March 13, 2014
We have seen numerous advantages that Internet of Things (IOT) or Machine to Machine (M2M) interaction will bring to our daily lives. We have seen examples like your coffee maker talking to your clock and making sure you have a hot cup of coffee as soon as you get up.
In this article, we touch upon the fourth industrial revolution, which has already started and how it will change our lives. The third industrial revolution saw the introduction of industrial robots in the production environment. With this came a lot of automation and large scale quality control. But even today, the whole industry is still very centralized. We do market study and trigger the manufacture of products in bulk. We stack these products in warehouses and thereby increase overheads.
This method means that any small change in the product (for example: change in color of a bottle) would require the whole production line to be reconfigured. This is because the intelligence resides in the machines, not the products themselves.
The fourth industrial revolution will bring about a shift in production paradigms. We will see the introduction of cyber physical systems which will bring internet technology into the production lines. The idea here is that the product will be able to talk to the machines via the M2M technology. The product (even as a raw material) will carry all relevant information about itself. This would include geographical data, color preferences, size and shape.
Armed with relevant information, the product can specify whether it needs to filled with blue colored liquid, whether its bottle should be red in color have a blue cap. The manufacturing process itself will be integrated into the product. This technological advancement means that we will be able to tailor make products that meets the customer's needs better. We will be able to manufacture smaller quantities of premium quality products.
Big data analytics to play a key role
Big data analytics will also play a key role in the next industrial revolution. Elements like the current market scenario and customer preference analysis will be used in real-time decision making on the production line. The way we do maintenance of production lines today also follows a centralized approach. We have made a lot of progress from the days where factories had to be shut down for maintenance of a certain machine.
Today we can pin point which machine is having a problem. We are also able to diagnose the problem in the machines quickly. This is helping us reduce the down time in factories. Can the fourth industrial revolution take this any further? You bet it can.
Since we are talking about M2M technology, what if a failing part could directly talk to an operator? What if it could tweet him that I am likely to fail in the next one week? This is the concept of preventive diagnostics. This would mean that the down times at factories can be brought down to virtually zero levels.
All in all, today's industries are quite rigid when it comes to the production line. With the help of IOT or M2M, our industries are set to become flexible. We will be able to link production to actual sales of the product. We will be able to react to slowdowns a lot faster.
Manufacturers will be able to tailor make products and cater to each and every potential customer. Improved operational efficiency will also bring down costs. Customers will benefit from a wide variety of customized products. It is not farfetched to say that the product themselves would suit a customer better each time he buys it.
The fourth industrial revolution calls for a true collaboration amongst mathematicians, manufacturing companies, cloud and infrastructure providers and IT systems providers to become a reality.
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