From April 13th until 17th Hannover is once again the center for the world of modern manufacturing. Industry innovations are often shown first on the “HANNOVER MESSE 2015” (#HM15) and this year especially will bring new technologies related to the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), like robots and sensor technology. CPS (cyber physical systems) are at the very core of this change – and at the same time they are the evolutionary advancement of embedded systems.
Substantial Investments in Industry 4.0 Solutions
A study of 235 companies by PwC, Strategy& and the German Engineering Association (VDMA) came to the conclusion that half of the planned industrial equipment investments will be spend for Industry 4.0 solutions in the next five years: This means annual projected investments of 40 billion Euros until 2020. According to the study, almost 70 per cent of all companies with highly digitized products have enjoyed growth of between six and ten per cent over the last three years: A substantial advantage for companies that have already digitized their range of products and services.
On the other hand a recent research surveyby industry association BITKOM states, that the management personal of every third company hasn’t heard about Industry 4.0 at all. BITKOM interviewed companies in the automotive sector, mechanical engineering, chemical and electro industry, 100 companies with more than 100 employees in each industry. This is a clear signal that the idea of integrated industry has yet to be discussed more widely in the media, the associations and the companies. And Vendors still have to point out the benefits of products that enable integrated industry. The HANNOVER MESSE 2015 offers a good opportunity for an “introduction course” in Industry 4.0 or to delve deeper into the subject: The “Forum Industrie 4.0” in hall 8, booth D19 could be a starting point.
Embedded Systems Become a Part of CPS
For a lot of Kontron customers, integrated industry is a very important issue although it comes with different name tags like “Smart Factory”, “Smart Grid”, “Big Data” or “Internet of Things (IoT)”. Examples are the control for CNC machines or the use in bio farming where complete greenhouses are controlled and smart analytics guarantee optimal yield. Predictive maintenance avoids unplanned downtimes.
Cyber-physical systems enable the physical world to merge with the virtual leading to an internet of things, data and services. Embedded computers and networks monitor control the physical processes, with feedback loops where physical processes affect computations and vice versa. Embedded systems are the essential communication devices in this scenario of CPS.
The Big Challenge: Reliability and Security for the IoT
The first and foremost necessity is for them to be absolutely reliable, maintenance free and remote accessible i.e. for software updates – a goal that Kontron has already achieved. The magazine “CIO Review” sees Kontron as one of the Top 50 most promising IoT Companies because of the “broad hardware portfolio of IoT ready devices, multiple operating systems support, partnerships and alliances with key IoT platform enablers, coupled with innovative business models”. The KBox-Family provides industry 4.0 and IoT ready solutions that ensure connectivity on various protocols.
But there are still a lot of hurdles for more integrated production and supply chains, the security issue being at the top of the list. Factory environments are per se safety and securtity sensitive. As wireless connections are still more insecure and instable, cable will be the better choice to make sure that data is safe and cannot be manipulated. As soon as companies build up trust in secure IoT infrastructures, there will be a great leap forward for the Industry 4.0.
Standards and Socio-Political Debate
Consistent guidelines are another obstacle on the way to integrated industry. Standardsare still being discussed and defined by different standardization committees and organizations. It will take some time to get everybody along the supply chain including big, medium and small suppliers in the same boat. There are complex questions to answer until we can define with which protocols and which interfaces people, machines and products will communicate. Last but not least integrated industry is a socio-political matter as human working conditions will change noticeably. The first step is to discuss the subject open-mindedly in companies.
In another thirty years factories might well be inhabited by machines and robots, which are even capable of repairing themselves and ensuring the quality of products and processes while using smart analytics on huge amounts of data. The human part in this smart factory landscape will be rather in the area of creativity, innovation and analysis than execution. And the Industry 4.0 can be also the answer to the demographic change in high industrialized countries.
What do you think? How long will it take until the Industry 4.0 will be omnipresent?