89. IOT and Industry 4.0

IOT and Industry 4.0 are terms frequently used in manufacturing now.
What do they mean ?
IOT is short for Internet of Things. The internet (a global network of computers that talk to each other using a standard protocol) over the past 30-odd years has only been used by humans to communicate with each other or to get information. This is the IOP – Internet of People. Over the past 3 years, however, Things (devices and machines) have started using the internet. Things like cars, manufacturing machines, sensors, actuators, devices in buildings, etc. E.g., as you are going home, when you are a certain distance away, software on your phone (based on your GPS coordinates) can switch on the air conditioners and coffee making machine in your home, all communication happening over the internet.

Industry 4.0 is the bringing together of many technologies that are used in a discrete manner now, like robotics, Artificial Intelligence, sensors, cloud computing, IOT, data capture and analytics, etc. You could think of it like ERP software. Before ERP, there was discrete software for sales, finance, stores, payrolls, HR, sales. They wouldn’t talk to each other. ERP just brought them together – they talk to each other and share a common database, improving efficiency hugely and reducing manual work in transferring data from one software to another.
Industry 4.0 in manufacturing is NOT a new technology, just like ERP is not new technology. It is a marrying together of already existing technologies, and facilitating communication. One of the things that has enabled Industry 4.0 applications is what are called Cyber-physical systems (CPS), that are sensors+computers+internet that can sense the physical environment, make intelligent decisions at high speed, and take physical actions again based on the decisions. Examples of CPS: Auto-pilot in aircraft, driverless car, smart grid (an electricity supply network that detects and reacts to local changes in power demand). This is one of the 3 key Industry 4.0 components, along with IOT and Cloud computing.
The term Industry 4.0 originated with a German government project to promote advanced computerization of manufacturing. It is supposed to mean the 4th Industrial revolution, the first three being Mechanization (by steam engines in the 1800s), Mass production (by electricity and the assembly line in the early 1900s) and Automation (by computers in the late 1900s).
Industry 4.0 advantages arise from these key functions, performed by a system comprising things and people: Interoperability: Machines, devices and people communicate with each other via Internet. Information transparency: Accurate information from sensors. Technical assistance: Machines aid humans in decision making, and perform tasks that are unpleasant, too exhausting, or unsafe for humans. Decentralized decisions: Interlinked things make decisions on their own and perform their tasks as independently as possible. Only in exceptional cases they escalate decision making to humans.
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Spider web gyan in a park
An evening walk in a park suddenly became a spider web education class for me, when I came across a whole lot of spider webs, of different shapes and sizes. It was like some spider hangout place – funnel webs, sheet webs, tangle webs.

A web allows a spider to catch prey without spending energy chasing it down. It spins a web and hangs around next to it, waiting for some poor insect to get snagged. It’s like pizza home delivery, but the spider does not have to call up and order – the pizza arrives on its own. Only thing is the spider can’t predict what flavour of pizza it’s going to get, and when it’s going to get it.
The spider spends a good amount of protein in making making the silk required for the web. After a time the silk loses its stickiness and becomes useless, so spiders often eat their own web to get back some of the energy used in spinning. I was wondering how come spiders don’t get stuck in their own webs. It turns out that they can spin both sticky and non-sticky types of silk, and are careful to travel across only non-sticky portions of the web.

Spider web silk has a greater tensile strength than steel, and it and has much greater elasticity. Spider and silk worm silk are similar, but with these key differences: Spider silk is twice as strong as silk worm silk; spider silk is 5 microns in diameter, while silk worm silk is 50 microns; spiders make different types of silk for different parts of the web (up to 8 different types), while silk worm silk is of a single uniform diameter. The different types of silk are for various uses like making the web, for lining the burrow where the spider lives, or for making the guide lines that a spider trails behind it to so it can find its way home again.
Who would imagine that a small simple organism like a spider would have so much engineering gyan embedded in that tiny brain ?

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