Backstory: The connected factory

Friday October 02, 2015
Written by Tony Varga, Rittal Systems
Oct. 2, 2015 - The Internet of Things (IoT) terminology dates back to the late 1990s and was more associated with RFID, according to a timeline on Postscapes. It received a big boost in 2008 when Cisco reported there were more things or objects connected to the Internet than people! As technological advancements and the availability of Wi-Fi became more widespread, the connection of even more objects became possible and practical.

I see the difference between IoT and Industry 4.0 as this — IoT is connecting devices together so they have the ability to communicate, while Industry 4.0 is focused on what they are saying, and even more exciting, facilitates the ability of the devices to react independently and adaptively.

Because this technology is new and exciting, and a departure from the fairly technological stable world of industrial automation, I expect Industry 4.0 will continue to gain momentum as more and more companies adopt a “me too!” approach. While the industry has seen continual advancements, Industry 4.0 is a game changer. The deterministic intelligence is built into every device and they are communicating their health and operating information to other peer-to-peer devices without the need to program for every scenario. This is truly adaptive behaviour.

I anticipate we are looking at 10 to 15 years for Industry 4.0 to really come into its own, similar to the evolution we experienced from the first cellular telephone to the smart phones we use today. While difficult to envision every scenario, I believe it moves us far closer to true artificial intelligence (AI) at the industrial level than we have ever been.

Comments by Tony Varga, president of Rittal Systems Ltd. He has held prior roles with Omron, Rockwell Automation and Kellogg’s in controls engineering.

This article was previously published in the September 2015 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

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