Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) are often used synonymously. This is because the IoT is the key driver behind the fourth industrial revolution. Developments which led to Industry 4.0 only became possible when machines, products and services had the capability of connecting up to each other intelligently.
Industry 4.0 describes a comprehensive, intelligent connection between the individual machines within an overall production context. These interconnections work e.g. by using sensors which are either already embedded in the machines, or which can be retrofitted. In this context, retrofitting does not refer to replacing old existing machines with new ones, but enhancing existing machines by adding new modern components.
The ever improving capabilities of internet connections and the cloud mean that, within the Internet of Things, it is possible for machines to send data to one another and to communicate with each other as part of a defined production process. The huge amount of data that this entails, also known as Big Data, is simultaneously sent to a central storage location. It is precisely because this data is so extensive that it often makes sense to deploy a cloud solution where the data can be collected and held, for example, in a so-called data lake. Several different technologies are available to enable data transfer of this scale. They include RFID, LPWAN, NB-IoT, Sigfox or even Edge Computing, where the data can be processed directly in the device which collected them.
This data provides insights into the existing production processes to reveal how it can be successively improved along the whole value adding chain, although this process actually only utilizes Smart Factory as a component of Industry 4.0.
Smart products in the context of Industry 4.0 describe products which are monitored by sensors throughout the whole production process. The use of individual sensors also makes it possible to produce customized products cost-effectively. This is done by getting all the relevant information to flow directly and automatically into the production process. Smart products also improve the customer experience. It is at this point, too, that the third vital aspect of Industry 4.0 comes in: Smart Services.
Industry 4.0 creates a new customer experience for users by extending customer service intelligently. The information gained through Smart Factory and/or Smart Products, provides customer service with modern tools to help meet customers’ requirements individually and with foresight (Predictive Maintenance). Traditional products are extended with enhancing services. In a further step products do not actually need to be purchased any more, instead they can be booked directly as an individual service.