An industrial factory worker, typing on a laptop's keyboard on the shop floor
PHOTO: Adobe

While there has been much discussion about the extent to which COVID-19 is changing the workplace, one of the few things that appears to be true is the fact that many industries have been forced to embrace a work-from-home model across much of the organization. Even still, in some departments and for some roles, work from home is not a suitable option forcing many to adapt new technologies that enable these same companies to adopt to rapid change.

IIoT in Digital Workplaces

According to, Morrison, NJ-based hIoTron, which develops end-to-end IoT solutions, the move to remote working has changed the focus to the integration of data and digitization of operations in order to give end-to-end visibility that will be needed in collaborative environments with several stakeholders and data sharing across the value chain.

This is where the IIoT has come into its own. A report entitled IoT Spotlight 2020 by Vodafone Business, which relies on a survey of over 1,600 businesses showed that COVID-19 has accelerated the plans of 73% of businesses that were formerly considering adopting IoT technologies. Businesses have applied automation and connectivity in the form of IoT to resolve uncertain events in the future.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Automation, connectivity and data management all play a pivotal role in the emergence and evolution if the digital workplace. In fact, if you look at the three trends for the IIoT that hioTron has identified, they are also key to digital workplace development. They include the following:

  1. Predictive maintenance: To further recognize potential machine concerns before they fail — minimizing downtime and improving productivity.
  2. Remote monitoring and analytic solutions: As technology continues to emerge out, remote monitoring and analytic solutions will be expanded by the capability to control equipment from anywhere, as well. The influence of changes brought in 2020 is driving industries to increasingly utilize IoT technologies for operational resiliency.
  3. High priorities on employee safety: Close to 71% of surveyed decision-makers are giving high priority to employee safety over financial stability (44%) in 2021. Since most organizations are hopeful to get the employees back to work in the company, assuring safety is the top prerequisite.

Related Article: 7 Big Problems With the Internet of Things

IIoT as a Transformation Driver

The adoption of IIoT technologies is more than just a response to COVID, or even remote working. In fact, they have had a transformational impact in a number of industries and digital workplace functions. Here are five IIoT examples:

1. Engineering

The creation of digital workplaces in critical utilities, such as water, wastewater, and energy, brings resilience to old, crumbling infrastructure, Ariel Stern, CEO of Newark, NJ-based Ayyeka, said.

In its 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, the American Society of Civil Engineers raised the overall grade because of the initial adoption of IIoT for critical utilities. IIoT is a gamechanger for critical infrastructure as it brings real time, comprehensive visibility to a utility's network, which typically includes hundreds of miles of pipes or transmission lines.

With the situational awareness created by IIoT, the human workforce is able to make better decisions. Disasters, such as water main bursts or natural gas explosions, can be detected and prevented. Preventative maintenance is planned to optimize use of existing resources.

Of particular relevance today, in light of the new Infrastructure plan and its bipartisan support, is the impact IIoT has in prioritizing which infrastructure requires the most urgent repairs and which is able to last a few more years. The data created by IIoT in the critical infrastructure space gives human decision-makers the ability to make the best use of federal budgets.

2. Inventory Management

Chelsea Cohen is the co-founder of SoStocked an inventory management SaaS helping eCommerce sellers. She points out that the industrial IoT changed the digital landscape to help businesses and employees become more productive and accurate. IoT, she said has changed the dynamics of inventory management as devices other smartphones are designed to keep track of inventory data. The logistics system has always had its hand on the pulse of IoT, using devices to manage deliveries through every stage of the process.

“Industrial IoT continues to push more businesses to the cloud,” she said. “A cloud system is a great way to keep track of information and with more people connecting to the internet via multiple devices, cloud computing is playing a big role. It helps employers and team leaders to better share information with one another.

3. AI and Machine Learning

One of the more obvious ways the IIoT is changing digital workflows is in the rapid adoption of AI and machine learning in manufacturing applications. Administrators in factories can manage thousands of bots responsible for building anything from cars to household necessities, said Phil Strazzulla of Select Software Reviews, which provides research on HR and recruiting software.

In the past, people on the machine floor had to monitor machines, sensors in each machine can telegraph status updates through the cloud to a data repository where a data analyst can monitor and adjust. This also works in server and data centers, where AI can help maintain cooling systems in temperature-controlled environments.

In transportation and logistics, for example, we’ve seen early adoption of this same type of software to provide updated arrival times of delivered goods, or the status of refrigeration on trucks shipping perishable items, he added. These networks help managers and dispatch teams become relatively omnipotent, which helps ensure things reach their destination in the best condition finally.

4. Remote Monitoring

IIoT solutions have added critical remote monitoring capabilities and served to bridge an expanding skills gap in the manufacturing and other industrial sectors, Brian Alessi, VP of marketing at Charlotttesville, VA-based Everactive.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of widespread remote monitoring — the ability to gain real-time insight into the operational health of assets when maintenance and reliability teams are unable to physically visit each asset’s location. Similarly, such tools have served as a workforce multiplier for shrinking maintenance and reliability teams that are being asked to do more with less.

5. IIoT Security Technologies

Felix Maberly is the manager at Newark, NJ-based Tiger Supplies. He pointed out that enterprise service giant IBM recommends industries and utilities to develop new strategies to mitigate and manage cyber risks. Security should not be an afterthought for IoT applications. Entities should adopt best practices to mitigate IoT risks and should prioritize security. The organization should ensure it has fully implemented cognitive practices and IoT security technologies.

With the increase of the security threat landscape, IIoT can provide solutions that enable an authentication of networks and devices in the organization and security analytics to identify potential IoT that traditional security controls might not have flagged. “Organizations should consider the security threats as an issue affecting their business and not another technological issue that needs an instant solution, “he said.