Get ‘Smart’: Decoding the ABCs of the IoT

Simply put, almost anything that can connect to a network is part of the Internet of Things. Everyday examples of IoT are smart home devices like Nest thermostats and Ring video doorbells.

Such smart devices are arriving increasingly on the manufacturing floor, forming a cyber-physical network that optimizes production. There are more than 20 billion connected devices the world over, and the global IoT market is projected to grow to $1.1 trillion by 2023.

But while IoT clearly represents opportunity for new products and smarter processes, it also requires navigating a thicket of acronyms. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common ones:

IoT: The aforementioned Internet of Things. IoT is made up of billions of devices that contain sensors, electronics and software. They connect to share, receive and act on data over wired or wireless networks.

IIoT: Industrial Internet of Things. With IIoT, network-connected sensors and other smart devices embedded throughout a factory gather, share and analyze data. This improves manufacturing processes, often in real time, and allows manufacturers to predict when machines may need servicing, reducing unexpected downtime.  

IT: Information technology is the computer software, systems and networks that process, store and distribute all the data that flows in digital manufacturing.   

OT: Operational technology is the hardware and software that manages and monitors the operation of physical processes and machines. In short, IT deals with information; OT deals with machines. 

AI: Artificial intelligence. No, it’s not the HAL 9000, the talking, self-aware computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” But AI does involve making systems with a human-like ability to interpret and learn from data and to adapt to perform human-like tasks.

ML: Machine learning. A subset of artificial intelligence, machine learning applies AI to teach computers to learn for themselves, interpreting data, recognizing patterns and independently adapting to new data and experience.

AIoT: Artificial Intelligence of Things. Adding artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things to enable smart devices to analyze data and make decisions independently to drive efficiency and ultimately optimize systems.

DM: Digital manufacturing. DM combines manufacturing technologies with digital techniques to assist in design and analysis of product and manufacturing processes. A digital manufacturing system can digitally design a manufacturing process while designers develop the product and engineers assess its manufacturability or create a 3D simulation of a production line.

AM: Can mean additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. A 3D printer builds three-dimensional objects by adding successive layers of plastic or metal.  

AM: Can also mean advanced manufacturing. Advanced manufacturing uses cutting-edge technology to improve products and processes.

M2M: Machine-to-Machine communication. In M2M, smart machines and devices communicate directly, collecting and sharing data and performing actions without human interaction.

MES: Manufacturing Execution Systems allow for precise control of the manufacturing process — like inventory tracking, machine maintenance and other production events. An MES has real-time production data monitoring and analytical tools to improve quality and efficiency.

ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning. Similar to MES, but an ERP gathers data from every part of the business — not just the manufacturing processes — into one central location. The information usually is presented on a dashboard that shows productivity and profitability across the entire business. Manufacturers also can use it to keep track of a supply chain.

5G: The fifth generation of wireless communication. This advancement in mobile broadband technology promises speeds some 10 times faster than 4G, boosting production of new IoT connected products while increasing efficiency and reducing costs.

Interested in defense contracting? Read about Decoding the ABCs of the DOD. Want to learn more about what it takes to set up an IIOT system? Deb gives you the answer in this column.