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Industry 4.0: The revolution is here with the Automation of Everything

The word ‘revolution’ gets thrown around a lot in technology circles. When Bell Labs wrote our first Future X book three years ago, we referenced all prior technological revolutions and the constituent three elements that need to come together to drive such a revolution:

  1. new technology;
  2. a network that connects users in new ways; and
  3. a new social or economic reality that results from the first two.

This again applies to the digital transformation taking place across industry today which will drive the 4th industrial revolution.

Industrial Internet of Things – it’s all about productivity!

The first and second industrial revolutions were driven by the need to increase the productivity of physical goods using physical machines (engines and mechanical systems) and physical networks (road, rail etc). In contrast, the 3rd industrial revolution – the information age – was driven by the movement of digital goods (‘data’) over the internet and mobile networks. But this era has not resulted in an increase in productivity comparable to the prior technological revolutions; in fact we are currently tending towards a productivity growth of zero.

The  4th industrial revolution will be driven by the movement of intelligence over high performance digital networks, to support unprecedented levels of automation and usher in a new era of productivity for physical industries and associated infrastructure.

Physical industries are vital contributors to national economies, accounting for around 70% of total GDP in leading economies. These physical industries include manufacturing, transportation, energy, mining, agriculture, retail, construction, shipping, healthcare and much more, as described by the McKinsey Global Institute. 

The primary issue is that these industries have lacked 4 elements that are required to become optimized digital businesses:

  1. massive instrumentation with sensors;
  2. intelligent systems that can analyze and interpret the massive amount of data coming from these sensors;
  3. advanced robotic systems to optimize actions; and
  4. high performance, mission critical networks that support the dynamic, secure, highly reliable interconnection of these systems.

Importantly, despite the considerable progress in the first 3 areas over the last few years, it is the creation of the new mission critical network that will be the critical catalyst for this transformation.  This network is the end-to-end 5G network that has become the focus of much attention in recent months.

Why is the network the ‘nexus’ of new value creation?  For 5 reasons:

  1. it is the vital connective fabric
  2. it is the host of the edge cloud, which will host all critical high performance functions and services, including analytics, security and AR/VR functions
  3. it is the platform over which everything must flow
  4. it is the source of critical security threat detection and protections
  5. it is the source of all high-precision, real-time localization information for all connected things

In the 3rd industrial revolution, the driver was consumer web services which were designed to accommodate best effort network connectivity to centralized clouds, from sophisticated end user devices.  And therefore the only service delivery parameter of importance was capacity, and not even constant capacity, only aggregate or average capacity.  The industrial and infrastructure services that are driving the 4th industrial revolution are an entirely different proposition.

Future X for industries

The Nokia Bell Labs Future X for industries architecture extends the Future X vision to provide the framework needed for industry to usher in a new era of productivity. Entire physical industries and infrastructure will be transformed, including electric grids, logistics centers and transportation hubs, farms and agricultural processing plants, factories and manufacturing, materials mining and refinement, and retail supply chains and outlets.  It will also revolutionize the ways first responders handle emergencies, how buildings are constructed and will alter the fabric and operations of cities, towns and villages and enrich the lives of their inhabitants.

The Future X for industries vision outlines how operations technologies (OT) and information and communications technologies (ICT) will come together symbiotically to redefine industrial system operation.  It outlines this new IOCT reality from a technology and business value point of view, and identifies the critical steps required for each industry.

Today, companies are evolving from Wifi and wired Ethernet-based networks to utilize private or dedicated 4G LTE connectivity to untether systems, so they can be dynamically reconfigured, repositioned and deployed in a new configuration required for a new process, or to optimize operation of an existing process, or to adapt to an impairment.  With the arrival of 5G, the transformation will be even more extensive, with the lowest latency, highest bandwidth, exceptional reliability and security, and the capacity to scale and adapt at pace with the proliferation of all connected things, systems and processes.

Welcome to the future – now!

It’s always thrilling to take a look into the future and see what is possible. But it is even more so when these future possibilities are already manifesting as real opportunities.

I invite you to immerse yourself in our upcoming book on the topic, which explains how the Future X for industries technology, service and business architecture will transform existence. You can download a preview of our chapter on the Future of Mining today. And visit our Allwhere site to learn more about the vision and become part of the revolution with us.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokiaindustries using #Industry40 #NokiaforIndustries #GoAllwhere #IIoT #digitaltransformation

Marcus Weldon

About Marcus Weldon

As Corporate Chief Technology Officer, Marcus Weldon is responsible for coordinating the technical strategy across the company and driving technological and architectural innovations into Nokia’s end-to-end networking systems and software portfolio.  In addition, as President of Nokia Bell Labs, Marcus is responsible for driving the next disruptive innovation and research agenda for the company.

Marcus is considered one of the luminaries in the ICT industry in terms of the clarity, depth and breadth of his vision. He combines his vision with the power of Bell Labs, to create a unique innovation engine whose goal is to ‘invent the future’ of the networking and communications industry.

Tweet me at @MarcusWeldon

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