Build cyber-physical systems for Industry 4.0

Article By : Sachidananda Karanth

The 4th industrial revolution calls for cyber-physical systems, networking and smart software.

Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a lot more than just connected devices and seamless communication. The emerging IoT is having a sweeping effect on the way goods are produced, triggering another industrial revolution – Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0, or the fourth Industrial revolution, is the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing industries. It is based on cyber-physical systems (CPS), networking machines, and intelligent, smart and highly flexible software. In the context of an industrial environment, the IoT gains more relevance when there is a requirement of analysing a large amount of data collected over a prolonged period of time.

Putting this into practice in the industrial context, the IoT involves mostly data acquisition, processing and associated control systems. Devices or assets connect to the cloud or local information technology (IT) infrastructure to collect and/or transmit data. This data is then processed and analyzed to provide insight about the control system. The control system acts directly on the measurements made in real-time and typically does not include storage. The IoT and cloud infrastructure provides the mechanism to conserve all data collected over a large duration of time. The data thus collected on the cloud can be used for managing the control system by statistically analysing the data collected over a long period of time.

While the typical process controller operates on real-time data that handles short term corrective actions, the IoT and cloud based technologies enables long-term observations and improvements.
Here we illustrate the possible use of the IoT technologies in an industrial environment in order to build the cyber-physical systems needed in Industry 4.0.

Let us take a simple control system / home automation controller as an example for illustration.

The system includes the following components.

– Controller board connected to sensors and actuators
These could be based on a microcontroller (MCU) interfaced to sensors or actuators directly (or via an industrial bus). Or they could also be based on low end microprocessor (MPU) running RTOS handling more functions. While the basic functionality would be to sense the parameters or take measurements from the sensors and then control the actuators/outputs, these systems can be extended to push the desired parameters to the cloud server.

– Cloud servers
The cloud provides various functions including distributed storage with redundancy, high-availability and centralized device management. The cloud may also provide the distributed computing infrastructure to carry out the desired business logic or data analytics logic involving large or big data.

– Clients providing the user interface to the system
The client is the front-end providing human interface for configuration and retrieving the information and status. The clients could be applications realized on different platforms including PC, thin-clients; tablets, smart phones etc.

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