Breakthroughs in computer technology have led to what leading industry figures are calling a new industrial revolution — industry 4.0. It’s made possible by advanced technology that uses digital systems and high-powered data collection strategies to automate processes, make more accurate forecasts and boost the efficiency of workflows.
Industry 4.0 has also changed the internet by creating a new network of connected devices that are constantly communicating and collecting data.
Here are six ways industry 4.0 has changed how businesses use the internet.
1. Big Data
Internet of things (IoT) sensors are a key component of most industry 4.0 strategies. These devices, when deployed in large numbers, can collect huge amounts of information relevant to industrial processes — like equipment function, product quality and environmental conditions. It can then be analyzed to yield a variety of insights — to the point where some have even said that data is the new oil.
While this information is mostly being used by the businesses that collect it, the proliferation of smart devices across the economy is making valuable stats available to people outside the private sector. Big data has become a useful resource for epidemiologists wanting to study the spread of disease. Health researchers have used information from devices like smart thermometers to make better predictions about viruses.
2. Industrial AI and the Cloud
While big data can yield significant insights, the datasets collected by IoT sensors are often too large for conventional analytics approaches. Scientists can’t comb through these sets for patterns by hand, and traditionally used algorithms are often too inefficient for the amount of information that needs to be analyzed.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms, on the other hand, are very good at finding patterns in large data sets. Industrial AI has quickly become one of the most popular tools used by businesses to analyze this information.
Warehouses use AI to predict how much product to hold on to, based on historical sales numbers. Factories employ big data and AI to improve factory processes — for example, predicting when a machine will need maintenance, allowing businesses to cut down on scheduled checkups while avoiding downtime.
The growth of AI is also having major impacts outside of heavy industry. AI-powered chatbots are helping businesses respond faster to customer requests, and new machine learning algorithms help them make more accurate sales forecasts.
The combination of big data and AI may also be behind some of the major growth of cloud computing and storage. AI algorithms can be resource-intensive and often need serious computing power to be effective, especially if you want to run algorithms in real time.
For this reason, many businesses are pivoting to cloud computing — the use of computer resources accessed via the internet — to power their AI. This strategy may be driving the growth of major platforms like Amazon’s AWS and Google Cloud.
3. The Rise of Smart Industrial Tech
Smart industrial technology — like IoT sensors — connects to the internet to transfer or receive information. As a result, these devices can be controlled remotely or automate many tasks that analog equipment can’t.
Smart technology can also enable more advanced and efficient workflows. For example, with spectrometers — devices that measure the properties of light, typically to determine the composition of a material — task automation is much simpler. Data from tests can be instantly transmitted from the device to facility systems or secure file networks.
4. Machine to Machine (M2M) Communication
Industry 4.0, along with the greater adoption of IoT tech that integrates directly with industrial machinery, has enabled machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. Equipment that’s capable of M2M communication can “talk” with each other using the internet and local connections, transferring information and coordinating work. It can allow some systems to more effectively automate themselves, tweaking machine functions automatically to maximize productivity and efficiency.
5. Improved Driverless Vehicles
The rise of industrial IoT and related tech, like 5G, has made driverless cars much more practical. To drive safely, these autonomous vehicles (AVs) rely on a few different kinds of technology — like machine-learning algorithms that “see” around the car, allowing them to intelligently start, stop and maintain their lane.
With a connection to the internet, driverless vehicles can take advantage of edge or cloud computing and communicate with other cars and industrial systems. This extra computing power and information can help make these vehicles much safer and better at navigating roads.
6. The Digitization of Everything
As businesses implement Industry 4.0 tech, more facility systems become digitized.
Products that are solely mechanical — legacy equipment with no digital parts — are being adapted to digital workflows with advanced solutions and IoT tech. Digital factory management systems, as a result, can communicate with equipment, IoT sensors and other networks to automate processes and assist managers.
It’s already possible to manage some factory systems remotely. In the future, as tech improves, the trend toward increased digitization of factory systems may enable fully remote management.
How Future Industry Innovation Will Change the Internet
The rise of Industry 4.0 is having major impacts on how heavy industry and businesses use the internet.
Over the next few years, innovations will continue to change the internet. Industry 5.0 tech — a term often used to refer to collaborative robotics and systems that bring together man and machine — is rapidly being adopted. This technology is likely to accelerate industrial use of IoT, smart devices and cloud services.
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