A number of technologies are responsible for the velocity and impact of Industry 4.0, from machines to communication to data processing. These technologies are changing how decisions are made and how factories operate.
Internet of Things (IoT) & Operational Technology (OT)
While IoT and OT are technically not the same things, it’s hard to talk about one without the other from an industrial standpoint. The line between them is becoming less distinct, especially with Industrial IoT (IIoT), where interconnected devices are used to collect data in manufacturing and industrial settings. IIoT is enabling IT/OT convergence, bridging technologies—and their networks—that were previously separate. IT systems can now analyze data from OT systems to generate insights and improve processes. Real-time asset tracking and monitoring, predictive maintenance, and equipment-as-a-service are all possible due to IT/OT convergence.
IoT has enabled the creation of digital twins to simulate any physical process or object. For example, a digital twin could be used to simulate a new product’s dimensions or create a digital replica of the equipment on the factory floor to see how machinery operates under certain conditions. It can also be used for product design, testing a digital version to iterate faster.
Cloud computing has become so ubiquitous that it doesn’t seem like one of the driving technologies of Industry 4.0, but it’s the backbone making this innovation possible. The amount of data produced by various IoT and OT devices must be processed at scale, where cloud computing shines. In addition, the typically large amount of data being stored and analyzed can be processed more efficiently and cost-effectively with the cloud. It also powers other data-intensive technologies, like AI and machine learning.
Data analysis often needs to be done physically near where the data is created or at the edge of the network to support real-time operations. As IoT devices may be geographically scattered, edge computing moves analysis closer to delivering faster insights, rapid response times, and better bandwidth availability. Edge computing is better suited to time-sensitive data than cloud computing, which would suffer from latency. Gartner estimates that by 2025, 75% of data will be processed outside the traditional data center or cloud. (1)
Just yet, carriers haven’t delivered on the promise of breakneck 5G data speeds. However, new networks such as the C-band are still coming online. 5G is expected to be a significant factor in supporting distributed computing, from remote communication with IoT and OT devices to edge computing. 5G will allow faster data transfer from remote devices to enable better real-time monitoring and analytics. It might be 2027 before we see the full speeds and advancements expected with 5G. (2)
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
AI and machine learning allow manufacturing companies to take full advantage of the volume of information generated not just on the factory floor but across their business units and even from partners and third-party sources. Using other technologies such as IoT, OT, and edge computing, AI and machine learning can create insights providing visibility, predictability, and automation of operations and business processes.
The downside to all of these new technologies enabling Industry 4.0 is that they also pose a security risk. Because industry and manufacturing are becoming more connected, they can also be open to exploitation. Therefore, cybersecurity is a critical component to safeguard your business, from IT to manufacturing. If you need expert guidance to find the right technologies for your business, Taos can help. They offer Advisory Services, Professional Services, Managed IT, and Security Services to help industrial enterprises grow their business by capitalizing on scalability, enhanced security, data-enabled decision-making, and cloud economics.
Learn more at https://www.taos.com/industries/industrial/
1 – What Edge Computing Means for Infrastructure and Operations Leaders, Gartner, October 2018
2 – What Is 5G?, PC Magazine, May 2022