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Industry 4.0 may sound like a new idea, but it has already arrived and the ball is rolling. Industry 4.0 is another name for what some are calling the fourth industrial revolution. Each revolution, starting with the first in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, has brought disruptive new technology or barrier-breaking process optimization to manufacturing. This newest revolution brings factories into the internet age, or “smart” age.

Figure 1: Industry 4.0 is another name for what some are calling the fourth industrial revolution.Figure 1: Industry 4.0 is another name for what some are calling the fourth industrial revolution.With Industry 4.0, almost all areas of a factory are connected to the internet or automated in some way. The development leads to a more streamlined process to intelligently support workers and production processes. Basically, this new kind of industry elevates factories into “smart factories.” Below are four signs that Industry 4.0 is here — and that it’s just getting started.

Cyber-Physical Systems

Cyber-physical systems (CPS) represent a physical-digital-physical (PDP) loop of data processing. A PDP loop can utilize data on factory operations in order to improve them. The loop works by converting information from the physical world to the digital, where it can be analyzed before being translated back to physical world decision-making. There are three steps to a PDP loop.

· Step one: Information on physical operations and the supply network is captured to create a digital record (physical-digital).

· Step two: Machines share digital records, analyze data and create real-time data visualization (digital-digital).

· Step three: Automation and algorithms are applied to decisions and actions that the factory is taking in the physical world (digital-physical).

CPSs save operators and engineers time that they would otherwise spend to physically gather and act upon operations information.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT network is a wide range of physical devices with embedded electronics, allowing them to exchange data over the internet. One of IoT’s many benefits is that it can create connected factories.

With a connected factory, IoT systems and machinery can be used to transmit information about operations to field engineers. Those engineers can use this information to remotely manage factory operations without having to physically go into the factory. The information gathered ranges from the general health of the machinery and operations to specific numbers, like how much of a product is being produced.

IoT also can be used for quality control. IoT-connected sensors can collect data during different stages of production on multiple machines to ensure product quality at every stage of production.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the networking and sharing of system resources. Through cloud computing, data and information from the factory can be placed in a large data storage base that lives on the internet. The cloud offers a simple way for operators to access storage, databases and application services online, all without interacting with physical files. This saves time that might otherwise be spent physically going to each machine and gathering data.

Cognitive Computing

Cognitive computing uses artificial intelligence (AI), also known as machine learning, to streamline processes in a factory. Cognitive technologies can allow data to be acted upon without any kind of human interaction at all. A connected machine can use cognitive computing to gather and analyze data on its own operations. Connected systems can self-diagnose problems or potential problems, and attempt to fix problems before humans need to step in.

Cognitive computing also allows operators to manage literally tons of IoT-generated data that would otherwise be impossible to sort through.

The Revolution Is Here

As you can see, Industry 4.0 has officially arrived, but it isn’t done developing. There are going to be many more innovations coming out of this fourth industrial revolution — and we can’t wait to see what comes next.