Adopting Industry 4.0 practices could be critical for your business. And edge computing could be critical for your Industry 4.0 adoption plans.
Are you ready for the revolution? If your business involves manufacturing or other industrial processes, you should be. The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, is on its way. And its impact on the industry will be as profound as mechanization, mass production, or automation. Industry 4.0 is a blanket term describing a tsunami of technology advances and new business models that are transforming industrial processes.
These advances, ranging from the Internet of Things (IoT) to cyber-physical systems, will break down silos, enable personalized manufacturing, and see robots taking on many human tasks. This will all benefit manufacturers. But deploying edge computing will be essential for Industry 4.0’s success. Here is why.
The next industrial revolution is being defined by one thing: cost.
1. Edge computing will keep you safe
In contrast to what most of the tech-industry is touting, in self-interest, the cloud is not a hard requirement for Industrial IoT. You don´t necessarily need a cloud IoT platform.
Industry 4.0 is all about connecting machines, so your manufacturing processes can react more quickly and intelligently to changing factory floor conditions. Connecting assets will help you achieve greater levels of agility and automation. But it will also increase your risks. A more connected organization is one that offers many more attack surfaces and a much higher degree of vulnerability to cyber attacks. Your Industry 4.0 strategy can minimize the risks, though, with edge computing.
If as much data as possible gets processed at the edge, rather than being sent to the cloud, there is a much lower risk of it being intercepted or tampered with. Robust edge computing systems will let you keep the bulk of your IT and operational technology systems on your secure network.
2. Edge computing will make your Big Data small
Bringing intelligence to your manufacturing operations means collecting data from sensors in your equipment and analyzing data to make real-time decisions and predictive maintenance. But even in a modest Industry 4.0 project, the amount of data could overwhelm existing and new systems and add a significant cost of bandwidth, data storage, computing and data science.
Processing most of that data at the edge, to filter out signals from the noise, can help make sure you only focus on the information that is most important and dramatically reduce the cost of data.
3. Edge computing will give you ultra-low latency
Sending data to a remote cloud datacenter for analysis gives long and unpredictable latency. The opportunity to act on the data might be gone for time-sensitive use-cases.
Edge computing gives a predictable and ultra-low latency ideal for time-critical situations including any use-case where the operation is either mission-critical or where things are in motion. Moving vehicles, machines, parts, people or fluids are examples where delays could equal missed opportunities, high costs or security threats.
With edge computing, you can easily connect machines from different manufacturers with an independent and resilient logic layer running local triggers ultra-fast.
This means you can foster innovation in operational-level areas such as yield optimization or enhanced worker safety, without having to worry about big data analysis in the cloud.
4. Edge computing can be the integration layer between your factory floor data and your ERP system
Just as edge computing can help you connect devices and processes without having to send data to the cloud, so it can also provide cloud-free integration of factory floor data with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
Enterprises are quickly moving towards an event-driven architecture and expectations on real-time automated digital processes. In fact, Gartner reports that event-driven IT will be a top three priority for the majority of global enterprise CIOs by 2020.
Edge computing can be the real-time, event-driven integration layer between your factory floor data and your enterprise systems that will help you speed up and automate business processes and digital insights.
According to a 2016 report on Industry 4.0 by BDO, the global accountancy firm, “The next industrial revolution is being defined by one thing: cost.”
What is clear is that companies embracing Industry 4.0 will be able to unlock immense savings through increased automation, agility, and resilience. At the same time, however, Industry 4.0 can prove problematic for enterprises expecting to be able to export all sensor data to the cloud. Such companies could face challenges in terms of IT security, high cost, network latency, innovation capability, and system integration.
To make sure your Industry 4.0 stands the best chances of success, therefore, it is important to deploy edge computing as an enabling technology. IoT edge computing will help your business embrace real-time processing and smart data collection by triggering local actions with ultra-low latency.
This article was written by Göran Appelquist, currently CTO at Crosser. Goran has 20+ years of experience of different leading positions in high-tech companies. Originally the article was published here.