Industry 4.0 & The Internet of Things

March 22, 2021

Industry 4.0

This is a term you have probably heard bandied about a lot in recent years – but did you know that it actually refers to the exciting era in which we live?

In general, the words Industry 4.0 can be used interchangeably with ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. You’ll know that the first industrial revolution kicked off around 200 years ago with steam and mechanisation creating large-scale factories. The second was at the beginning of the 20th century with the ubiquitous spread of electricity and train transport networks. The third, of course, was the technological revolution, spanning the ‘Information Age’ of the late 20th century, and bringing the Internet into daily life.

This fourth revolution, the digital revolution, was named in 2011 and is currently ongoing. And it is the automation of manufacturing and industry using smart technology (as well as so many more areas of life). In essence, it is the merging of Information Technology and Operational Technology, bringing previously offline systems online.

It bridges digital and physical environments – sometimes you’ll hear this referred to as ‘cyber-physical’, especially in the manufacturing world – and enables the convergence and application of such diverse spheres as advanced robotics, additive manufacturing, augmented reality, simulation, horizontal/vertical integration, industrial internet, cloud, cybersecurity and big data & analytics.

At its most simple, it means the smart revolution in each of these industries. At its world-changing best, it means all those industries being brought TOGETHER through digitalisation, automation, and optimisation.

 

The Internet of Things

Here is another term with increasing airtime where the intended meaning is not always clear. In the most understandable layperson’s terms, the Internet of Things (often abbreviated to IoT) refers to the overarching network between the billions of devices and machines which are hooked up to the internet and sharing data with each other – often machine to machine (M2M) without human intervention.

And in the definition by Cisco Systems, the Internet of Things just means more things or objects are connected to the Internet than people.

Estimates vary - tech analysts IDC predict that there may well be 41.6 billion connected ‘things’ or devices by 2025. But already, cloud access and the growing capabilities of smart technologies in their respective consumer, commercial, industrial and infrastructure realms is having a truly revolutionary impact upon almost every area of contemporary life.

The term ‘Internet of Things’ was first used in the late 90s as ‘the internet FOR things’ with the envisioning of future smart technology possibilities, but came into its own during the last ten years after it was used by a team of scientists who were developing high-tech strategies for the German government to automate and digitalise their systems.

 

So what do we already have in terms of IoT and what are the predictions for future advances?

The smartphone has, in its short existence of about 15 years, totally transformed communications, enabling everybody and anybody to have the entirety of human knowledge in their pocket. We also have related consumer electronics like smart speakers, watches and virtual personal assistants, etc. More and more of us will be familiar with household appliances, security systems, cars, even ‘smart garments’ that have an internet connection and smart technology.

But less known to the consumer is the Internet of Things that runs ‘machine to machine’, via a network connection, independently of humans. Larger systems are also linked to the internet and sharing information in exactly the same way as your fitness watch collects your data – from industrial manufacturing systems, to healthcare and agricultural solutions, to energy, the military, environmental conservation and monitoring, traffic systems, driverless trucks and cars, and potentially even whole cities. Songdo in South Korea is already up and running as a smart city.

And it’s true – dealing with all of this huge data flow from our personal, business and industrial communications can be quite difficult, unless you are able to manage these massive amounts of data efficiently and effectively.

We at Drakken successfully do this by using Lukla, which is a cloud-based intelligent information management system. Teams get to use Lukla’s intuitive dashboards to collaborate and make decisions in real-time, while a clear audit trail of information and revision history and version control ensures that everybody is working with the correct information at all times.

Having been used in multinational engineering settings across the world for over ten years, we are confident in its ability to successfully manage our complex projects. Lukla is fully encrypted and protected with the latest security protocols, yet is easily accessible from anywhere for our teams. And the online file repository has all files and assets backed up in the cloud, with multiple data centres holding additional backups.

Working with Emerson, Drakken is the first partner system integrator to connect Remote Site Field Data to the IoT cloud by using Emerson MAS's robust PACEdge technology. The Lukla Information Management engine will serve as the backbone to interface and store the data for our use case. It is a great example of how Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things is happening now and this is how Drakken is progressing with real world applications.

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