Mindsight FAQ: The Internet of Things vs. the Industrial Internet


March 25, 2016

As a Chicago IT consultant, Mindsight is committed to helping our local clientele and neighbors stay current on new technologies and concepts. Roughly every six weeks, we host an educational event in the Chicago metropolitan area and invite IT directors, CFOs, contact center managers, and other technologists to attend. We try to answer as many of our clients questions as we can, both during and outside of these events.

There’s not enough time to cover every topic under the sun at a lunch and learn event, so we leverage our blog to help address the concerns and answer the questions we receive from our interactions with clients.


FAQ: The Industrial Internet vs. the Internet of Things


Today’s question deals with the Internet of Things (IoT), and a seemingly interchangeable term, the Industrial Internet.


Is the industrial internet just another term for the internet of things? What distinguishes them?  



No. Both the Internet of Things and the industrial internet are two separate concepts in the world of technology, but there is very little daylight separating them. Furthermore, in order to understand the IoT, one must understand the industrial internet, and a third concept, machine-to-machine (m2m) communication.


Overlapping terms

It is not uncommon to hear these three terms used interchangeably, and it should come as no surprise. They have overlapping meaning and applications. That being said, they are not the same. The connections between the terms are best understood as a three-layered cake:

 Internet of Things


Tier 3: Machine to Machine Communication

At the foundation, there is machine to machine communication. It specifically refers to a machine, device, sensor, or gadget within an object that communicates data to another application, program, or system that will record the information and present it in a way that can be understood and used.

Example: The Fitbit is seemingly everywhere today. It is a small device that fits around your wrist or on your belt and records data on your health and activity. It tracks your steps, sleep patterns, calories burned, and more.

The sensors that gather this data and transmit it to the Fitbit application are a perfect example of M2M communication.


Tier 2: The Industrial Internet

Coined by General Electric (GE), the industrial internet expands upon the concepts in M2M communication. It’s the sophisticated integration between machines and networked sensors. While M2M communication specifically refers to the sensors in a Fitbit, for example, the industrial internet includes the device as a whole.

Industrial internet devices can often do more than just gather data. They can react to data. The industrial internet also includes those devices that can change their operation in real time to respond to the new information.

Example: Google has in recent years shined a spotlight on their Self-Driving Car Project. That car is a great example of the industrial internet. In order to drive itself, the Self-Driving Car must be installed with an array of sophisticated sensors and intelligent software. Based on the information gathered by these sensors, the car will accelerate, brake, change lanes, or otherwise react.

In this example, the sensors themselves are M2M communication, and the car as a whole is the industrial internet.


Tier 1: The Internet of Things

Until now, we have been dealing with concrete concepts. We have sophisticated sensors within devices, and we have devices that can use and react to this information. The Internet of Things (IoT) describes a more abstract concept.

The IoT refers not just to everyday items with internet connectivity and the ability to share data, but also to the connections between them.  The IoT implies a future where nearly every object we use on a daily basis somehow taps into this mesh of connectivity.

In the 1950s, futurists had a very different vision of the 21st century than the one that actually came to be. Jetpacks, domed houses, and robot butlers were heralded as “closer than we think.” The Internet of Things is a lot like the real-life actualization of many of these ideas.


Other Notable Internet of Things Examples


  • BigBelly Trash Cans: solar powered trash cans that alert the authorities when they need to be emptied.
  • Blu-ray Players: Nearly all Blu-ray players have the ability to stream apps like YouTube, Netflix, etc.
  • Phillips hue LED bulbs: These lightbulbs allow the user to control mood lighting with their smartphone and even sync with Netflix to alter the color to compliment the films color palette.
  • The Nest Smart Thermostat: The Nest is the most recognizable IoT device on the market today and allows the user to control internal temperatures with their smartphone, tablet, or internet device.

Like what you read? 


About Mindsight

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