Today, we are in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a time when technology innovation is driving significant advancements in the automation of production and the ability to connect machines, devices and even industrial and city infrastructure.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution presents tremendous opportunities for increasing productivity by leveraging the Industrial Internet to power companies and drive economic growth. Conservative estimates suggest the Industrial Internet market is about £173 billion globally, compared to the consumer Internet, which is valued at £131 billion. Some industry experts estimate that by 2020 the Industrial Internet will deliver more than $1.9 trillion in productivity gains globally.
However, there is a lot of confusion about what defines the Industrial Internet, and how it is different from other widely used terms such as Industry 4.0 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Put very simply, the Industrial Internet is what powers the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is the digital technology which enables the connection of machines, data and processes and makes possible the creation of smart technologies, smart manufacturing and connected city infrastructure.
Industry 4.0, on the other hand, is a term used to define the digitization of manufacturing, triggered by the growing adoption of emerging technologies such as machine learning, robotics, IoT and edge computing among others. While Industry 4.0 focuses mainly on how these technologies can be used to optimize operations across factories and their supply chains, the Industrial Internet stretches well beyond manufacturing. It encompasses everything that is connected through digital technology – from sensors and devices, through to machines, networks, analytics and people. In other words, the Industrial Internet encompasses not only how products are made, but also how things of any sort operate.
For example, analyzing the data generated from connected devices and sensors within an airplane engine or wind turbine can help identify potential performance issues before they have occurred. This can help reduce system downtime and improve efficiency. Taking a step further, the Industrial Internet, combined with data analytics, can enable machines to ‘talk’ to city infrastructure and other devices outside their immediate network. Imagine self-aware trains which can notify the nearest station that there are issues with the train ahead of time, so that staff can send the emergency services and alert passengers waiting at the next stop that there will be a delay. This predictive approach can be applied to multiple areas, including gas extraction, elevator maintenance, supply chain management and many others.
In the above scenarios, the Industrial Internet builds on Industry 4.0 as it enables the connection between machines, data and humans well beyond factories and industrial sites. It has the potential to connect everything to power the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This will lead us not only to greater industrial productivity, but also to greater commercial creativity by driving digital transformation.