IPv6? Web 2.0? How about Industry 4.0? Is that relevant?
Well it’s certainly relevant to this blog. That’s because it affects the Internet of Things. In fact according to some authorities Industry 4.0 actually is the Internet of Things. It’s a German strategy, led at government level, to promote the computerization of traditional industries such as manufacturing.
That's a very basic version of what Industry 4.0 implies. On a more portentous note perhaps it’s called Industry 4.0 because it signals the fourth industrial revolution.
So is this scary? Or exciting? On the face of it, it makes a lot of sense. Connecting machines, work items and systems means creating vast, highly intelligent networks along the entire value chain. They could work with each other or alone, creating efficiencies across a massive number of linked factories, plants and warehouses. They could predict failures or deal with them, trigger maintenance processes autonomously, and speed up, slow down and reassess or realign a process in response to sudden or unexpected changes in production or demand. They could slash manufacturing and transport costs already cut by automation and containerisation, to even lower levels.
And like machines in the earlier industrial revolution they would, presumably, take over the modern equivalent of ‘grunt work’ and free workers up to do something more productive. In this context what was once skilled work – such as programming or IT troubleshooting – may one day be seen in the same light as moving boxes when forklifts arrived.
The good news, if you're horrified at the prospect of retraining, is that we are nowhere near Industry 4.0 yet. We need skilled people to make it work, willing participation and investment from numerous industries, standards (probably), cooperation and a few more technical advances first.
On the other hand, this isn’t just about Germany. Governments, businesses, universities, research labs and more are driving this forward. As are we at Telensa, in our own way. But even we can’t yet predict precisely what the arrival of Industry 4.0 – or the trip towards that event – could mean. That’s what makes the prospect of IoT manufacturing as frustrating as it is exciting.