21 Nov 2013

Industry 4.0

Over 200 years ago the steam engine and mechanical power revolutionised the world and brought around the industrial revolution (glamorously portrayed in last year's Olympic Games opener in London).
The ability to effectively harness electricity then enabled mass production, and more recently the advancement of electronics and IT systems has further enhanced industry.  These 3 stages are soon to be succeeded by a fourth leap in industrial technology, known in Germany as Industry 4.0.

RFID chips, wireless communication, PLM software, and intelligent systems are on the increase in production facilities, and it is the goal of Industry 4.0 to have all of this technology tightly integrated with a view to comprehensive automation of the entire production cycle.  As with the previous 'ages' the crossover to 4.0 will be a steady process and isn't likely to be fully visible for another 40 years.

Smart communication between production life cycle stages remains the key challenge.  It is doubtful whether Bluetooth or wireless network types in their current forms can cope with the intensity of communication required while remaining highly stable.  The sheer volume of bespoke machinery that is supplied from a wide variety of manufacturers means that introducing new standardised communication methods will need to be addressed by an international organisation to prevent another format war.

In this respect, Germany has set aside €200m for industrial associations and research bodies, and the US has promised up to $1b.  It is hoped that governments will push for the introduction of better data transmission infrastructure that will support the increase in IT communication requirements.


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