In the last 250 years, the world has experienced three Industrial Revolutions:
- First Industrial Revolution: Transition to mechanized production with the assistance of water and steam power.
- Second Industrial Revolution: Progression to mass production with the assistance of electricity.
- Third Industrial Revolution: Automation of production processes with the assistance of programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
The world is now on the brink of the fourth Industrial Revolution, also referred to as Industry (Industrie) 4.0, which will provide for the digitization of the production process with the goal of increasing safety, security, reliability and efficiency. A core promise of Industry (Industrie) 4.0 is interconnectivity (IoT/IIoT) and its resulting benefits.
The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been in existence since the late 1990s and promotes the concept of connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet and/or to each other. While IoT in the consumer sector provides convenience, it has a far more important role in industrial environments where it is known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The interconnectivity of machines, devices (actuators/controllers/robots) and sensors via cloud computing can provide the ability for cognitive computing, which is the ability to aggregate and analyze tremendous volumes of data in order to output simplified results to user interfaces to assist with human decision-making processes.