Industry 4.0 needs international standards

SAP and Bosch are joining forces to lay the foundation for wide-scale adoption of IoT and Industry 4.0 applications. Both are pushing for international standards and open source solutions as the basis for this development.

The Internet of Things is a familiar feature in factories and warehouses. In fact, far from being a mere hype, the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution has long since become reality. Cisco predicts that by 2020, 25 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. Which makes it all the more important to develop international standards for the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Let’s look at a scenario from a real-life test environment.

“Track and Trace”

Bosch startup Zeno Track fits out forklifts with sensors that collect battery data and measure the height of the lifting arm or the weight of goods to be transported. To further optimize operations and improve safety levels, the sensors also provide two more crucial items of information: the forklift’s precise position in the warehouse and shock data – in real time. Because only when information is connected does it deliver true value to the customer.

In this example, the moment a forklift is involved in an accident, the vehicle fleet manager is informed. Which means that if someone is injured in the incident, the fleet manager can arrange for first-aid to be administered immediately. This scenario is built on the Bosch IoT Cloud and the SAP fleet management system SAP Vehicle Insights.

Joint IIC and PI4.0 Forum and Workshop

Without technical standards, scenarios like this are simply not possible. Consequently, SAP and Bosch announced a strategic partnership in March 2016 as well as their intention to develop international standards for the Internet of Things in association with the “Plattform Industrie 4.0” (PI4.0) initiative ‒ funded by the German government, science, and business ‒ and with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC). This collaboration will embrace all the key areas that are relevant for IoT, including architecture, security, standardization, research, and legal aspects.

It was against this background that the quarterly IIC members’ meeting took place in Germany for the first time on September 19-22. A highlight of the event was a joint forum and workshop with the PI4.0. initiative held in Walldorf and St. Leon-Rot on September 21. During the morning session, SAP Executive Board member Bernd Leukert and chairman of Bosch’s board of management Dr. Volkmar Denner spoke about the importance and role of global standards in driving the Industrial Internet of Things and controlling the value chain.

IIoT Solutions Must Be Freely Accessible

Leukert explained, “SAP’s goal is no different for Industry 4.0 than for Industry 3.0: to be the trusted advisor and partner for our customers in the digital transformation.” As an industry leader, it was SAP’s task, he said, to create an efficient basis on which small and midsize enterprises that cannot afford complex and expensive solutions could also benefit from the IIoT.

“In order to make even better use of the major potential that connected industry holds, international companies must cooperate more closely than before, and they must base that cooperation on open standards,” said Denner.

Humans in the Spotlight

And what of Industry 5.0? Henning Kagermann, president of acatech, the German Academy of Science and Engineering, predicted that personalization would be at the forefront of this next chapter in the industrial revolution. It was vital, he said, to convince people of the potential opportunities of automation – such as next-generation robots, which will operate hand in hand with humans and, among many other things, will be capable of helping older people complete tasks that would otherwise be impossible for them.

The afternoon session of the forum was reserved for meetings of the joint working groups on security, architecture, product, and production system life cycles, standardization, and cooperation between the IIC and Plattform Industrie 4.0 on test projects. The aim of the meetings was to define objectives and road maps for future cooperation and to plan the next steps.

The forum ended with an address given by EU commissioner Guenther Oettinger on the Industrial Internet of Things and transatlantic relations. He stressed the importance of a cooperation like the one between IIC and Plattform Industrie 4.0 in counteracting growing market uncertainty. At the same time, he called on industry to step up its commitment to the IIoT by implementing more pilot programs and test environments.

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