What Is IIoT And Why Does It Matter?
Published on: Jun 12, 2023

Ignition bridges the gap between plant floor and enterprise systems, making it the perfect platform for SCADA, IIoT, and MES.

Inductive Automation

The main benefits of keeping up with technology – and better, putting it at the core of your operation – are to be able to work smarter, make your job easier, and focus your brainpower on the tasks that move the needle (to be read: generate profit).

The key to that?


Data-driven decisions are the hot topic of today’s industrial space.

But there’s a harsh truth: even though you know you need data, you didn’t take the necessary action to make sure it’s the RIGHT data. It’s scattered all over your plant floor in different systems and you have to manually extract it and then put it into an Excel Spreadsheet. From there, all hell unleashes if you also have to actually make sense of it. 

Can’t think of a more tedious task (ok, I can, but this is still in the top 10).

So, how do you make your life easier?

That’s where the concept of IIoT comes in. But what is IIoT?

What is the OT-IT gap?

This has been going on for decades. We’re all probably way too familiar with it (which is also one of the reasons you’re having a hard time getting rid of it). 

Essentially, it’s the idea that the physical devices and systems (PLCs,  SCADA, HMIs, RTUs etc.) have to live isolated on the plant floor for efficiency and, especially, security purposes. If they don’t communicate with the outside world, they’re more likely to be protected from data exposure or attacks. 

Whereas, the IT realm encompasses software, hardware, communication protocols, networks etc. 

Source: Inductive Automation

They’re separated, and we can’t really blame those who advocate for that. OT and IT require different approaches because they have different priorities. 

OT professionals want their operations to function properly, reduce downtime as much as possible, and protect their systems and processes from errors and attacks. They’re vital for a company because they make sure it delivers the service or the product it’s supposed to. 

The IT professionals, on the other hand, are more concerned with functionality, remote access, communication, streamlining processes, and automating stuff. In a secure environment, of course. 

On top of that, neither of those truly understands the needs or the methods of the other. The IT guys don’t get why the OT guys still use proprietary, limited, and ridiculously expensive solutions, while the OT guys don’t understand the specifics that make IT work in an effective and secure way.

In this advanced technological world, the OT and IT no longer need to be separated. But there’s still a massive concern coming especially from the OT guys (and their bosses): the OT systems are much less isolated and, therefore, more vulnerable, when integrated with IT. 

Oh, come on… Is it really that big of a deal?

The OT-IT gap is not only a real thing, a real practical problem, but also probably one of the biggest obstacles to creating additional business value based on what you have at hand today.

At the end of the day, it’s about changing something – behaviour, processes, or maybe procedures. Why? Because only doing more of the same probably won’t get you to the desired destination.

And changing something, whether it’s behaviour or processes, requires smart and considerate decisions. Not based on gut feeling, but based on facts – real data used for creating insights on your business and its surrounding environment.

The tricky part is that we talk about data from many different and dispersed data sources. Some data from the factory floor (that is the OT part) and data from your other enterprise-wide systems (the IT part). Most likely also data from external sources – anything from, maybe, weather data to, for example, commodity prices.

The challenge is that, traditionally, these two worlds – the OT and IT – have been separated. Not only in an abstract sense but really down to physics, as well as in the shape of different and not connected networks.

The problems with the OT-IT gap 

Different technical languages and standards

OT and IT professionals often speak different technical languages and use different standards, which can make it difficult to collaborate effectively. This can lead to misunderstandings, errors, and delays in implementing IIoT solutions.

Solution: To address this problem, organisations can establish a common language and standards that both OT and IT can understand and use. This can be achieved through cross-training programs, shared knowledge bases, and collaboration between OT and IT teams.

Siloed systems and data

Remember that SCADA system that sits isolated on your plant floor? Yeah, it’s kinda lonely out there, don’t you think?

OT and IT systems are often siloed, which means that data and information are not shared across different systems. This can lead to inefficiencies, redundancies, and missed opportunities for optimisation.

Solution: integrate OT and IT systems to create a single, unified view of the organisation’s operations. This can be done using platforms like Ignition and communication protocols like OPC-UA and MQTT to allow for data to flow seamlessly between different systems. Additionally, organisations can establish cross-functional teams that bring together OT and IT experts to work on shared projects and initiatives. 

A division in the organisation

The OT and IT teams are part of the same business, but may experience solid barriers and very different ways of doing and thinking about things: differences in priorities, communication styles, concerns, goals etc.

Solution: you must build a culture of collaboration and communication between OT and IT teams. This can be achieved through leadership support, cross-functional training programs, and shared goals and incentives. Use change management strategies to help employees adapt to new ways of working and overcome resistance to change.

A new way of thinking

It’s not easy to accept and adopt IIoT, but the reason might not be the one you’re thinking of. Sure, the tech part of it isn’t shielded from all kinds of problems and concerns, but the reluctance to get started on this journey is rooted deeply in the human condition. 

The real reason that’s holding you back might come from within: you’re reluctant to give up the old ways of thinking. 

The convergence of OT and IT requires a whole new way of thinking, not only about how we do business and how we run our daily operations on the plant floor, but also about how we react to change

Therefore, when we claim that this integration disrupted the industrial world, we’re saying that it changed more than our system’s functionalities – it changed our minds. 

The old ways of handling things manually and settling for “what you can get” are very much an outdated mindset, prior to the 4th Industrial Revolution. 

Yes, we’re mentioning Industry 4.0. again. Yes, we know it’s annoying for some. But here’s the thing: considering the lightning-fast way business needs change, and the technology evolves, you can’t afford to live in the past much longer. Well, not if you want to be part of a thriving business, at least.

If you don’t like the idea of Industry 4.0. or similar “buzzwords” like this, call this era whatever you like, but we strongly recommend also taking action towards enhancing your systems. To make your own work and life easier, as well as to keep your company competitive on the market.

How to present IIoT 

When I have to explain to someone what IIoT means, I have a favourite analogy I use to make sure they understand:

Have you ever really thought about your iPhone, for example?

You can make phone calls, text, listen to music, browse the Internet, navigate the world, keep notes, write, read etc. It also keeps track of present and historical data for you to view anytime, anywhere.

Moreover, it can be connected to an Apple Watch, which monitors your health and can provide important data about it.

And the best thing about it? Your iPhone is a platform – a vessel if you will. It stores the apps and the data, and it connects all the information, making it available at all times, from everywhere. Moreover, it’s specifically tailored to your needs.

This small device you can fit in your pocket is your access to every piece of information ever created by humankind. How amazing is that?

IIoT is similar to your iPhone: a situation where everything is connected, and everybody in your business has access to everything at all times and from anywhere. Why settle for less?

IIoT is not a specific technology. It’s not a specific piece of software or a protocol or the like. Forget about all the hype and the enormous amount of fluff floating around. 

IIoT is not AI – Artificial Intelligence – or any similar data approach. 

Put simply, IIoT is a situation, a state of your business where all necessary data is available to everybody at all times when and where they need it. With this definition, it also becomes clear that you can achieve this situation or the state of your business in different ways. The “internet” part of the “Industrial Internet of Things” is handy because the internet is a fantastic aggregator or instigator for making data available.

Why get started with IIoT?

Historically we have “stacked” things on top of each other, as we show in this image:

On the left side, you have the classical way of doing things: stack them on top of each other.

The problem with this model is that each layer in this stacked model is a “peer-2-peer” communication. For example, the SCADA system communicates directly with the PLC, but there is no easy way to communicate directly with the financial system.

The consequence is that there is NO EASY way of flowing data across the stack. You can get data out from each layer of the stack, but no automated or effective way to get all data out at the same time and use that data across the entire business.

That can lead to all kinds of problems: miscommunication between different departments, poor or slow customer service, missed opportunities, or uninformed decisions.

So, engineers and thinkers, in their permanent pursuit of making things easier, thought of ways to bring connectivity into the game.

What does IIoT look like?

That’s the right side of the above image – everything is connected to a platform.

On an abstract level, everything becomes a node in a system: the PLC is a node, as is the individual user or the financial system, or the database.

When you go from the “stacked” model on the left side of the image, to the node or platform solution on the right side, you have achieved “IIoT” in the sense that all data is available across the platform for all data consumers at all times. 

How can you make it possible?

The transformation from a “stacked” to a platform model requires a platform. 

And it has to be a versatile platform that can connect to multiple data sources and data consumers simultaneously. Anything from PLCs to databases or other third-party systems should be connected to the same platform for this transformation to give the wanted result.

Ignition by Inductive Automation is that platform in the middle.

I just love how Ignition can connect to the real world so easily.


The way Ignition connects to things surprised us, too. From automating a microbrewery to building a small home automation project to turn a lamp on/off, Ignition is the open platform in the middle that makes it all possible.

You have a single source of truth for your data, visualise and control it from any device and from anywhere, and add more functionalities as you go, making the solution contextual to you and your specific needs. Oh, and let’s not forget the automation part – everything is automated and faster, significantly reducing human error. 

The challenges and concerns that come with it

Lack of clear business objectives

Here are some questions that can help: 

  • What do we want (and who’s “we”?)
  • Why do we want it? 
  • Why don’t we have it yet? 
  • How are we currently doing things around here?
  • What has to change for us to have it? 
  • How, in practical terms, do we get it? 
  • What stands in the way of that change? 
  • What do we have to do to overcome the obstacle in front of change?
  • What’s the first objective? 
  • What’s the first practical step? 
  • How do we get the relevant people on board to actually adopt the changes?

Data privacy and security

Yeah, this is where you’re going to spend a lot of time developing an understanding and a plan.  From device and network security to data encryption and access control, there are best practices you can do to reduce security risks: secure boot, firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and regular vulnerability assessments.

Thankfully, Ignition is, in our opinion, the best industrial platform for IIoT for both performance AND cybersecurity considerations.

Check out this white paper where we walk you through cybersecurity in Ignition: access it here. 

Interoperability and integration

The common problem we encounter is the good ol’ (literally old) legacy systems you may already have. “I have an old, limited, proprietary system – how can I make the different elements talk to each other?”, you may ask.

Well, thanks to smart platforms like Ignition and effective communication protocols like OPC-UA and MQTT, devices and systems are able to communicate with each other in a standardised way. Thus, you’ll achieve a seamless data exchange.

Here’s a video walk-through of how to achieve that: access it here. 

Complexity and scalability

Start small and focus on a few use cases or on a proof of concept that can demonstrate the value of IIoT to the organisation. Gradually expand the scope and scale of IIoT deployment as the technology proves its worth and the organisation becomes more comfortable with it.

Skill and resource gaps

People don’t like to feel confused or underprepared. Communicate and invest in training along the way (not just at the beginning or the end of the project).

Consider partnering with system integrators to provide specialised knowledge and support for your in-house team.

Cost and ROI

Starting small serves multiple purposes, one of them being the fact that you can justify the costs and get buy-in easier. Find a problem in the daily operations that can be solved by connecting a few devices/systems/processes, focus on that, and present the benefits (tied to the business!) that result from fixing it.

Essentially, it’s all about building a business case with something concrete to show.

More about how to reduce the risks related to financial and other aspects, in this video: check it out.

Ok, 1-minute read: why should you care? 

Here’s the bottom line – the most important benefits of bridging the gap between OT and IT in your company: 

  • An easier, automated flow of data (more importantly, information) across your company – for example, your financial department has access to the relevant data that comes from the plant floor;
  • One single source of truth for your data; 
  • You can access your data anytime, anywhere; 
  • Fewer risks, optimised processes; 
  • Systems working according to the best standards and practices (especially regarding security), using cloud and virtualisation technologies.

… but let’s take it one step further. Here are the actual OUTCOMES: 

  • Better decision-making, 
  • Sky-rocketed effectiveness of communication across the entire company; 
  • Cost-reduction that makes leadership smile;
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction; 
  • More profitable opportunities; 
  • Empowering you to make your life and work easier.

And look – yes, it’s important to get started with up-levelling to IIoT and other amazing opportunities, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming and rushed. We always make sure to mention this: start small, do and understand simple things well, test, and then adjust and add according to your needs. 

You don’t have to move mountains right now, you can just pick up a rock and go from there.

Looking to get started with IIoT? 

Here’s how to build a simple IIoT architecture:

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