IIoT vs. IoT: Examples and 5 Key Differences

EMQ Technologies
9 min readNov 1, 2023

Table of Contents

What Is IoT?

IoT, or Internet of Things, is the idea of connecting everyday devices to the internet, allowing them to send, receive, and process data. These devices, equipped with sensors, software, and other technologies, can communicate and interact with other devices and systems over the internet. They can be remotely monitored and controlled, enhancing efficiency, accuracy, and economic benefits.

The concept of IoT is not limited to any specific category of devices; it broadly includes everything from consumer electronics like smart TVs, refrigerators, and wearable health devices to life-saving medical devices and city infrastructure. Essentially, IoT transforms ordinary objects into ‘smart’ devices, enabling them to interact with humans, other devices, and the environment in entirely new ways.

IoT is a crucial component of today’s digital landscape, shaping the future of numerous sectors, including healthcare, transportation, entertainment, and home automation. It has the potential to dramatically enhance our quality of life, improve safety and security, and drive significant economic growth.

What Is IIoT?

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a subset of IoT that specifically focuses on the industrial sector. It involves the application of IoT technologies to industrial applications and processes, such as manufacturing, logistics, and energy management. IIoT leverages technologies such as machine learning, big data, smart sensors, and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication to enhance industrial processes.

IIoT is more than just a buzzword; it’s a transformative technology that is improving operational efficiency, productivity, and safety in industries. It enables real-time monitoring and analysis of industrial systems, predictive maintenance, and autonomous operations, among others.

While IIoT and IoT share some common principles, there are distinct differences between the two. The most notable difference is that while IoT primarily focuses on consumer usage and improving life quality, IIoT is centered around industrial applications, aiming to improve efficiency and productivity in industrial settings.

Examples of IoT Applications

Smart Homes

Smart homes represent one of the most popular applications of IoT. They include various connected devices like smart thermostats, lighting systems, security cameras, and appliances that can communicate with each other and be controlled remotely. This interconnectivity not only offers convenience but also improves energy efficiency and home security.

Wearable Health Devices

Wearable health devices collect health-related data, monitoring heart rate, sleep patterns, activity levels, and more. The data can then be analyzed to provide insights into a person’s health and wellness, helping them make informed decisions about their lifestyle and healthcare.

Connected Vehicles

IoT is also transforming the automotive industry. Connected vehicles are equipped with internet access and can share this access with other devices both inside and outside the vehicle. They offer features like real-time navigation, traffic updates, vehicle diagnostics, and even entertainment services, enhancing the driving experience.

Smart Cities

Lastly, IoT plays a crucial role in the development of smart cities. From intelligent traffic management systems and waste management to smart grids and public safety, IoT technologies help create safer, cleaner, and more efficient urban environments.

Examples of IIoT Applications

Manufacturing Automation and Optimization

In the manufacturing sector, IIoT is used to automate and optimize production processes. This includes real-time monitoring of equipment, automated quality control, and predictive maintenance. These applications not only increase efficiency but also reduce downtime, improve product quality, and lead to significant cost savings.

Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance is another key application of IIoT. By continuously monitoring the condition of equipment, potential issues can be identified before they lead to failures. This allows for timely maintenance, preventing costly downtime and extending the life of the equipment.

Supply Chain and Logistics Management

IIoT also plays a significant role in supply chain and logistics management. It enables real-time tracking of goods, predictive analytics for demand planning, and automated inventory management. These capabilities result in increased transparency, improved efficiency, and reduced costs.

Energy Management and Smart Grids

Finally, in the energy sector, IIoT is used for efficient energy management and the development of smart grids. These grids use sensors, smart meters, and digital communication technology to monitor and manage the transport of electricity from all generation sources to meet the varying electricity demands of end users.

IIoT vs IoT: 5 Key Differences

1. Scope and Scale

The scope and scale of IoT and IIoT fundamentally differ. IoT generally refers to everyday devices connected to the internet, such as smartphones, home appliances, and wearable devices. The goal of IoT is to make life easier and more convenient by allowing devices to communicate with each other.

On the other hand, IIoT specifically applies to the industrial sector. It involves large-scale machine-to-machine communication and automation of complex industrial processes. IIoT is designed to improve efficiency, productivity, and safety in industries such as manufacturing, logistics, and energy.

2. Complexity and Precision

In terms of complexity and precision, IIoT takes a different approach to IoT. IoT devices, though sophisticated, typically perform simple tasks like adjusting room temperature or tracking fitness activities.

IIoT, conversely, involves complex operations and requires high precision. For instance, in a manufacturing plant, IIoT systems can automatically adjust the production line’s speed based on real-time demand or detect minute defects in products that are invisible to the human eye. Such complex and precise operations demand more robust and sophisticated technologies.

3. Connectivity and Interoperability

Connectivity and interoperability are other key areas where IIoT and IoT diverge. IoT devices usually connect to the internet via standard home or office networks. They often use common communication protocols like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or Zigbee, enabling seamless interoperability between different devices.

By contrast, IIoT requires more robust connectivity solutions due to its industrial nature. It often employs specialized industrial communication protocols, like OPC UA or Profinet, which are designed for high-speed, reliable, and secure data transfer. Moreover, given the diverse range of machinery and equipment in industrial settings, interoperability can be a critical challenge in IIoT deployments.

Both IoT and IIoT converge in their use of common machine-to-machine protocols. Possibly the most important is MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport), known for its lightweight nature, efficient publish/subscribe model, and ability to operate at very large scale. MQTT facilitates efficient data transmission, especially in bandwidth-constrained environments.

4. Security Protocols

Security is paramount in both IoT and IIoT, but the emphasis and approach to security vary. IoT devices, while needing security measures, typically deal with less sensitive data. Therefore, their security protocols may not be as stringent as those in IIoT.

IIoT, on the other hand, deals with critical industrial data and control systems. A security breach in an IIoT system can lead to catastrophic consequences, such as production downtime, financial losses, and even threats to human safety. As a result, IIoT systems implement advanced and rigorous security protocols, including data encryption, intrusion detection systems, and regular security audits.

5. Programmability

Programmability is another distinguishing feature between IIoT and IoT. Most IoT devices come with pre-programmed functionalities that cater to general consumer needs. While some IoT devices allow for customization, their programmability is typically limited.

Conversely, IIoT systems are highly programmable and customizable, designed to adapt to the specific needs of different industries and companies. They can be programmed to perform complex tasks, make autonomous decisions, and even learn from their past actions using machine learning algorithms, offering a level of flexibility that is not commonly found in general IoT devices.

IoT vs. IIoT: How to Choose

Choosing between IoT and IIoT depends largely on your specific needs and circumstances. If you’re a consumer looking to simplify your life and enhance your home with connected devices, IoT is likely the best choice. It offers a wide range of user-friendly devices and applications that can make your daily activities more convenient and enjoyable.

If you’re a business or industrial operator, IIoT may be a better fit. It offers powerful tools for improving efficiency, productivity, and safety in industrial environments. IIoT can provide valuable insights and control over complex processes, helping to reduce costs and optimize operations.

Remember, though, that IIoT vs. IoT isn’t necessarily an either/or decision. Many businesses and even some consumers use a combination of both. For instance, a manufacturing company might use IIoT for its production processes and IoT for its office and facilities management. Consumers might use smart home devices in their private apartment, while the apartment complex they live in uses IIoT devices for services like air conditioning and elevator maintenance.Simplifying IIoT Connectivity with EMQX.

EMQ provides Neuron, a lightweight connectivity server for industrial dataops and data-centric automation, tightly integrated with our industry-leading MQTT broker. Neuron provides several significant benefits for IIoT, simplifying connectivity, enhancing data integration, and enabling real-time communication and analytics.

If you are a managing an IIoT deployment, EMQX and Neuron can help with:

  1. IT Connectivity: EMQX broker offers a wide range of data bridges, facilitating seamless integration with over 40 cloud services and enterprise systems. This enables instant access to data across diverse applications, reducing the cost and complexity of custom bridge development. EMQX supports integration with popular databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, and more, as well as technologies like Redis, Oracle, SAP, and Kafka. This rich set of connectors ensures efficient IT connectivity and data exchange within the IIoT ecosystem.
  2. OT Connectivity: Neuron serves as a protocol gateway, providing a comprehensive set of industrial connectivity options essential for successful IIoT deployments. With support for over 30 industrial protocols such as Modbus, Ethernet/IP, Profinet I/O, OPC-UA, IEC104, BACnet, and more, Neuron enables seamless communication with various devices and systems across the operational technology (OT) landscape. Whether it’s PLCs, building automation systems, CNC machines, or robotics, Neuron offers a powerful range of drivers to ensure reliable OT connectivity and data acquisition.
  3. Unified Namespace: EMQX and Neuron can be used together to create a unified namespace for industrial IoT applications. A unified namespace is a common naming convention for MQTT topics that allows devices and applications to communicate with each other regardless of location or protocol. All devices and applications use the same MQTT topic hierarchy based on a common set of naming conventions and data models. This allows devices to discover and communicate with each other without the need for complex routing or translation mechanisms.
  4. Data Replication: By leveraging the EMQX brokers high speed throughput and low latency capabilities, OMH can provide multiple location high speed data replication. High-speed replicating data across multiple manufacturing locations ensures consistency in the data shared among different locations. When data is replicated, each location has access to the same set of information, ensuring that decisions and actions are based on the most up-to-date and synchronized data. This promotes uniformity in operations, reduces discrepancies, and enables standardized processes across all sites.
  5. Interoperability and Scalability: EMQX broker and Neuron gateway can be used together to ensure the interoperability and scalability of the manufacturing information infrastructure by establishing a more flexible and interconnected data exchange approach. A centralized data repository is established to store and manage all the data collected from various levels of the information systems. This repository acts as a central hub where data from field-level devices, SCADA, MES and ERP is consolidated.
  6. Edge and Cloud Stream Processing: Neuron gateways may offer edge computing capabilities, enabling data preprocessing and filtering at the edge of the network. This reduces latency, conserves bandwidth, and optimizes data transmission to the central MQTT broker. Once the data is in the EMQX broker, it can be further processed, analyzed, and integrated with other systems. This could involve data storage in databases, real-time analytics, or forwarding the data to cloud platforms for further processing.
  7. MQTT Sparkplug: EMQX is a popular MQTT broker that supports the Sparkplug protocol, while Neuron is an industrial IoT platform that can be used to collect data from industrial devices and generate Sparkplug messages for applications. Neuron can collect the data from the devices and publish Sparkplug messages to the EMQX broker based on the data by reporting changes. EMQX will forward the messages to the application that subscribes to the relevant Sparkplug topic. Learn more in our detailed guide to IIoT platform.
  8. OPC UA over MQTT: Neuron, as an industrial connectivity gateway, could have been updated to include native support for OPC UA over MQTT. Any data formats can be re-organized into OPC UA formats and sent over MQTT to EMQX broker that can handle large-scale OPC UA over MQTT deployments with high throughput and reliability to the subscribers.

By combining the capabilities of EMQX as an MQTT broker with Neuron’s industrial connectivity gateway, IIoT connectivity is streamlined, enabling seamless communication between industrial devices and backend systems. The integration of these components simplifies data exchange, enhances data processing, and optimizes IIoT deployments for improved efficiency, reliability, and real-time decision-making in industrial applications.

Learn more about Neuron: The Industrial IoT Connectivity Server

Originally published at www.emqx.com

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EMQ Technologies

EMQ is an open-source IoT data infrastructure software provider, delivering the world’s leading open-source MQTT message broker and stream processing database.