The Industry 4.0 revolution and the smart factory

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Posted by: Antonio Salis, R&D Project Manager, Engineering Sardegna


Industry 4.0 is a name for the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing and cognitive computing.

Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a “smart factory”. Within the modular structured smart factories, cyber-physical systems monitor physical processes, create a virtual copy of the physical world and make decentralized decisions. Over the Internet of Things, cyber-physical systems communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans in real time, and via cloud computing, both internal and cross-organizational services are offered and used by all participants.

The term “Industrie 4.0” originates from a project in the high-tech strategy of the German government, which promotes the computerization of manufacturing.

There are four design principles in Industry 4.0. These principles support companies in identifying and implementing Industry 4.0 scenarios:

  • Interoperability: The ability of machines, devices, sensors, and people to connect and communicate with each other via the Internet of Things (IoT) or the Internet of People (IoP)
  • Information transparency: The ability of information systems to create a virtual copy of the physical world by enriching digital plant models with sensor data. This requires the aggregation of raw sensor data to higher-value context information.
  • Technical assistance: First, the ability of assistance systems to support humans by aggregating and visualizing information comprehensibly for making informed decisions and solving urgent problems on short notice. Second, the ability of cyber physical systems to physically support humans by conducting a range of tasks that are unpleasant, too exhausting, or unsafe for their human co-workers.
  • Decentralized decisions: The ability of cyber physical systems to make decisions on their own and to perform their tasks as autonomously as possible. Only in the case of exceptions, interferences, or conflicting goals, are tasks delegated to a higher level.

Many research reports, remarkably by McKinsey, highlight the pervasive progression of the Internet of Things in manufacturing and consequently the relevant technology-driven changes which promise to trigger a new industrial revolution.

The basic principle of Industry 4.0 is that by connecting machines, work components and systems, businesses are creating intelligent networks along the entire value chain that can control each other autonomously, machines that can predict failures and drive maintenance processes autonomously or self-organized logistics which react to unexpected changes in production.

In this complex interconnection the cloud plays a determinant role to support computation, data transfer and sharing. But the Cloudification of this multi-layered and distributed mesh of resources requiring real-time response is difficult, so the fog concept has being emerging as key enabler for the optimization of computing, networking and resources.

Thus the mF2C project is working on stimulating the evolution of new technologies, practices programming paradigms, with the ability to manage and orchestrate such a complex hierarchy of systems, enabling and facilitating the emergence of brand new business models, like dynamic peer-to-peer models based on resource sharing, with many actors acting as producers and consumers at the same time, or support socially relevant evolutions in different fields like e-health, smart transportation, smart cities, smart navigation and connected communities.


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