Industry 4.0 has been described as the fourth wave of the Industrial Revolution that changed the course of human civilization.
The first wave was the birth of mechanization, which accelerated industrial, economic, and human activity.
The second wave was the advent of electricity, which powered mass production.
The third wave was the era of electronics and information technology (IT) that automated production.
Finally, the fourth wave—Industry 4.0—saw the emergence of the Internet and digitalization, which enabled the interconnection and interaction of technologies.
Other interesting terms…
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Industry 4.0 aims to automate decision making and asset and process monitoring to enable real-time value creation by involving all stakeholders in both vertical and horizontal integration.
What Characterizes Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 is generally characterized by:
- Greater automation than that seen in the Third Industrial Revolution
- Bridging the physical and digital worlds by using cyber-physical systems through Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
- Shifting from using a central industrial control system to utilizing smart products for various production steps
- Using closed-loop data models and control systems
- Personalization and product customization
We’re already seeing these characteristics with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), which have been automating processes in companies and industries alike. Practically every office and household today are also filled with smart devices. And almost all websites, even social media platforms, offer personalized recommendations daily.
What Terms Are Typically Related to Industry 4.0?
Let’s define some terms you’ll usually hear dropped in relation to Industry 4.0.
- Automation: Creating and applying technologies to produce and deliver goods and services with very little human intervention. Automation improves efficiency, reliability, and the speed at which repetitive tasks are done by humans passing them on to machines.
- Cyber-physical system: A system that integrates computation, networking, and physical processes. Using a cyber-physical system means utilizing embedded computers and networks to monitor and control physical processes. A feedback loop ensures that physical processes affect computations and vice versa.
- IIoT: Extending the use of the Internet of things (IoT) in industrial sectors and applications.
- Smart device: An electronic device that is connected to other devices or networks via a wireless protocol like Bluetooth to operate interactively and autonomously.
What Are the Key Themes of Industry 4.0?
Given the characteristics of Industry 4.0, four themes emerged to define it.
- Interconnection: Industry 4.0 gives machines, devices, sensors, and people the ability to communicate with one another via IoT.
- Information transparency: Industry 4.0 gives technology operators and users exhaustive information to make the best decisions.
- Technical assistance: Industry 4.0 gives systems the capacity to help humans make decisions and solve problems. In this age, machines also freed humans from performing difficult and unsafe tasks.
- Decentralized decision making: Industry 4.0 enabled cyber-physical systems to make decisions on their own and perform tasks as independently as possible.
What Are Examples of Industry 4.0 Applications?
Smart factories that continue to produce high-quality goods day in and day out with minimal human intervention are a result of Industry 4.0. Smart sensors that enable smart agriculture by monitoring crop health and needs automatically, requiring very little attention from farmers, is also part of Industry 4.0.
Other Industry 4.0 technologies also include predictive maintenance applications that help businesses make informed decisions, three-dimensional (3D) printing, and the so-called “knowledge economy,” where all production and service delivery are guided by computer-generated information.
We are well on our way to realizing the promise of Industry 4.0 and more efficient processes that make our lives easier.