The Fourth Industrial Revolution

IoT is initiating a fourth industrial revolution. The Internet of Things and remote controls and monitoring is making such a high level of flexibility possible that single-piece manufacturing may soon become feasible, and indeed, profitable. This shift could help to safeguard against job loss due to automation and could increase competitiveness in high-wage countries. Greater control over machinery will mean that factories will be able to flexibly switch between production runs without intervention from a central control system. We are hopeful that this will reduce the mass production of many consumer goods. To make runs profitable, historically, production lines have had to produce thousands and millions of items, often without the faintest hope of selling the entire run. Flexible, real-time machine to machine communication will ensure that valuable resources such as raw materials, energy, water, and air are used efficiently.

Thanks to IoT, production supervisors can have a finger on the pulse of all factory machinery thanks to sensors which collect key data. Software solutions sort the data and create visualizations to help us see patterns. These patterns and diversions from patterns is actionable knowledge. When a machine begins to oscillate or vibrate in a different pattern, perhaps its time for an inspection and preventative maintenance. Sensors are truly bringing machines to life and allowing disparate systems to communicate with each other.

Wireless communications rely on technologies like WiFi and Bluetooth. Information is sent between systems via data packets which may be amplified through proxies and gateways or echoed through mesh networks. Embedded systems in shipping containers would be able to confirm the correct transportation routes and also self-monitor temperatures for perishable goods via a microprocessor, sensors, and wireless connections.

Logistics: Tracking of Parcels

Cloud data storage and processing will play a huge role in the future of logistics. Processing power, software, and memory – all accessible via the Internet – will mean handling and delivering freight processes will be shifted to the cloud. Local servers and their requisite hardware are rendered obsolete by this shift. Any worker with security clearance and access is able to interact with the central cloud server via ubiquitous technologies such as tablets and smart phones. Shipments are then able to access a marketplace of services between origin and destination in the same way that a software module tracks the intake of goods in stores the data in a database.

The Internet of Services

Discrete processes can be stacked on top of each other and connected to form complex, bespoke software solutions for global customers. Software modules can be easily combined into high-grade services which proffer standard interfaces. Michael ten Hompel‘s institute has converted a distribution warehouse in Duisburg, Germany to cloud technology.

“Our cloud server offers 31 different ‘business objects‘ as software modules. These range, for example, from warehouse management and receiving. They come from about a dozen different vendors, and it will be easy to combine them, because they all adhere to binding standards,” ten Hompel says. The warehouse was converted in only two weeks.

When all machines and systems can communicate, the benefits begin with businesses and corporations, but soon the effects are felt in consumer’s lives. With sensors on heating and cooling units, dishwashers, refrigerators, garage doors, etc, homeowners may soon be able to gain remote support for many routine problems. Opening a ticket on a service platform could be enough to reset a system or diagnose a problem. Even if physical intervention is needed, the remote diagnosis of issues saves time and money. Knowing whom to call to complete the job saves many a headache. An informed worker, with the right tools, will be able to do repairs in one trip instead of over an extended season. By integrating machines, sensors, and communication technologies, systems will be able to coordinate relations between consumers and workmen based on weather, expertise required, and both parties’ calendars.

Buildings with Actionable Knowledge

 In the future, enormous amounts of data will become the basis for new services. Integrating different systems will create new jobs and smart markets. There may be services which rely on real-time traffic data and forecasts to plan routes, smart electricity grids which buy and sell according to season and forecast, and building automation systems based on approaching weather conditions. As environmental concerns spike, finding more energy and resource efficient ways to live is more important than ever before. Technology will play a large role in keeping energy use, human resources, and materials under control.


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