Future Electronics : Industry 4.0 – A great tagline – but what does it mean for those at the front line of industrial system design?

From the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to the Embedded World exhibition and conference in Nuremberg, Germany, there is one big theme occupying the minds of industry leaders, business people and engineers at this moment: the so-called Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Of course, the term ‘Industry 4.0’ provides a great tagline for conferences. But what does it mean in practice for the electronics engineers who have responsibility for realising the grand vision?

One of the key elements of the fourth industrial revolution is the idea of the ‘smart factory’, in which almost every aspect of the building’s operation benefits from intelligent automation. Of course, industrial automation itself is far from a new concept: even as long ago as the early years of the 20th century, Henry Ford was inventing new ways to automate production in his pioneering car assembly plants.

But what is emerging in this fourth wave of change in industry is ubiquitous sensing, connectivity and sophisticated control, in all kinds of devices. This means that designers of industrial systems are in many cases entering uncharted territory: many are enjoying their first encounters with wireless system design, sensor fusion, energy harvesting, ultra-low power design and Variable-Speed Drive (VSD) control systems.

These are specialised design disciplines, and are supported by a huge and varied choice of products and technologies for implementing them. That is why Future Electronics has created dedicated divisions with specialist know-how in the functions that our customers will need as they develop equipment for Industry 4.0.

Today, customers throughout the Europe, Middle East and Asia region are able to draw on specialist expertise in power-system design through the Future Power Solutions division, and on wireless connectivity expertise through Future Connectivity Solutions. At Future Power Solutions, for instance, technology specialists can help to advise design engineers on the use of the latest Intelligent Power Modules (IPMs), which provide a compact, easy-to-use and complete inverter solution, a core element of a VSD. They can also explain the applications and limitations of today’s energy-harvesting solutions.

The experts at Future Connectivity Solutions, likewise, can help designers to navigate through the maze of competing radio standards. Depending on the application, a wireless sensor node for use in the smart factory of tomorrow might require one or more radios, with a choice of NFC, Bluetooth®, Wi-Fi®, ZigBee®, LoRa™, SIGFOX and other technologies all potentially suitable. Future Connectivity Solutions can help to choose the right technology, and find a choice of components to fit the design architecture and budget.

Wherever Industry 4.0 is a real phenomenon, then, and not just a slogan, Future Electronics is ready to help.

So if you are thinking today about the development of your next ‘Industry 4.0’ product, please find inspiration in the pages of FTM, and ask for practical help from the Future Electronics experts via info@my-ftm.com.

Martin Schiel
Vertical Segment Manager EMEA