How Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things are connected

By IoTevolutionworld Special Guest
Phillip Werr, Marketing Manager, COPA-DATA
April 09, 2015

It is time to get “smart.” The web is full of buzzwords signalizing major changes and revolutions in both the internet and the industry. Losing track of what’s what increasingly becomes an everyday risk. The IoT is one of the major factors in new communicative and interactive developments. With the concept of Industry 4.0 spreading from its German origins across the world, it is worth examining the extent to which Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things are connected, but first of all:

What is the Internet of Things?

The concept of the Internet of Things dates back to 1999 and was coined by British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton. Physical objects are made “smart” by connecting them to the Internet utilizing ubiquitous sensors; a factor leading to the gradual replacement of conventional computers and major changes in, amongst other areas, everyday life. Interactions of various systems and devices can already be seen, to use a current example, in the automotive industry. The introduction of the connected car sees a connection of the vehicle to the Internet enabling real-time communication in a variety of scenarios, such as traffic warnings, navigational systems in combination with vehicle logs and setting off emergency calls in the event of an accident.

The Internet of Things as a production factor

However, there is more to the IoT than merely everyday life situations and communications. It will also have an effect on the way things are produced triggering another industrial revolution (it should be noted that, seeing as changes in production processes historically take longer to be fully implemented, one might rather use the term evolution instead). With the first revolution being the introduction of the steam engine, the second bringing assembly line mass production and the third establishing automation via electronic controllers, it is now time for the fourth industrial revolution.

CPS, Industry 4.0 and the road to the Smart Factory

The fourth industrial revolution paves the way to and for the Smart Factory. It is based on cyber-physical systems (CPS) networking machines and components with the addition of intelligent, “smart” and highly flexible software. Cyber-physical systems are intrinsically connected with embedded systems, these being parts of complete devices carrying out dedicated functions that frequently come with real-time computing constraints. CPSs link such embedded systems to digital networks facilitating independent data processing. The assignment of an IP address allows such systems to be controlled and monitored online. Owing to such embedded computer systems, sensors and actuators, cyber-physical systems organize production automatically and autonomously. Central process control can be eliminated as it can be taken over by CPS-based components. This concept of value chain organization is also referred to as Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution.

Origin and inner workings of Industry 4.0

The term Industry 4.0 was coined by the German government (as Industrie 4.0) and stems from a project set out to prepare German industry for the future of production. This future, according to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, “will be characterized by the strong individualization of products under the conditions of highly flexible (large series) production, the extensive integration of customers and business partners in business and value-added processes, and the linking of production and high-quality services leading to so-called hybrid products.”

A similar approach can be found in the United States, where the non-profit organization Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) is working on the future of manufacturing. Industry 4.0 operates on several technological concepts, including the aforementioned cyber-physical systems and the already familiar Internet of Things. The IoT facilitates the communication and cooperation processes of cyber-physical systems. Common IoT technologies used in Industry 4.0 and, consequently, Smart Factories are, inter alia, wireless networks, intelligent or “smart” objects, sensory technology, and actuating elements.


There would be no fourth industrial revolution, no Industry 4.0 and no Smart Factory without the Internet of Things. Its implementation of smart technology is the basis for new industrial developments and self-governing devices. It is the base for increased product customization and higher flexibility while at the same time allowing stronger consumer and supplier impact of automated processes. Industry 4.0 is set to be the new manufacturing standard in the new future. The time for systematic in-house change is now.

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Edited by Ken Briodagh
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