Industrial Internet of Things in 2020

Industrial Internet of Things in 2020 was presented by Alain Louchez at the 2020 IoT for Manufacturing Symposium organized by the Factory Information Systems Center at the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute on November 11, 2020.


  • The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), a subset of the Internet of Things, is foundational to the advancement of a connected society. When it comes to manufacturing, IIoT has two components: “smart manufacturing” processes that use a wide variety of sensing, actuation, data analytics and communications technologies that focus on generating operational efficiencies, minimizing waste and maximizing productivity throughout the various stages of product fabrication and assembly, and, on the other hand, the “manufacturing smart” dimension, consisting of embedding intelligence in the products being manufactured, transforming them into "connected products", and leading to new business models.
  • Market observers, for the most part, are extremely bullish regarding the future of both smart manufacturing and connected products, growth rates in the 12%-14% range are often the norm in forecast reports around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is viewed as fanning the flames of the digital fire.
  • However, the path to production usage is still long; industry continues to have difficulty in scaling up IoT projects (successful digital transformation projects are still few and far between); new revenue streams and business models are not considered a high priority; and sustainability is not addressed with the urgency it deserves.
  • Some structural shifts related to demographics and technology were noticed in 2020 with potential substantial implications for the IIoT future. A growing geriatric technophile population will have a tremendous impact on the type of products to be offered - 2020-21 is about the mid-point of the baby boomer generation entering retirement. At the same time, population aging and loss of technical skills induced by retiring baby boomers coupled with the pandemic-fueled calls for distancing accelerated the move to remote operations, and use of robotics. The vital importance of women’s contributions and the urgent need for their involvement in the IIoT world are crucial facets of the demographic influence on the space.
  • On the technology side, 2020 witnessed a continuing decline in the price of sensors, the arrival of pervasive communications networks (LPWAN, 5G and also early discussion on 6G!), renewed interest on battery-less options (energy harvesting), and the emergence of “the Artificial Intelligence of Things” (AIoT).
  • Critical industry topics remaining front and center: resilience and business continuity, cybersecurity, privacy, digital twins, Wi-Fi role in IoT: a large swath of spectrum given by the FCC in April 2020 to Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 6E), the persistent antiphonal dialog between the edge and the cloud, and the use of blockchain in many IIoT-related domains, including supply chain logistics.