Industry 4.0 is a marketing campaign to create a perception of value in something that doesn’t exist yet. On one hand, the emergence of lower cost, intelligent peripherals and networks is making it practical to implement a lot of useful applications that were previously prohibitively expensive. On the other hand, there is a lot of hyperbole going around about ‘cyber physical systems’ and how great it’s all going to be.
The ‘Factory of the Future’ that automation equipment vendors have been selling since the early days of the PLC, 1970s, is now, finally, at hand. This has only been going on for about 45 years. We should take a moment and contemplate that fact. Whatever is going to happen in the future hasn’t happened yet. We are only able to see a small distance ahead and speculate on the more obvious things that occur to us.
What is really at work is that processors and network interconnects continue to get cheaper and more powerful. Cost is always the barrier, so what should we expect to see happen when networks are reduced to the cost of a connector and 32 bit processors cost less than $1? Sensors can have sufficient embedded intelligence to execute complex algorithms at the point of use as a strategy for managing data more efficiently. The latest Raspberry Pi is a 4 Core ARM processor running at 1.2 gigahertz for $35, fully connectorized. Incredible!
The real ‘art’ that is yet to come will manifest as subject matter experts in every field of human activity create new application code with the new lower cost tools that are at their disposal. Just as 3D printing is just beginning to transform things, just as print costs are declining and capabilities are increasing, these are both powerful forces that will take quite some time to reach maturity.
So in answer to the question; “Are we there yet?”, the answer is definitely “No”. Is it going to be an amazing journey? You bet.
Filed Under: Mechatronic Tips