…collective term for technologies and concepts of value chain organization. Based on the technological concepts of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things and the Internet of Services, it facilitates the vision and execution of the Smart Factory.
The idea of Industry 4.0 is that it ushers in the fourth industrial revolution. According to its Wikipedia entry, the six design principles are:
The process automation industry has been advancing the digital ecosystem built on digital communications standards such as HART and WirelessHART, Foundation fieldbus, Profibus and other communications technologies. In a LinkedIn post, Laying the Foundation for a Digital Ecosystem, Emerson’s Jonas Berge noted:
- Interoperability: the ability of cyber-physical systems (i.e. workpiece carriers, assembly stations and products), humans and Smart Factories to connect and communicate with each other via the Internet of Things and the Internet of Services
- Virtualization: a virtual copy of the Smart Factory which is created by linking sensor data (from monitoring physical processes) with virtual plant models and simulation models
- Decentralization: the ability of cyber-physical systems within Smart Factories to make decisions on their own
- Real-Time Capability: the capability to collect and analyse data and provide the derived insights immediately
- Service Orientation: offering of services (of cyber-physical systems, humans or Smart Factories) via the Internet of Services
- Modularity: flexible adaptation of Smart Factories to changing requirements by replacing or expanding individual modules
Digital ecosystems exist in the world of automation as well and are taking on growing importance, particularly with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Years ago it was hard to articulate to an automation engineer what a “digital ecosystem” is. Today it is very easy because you can just make an analogy; it’s just like Apple.
Underlying this digital device revolution are enabling standard Information and Communications Technology (ICT) such as GSM, Wi-Fi, USB, Bluetooth, and HTML etc. These provide the base level of interoperability between products that enables digital capabilities like taking a photo and instantly storing it in the cloud or sharing it on social media, find answers on the web from anywhere, navigate everywhere, have 1,000 Songs in your pocket, download even more, and listen to them in a wireless headset, message and email, download applications for anything, and upgrade firmware etc.
With all-digital devices the possibilities are virtually endless. The first generation of these products was not so easy to use because every manufacturer did it differently. Digital ecosystems now make all of these easier to use because the devices and software have been specifically designed to work better together, saving time and effort.
We’ve shared many examples of this digital ecosystem in action from diagnostics—Simplifying Access to Abnormal Condition Detection Diagnostics to remote expertise helping solve rotating machinery issues—Remote Vibration Monitoring Case Study, to point to a couple.
This fourth industrial revolution is well underway and continues to advance as instrumentation becomes even smarter and communications becomes even more ubiquitous. We’ll continue to share examples of Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things as it continues to unfold.