Industry 4.0 Technology Trends and Enablers
We are living in a world that is on the verge of Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution. A few years later, cars, computers, refrigerators, and even our home will be combined into one network which in turn will make our lives easier.
Industry 4.0 is about to bring a complete change in the industry as we know it. The fourth industrial revolution is not about potential increases in manufacturing resource efficiency or robots achieving a large amount of data. It’s already taking place at this moment and obviously, it’s impacting lives through better working conditions, enhanced products and services, improved road safety, and even superior equipment in the healthcare industry. It is being marked by the digitization and computerization of several industries.
It can be said much of what would have been considered science fiction two decades ago is now driving the world to the fourth industrial revolution. It is about bringing the changes in business processes that will also change the way humans interact with their surroundings and with each other. However, you might be thinking what’s the actual definition of industry 4.0, what happened in the last three industrial revolutions or Industry 1.0 to 3.0, how this fourth revolution in the industry will be beneficial to us, and how would it impact our jobs? Don’t worry, the motive of this blog is to let everyone understand the entire concept of Industry 4.0. So, let’s move ahead with much-needed information.
Before moving on with Industry 4.0, let’s start with the beginning of the industrial revolution which changed the world for the better. With this knowledge, you will be able to understand the magnificence of our future with this new revolution.
For years, people used to make everything - be it clothes, ships, dishes, etc. using hands which we know today can be impossible to achieve. Therefore, mankind decided to make human life easier by itself which marked the starting of the industrial revolution.
The first industrial revolution occurred in Britain in the 18th century with the introduction of mechanical production facilities. Machines that were powered by steam and water were developed to help workers in mass production. This was the time when in 1784, the first weaving loom was invented followed by the steam engine in 1786.
With the beginning of the 20th century, industry 2.0 was marked. The major contributor to the second industrial revolution was the development of electrical machines. These machines were easier to operate and maintain both in cost and effort. It has resolved the problems caused by steam and water machines like inefficiency and hunger for more resources. Also, the first assembly line was built in the same era that streamlined the production.
In the third industrial revolution, the key features were information technology systems and electronic devices. It led to a quick change from analog to digital systems in manufacturing hubs. The first mark of the third industrial revolution was with the advance of electronic devices like integrated circuits and transistors which resulted in reduced efforts, better accuracy, and high speed. PLC or Programmable Logic Controller that was developed in the 1960s was one of the first signified landmarks in the automation using electronics.
What is Industry 4.0?
Among the last three revolutions, the next that has started to come into view is a more exciting one. While being on the verge of Industry 4.0 we are about to see the impact and changes in our lives sooner rather than later. This fourth industrial revolution is aimed towards enabling automated monitoring of assets, decision-making for business processes, and real-time connected networks. With the guidance of several sensors and digital models, the system will observe the company’s efficiency and recommend which processes can be optimized while reducing equipment downtime. It will also track staff deficiencies (i.e. you will not be able to nap in the workplace anymore), and discover the bottleneck that delays the process.
Technologies That Enables Upcoming Industry 4.0
Undoubtedly, industry 4.0 will be marked with digitization and computerization of several industries to the advanced level where machines will be able to think and perform their tasks without human intervention. But, what are the essential components that ensure the revolution of the industry? Let’s get started with that!
RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. It is a technology that allows any object to be wirelessly identified using data transmitted through radio waves. It’s similar to a barcode, but comes with a few major advantages such as the ability to read hundreds of tags in a matter of seconds, line of sight isn’t required to read RFID tags, they are extremely durable, and it can hold much more data than any other labels or tags. The range of RFID tags varies from 0 to 150 meters. Moreover, for security purposes, they can be encrypted or locked as well. One can reuse or rewrite RFID Tags’ memory easily.
If you have ever used an access card or FOB(Free On Board) to get into a building or crossed an automated toll collection facility on the highway, used a remote control to unlock the garage door, or used a phone-based transit pass - you have already handled RFID unknowingly.
Machine Learning implements a system with the capability to learn automatically and improve from experiences without being explicitly programmed. With more data and a better model, machine learning provides higher accuracy. There are several ways in which the machine learns namely Supervised Learning (i.e. learning from labeled data), Unsupervised Learning(i.e. learning from unlabeled data), and Reinforcement Learning(i.e. Reward or feedback-based learning).
The most popular example of machine learning devices is smart speakers like Alexa which listens to your voice commands, checks the data fed into it, and understands what you want it to do. Some other examples where machine learning is being used are Chatbots, Uber for traffic and rates prediction, Netflix for viewing suggestions, KenSci for predicting patients’ illness possibilities, and so much more.
Big Data & Data Mining
Big data is the term that refers to the large data volume - be it structured or unstructured. This big data can be analyzed for insights for better decision making and strategic business moves. For instance, Hadoop is the software from Apache that allows distributed processing of large data across computer clusters.
Whereas Data mining is the method to transform raw data into useful information. It is the process of uncovering patterns in large data sets to help in predicting outcomes. Some of the renowned data mining tools are RapidMiner, Apache Spark, IBM SPSS Modeler, and Tableau.
Data Analytics & Data Visualization
Data analytics is the process of identifying, cleansing, converting, and modeling data to discover important information and conclusions to support the decision-making of a business. Excel is the most commonly used tool for data analytics where one can collect and analyze data.
Data Visualization is the representation of information along with data in the graphical format. Some visual elements that are used in it include charts, maps, and graphs to understand trends, patterns, and outliers in data.
IoT or Internet of Things gives devices the ability to send data over the internet and communicate with other IoT enabled devices or people. One of the best examples of IoT is connected Smart Home which allows users to control thermostats, doorbells, security alarms, smoke detectors, refrigerators, lights, fans, and ACs through mobile apps or websites. Not only that, pretty much every object can be converted into IoT if it can be connected to the internet to communicate information or be controlled.
A distributed system in the simplest definition is a large group of computers that are working together and appear as a single computer to the end-user. These systems have shared states, work concurrently, and can fail independently without affecting the uptime of the whole system. The machines that are part of distributed systems can be physical servers, computers, virtual machines, or any node that connects with the internet, have local memory, and can communicate with each other by passing messages. Moreover, they are horizontally scalable, reliable, and provide extreme performance. Some examples of distributed systems are World Wide Web (www), Internet, Cellular networks, multiplayer online games, Netflix, Salesforce, Amazon and so many others.
Genome editing is the process of making specific changes to the DNA of a cell or organism. Yes, you heard it right! Scientists can now change the DNA of several living beings like plants, animals, and bacteria. With DNA engineering, genetic material can be removed, added, or modified in any particular area of the genes. In the past few years, scientists have developed three major ways for performing genome editing, they are ZFNs, TALENs, and CRISPR/Cas9.
Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology or DTL that enables data storage on the servers globally. In blockchain technology, a list of records known as blocks is stored publicly in chronological order. All the information is encrypted using cryptography that ensures the privacy of the user. It is the technology that allows the existence of cryptocurrencies. One of the most common examples of Blockchain-based cryptocurrency is Bitcoin that can be used as a new method for online transactions to buy or purchase goods or services instead of traditional currencies.
Quantum computing is the use of quantum phenomena like superposition and entanglement to execute computation. Now, the computers that perform quantum computing are called quantum computers. These computers use qubits and are believed to work on an indefinite range of permutations and combinations while providing substantially faster solutions than any other classical computers. Using qubits, one can represent all 8 solutions of three qubits at the same time. They can spur the development of discoveries in medications, science, machine learning methods, and so on.
Another technology that can be considered as the industry 4.0 technology pillar is Material Science. It is an interdisciplinary field that designs and discovers new materials, especially solids. It incorporates components of chemistry, physics, and engineering. It emphasizes the material properties and performance to solve real-world problems related to biotechnology, nanotechnology, IT, manufacturing, etc. Some examples of material science include Metamaterial, Soft Lithography, Carbon Nanotubes, Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastics, and much more.
Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality along with Virtual Reality connects the digital world with the physical world. AR adds digital elements to a live view by using the camera on smartphones. Snapchat or Pokemon Go are the best examples of AR. On the other hand, virtual reality oblique a complete engrossment experience that shuts the physical world out. While utilizing VR devices like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Google Cardboard - users can transport themselves into several real-world as well as imagined environments like sitting on the dragon’s back.
Mixed Reality combines both AR and VR. It is where real-world and digital objects interact. The best example of the MR apparatus is none other than Microsoft’s Hololens. It is an underdevelopment project which is a pair of mixed reality smart glasses. It will give all the benefits of using AI and cloud services from Microsoft - security, reliability, and scalability. It has been built with Azure mixed reality where you can even touch and control holograms.
Self Driving Car or Self Driving Autonomous Vehicle is a vehicle that has been enabled to sense its environment and move safely and automatically with little or no human input. These automobiles combine a variety of sensors such as lidar, GPS, radar, sonar, etc. to perceive their surroundings. Not only that, it can self-park, learn from the data fed, have emergency responses. Companies like Tesla, Google, Ford, Volkswagen, and BMW are developing and testing their self-driving cars as well which will change the way we travel.
Hyperloop is the proposed mode of transportation for passengers on the road. It can see passengers traveling 700 miles in just an hour in the floating pod that races inside huge vacuum tubes that would either be above or below the ground. It has been claimed that it would be cheaper than train or car travel and create less pollution than air travel. It will make traveling between cities a lot easier and will unlock economic benefits.
As the name suggests, 3D printing is the construction of a three-dimensional object from a CAD model or digital file. It is created using addictive processing technology where an object is created by laying down layers of material until the article is completely developed.
As the world moves towards industry 4.0, its trends and enablers come into play everywhere. Be it, Big Data or Data Visualization, Hyperloop or Hololens, they are here to help in gaining the insights that can empower the smart revolution world. With the new revolution, there will be lots of new job opportunities for people. There will be new jobs in cybersecurity, big data, 3D printing, biotechnology, blockchain, nanotechnology, and so many others too.
The wave of new technologies unlocks opportunities for companies to take action towards greater versatility, sustainability, and productivity. Industry 4.0 will also compel new ways for people and machines to work together.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding Industry 4.0, do not hesitate to drop a comment!