The Internet of Things opens the door to the 4th industrial revolution

October 2016.- After the mechanization of production by steam power; mass production thanks to electricity; and the digital revolution and electronics enabling an increased automation of production processes, we now have intelligent industry, Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0. revolves around the concept of the intelligent factory, a factory with all its processes computerized, digitized and connected, and which interact and work more independently thanks to ICT.

Industry 4.0 transforms design, production systems and products themselves. It creates new business models and has an impact on demand (mass customization, omnichannel access to products and services, predictive knowledge of consumer habits, mass access to information). Manufacturing goes from having individual automated parts to fully integrated automated installations that communicate with each other. Data is gathered and analysed between machines to make processes both faster and more flexible and efficient to produce higher quality goods at lower costs. This increases productivity, promotes industrial growth, modifies the profile of the workforce and redefines the dynamics of global competitiveness in companies and regions

The technologies on which Industry 4.0 is based are already being used in manufacturing companies but in isolation

  • Big Data and Analytics: mass data analysis to support real-time decision making. 
  • Autonomous Robots: interaction with humans and improvement of performance. 
  • Simulation: reproduction of the real world in a virtual model to perform tests and optimise machine programming. 
  • Internet of Things: based on the connection of machines and systems in the productive space and a fluid exchange of information with the outside world. 
  • Horizontal and vertical integration of systems: manufacturers, suppliers and clients are closely connected via computer systems, providing truly automated value chains. 
  • Cybersecurity: to protect critical industrial systems and production lines against hacking, industrial copyright, personal data and privacy. 
  • The cloud: for task enabling and to make more computer services work in production. 
  • Additive manufacturing: 3D printing reduces raw materials, stocks and transport distances. 
  • Augmented reality: this will give workers real-time information in order to improve decision making and work processes.

The Internet of Things

The industrial Internet of Things decentralises the analysis and decision-making and allows for real-time responses. They are basically devices enriched by programming that communicate and interact between themselves and the central controllers. The data generated by these interactions provide opportunity for analysis and decision making in real time to move towards optimising production and energy savings. In recent years the amount of data stored has grown significantly. This trend will increase. In 2003 there were only 500 million worldwide Internet-connected devices. Today there are an estimated 15,000 million connected devices. It is expected that in 2020 the figure will be 50,000 million.

Industry 4.0 in Catalonia: industry and a powerful ICT sector

Catalonia has significant assets, that can fundamentally be summed up as industrial muscle and a powerful ICT sector. The combination of these two elements is key to Industry 4.0 development.

  • 20% of Catalonia’s GDP is created by industry. This percentage is above the European average and already meets EU 2020 objectives. The aim in Catalonia is to reach 25% by 2020 and the focus on industry 4.0 is essential in order to meet this goal.
  • Catalonia has a powerful ICT sector. With more than 12,800 companies (almost 2% of all Catalan companies), more than 14,000 million euros of annual revenue and more than 200 million euros spent annually on R & D investment, it is a motor for growth, generating wealth and quality jobs. The sector, with 70% of its activity concentred around the city of Barcelona, employs 84,600 workers.

The industrial policy of the Government of Catalonia over coming years will focus on manufacturing 4.0. The main lines of work will be on the development of advanced services to support business and agents, international opportunities, empowerment and creation of mechanisms and collaborative platforms, dissemination and training, and strategic projects.

Local and foreign firms that are applying technologies 4.0 in Catalonia

In Catalonia there are already examples of companies which have begun to adopt technologies 4.0; technological centres and leading research, benchmark events and congresses, spaces for experimentation (Catalonia SmartLab), solid university studies in the area and a powerful hub of digital entrepreneurship.

Seat has incorporated a smart logistics management system. HP has set up its worldwide 3D printing division in Catalonia. Oracle is one of the promotors of EURECAT’s centre of excellence in Big Data. Alstom has presented a technological plan to transform its new industrial centre in Santa Perpètua into the first factory 4.0 in the railway sector in the Spanish state. Worldsensing is a worldwide point of reference in developing technology for traffic light control, smart garages and public safety Catalan company. Effitronix has developed the MICO24, a new system for real-time monitoring and controlling based in predictive maintenance. Avinent has developed a production system personalised dental implants and prosthetics. Fundiciones de Roda is the first manufacturer in the country of oleodynamic elements.

Technology and research centres

  • EURECAT is the largest industrial technology centre and supplier in Catalonia and a benchmark in southern Europe. It develops projects around those skills and technologies needed to boost Industry 4.0: ICT; production sustainability; additive manufacturing; and new materials. Special mention must be made of the creation of a Centre of Excellence in Big Data, headed by EURECAT, with the support of Oracle, the Catalan Government and the Barcelona City Council aimed at building, evolving, bringing together and making available to businesses differential tools, datasets and Big data infrastructure. 
  • TECNIO identifies the technologic centres and university groups with expertise in industrial research and technology transfer in Catalonia. Some of the TECNIO certified centres perform research and/or develop technologies related to industry 4.0: Leitat, Centre de Visió per Computador, Centre Tecnològic de Telecomunicacions de Catalunya, CITCEA (UPC), La Salle RD 
  • CIM Fundation (UPC) works to give tools to companies and citizens in a context of the fusion of the digital world and manufacturing world. 
  • i2cat is a Cerca centre (network of Catalan research centres specialised in developing scientific research of excellence) working in architecture, applications and advanced Internet services. It is behind the Catalan IoT Alliance. 
  • The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) performs wide-ranging research and training activities, both basic and applied, in the different branches of optical sciences and technologies, at the highest international level. 
  • The Barcelona Supercomputing Centre is a pioneer supercomputing centre in the country and an international point of reference. It is a research centre made up of over 300 scientists and it also offers supercomputing services to the entire scientific community.

Traditional manufacturing is undergoing a radical process of transformation, shifting from automated individual parts to fully integrated and intercommunicating installations. This reciprocal connection established between machinery creates faster, more efficient and effective processes, meaning that goods can be manufactured at lower costs.

Key Events

The Internet of Things Solutions World Congress is just one of the benchmark events that make their mark on Catalonia’s industrial base, others are the World Mobile Capital – Mobile World Congress, the Smart City Expo & World Congress, the Big Data Congress organised by the EURECAT Big Data Excellence Centre, and IN(3D)USTRY featuring the latest breakthroughs in the 3D printing sector.

The Internet of Things boosts industrial growth, modifying the profile of labour and redefining the dynamics of global competitiveness in both companies and regions.

The Internet of Things

Catalonia in Business