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View from India: Industry 4.0 - connected, automated, electrified

Connected, automated and electrified: these are the keywords that will transform industries.

Industries both big and small are on the cusp of a transformation. Increased connectivity and flexible production are some of the desired results emerging from key technologies that help connect, automate and electrify systems and processes.

Key technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), big data and artificial intelligence (AI) are giving a value-add to many processes across industries, which perhaps did not exist till these technologies were integrated into the system.

“The trend is accelerating and in order to broaden our portfolio of product lifecycle management (PLM) software for designing IoT applications, we have acquired Carriots in 2017. Through this Spanish company, we have fine-tuned our focus on IoT and analytics, and AI and machine learning (ML). It has also given us a gateway to digital twins,” said Pavan Kumar, vice president South Asia and managing director, India, Altair, speaking at the India Altair Technology Conference, 2018 India ATCx Simulation-Driven Innovation.

In an effort to create a skilled workforce to meet the upcoming technological demands, the company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with KLE Technological University (KLE Tech) to set up an Altair Design Innovation center (ADIC) at the KLE University Hubballi campus in Karnataka. The effort is to develop and facilitate competency on commercial finite element method (FEM) software from Altair called HyperWorks.

While a lot is expected from this campus, another tech trend to watch out for is 3D printing. We have already seen its application in healthcare and now it is all set to become integral to mainstream engineering products. Understandably, 3D printing tools are becoming lighter and cheaper. “An interesting development is that 3D printing is moving into the non-traditional world. A case in point is the printing of affordable houses for communities that live in poverty,” explained Pavan Kumar.

It’s pertinent to integrate new technologies into digital businesses because the demand for digitised operations has opened out a world of opportunities. “Digital transformation is the fourth industrial revolution and it will be worth $490 billion by 2022, IoT will share 20 per cent of the digital transformation,” highlighted Rajeev Kumar B R, Head of Engineering, Robert Bosch.

In the digital world, almost all operations are devoid of paper work. In the absence of paper work, connected products are on the rise in the digital world. By 2020, the digital world carries the promise of connecting seven billion people and 50 billion devices.

Broadly speaking, connectivity means systems and components are connected to address different product requirements. “A multidisciplinary approach is essential for connectivity between systems and components. Due to this, product development is undergoing a change, as prototypes are being created using simulation, before the actual product is developed and deployed,” said Rajeev Kumar.

Simulation is essential for ensuring better performance and precision. Once the product is simulated and ready for deployment, it’s also time to create a digital twin of the same. Simply put, digital twins are the digital replicas of the physical twins. The concept is yet to fully pick up, but early proponents of digital twins know that it offers a solution to escalating production costs, which is a perpetual problem faced by all industries. It also optimises maintenance, reduces downtime and offers security, be it in the case of connecting devices or other industries like manufacturing or transportation. More significantly, IoT is one of the drivers.

“Digital twins are an advantage as they don’t require expensive equipment for execution. Digital twins incorporate AI, ML and software analytics, all of which are coupled to the simulation model that updates and changes as per the requirement. A digital representation provides both elements and dynamics of how IoT devices operate and lives through its lifecycle,” reasoned Sreeram Mohan, director (embedded development), Altair.

Agreeably, we need to create the infrastructure and tools required for digital twins. We are yet to tap into its potential explore all possibilities fully. However in the case of automation, it’s a known fact that co-bots have begun to work in production units to automate products.

What seems unusual is that the concept will even find its way into individual kitchens. In a rather unconventional manner a robot may assist the cooking process. In times to come, it will be known as smart cooking. Already Amazon’s Alexa has come to be accepted in this way.

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