Industry 4.0 vs. IIoT: What's the difference?

June 4, 2024
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Defining Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution — the transition to smart, connected factories. It encompasses tools and technologies like robotics, AI, IoT, and data analytics that are transforming manufacturing.

Defining the industrial Internet of things (IIoT)

IIoT refers to the application of Internet of things (IoT) technologies in manufacturing and industrial sectors

Simply put, it's the use of smart sensors and Internet-connected devices to improve manufacturing and industrial processes.

Key components of Industry 4.0

Some key components that make the fourth industrial revolution possible are: 

  • Cyber-physical systems: These are physical systems that have embedded software and sensors that allow them to communicate, collect, and analyze data. Things like smart sensors, 3D printers, and autonomous robots are examples of cyber-physical systems.
  • The industrial Internet of things (IIoT): The IIoT connects industrial equipment, machinery, and assets to collect and share data that can be analyzed to gain insights. Sensors, actuators, and other smart devices are linked via the Internet to enable intelligent industrial operations.
  • Big data analytics: The huge amounts of data generated by connected systems and assets in Industry 4.0 are analyzed to identify patterns and gain valuable insights. Predictive analytics and AI can help improve efficiency, reduce downtime, and enhance products and services.
  • Cloud computing: Industry 4.0 relies on cloud services to store and process the massive amounts of data generated by connected systems and enable collaboration. Cloud computing also provides the computing power required for advanced analytics and AI.
  • Artificial intelligence: AI and machine learning algorithms can analyze data to detect patterns, learn from experience, and make predictions or recommendations to optimize industrial operations. AI assistants can also help with tasks like preventative maintenance.

Key components of IIoT

Conversely, the IIoT also has key components that enable the sensors to gather data from manufacturing hardware and relay it via the web. 

The components are: 

  • Smart sensors and connected devices: The IIoT relies on smart sensors and connected devices to gather data. These intelligent sensors detect conditions like temperature, pressure, humidity, vibration, and location. They then communicate that data to other devices and systems over the Internet. 
  • Vast amounts of data: With so many sensors and connected devices, the IIoT generates huge amounts of data, known as “big data.” IIoT systems use advanced analytics, like machine learning algorithms, to analyze this data and uncover insights to optimize processes and predict equipment failures. Analytics help companies better understand their operations, supply chain, and customers.
  • Intelligent software platforms: IIoT software platforms connect sensors, devices, machines, and enterprise software systems. They collect, integrate, and analyze data from across the organization. IIoT platforms offer capabilities like real-time data streaming, predictive analytics, and business intelligence tools. Leading platform providers include PTC, Siemens, GE, and SAP.
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The role of IIoT in Industry 4.0

The IIoT opens up major components of Industry 4.0, like smart factories and smart manufacturing.

Here’s how: 

  • Optimized and improved processes: The IIoT allows you to monitor equipment and processes in real-time. You can detect inefficiencies and improve operations right away. For example, sensors can track cycle times, waste, and defects on an assembly line. 
  • Predictive maintenance: Connected sensors gather data about equipment health and performance. By parsing this data over time using machine learning algorithms, you can predict when assets need maintenance and service before issues arise. This prevents unplanned downtime and costly disruptions. For instance, vibrations and temperature changes often “say” when industrial machinery needs repair or replacement. 
  • Overall improvements to automation: The IIoT provides the data and connectivity for advanced automation, such as robotics, drones, and autonomous vehicles. These technologies rely on real-time data to operate and make decisions independently. For example, smart robots on a factory floor adjust their movements based on input from connected sensors. The IIoT makes this level of super-smart automation possible.

Differences in scope and application

Industry 4.0 has a broad scope that encompasses the entire industrial sector and aims to interconnect entire value chains across companies, suppliers, and customers.

In contrast, IIoT focuses specifically on connecting industrial equipment, sensors, software, and people within a company or plant.

Let’s dive in a bit deeper: 

Different connectivity levels

  • Industry 4.0 promotes connectivity on a massive scale, across entire regions or countries. 
  • Conversely, IIoT is often implemented at a single-site level, connecting equipment and systems within a factory or plant. Over time, it can also connect multiple factories or even entire supply chains. 

Industry 4.0 requires collaboration between many companies and standardization across industries. IIoT can be deployed by a single organization without external coordination.

Data utilization

  • With Industry 4.0, data is shared across a broad network to optimize the entire value chain. 
  • IIoT data remains within the company and primarily monitors equipment, detects inefficiencies, and optimizes operations at a single facility.

Impact on business models and operations

You’ll need to adapt your business model to take advantage of Industry 4.0. 

Here are the reasons why: 

  • With increased connectivity and automation, many traditional jobs will disappear. However (hopefully), new roles will emerge, like data scientists and robot coordinators. Operations will transform into flexible, agile systems.
  • New opportunities for personalized, custom products will arise as production becomes more flexible. You can offer highly customized products at a lower cost. Selling directly to customers is easier, bypassing traditional retail channels.
  • Supply chains will become faster and leaner. Integrated data systems provide end-to-end visibility, enabling just-in-time delivery and reducing excess inventory. Automating the handling of materials can slash warehousing and logistics costs.
  • Productivity increases with connected, self-optimizing systems. Predictive maintenance capabilities reduce downtime and optimize performance. Automated assembly and 3D printing accelerate production. Employees are freed to do higher-value and more engaging work.

Which one should you choose for your business?

Industry 4.0 and IIoT offer exciting opportunities, but which approach is a great idea for your company? 

Give some due consideration to your priorities and needs: 

If staying ahead of the innovation curve and transforming your business model are top goals, Industry 4.0 may be the way to go. Adopting cutting-edge technology across operations allows for entirely new revenue and value streams. However, the scope requires major investment and commitment to change.

IIoT applications make sense for companies focused on optimizing current processes or entering IIoT gradually. IIoT’s narrower scope targets key pain points and inefficiencies. Success with initial IIoT projects builds support for expanding to full smart manufacturing.

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Do you need to revamp your entire value chain? Pick Industry 4.0.
  • Do you want to improve specific capabilities like predictive maintenance or automation? Choose IIoT.
  • Are you an early adopter? Industry 4.0’s transformational vision may inspire you.
  • Do you prefer incremental progress? IIoT allows for steady evolution.

Summing up

That’s the lowdown on Industry 4.0 and IIoT. While they share some similarities, understanding the differences in scope and application is super-important.

Think long and hard on these matters: 

  • When weighing Industry 4.0 vs. IIoT for your business, factor in your specific goals, needs, and capabilities.
  • Industry 4.0 takes a broader, transformational approach, while IIoT focuses more narrowly on connecting devices and data.
  • Both can provide value but need sizable investments. Do your homework to gauge the best fit.
  • This tech isn't going anywhere — start small with pilots if needed but develop a roadmap to stay competitive.

All in all, both of these processes are going to continue advancing full steam ahead, so stay tuned for more developments and evolving best practices! 

Next steps 

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  • Incredibly adaptable: Thanks to its advanced AI on par with GPT-4, RO1 is a quick learner. It adapts to your changing needs and processes, so it's always working at peak performance. Plus, it's got a no-code framework, making it a breeze to reprogram for new tasks.
  • Safety first and always: We know safety is paramount, so RO1 comes equipped with state-of-the-art machine vision and sensors.

Hit us up for a free 30-day trial and let our experts show you the ropes. We'll even help you integrate RO1 into your shop floor. 

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