7 Key Trends in Intelligent Manufacturing

While we often see Internet of Things devices aimed at consumers, there’s also plenty of progress in another area: Industry

While some industrial IoT trends mirror their consumer-facing counterparts, others are tailored to manufacturing and other fields. Here are seven of the top IIoT trends to expect in the coming years.

Digital Twins are Taking Over

Digital twins provide a virtual counterpart to physical components used in industrial sectors. The arm of a robot used in automobile manufacturing, for example, can be monitored using a digital twin, which collects data about the arm’s operation and provides information about components that need periodic maintenance or replacement. Digital twins make predictive maintenance easier, and they offer valuable visualization capabilities to improve efficiency. There are plenty of ways to harvest and manage IoT information, but digital twins deliver an intuitive and powerful approach.

Innovative Human-Machine Interfaces

Computer screens and more primitive displays still dominate in industrial areas, but this is changing. Augmented reality applications offer valuable feedback when looking at physical components, and providing employees with IoT-derived information about manufacturing equipment lets companies make better use of their investments. Virtual reality can also play a role, giving workers powerful visualization capabilities impossible with more traditional technologies. VR and AR are typically tailored to specific tasks, but the popularity and dropping prices of headsets and smart glasses are making these technologies more popular, particularly in industrial environments.

Better Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance has been playing a larger role in industrial environments for years, but the continuing rise of IoT components is providing more information than even before. When combined with machine learning and other artificial intelligence tools, modern industrial software is better than even at determining when parts need to be replaced. Unlike other technologies, the benefits of predictive maintenance are easy to calculate, making it a technology that’s sure to be at the top of C-level executives’ priority lists going forward.

Increased Emphasis on Security

The early days of the IoT were somewhat haphazard in execution, and securing devices was not seen as a top priority for many companies. This is no longer the case, and companies looking to invest in the IoT are increasingly taking steps to ensure their new investments can be protected from cyberattacks. Part of this change is due to the increasingly lucrative nature of cyberattacks, and compromised industrial equipment can be especially tempting. One of the challenges companies will face going forward will be ensuring they’re using the right security paradigms and ensuring compliance, as there’s no one-step solution to keeping devices safe from attackers.


Greater Flexibility

Industrial organizations sometimes move slowly, as the high cost of downtime means it’s often better to avoid hardware and software changes whenever possible. Increasing efficiency across the board, however, will compel companies to adopt a more nimble approach to operations. IoT analysis can lead to surprising results at times, as artificial intelligence is great at finding correlations that humans might never explore. A long-term shift for industrial entities will be finding ways to adjust to information more quickly, and this move will only continue to increase in the coming years.


Automation has always been a centerpiece in industry, and digital technology is extending this trend. Instead of investing in expensive heavy equipment, however, companies can now rely on low-cost devices that complement a broader range of manufacturing components. As automation systems continue to prove their worth, companies will invest more heavily and see significant efficiency gains and lower labor costs. However, hiring will still remain strong, as even the most heavily automated systems need people to monitor progress and look for ways to maximize efficiency.

Moving to the Edge

The sheer volume of data collected by IoT components can be staggering, and one of the bottlenecks in IIoT applications is making sure systems are capable of monitoring necessary information. A powerful components of IoT operations is relying on edge computing devices that collect, process, and even analyze data before it’s sent to more centralized servers. Although investment in servers or off-site cloud solutions will continue to rise going forward, edge devices will see significant investment in the future and relieve some of the processing stress common to today’s industrial environments.

IoT devices are a natural fit in industrial environment, as sensors have long been a core components of successful operations since well before the IoT concept arose. However, the benefits of general-purpose IoT devices are transforming industrial operations, and industry-specific IoT devices have become far more powerful over the years. Despite the conservative nature of industry, IoT adoption is rising at a rapid pace, and there’s no doubt this trend will only continue to ramp up for the foreseeable future.