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The fourth industrial revolution is upon us. Supported by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), businesses have an opportunity to improve their entire value chain. In this article—the first in a four-part series—we draw out the essence of Digital Industry 4.0, and highlight its potential.
The development and advancement of a raft of new technologies has helped to blur the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds. Nowhere is this truer than with the Industrial Internet of Things—the network of interconnected devices and systems that makes physical objects ‘“intelligent”—which is supporting an increasing amount of business.
The IIoT is constituted by a suite of connected, intelligent products that communicate with users. Those physical objects allow the creation of new digital business models, based on insights from the data they collect, which offer additional services and as-a-service products for the individual.
Digital Industry 4.0 means combined communications, IT, data and physical elements. That allows the creation of digital factories or digital plants—in which machines “talk” to products and other machines, objects deliver decision-critical data, and information is processed and distributed in real time resulting in profound changes to the entire industrial ecosystem. This “connected everything” environment allows for more automation and personalised interactions.
As well as the devices themselves, the digital factory is underpinned by a range of other, rapidly-developing, technologies. The cloud enables new levels of scalability, flexibility and responsiveness. Analytics and big data allow insights to be derived in real time from massive volumes of data. The combination of all three technologies means businesses are able to collect, store and interpret vast amounts of data simultaneously, greatly enhancing processes across the organisation and creating a fully digital value chain.
The 18th Century saw the advent of mechanical production, while in the 19th and 20th century mass production was enabled through electricity. The development of electronics and IT further automated production in the 1970s, reconfiguring industry a third time. Digital Industry 4.0 shifts the paradigm in as fundamental a way as its precursors have. It stretches boundaries, opening up a whole host of possibilities to improve products, processes and the experience of end consumers. Enterprise is changing, and disruption is inevitable. Which end of it a business is on will hinge on how well it embraces these developments—for those successful at doing so, the rewards will be high.
Find out more about Digital Industry 4.0.