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Trendspotting: Smarter Factories Integrate OT and IT

As the Industrial Internet of Things grows, next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and augmented reality can be highly useful in factories.
By Keith Higgins
Mar 01, 2020

Manufacturing facilities have evolved to the extent that a factory worker from 50 years ago would scarcely recognize them in this age of Industry 4.0. However, in the interim, automation, safety breakthroughs and technology solutions have made factories safer, more efficient and more cost effective.

While Industry 3.0 revolved around the computerization of factories, Industry 4.0 seeks to add artificial intelligence, machine learning and augmented reality to a growing wave of technical integration. Each technology has a place on the factory floor, and a contribution to make toward revolutionizing manufacturing practices and processes. If Industry 4.0 seems like smoke and mirrors, consider that in 2019 we witnessed a growth of 400% in the number of digital transformation initiatives across industries, including manufacturing.

Industry is moving quickly from rollout to continuous process improvement. A recent Rockwell Automation study showed that 30% of digital transformation initiatives are moving through the post-implementation stage, up 7% from 2018.

Coordinating and Integrating IT and OT
Operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) have proven to be much less effective when placed into silos. When the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, too often you end up tangled in a knot. The free flow of data between OT and IT in the form of data and analytics sharing frees up resources and provides insights to power rapid, scalable and secure connectivity.

It's tempting to say that next-generation technologies like AI, machine learning and AR don't really belong on the factory floor. Just remember, someone was saying the same thing about computerization in Industry 3.0.

AI can sift through the mountains of data generated by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), isolating and analyzing trends to create efficiencies, improve safety and reduce production time—which enables the return of maximum value. Machine learning can train your AI to provide precisely the information that is most valuable to your organization, eliminating the need to sift through reams of unimportant data before getting to the "good stuff."

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