The mixing of smart sensors with Artificial Intelligence is all set to give a new shape to the industrial world. Experts are expecting a new industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 to happen very soon as a consequence of taking up many new and advanced technologies by the industrial enterprises.
Microsoft Industry 4.0 will be mainly based on four main or key pillars. They are Machine-to-machine communication, decentralized decision making, a mechanism to predict failure and issue alerts in real time for optimal Overall Equipment Efficiency(OEE) and enriched digital twins populated with sensor data from the plant or field. With the help of all of these, there will surely be a revolution.
However, there are many obstacles in the path of achieving Industry 4.0. The industrial production hubs are slow to change and cannot adapt easily from a function on one mechanism to other i.e of the latest technology. Most of the machines belonging in the factories are analog and backed up with Programmable Logic Controllers which are outdated. Machines connected to Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Distributed Control Systems (DCS) are more advanced than these legacy machines, but they are unable to give rise to a comprehensive management system. Industry 4.0 will only be possible if anyone studies these hurdles closely and tries to solve one issue at a time rather than ignoring them altogether.
However, Microsoft emerged out as the savior as they claim to have a solution to all. They are aiming at creating a platform that enables real-time data ingestion from factory machines, local data processing with low latency and comprehensive visualization for smarter factory monitoring. These are the core elements of the Internet of Things or IoT. Azure IoT Edge allows the sensors, equipment, and vendor software of these factories to collect data securely and process it in real time with an advanced ML algorithm. Azure IoT Hub enables device provisioning, device twins, and routing which will lead to process and visualize data received from all the machines.
To make sure that their Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platforms and connected Factory Suite fully function with OPC UA frameworks, Microsoft has worked and tested their new platforms with the OPC Foundation. They will help their clients save data in the cloud through OPC-UA clients. For the devices that do not use the OPC-UA protocols, Microsoft uses KEPServerEX to connect and create visualizations using Azure Platform Services. The ML and IoT will help each other so that the machines can learn from data they collect and improve their operations. Users can access these modules which can be custom built and configure them through any operating system.
Microsoft is trying to act as the connecting tissue between the old worn out machines and the new machinery hardware. With the collaboration of ML and IoT technologies, Microsoft has sworn to make Industry 4.0 take place earlier than usual.