4 years ago

IoT and IIot: What are their similarities and differences?

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IoT and IIoT refer to the ecosystem that involves several devices, such as sensors and cameras.

It’s been a while since the world has known about the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). And their benefits are very apparent.

It’s not surprising that the market for IoT has grown. Fortune Business Insights reports that the international IoT market in 2018 was valued at $190 billion. That number is expected to balloon up to $1.1 trillion seven years from now.

Manufacturers have a significant slice of this pie. This is because of the perceived benefits that these factories get from IIoT. For instance, more than 3 out of 10 companies with an IoT strategy believe that the platform will be able to help them understand machine health. Close to 30 percent says that it can change the way their plant personnel interacts and works.

Another reason manufacturers have for putting up an IIoT strategy is to be able to predict and avoid plant shutdowns.

But what are IoT and IIoT?

Both IoT and IIoT are sometimes mistaken as sensors, appliances, or equipment. They’re not.

IoT and IIoT refer to the ecosystem that involves several devices, such as sensors and cameras; among others. These devices can communicate with each other. They can take measurements and metrics. The data can be viewed on a computer screen, tablet, or whatever display you want. The results they get are used to optimize operations that can help save you money or fine-tune your processes. Some examples for both IoT and IIoT include checking & replenishing inventory of a particular product in your store, and keeping tabs on machinery to get warnings for potential malfunctions & breakdowns.

Differences between IoT and IIoT

Where do the differences lie?


The Internet of Things is when a service provider offers a cloud-based service. For instance, you have IoT that can determine user demand depending on whether it’s hot or raining outside. The sensors will collect data and send it to your service provider who will then do the analysis. As such, you get unique value from the service, which in this case is more convenient. This ensures that you meet consumer demand without stocking too much inventory.

For IIoT, however, the sensor is connected to a programmable logic controller. The output of the PLC will then be sent to your service provider. As such, the service provider will give you additional intelligence that the PLC cannot give you.


Inputs are what you call sensors, devices, and other appliances that collect data. Consumer IoT systems often use sensors to do its job. For instance, it gets data from a product’s quantity counter and then automatically repurchases the product when stocks are low. It can also notify you via a push notification on your phone.

Industrial Internet of Things, on the other hand, makes use of a range of sensors. For instance, it can combine temperature readings, wind velocity, vibration, pressure, and other metrics. All of these data are then sent to the PLC before transmitting it to the IIoT processes in the cloud.

The service provider’s feedback will be relayed back to the IIoT ecosystem, which will then change the settings of a heater, boiler, pressure balancer, or pump controller to make sure that these machinery are working optimally. As such, it can lead to fewer breakdowns and downtimes.


IoT always uses a public cloud, which processes the gathered information.

IIoT on the other hand has an entirely different architecture. It uses a private cloud that the service provider owns or operates.

IoT delivers results to the user using smartphones, computer, or any other method specified by the architecture. For IIoT, however, the feedback is sent to the ICS control center via your IT network.

Operation safety

Operation safety is fundamentally not an issue with IoT, because they really don’t have anything to do with industrial processes.

However, when you deal with an IIoT ecosystem, you must know that it may be part of your control loop. Any mistake on your part might make the system unsafe and unstable. Thus, you should select communication protocols, sensors, PLCs, and processes carefully. One wrong move can injure your employees.

Operation reliability

Because IoT is often relied on for business decisions, you have to ensure that it is reliable. You should take measures that your IoT system is safe from hacking, cyber attacks, or insider threats.

However, operation reliability is more intense and significant for IIoT systems because they are part of your ICS architecture.

The good news is that both IoT and IIoT ecosystems have ways to detect intentional or accidental actions made by insiders.

Operation benefits

IoT systems connect end devices with cloud-based processes to get unique benefits that will otherwise not be available to you.

IIoT systems, on the other hand, rely on big data provided by your service provider. For instance, if the service provider has a database of what happened to hundreds of thousands of machine failure incidents, then you can tap into that knowledge to help prevent your equipment from failing.

Communication media

With consumer IoT, most ecosystems involve Wi-Fi, cellular data, or Bluetooth. Standard IT protocols are also used.

With IIoT, the ecosystem is part of your ICS and the architecture would have links from the sensor to the PLC and your company’s server. Data is sent via the Internet using computers. This is the reason why IIoT systems should be checked for network latency.

Cyber risks

All endpoints of an Ethernet network are potential backdoor that hackers can get into. Once a cyber attacker has penetrated your network, it’s free for all and he or she can easily go through the network and into any computer and other devices connected therein.

As such, regardless if you are using an IoT or IIoT ecosystem, you should always secure all endpoints.

Each endpoint expands the attack surface and not every one of these devices or sensors is easily protected. That is because some of these endpoints are beyond your control.

For instance, your IoT or IIoT network might include consumer-oriented devices that are installed in your customers’ homes, in public places, and others. These devices and sensors were designed primarily for convenience, not security.

As such, you can deploy stronger security measures on networks that communicate with these endpoints. Update authentication measures and scan these networks continuously to detect objects that should be there.

These are just some of the things that you can do to secure your network properly. There are a lot more. As both IoT and IIoT become more and more popular, you should be proactive with your security. Only then can you derive the benefits you get from either ecosystem.

Photo courtesy of NEC Corporation of America.

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