  • IIoT: IIoT integrates a vast network of sensors, legacy machinery, advanced analytics platforms, and often integrates cutting-edge technologies. AI can uncover complex patterns in the data, edge computing provides local processing, and digital twins allow for predictive simulations. This integration requires specialized expertise and solutions.
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How to choose IIoT vs IoT: Which is right for you?

Still confused and unsure about IoT vs IIoT, and which is the right fit for your application?

Let’s go in a little deeper: 

  • Understand the impact. Are you looking for personal convenience and automation like a smart home? Or do you aim for major operational improvements with significant financial implications for your business? IoT primarily improves day-to-day life, while IIoT transforms how industries operate.
  • Think data and what you'll do with it. IoT data often focuses on convenience — did you leave the garage open? IIoT data is more about driving decisions. Will this machine part fail soon? Can we streamline this process to increase output? If you need data to make critical business choices, IIoT is likely the better fit.
  • Assess your tolerance for downtime. If your smart speaker malfunctions, it's annoying. If an IIoT system fails, production lines could halt, or worse. IIoT demands high reliability and redundancy. If downtime would be costly or dangerous, the investment in IIoT's robust infrastructure is necessary.
  • Factor in complexity and expertise. IoT devices are typically user-friendly, while IIoT often requires specialized knowledge. Do you have in-house IT expertise or the budget to outsource? IIoT solutions may require specialized engineers or consultants for setup and maintenance.
  • Costs should be top of mind. IIoT systems are way more expensive, often requiring costly sensors, networking equipment, and analytics software. IoT systems are typically more affordable for the average user. However, for large organizations, the improved efficiency, automation, and optimization provided by IIoT can save money in the long run.

Frequently asked questions

Is IIoT a subset of IoT?

Yes, IIoT is a subset of the broader IoT. While IoT connects regular devices and objects to the internet, IIoT focuses specifically on industrial equipment and applications. So all IIoT applications are IoT, but not all IoT applications are IIoT.

What are the similarities between IoT and IIoT?

IoT and IIoT share some major similarities. They both leverage connected sensors and actuators to collect and share data over the internet. They also intend to gain insights and optimize systems through data analysis and automation. However, the scope and scale of IIoT deployments tend to be much larger due to the complexity of industrial environments. 

What's the difference between IIoT and traditional automation?

Traditional automation uses pre-programmed algorithms and control systems to automate industrial processes. IIoT builds on this by using connected sensors and devices to generate data that can be analyzed in real time. This data-driven approach allows for more adaptive and intelligent automation. IIoT also enables remote monitoring and control of systems through cloud connectivity.

What are some IIoT applications?

Some common IIoT applications include:

  • Smart factories that use connected sensors, robots, and AI for automated assembly and quality control.
  • Connected logistics systems that track the location and condition of products through the supply chain.
  • Predictive maintenance uses sensor data to monitor equipment health and schedule repairs before failures occur.
  • Smart energy grids that monitor energy usage across networks to optimize power generation and distribution.
  • Autonomous vehicles like self-driving cars, drones, and robotics in warehouses and factories.

Summing up

That’s the lowdown on IIoT vs IoT. While they share some similarities, IIoT is all about optimizing industrial processes and equipment, while IoT has a broader focus on connecting all kinds of consumer devices and systems. 

As you carefully evaluate your own tech needs, think about whether you want to track customer engagement or streamline operations. That should point you toward the right fit. 

Of course, don't hesitate to consult with experts if you still feel unsure about the differences between the industrial internet of things vs internet of things. 

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