The year that has just begun will mean that we will continue to advance the technological revolution in which companies are already immersed. The maturation of many technologies, together with their cheaper, will allow many more companies to start or advance on the road to Industry 4.0, something that until now was mainly available to large corporations. In this regard, we believe that 2019 will be the year of the “democratization” of technologies applied to the improvement of productivity and, consequently, of the income statement. These are the most disruptive technologies that we believe will land more strongly in the field of companies, according to the opinion of different specialists:
- Sensorization: Although industrial machinery already has in many cases remote two-way connectivity (which allows monitoring and centralized control) the generalization of technologies such as RFID tags, biometric identification, high-precision geolocation (combining the current GPS network with the new European Galileo Network, much more accurate) and the cheapening of all kinds of sensors will provide an important flow of information that can be managed by autonomous systems. We’re talking about the Internet of Things (IoT) where all physical systems capture and receive information.
- Machine Learning: The combination of a large amount of data (Big Data),provided by sensors and by market analysis, customers and sales, together with Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms capable of performing analysis and reacting to different scenarios in real time, will allow both machines and people to be more effective in their tasks (and therefore more productive). Improving productivity means being more competitive, so companies will have to be very attentive to this technology so as not to miss the train. The application of the different technologies of Industry 4.0 allows productivity improvements that generally range between 10 and 25%. The key to competitiveness lies in the proper integration of different technologies to function as a system (or rather, an ecosystem) in which each technology brings a benefit that can be leveraged by different technologies. But there always has to be a system “conducting the orchestra”, and this is something that can be done very efficiently if we integrate digital neurons with human neurons so that each of them does what it does best.
- Digital Twin: Consultants as prestigious as Gartner do not hesitate to cite the digital twin (a term originally coined by NASA to define a virtual replica of a real environment, whether this is a building, an assembly line, a warehouse or even a city) as one of the major players in the technological revolution that is already underway. Digital twins allow you to simulate the behavior of machines, people, vehicles or any other element of a company’s production chain, model different scenarios and calculate, according to algorithms, the most favorable configuration in each of those scenarios. They are therefore an essential aid for both layout and investment decision making, staff recruitment and optimization of all types of resources, including preventive maintenance and logistics.
- Immersive technologies: Why interact using a keyboard if we can do it with gestures or with voice? Why analyze data tables when we can view them in a 3D digital environment? Why resort to screens when we can use custom viewers that present us with information superimposed on reality?. None of these technologies is a big novelty: they have been around for a long time. The novelty is that, in order to be truly effective, they need computing power that until recently was out of reach of companies. Something that is no longer the case today, thanks to miniaturization, the lowering of costs and technologies such as distributed computing that we will mention later. All this already allows to incorporate a “digital layer” into any business process, so that those who must make decisions know that they are doing so from real-time data, fully reliable and with all the information they need at all times.
- Distributed computing (Grid computing and Cloud Computing): Just as the World Wide Web standard was born at CERN Geneva to be able to efficiently transmit data between machines, the premiere a decade ago of CERN’s LHC collider (whose detectors produce 30 Gb of data per second) required the design of a new computer system, called grid computing in which the analysis of that data is carried out in hundreds of universities and research institutes around the world in a coordinated manner, being virtually impossible (and in any case, exorbitantly expensive) to have a machine capable of analyzing such a large stream of data. Hence the idea of “distributed computing”, which is strongly linked to the rise of Big Data. A company can efficiently use all the computing resources available to it on its network, and even contract external services. We thus move from distributed or cloud data storage to distributed processing of that same data.
- Blockchain: Blockchain (literally “blockchain”) is the technology developed for the creation of bitcoin and virtually all cryptocurrencies. It takes ideas from cloud computing in such a way that transaction security is also guaranteed by a distributed and therefore unalterable system, since each node of the system keeps an encrypted copy of the transaction and it is impossible to modify all nodes at the same time. All banks, finance startups (Fintech) and any other system that requires a secure and inviolable registration of information are already adopting blockchain technology. We are therefore talking about “smart contracts” and other security systems in the registration and transmission of information.
- Smart spaces: Like smart cities in 2019, the trend towards smart factories will be consolidated, in which the space itself is endowed with “intelligence” and in it live autonomous machines, manual machines and people. The smart factory can sort production flows at any given time according to needs, reorient priorities and manage information bidirectionally, so that each person and machine is where it needs to be, at the moment and doing what it needs to do to keep productivity at optimal levels.