Internet of things: by analyzing data from machines, it is possible to automate industrial processes while optimizing costs and boosting innovation.
The Internet of things, the extension of the Internet to the world of objects and places, is set to grow: more and more everyday objects will be connected to the network, enabling access to new features and additional information and facilitating some of the tasks that are carried out on a daily basis.
This revolution is also greatly affecting the industrial automation sector, where we have been properly speaking about Industry 4.0 for several years : it already reaches a turnover of 1.2 billion euros.
This term, first used at the Hanover Fair in Germany in 2011, stems from the fourth industrial revolution, which features the use of cyber physical systems as its main concept, following mechanization (first industrial revolution), mass production (second industrial revolution) and computerized automation (third industrial revolution).
In the current industrial phase, therefore, machines, objects and people interact interdependently with each other via the Internet. By analyzing data from machines, it is possible to automate industrial processes while optimizing costs and developing new opportunities for innovation. The company can integrate its activities with the supply chain and customers, fundamentally revising its business model and approach to the market. In fact, it will lead to automated and interconnected industrial production.
An additional distinguishing feature is that the real system of the company’s components is reproduced virtually, allowing the behavior of interconnected objects to be predicted. In other words, processes can be simulated at any instant with benefits, again, in terms of cost and time.
In addition, data on system operation can be accessed, reliably and securely, wherever there is a connection. So, monitoring and maintenance can also take place remotely. Finally, data processing occurs with remarkable speed: subsequent actions and decisions are much faster.
What facilitates the transition to Industry 4.0 for a company? These are basically three factors: the availability of a significant amount of data at low costs that enable better decisions and forecasts; the use of advanced robots to reduce time, errors, costs and increase the safety of business activities; and connection to the Internet, as we have already pointed out.
The interconnected objects
Industrial automation, therefore, is set to go through major changes. To give an idea of the phenomenon, the U.S. agency Gartner estimates that in less than 5 years there will be 26 billion connected objects globally. One only has to look around to see the enormous potential that object interconnection is having in everyday life, thanks to the many real-world applications.
For example, in the food industry, one company has developed a small chip embedded in labels that, through the use of an application, provides access to additional information. Production quality, provenance, originality: information is read by a device and conveniently viewed by the user.
In Switzerland, there have been installed intelligent traffic lights which are able to adjust according to the flow of traffic near an intersection while in agriculture, for example, they become very strategic the drones, sensors that can detect soil and plant information, and applications for water, fertilizer, and manure management.
Finally, in public administration, benefits can be achieved with smart meters, remote control and remote management systems, smart street lighting, and preventive land monitoring. At the same time, public administration plays a key role in promoting the Internet of things through specific funding actions it can target at public entities and private companies.