What is 4IR Technology?
With the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, humanity is about to witness a massive technological advancement that promises a paradigm transformation of how people live, work, and communicate. The 4ir technology interoperates a group of modern technologies in a way that obscures the boundaries among biological, material, and digital spheres. Some branches of 4ir technologies are artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, digitalization, big data analytics, automated robotics, the internet of things (IoT), augmented and virtual reality, additive manufacturing, and other new technologies. The integration of 4ir technologies into manufacturing processes to produce goods and services is called the 4th industrial revolution or industry 4.0.
Top 10 4IR Technologies Related to Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0)
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a large propeller of the 4th industrial revolution. AI-oriented automation processes are already visible across many aspects of human lives, such as governance, industries, manufacturing, business, academia, banking, healthcare, travel, entertainment, defense, security, and many more. AI automation tremendously enhances the efficiency and performance of organizations and improves the quality of their products and services. Also, AI automation of production and management processes in companies increases their productivity and saves costs by replacing human labor.
In an AI-automated industry, humans and machines communicate with each other like networked devices in real time. This collaborative setup between men and machines helps perform many complex tasks that are impossible for a human to do on its own.
Some of the industrial applications of AI can be summarized as follows:
Big Data Analytics
Industry 4.0 is a digital revolution in which there is a blending between the physical world and the virtual world. Intelligent machines with self-learning capabilities use big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to make specific decisions without human assistance. Industries deploy intelligent machines to extract valuable information by analyzing and compiling large data amounts. This process is known as data analytics or data mining. Extracted data is then shared and implemented across interconnected systems to gain production excellence. So, big data contributes to a lesser human footprint and an increase in machine-driven actions in industrial processes.
As machines are taking up many jobs, industry 4.0 allows humans to focus more on research, exploration, and invention to create new opportunities and improve people's living conditions. Some of the application areas of big data analytics are as follows:
Internet of Things (IoT)
The phrase internet of things (IoT) refers to a group of systems connected via the internet. In the context of the 4th industrial revolution or 4IR, IoT refers to digitally interconnected systems using AI, machine learning, and real-time data sharing to digitize manufacturing and related services. An IoT system could digitally link industrial production to the customer end to create a fully integrated ecosystem from manufacturing to the supply chain. An expanded IoT for a company could mean the integration of manufacturing, management, operations, and supply chain into a single platform. Such digitalization of industries enables them to produce and deliver at exceptional speed. Therefore, the implementation of IoT turns companies into intelligent entities that are incredibly fast and produces breakthroughs at outstanding rates.
Automated mobile robots (AMRs) can demonstrate intelligence and perform tasks in a programmed way with almost no external intervention. They have sensors and cameras to read their surroundings. AMRs can efficiently complete repetitive jobs on a 24/7 basis scaling up industrial output and saving labor costs. Unlike standalone robots, AMRs are digitally linked with a programmable logic controller (PLC), database, and primary server, making them more interactive and autonomous. The AMRs receive real-time job instructions from the central execution system and communicate with sensors, cameras, and automation devices via PLCs. Automated robots can move objects, pack items, and stack goods in autonomous production facilities. By contributing to automation, automated robots play a significant role in the advancement of industry 4.0.
Cloud computing refers to storing and accessing data, programs, and computing services over the internet - "The cloud." The cloud means a virtual world on the internet. It is digital storage where digital resources like data, files, programs, applications, and software are stored. In cloud computing, users and businesses can avail services of IT resources like servers, storage, software, programs, networking, database, applications, and intelligence on an on-demand basis over the internet. So, a business can thrive and excel in innovation and development by utilizing state-of-the-art IT infrastructure over the internet without the need to maintain local storage to store, access, and process data, software, application, and programs. All the above cloud services are available online in return for payment to keep operating costs low and save costs of IT infrastructure investment.
A blockchain is a digitally secure public database or ledger distributed, decentralized, and shared among participant computers across a computer network. A blockchain database stores electronic records of transactions in digital format in nodes (computers) across the entire network. These records are called blocks which are cryptographically linked. A blockchain database system makes it difficult to hack, manipulate, cheat, modify, tamper, alter, or change stored transaction records and information without the consent of each computer within a network. The security and fidelity of records offered by blockchain technology enabled it to earn trust across industries like payment, cybersecurity, healthcare, etc.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that integrates digital information with the real physical world. The process involves overlaying digital content like text, images, graphics, sounds, and digital visual elements onto real-world objects and environments. The digital enhancement that AR brings provides a digitally enriched real-life environment. It enables users to have a value-added interactive experience with the real world.
In contrast to virtual reality (VR), which represents an absolute artificial reality, AR adds computer-generated perceptual features on top of the physical world. So, AR may bring visual change to the outlook of the natural environment or add extra information. It is a blending of digital and physical worlds to create a new perception for the user.
By bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds, AR technology expedites decision-making, streamlines manufacturing and industrial processes, improves efficiency, increases productivity, and more. But AR does not work independently. Reaping the real benefit of AR is contingent upon making it part of an industry 4.0 ecosystem comprised of automated robots, big data, AI, and other systems linked through a cloud.
Additive Manufacturing (AM)
Additive manufacturing (AM) is an industrial production process that builds 3D objects by adding materials layer upon layer. The AM technology uses computer-aided design (CAD) software, 3D object scanning, imaging equipment, and other hardware and software platforms to create 3D models of objects. These 3D models could be of functional components, parts, tools, and likes. Using the 3D models' objects are fabricated in precise geometries by depositing material layer by layer as in 3D printing. The entire process is computer driven.
Design and manufacturing companies use AM-built components and parts as functional blocks to make end-user products in agricultural, health, industrial, automotive, aerospace, defense, and many other fields. AM is a transformative technology that may create a solid product from liquid or power. AM works with many materials such as metals, alloys, concretes, polymers, plastic, composite, and the like.
AM is the opposite of traditional manufacturing processes like subtractive or formative manufacturing. Traditional technologies build objects by removing material from solid blocks through milling, machining, cutting, shaping, sculpting, carving, or like means.
Other names of AM are Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM), 3D Printing, Freeform Manufacturing, Additive Fabrication, Additive Techniques, Direct Digital Manufacturing, Rapid Prototyping, and so on. Though 3D printing is just a form of AM, many people call the terms synonymously.
There are many advantages of AM. Some of them are minimum material waste, low energy consumption, eco-friendly, product customization, rapid design modification, cost-efficient by short manufacturing cycle, product weight reduction, and many others.
A smart sensor is a device that can process information. It has a built-in microprocessor (MPU), wireless communication, sensor, and power modules. Smart sensors' can acquire physical, chemical, and biological data from the environment, process them, convert data to digital signals, and share actionable data across networked systems to perform actions. Alternatively, smart sensors are known as intelligent sensors because they have sensing and data processing components integrated into a single electronic microchip. Different smart sensors may have varying capabilities.
A Smart sensor can perform the following functions.
- Self-compensating ability allows it to auto-compensate for nonlinear sensing, drift in response, time, temperature, pressure, flow, speed, depth, height, and likes via software.
- Automatic online calibration capability self-calibrates the sensor thru software using the standard input value.
- Upon power on, the self-diagnostic feature of the sensor runs an automatic self-test to confirm that all the sensor components are functional.
- The sensor has data storage capability to store various types of information.
- Two-way wireless communication link.
Smart Sensors have many advantages over ordinary sensors. Followings are some of the leading benefits of a Smart sensor to count.
- Automated and high-precision collection of environmental information
- Better prevention of background noise from interfering with desired data
- Higher efficiency
- Much lesser use of interconnecting cable
- Faster communication speed
- Reduced footprint due to small size
- Low energy usage
- Low cost by productivity ratio
Data visualization is a method of presenting data and information in a graphical or visual form. It involves the presentation of data through various formats like graphs, maps, plots, charts, and infographics. The benefit of visualizing data is that the human brain can easily interact with visualized data which helps people to understand, detect trends and patterns, and form ideas. Data visualization is helpful for humans to interpret complex data and pull insight from big data groups. Data visualization employs special tools and technologies to process and analyze a vast amount of data and present meaningful decisions. Visualized data presentation is the most effective way of data presentation, helping people to reach conclusions, make decisions, shape policy, and strategize.