The movement in the United States calls it “Smart Manufacturing.” In Germany, you hear “Industrie 4.0” and sometimes “Smart Industry.” Others refer to “cyberphysical systems.” Also involved in this
witch’s brew of ideas is the Internet of Things—also known as Industrial Internet of Things.
The question that matters goes like this, “Is this all just hype perpetrated by academics, government bureaucrats and suppliers looking for something new to sell?”
This is definitely more than a marketing ploy. We are at a technological inflection point where many technologies are coming together. They are often being proven in the consumer economy and then adapted for manufacturing and machine control.
Networks are a fundamental enabler of this new manufacturing technology. As is advanced database technology (aka Big Data) and the analytics that accompany it.
Now we can add advances in smart devices (think your mobile or smart phone and gyroscopes, GPS, temperature sensors, even vibration sensor, and more) that can provide better knowledge of the state of a device. And we have a way to connect that date and use it.
The mobile computing we’ve been using is shortly going to look positively ancient. Let’s try computational embedded T-shirts. Better cameras. Wrist phones. Google (safety)Glass.
Distributed programming is coming into its own. We have IEC 61499 as a start. National Instruments has a programming language (LabVIEW) that is inherently parallel that can exploit the power of multicore processors and FPGAs. There will be more coming from competitors.
Think of the new power machine and operator interface designers have and will have to make things much better. We are at the beginning of a really cool time in manufacturing technology.