5 technologies which are going to drive Smart Industry
Industry 4.0 is promising factories with processes and organisations that are more flexible, more customised, more efficient, cheaper, safer and more responsible. Powered by digitisation and connectivity, the fourth industrial revolution revolves around several technologies which, used together, are causing this paradigm shift. Panorama, market statistics and use cases.
5G, enabling the factory of the future
The new generation standard in connectivity is a technological leap which will not only turn our daily lives upside down but a lot of industries too. 5G obviously offers very high-speed mobile broadband, coupled with a short latency (the gap between the command and the actual start of the operation): transmissions will thus be ten times faster than 4G, and maximum latency will shrink from 10 milliseconds for 4G+ to around 1 millisecond. That's a reaction time you can easily see the point of in critical applications like self-driving cars or remote surgery.
But the advantages promised by 5G don't stop at speed: network slicing, for example, will define virtual slices of the network with differentiated capacities and qualities of service according to their uses. In industry, 5G will upend manufacturing processes and even the very idea of factories and the way work is done in them, especially through the burgeoning industrial internet of things (IIoT), and edge computing for collecting and processing data at the machine location. Among other applications, 5G will also enable interaction between machines, the deployment of automated guided vehicles (AGV) and virtual, augmented or mixed realities.
Source : International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
Artificial Intelligence heralds the era of Cognitive Manufacturing
The gradual adoption of Artificial Intelligence in industry is no longer an option, but an established fact. With the development of the Industrial Internet of Things it has never been easier to collect data, which we know is the primary input of algorithms that govern areas of Artificial Intelligence such as machine learning.
Predictive maintenance is definitely one of the most successful services in terms of using data and AI in the industrial sector. How does one optimise maintenance processes that cost a lot in time and resources while anticipating breakdowns in order to minimise problems for the end-user? That's what these solutions offer, with significant efficiency gains to play for: the McKinsey consulting firm estimates a potential $630bn in savings to be made by 2025 with predictive maintenance.
Another application for AI in industry is the supply chain. According to IDC, by 2024 60% of large industrial companies will have AI-controlled processes integrated into their supply chain. Take for example PSA, which has joined forces with IBM and Sigfox to adopt the Track & Trace solution. PSA uses this to monitor the position of each of its containers in real time as well as the condition of the transported goods. The tool is based on a combination of bespoke IoT (size, weight, location, type of data measured, etc), AI (analysis of results) and a dedicated network. The French group is already using it to optimise its container routes and thus avoid possible shortages in the production chain.
The blockchain, serving industry confidence
The blockchain isn't just for financial applications: in smart industry we can also expect blockchains and other distributed ledger protocols to play a big role. Blockchain technology - which let's remember is like a big shared and decentralised ledger, and on which information and movements are recorded in a way that's public, unmodifiable and incorruptible - is creating many new opportunities in the industrial sphere.
The corollary of big data and hyper-connectivity is security, and this is becoming crucial for companies. The blockchain can deliver novel solutions, particularly in certification and trackability. According to our expert Alexandre Lacour, "[the blockchain is] active in sectors like logistics and energy, and its use is spreading and combining strongly with the IoT. Challenges remain in fully adopting this technology but the monetisation of smart contracts reinforces a trend which will simplify the monetisation of industry 4.0 services."
The French Economy and Finance minister has just set up a Blockchain task force as part of the national blockchain strategy, announced last April. It aims at promoting the adoption of the technology and using it at scale, beyond experimentation and proofs of concept, in various industrial sectors such as construction, agri-food and energy.
Additive manufacturing makes it out of the R&D labs
Additive manufacturing, known to the world as 3D printing, involves manufacturing objects and parts by adding successive layers of materials. In the industrial sector, these are not just plastics but can also be ceramics, metals and polymers.
Long confined to the world of prototyping, additive manufacturing is expected to develop at a fast pace from progress made in equipment and processes to become a viable manufacturing method. 3D printing techniques and machines are in fact getting faster, more efficient, and cheaper in energy and raw materials. The automotive (GM, Ford, Bugatti, etc) and aerospace sectors (Boeing, Lufthansa, etc) are particularly active in this area, particularly in the production of metal spare parts. In 2018 Bugatti partnered with the German company Laser Zentrum Nord to print a titanium brake calliper.
According to a 3DHubs study, the additive manufacturing market is expected to see an average annual growth of 23.5% over the next five years. Additive manufacturing will then be in a position to conquer new application areas such as mass customisation. The potential is enormous: 3D printing today represents just 0.1% of the manufacturing market, which is valued globally at $12.7tn. If additive manufacturing manages to capture 1%, that would amount to an annual market of $125bn.
Source : 3D Hubs
Another key factor in the development of 3D printing, especially in critical sectors like aerospace and medicine, is normalisation and standardisation through the Additive Manufacturing Technology Standards (ASTM).
Mixed, virtual and augmented reality appear in the workshop
Within the concept of Industry 4.0, where one of the pillars is factory digitisation / virtualisation (as embodied in the digital twin), immersive technologies make total sense. To briefly recap the gist of the three main concepts: virtual reality submerges the user in a virtual and immersive 360-degree environment, most often via a headset like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, while augmented reality consists of adding digital elements to the real environment via a smartphone, tablet or glasses. Mixed reality (sometimes called hybrid reality), as for example in the Microsoft Hololens headset, is a mix of virtual and augmented realities. You can interact with 3D elements in the form of holograms within the physical reality.
The AR / VR market is rocketing. First maintained by manufacturers, a complete ecosystem is now building around content creators, software players, developers, integrators, etc. According to IDC predictions, global sales of headsets will approach 9 million units, a 54% increase on 2018. In France, expenditure will multiply 20-fold by 2022, with an estimated annual growth of 85%. By then, the professional market will attract the lion's share of expenditure (68%) where in 2017 the B2B market share was just 29%. With 27% of B2B expenditure in France, the industry sector will use more AR/VR solutions than retail and transport.
Source : IDC
It's fair to say that Industry 4.0 uses are legion. Virtual, augmented and mixed realities offer the worker real-time access to information in order to help and assist, for example, in maintenance. They are also appropriate for employee training and for testing out assumptions. Take for example Numix, spotted by HUB Institute special correspondents at the Laval Virtual Festival. This French digital creation agency is developing some very realistic VR training modules: with flood training for EDF flood-barrier technicians, and training for Enedis electricians, VR makes it easy to commit key actions to memory.
Crédit image de une : Microsoft