The fourth industrial revolution is powered by some special technologies that are being leveraged by some of the world-leading companies. A detailed outlook of some of the key players in the industry as well as some technologies that are fueling the industrial revolution has been outlined below.
Top Industry 4.0 Players
The major players in the Industry 4.0 industry globally include ABB, Mitsubishi, Yaskawa, KUKA, FANUC, General Electric, IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Stratasys, Google, Intel, HP, Siemens, Ansys, AIBrain, SAP, Amazon Web Services, and General Vision. The largest among them, AWS and Google, have been analyzed for their Industry 4.0 offerings.
Amazon Web Services
- Amazon Web Services (aka AWS) is a cloud platform that offers as many as 175 services from data centers throughout the globe.
- The products offered by the company fall under analytics, application integration, AR & VR, AWS cost management, blockchain, and many others.
- The key area of Industry 4.0 that AWS operates in is IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things). AWS defines IIoT as the technology that "brings machines, cloud computing, analytics, and people together to improve the performance and productivity of industrial processes. With IIoT, industrial companies can digitize processes, transform business models, and improve performance and productivity, while decreasing waste."
- AWS also offers services for the manufacturing sector. It helps "manufacturers transform their manufacturing operations with the most comprehensive and advanced set of cloud solutions available today, while taking advantage of the highest level of security." The company does so through services like product design, smart factory, and smart products.
- The primary service that Google offers is its Cloud platform and solutions. The solutions that the company offers in the domain include infrastructure modernization, data management, application modernization, smart analytics, artificial intelligence, security, productivity & collaboration, and industry solutions.
- The areas that the company tackles in Industry 4.0 include artificial intelligence and industry solutions.
- In terms of artificial intelligence, the company offers the ability to integrate AI into a business through machine learning tools, analyze documents through machine learning, train a chatbot, and find talent using the cloud.
- In terms of industry solutions, the company has to offer tailor-made and relevant solutions for each industry including retail, manufacturing, financial services, energy, healthcare & life sciences, government, media & entertainment, education, telecommunications, and gaming.
Identification of Top Players
The leading players in the Industry 4.0 segment were found through a market research report published by Markets and Markets. Since there were too many players to analyze, the largest among them were identified based on their revenues and analyzed. The leading players in the industry and their revenues have been listed on this spreadsheet.
It should be noted that the most recent revenues were taken for each player, which were for 2019 in most cases. Where revenues were reported in currencies other than US Dollar, they were converted to USD using current conversion rates. It should also be noted that some companies also offer other services besides Industry 4.0, however, the total revenues of the company were considered for the determination of the largest players.
Industry 4.0 Technologies
An account of each major Industry 4.0 technology, including the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, and machine-to-machine communication, has been provided below.
Internet of Things (IoT)
- IoT is one of the most important technologies that is fueling the 4th industrial revolution. This technology is all about connectivity and data and enables decision-makers to visualize the system better.
- This technology generates real-time data through sensors and connectivity. This data provides insights about the entire physical process in a given factory as well as the supply chain.
- Data allows managers to make better-informed decisions and enhance productivity.
- IoT "provides full visibility of assets, processes, resources, and products. This, in turn, supports streamlined business operations, optimized productivity and improved ROI."
- IoT-backed manufacturing enables the reduction of waste, speeding up production, improve yield, and enhance the quality of goods.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Machine learning and data analytics are among the technologies that fall under artificial intelligence and are paving the way to the fourth industrial revolution. There are several ways that this technology is enabling the revolution.
- Predictive maintenance through AI helps prevent equipment failure, and in turn, increases productivity.
- AI also helps in simulating environments and create solutions to problems before even launching the product, e.g. in the automotive industry. Other industries that are benefiting from AI include airlines, healthcare, and many others.
- Other applications of AI include quality monitoring, yield improvement, root cause analysis, energy management, digital twins, and 3D printing arm control.
- The use of AI to analyze data that would otherwise be too difficult to analyze by human beings is enabling manufacturers to achieve better results.
- Manufacturing has been impacted by automation globally and plants of all types have integrated their systems with automation to save cost and time and increase productivity. It has been said many times that automation might impact many jobs in the near future, however, it will also create newer ones.
- In manufacturing, automation is not limited to the shop floor but it has encompassed all aspects including the supply chain.
- AI and machine learning have enabled "robots to see more clearly, manipulate objects more easily, and work alongside humans in dynamic environments."
- If companies want to stay competitive in the modern global economy, automation is something that comes as a need rather than a luxury.
- Machine-to-Machine (or M2M as they call it) Communication is the technology behind what makes the smart factory smart. M2M communication is essentially what it sounds like, i.e. machines communicating with each other in terms of data.
- M2M communication makes the smart factory run by enabling each machine to extract relevant insights from the cloud (or elsewhere) and use them to complete the respective action/task.
- M2M communication can also be automated in order "to improve efficiency, lower costs, and optimize production." This can be done if each machine reports its parameters to a central platform that is connected to the entire manufacturing system.
- M2M communication can be leveraged to establish "a fully connected plant floor" and "virtual interactive plants."