Close to 1000 people recently attended a day-long summit on the Internet of Things (IoT) at Tel Aviv University. They included major executives at leading multinational corporations as well as entrepreneurs, investors, and representatives from academia, government, investment groups, venture law firms and analyst groups.
Internet of Things... what?
So maybe before going further, is anyone asking, "um, what's that 'Internet of Things', if you don't mind?"
Sure – now machines, CPUs, chips, sensors - without a direct human layer - can exchange useful information with each other over the internet. And they can initiate decisions, actions and solutions. IoT is paving the way for robot-robot, robot-machine and robot-human cooperation. All that's a quantum leap forward in automation!
Now back to the IoT event – it was also well attended by small technology start-ups (SUs), who are developing disruptive products and services for electronics, mobile, health and more. The large corporations at the summit leveraged the panel discussions to reach out to these SUs with the offer: 'let us be the platform for your wildest, most cutting-edge innovations'. These asymmetrical partnerships hold a lot of promise for consumers, assorted industries and society as a whole.
One focus of the summit was the growing trend of consumer IoT uses – wearable gadgets, 'fitbit' bracelets and necklaces to monitor health and habits, sensors for infant well-being, home fridge re-stocking, plant watering, etc. But also receiving a lot of attention was the need to secure the incredible increase in information flow. Data security and privacy over IoT certainly seems like a double-scoop of innovation/business opportunity today.
Beyond the fast rising consumer gadget sector, the presentations and panels were taken up with Industry 4.0, featuring the adaptive, smart factory. Today's fourth industrial revolution will move us exponentially beyond the three that preceded it:
1st – started about 175 years ago: enabled by coal and steam power
2nd – began about 115 years ago: galvanized by electric power and mass manufacturing
3rd – initiated only about 45 years ago: propelled by computers, digitalization and global scale automation
In this newest phase, industry is able 'to predict the future' by showing much greater flexibility in reacting to continually changing consumer demands and future orders. It can introduce engineering changes more quickly to handle spikes in production volume while removing bottlenecks. Virtual automation is fed by real-time data from sensors in the physical factory. As a result, the nominal values of the original (virtual) model can be corrected with the data gathered from measurements taken in actual operation. Now the manufacturer can revise the model to be much closer to the reality on the assembly floor. This way the virtual factory side of the Digital Twin gets wind of new manufacturing challenges as they surface. It closes the loop by updating management and engineers with the needed modifications, so back on the shopfloor, change is faster and with fewer mistakes.
At the IoT Summit in Tel Aviv, Zvi Feuer, SVP of Siemens PLM in Israel gave one of the main presentations -
Zvi was in good company, with execs from GE, Microsoft, Samsung, Haier, Blackberry, Wind River and others who also presented their slides.
Zvi demonstrated the central role of the Digital Twin for industry in bridging between the current state and the critical next phase.
An example of the Digital Twin at work is Intosite, which offers a full model of the complex plant reality. Even from distant locations, management, administrators and engineers get all views of assembly zones, behavior, assets and critical data relevant to each category of user. High visibility makes across-the-board collaboration natural even for dispersed workforces.