In the previous post on this series I considered a few technology areas that support the “operation” of Industry 5.0 (noting that these are already applied in Industry 4.0). Let’s now move on to take a look at technologies that are likely to “foster” the transition from Industry 4.0 to 5.0.
The diagram above, that I borrowed from the interesting article “Industry 5.0: A Survey on Enabling Technologies and Potential Applications” is helping in my discussion.
- Big Data Analytics: Industry 4.0 is both using and creating large amount of data. This is generating a spiral of greater and greater adoption of data to represent and analyse any facet of the production process and of the product usage, up to its demise. All these data are creating the required soft infrastructure about the product life cycle and are to a growing extent delivering the perceived product functionality. This goes a long way toward the economic and environmental sustainability, as well as resilience (since it is easier to find a plan B in the cyberspace!). The possibility of having and using these data is both increasing the control by regulatory bodies on the adherence of the production process and of the product usage to the guidelines of environmental sustainability. Notice the other side of the coin: privacy is at stake. From the point of view of the manufacturer it is a no brainer: data foster customisation (market of one), support all decisions through the life cycle (can be used in forecasting exercises) and a good set of re-design with lower cost and much higher flexibility.
- Artificial Intelligence: it is already bread and butter of Industry 4.0, but its evolution is so fast that what will permeate Industry 5.0 will be so much greater in terms of performance to enable higher efficiency in design, production and use of products. Most importantly, this expanding AI (in terms both of application and “acumen”) will work hand in hand with workers on the shop floor and through the whole supply/delivery chain, eventually becoming embedded in the product and flanking the user, augmenting his intelligence. This is going to be a powerful tool for one of the pillars of Industry 5.0, human at the centre. From a company view point AI supports intelligent automation, and all steps in the life cycle, to a greater extent that what is already found in Industry 4.0. The real difference is in the possibility to have AI conforming to an externally agreed framework protecting human labour to keep humans at the centre of the whole process. As I pointed out in previous posts in this series this has to be enforced by an external entity (in Europe it can be the European Commission through the single Member States).
- Digital Twins: they are a fundamental tool in Industry 4.0. We can expect them to become more and more common flanking products in Industry 5.0. They will bridge the use with the life cycle, providing feedback that will make possible the continuous improvement of the design (that in most cases will translate in fine tuning of manufacturing and new versioning of the products already in use, like the yearly upgrade of our smartphones through a new OS release). DT will contribute to the resilience of the whole life cycle. Also, it can be foreseen the interaction of equipment DTs on the shop floor and along the supply/delivery chain with the personal DTs of workers, another element that differentiate Industry 5.0 from Industry 4.0. These interactions should augment the capabilities of workers and keep them in control.
The interaction of the product DT with the user personal DT will further increase usability and steer towards a more sustainable environment. Here again notice the issues of privacy as well as the constraints that may be enforced on the use of a product (think about a car slowing down in a urban area, in proximity of a school, … basically taking over control from the driver).
- Cobots: a growing number of collaborative robots are now present in the shop floor. Their number is bound to increase in the coming years and we can expect each one interacting in the Metaverse through their DTs. They are providing flexibility thus supporting the Resilience goal of Industry 5.0. The step up from Industry 4.0 is mostly related to the possibility for each cobot to get the “whole picture”, that is being aware of the context within and beyond the shop floor (supply chain, warehouse, product usage…), including the cooperations with the human components. The advances in flexibility is also going to support an environment conscious design (taking into account the end of life, refurbishing and recycling.
- Internet of Every Things: the Internet of Things is a pervasive fabric in Industry 4.0. It will further expand to reach beyond the company’s boundary, supporting the design of products that can leverage from the environment to decrease the need of materials and reduce waste. The functionality of products can be orchestrated via the cloud (particularly the edge cloud) and can piggy back on functionality offered by other products/infrastructure available in the ambient. This requires the availability of new communications paradigms, such as the ones supported by 6G.
- 6G and beyond: 6G is on the drawing board and it won’t be available before the next decade, That’s ok. In the meantime 5G will become pervasive, the price of 5G industrial dongles will come down and it will start to make sense its adoption in more and more industries. Its evolution will result in the orchestration of a variety of spectrum under the 5G umbrella, thus bringing IoT and IIoT directly connected to 5G. By the end of this decade we might also expect that session control will be manage directly by devices opening the door to networks created at the edges (on the shop floor). This will graciously lead to 6G where networks will be meshed, created and managed by devices (and products). This will provide the advanced resilience required by Industry 5.0. Additionally, the network fabric made possible by 6G will support seamless communications among DTs and personal DTs, with all the local processing and bandwidth required by the Metaverse (accessed through Augmented and Virtual Reality) thus supporting the human centric goal.
- Edge Computing: it is part of Industry 4.0 in the shop floor. It will become ubiquitous, thus supporting products usage, as previously mentioned. The balance between centralised, decentralised, on device (product) processing will be adjusted dynamically, thanks to a distributed, swarm intelligence. This can be used to pursue sustainability and resilience goals. Products will both benefit from Edge Computing and become part themselves of the edge, thus increasing edge processing capabilities, further increasing resilience and decreasing the need for additional resources (sustainability).
- Blockchain: this technology is already widespread and it will be refined in the coming years, also paying attention to sustainability (blockchains are energy intensive…). As the Metaverse will become the way of producing and living the need for trust and control will increase exponentially and blockchain is a technology that can sustain these growing requirements.
Let me close by remarking once more that technology is needed (and we have it, we will have even more in the coming years) but it is not the point for Industry 5.0. The paradigm shift from 4.0 to 5.0 will not be driven from inside the industry rather from the outside. As always is the case, there will be a few industry leaders that will spearhead the change without waiting to be forced to change. But this will only happen if Governments can stand up and place sustainability and ethics above pure economic returns.