The internet of things has been around now for a few years. Every single device in the internet of things is uniquely identified by an individual internet address (URL), can be accessed via the Internet and can interact with connected information systems. Basically, a distinction should be made between consumer concepts (IoT, internet of things) and industrial concepts (IIoT, Industrial internet of things). This project of the future is usually known as ‘Industry 4.0’ in Germany, while the term ‘industrial internet of things’ (IIoT) is habitually used in the United States. While in the case of consumers this has to do with domestic appliances, entertainment electronics, automobiles, computers, and many other items of daily life, Industry 4.0 concerns factories, machinery, production facilities or entire sensor networks.
IIoT is a concept intended to support the optimisation of operational effectiveness and industrial production, thus creating further growth and improved international competitive conditions for businesses. Leading voices in industry see the trend towards digitisation, including intelligent interconnection of individual machines and even entire production facilities, as a natural evolution of the sector. At the same time, numerous experts, particularly in the field of global economy, speak of a new industrial ‘revolution’.
In a recent report, Cisco estimates that by 2020, 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, despite the current situation being quite different, as more than 99% of all things in the physical world are not yet connected to the Internet. However, interconnection on the Internet through the increasing bringing together of an ever-growing number of people, processes, data and things, will become more and more important in the next years. A rapid growth offering immense opportunities, for individuals, businesses and whole industrial sectors.
On the Path to the Industrial Future
The economy is on the threshold of the fourth industrial revolution. Driven by the internet, the real and the virtual world join in an internet of things. The so-called industrial internet thereby links machines capable of learning, big data technologies, sensor technology, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and automation technology, which have already been coexisting in the industrial environment for years. The driving force and the innovative idea in the background are that smart machines can be better and more precise than people at accurate capturing, recording and communication of vast amounts of data. These data enable companies to react much faster to inefficient procedures or problems and to gain time in business intelligence (BI) processes. Customers and business partners are directly involved in business and value creation processes, and production can be connected to high-value services. With more intelligent monitoring and decision-making processes, businesses and entire supply chains should be controlled and optimised in almost real time. Thus, IIoT holds a great potential, among other things, for improved quality controls, sustainability and environmental protection, as well as opportunities for supply chain tracking, agility and efficiency.
Industry 4.0 and New Fields of Research
With the rise of the Industrial Internet, the world is facing a new era of innovation and change. The German Federal Ministry of Education of Education and Research foresees, among others, the following focal points concerning Industry 4.0:
- IT systems:
Intelligent software systems are innovation drivers in all major sectors of the economy and can be an essential competitive factor for businesses on the world market.Focal points are: embedded systems; simulated reality for grid applications; virtual/augmented reality; simulation; information logistics and software development for high performance computers.
- Communication systems:
Modern communication technologies have already permeated all areas of our lives for a long time by now, affecting our private environment, economy, culture and politics. The Internet, and increasingly the mobile Internet, are an indispensable basis for main economic sectors such as finance, production and services.Focal points are: new technologies for future communication standards; new applications, in particular assistance systems; new services for business communications and the health care system; cognitive wireless communication systems to meet future bandwidth requirements; the Internet of the future; autonomous sensor systems for independent networked communication; future technologies such as network information theory, polymer-based communication systems and integrated photonics.
- IT security:
With increasingly networked information and communication systems, the number and professionalism of external attacks also grows. It is important to identify possible problem areas at an early stage in order to develop appropriate solutions for a secure future of IT, so that businesses are able to face cyber security issues in the long term.Focal points are: development of verifiable and consistently secure IT systems; new approaches in the analysis and validation of ICT systems; ensuring security in insecure environments; protection of Internet infrastructures; Security by Design; identification of weak points; quantum communication for the secure exchange of data; framework conditions and technologies for a new culture of trust and privacy on the Internet.
There is no doubt at all that the IIoT will increasingly change our lives in the future. The closer integration of the digital world with the world of machines has the potential for profound changes in the global industry and consequently for many aspects of daily life, including the way how many of us live and work.