Definition

intranet of things

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

An intranet of things is a closed network that includes smart sensors and actuators.  Typically, an intranet of things is a walled garden in which connected things are prevented from accessing the public internet. The idea behind the intranet of things is that while there is much to be gained from making all corporate assets accessible from within an organization, it may not be a good practice to make those things directly addressable over the public Internet.

The term intranet of things was coined by Carlos Nizam, the head of Airbus Group's Value Chain Visibility and RFID program. Nizam is credited with digitally transforming Airbus by using rugged RFID tags to manage and track physical assets such as airplane parts and tools. In addition to improving productivity and workflow, this approach to supply chain visibility and supply chain management also improved the company's cash flow by reducing unnecessary inventory.

Intranet of Things vs. Industrial Internet of Things

The concept of an intranet of things is similar to that of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) proposed by General Electric. IIoT incorporates machine learning and big data technology, harnessing the sensor data, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and automation technologies that have existed in industrial settings for years. The driving philosophy behind the IIoT is that smart machines are better than humans at accurately and consistently capturing and communicating data and can do it more efficiently at a lower cost. While the IIoT is specific to a manufacturing environment, however, the intranet of things is applicable to any organization that wants to make physical or digital assets addressable, but only within circumscribed parameters.

One hazard of both of the models above is the possibility that organizations will consider that those things are inherently safe because they aren't made publicly available. Even when confined to an internal network, however, it's important to make anything addressable as secure as possible. Corporate networks are often hacked or accessed by unauthorized individuals and without proper security in place, each thing in an intranet of things is a potential security hole.

This was last updated in April 2019

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