Industry 4.0. What are we talking about?

  • Industry 4.0 fundamentals

Big data, embedded computing, mobile internet and cloud computing are new digital technologies that will have a sustainable impact on future production environments. The fourth industrial revolution has begun.

Industry 3.0 describes the age of computer-aided automation that generated major productivity gains from the 1970s onwards. Industry 2.0 marks the start of mass production using electrical energy, while Industry 1.0 describes the transition from muscle power to physically generated energy in the form of steam and water.

But what exactly is Industry 4.0?

This term covers covers all the new opportunities for digitally networked production, such as assembly, maintenance, repair, marketing and disposal. This includes machinery and components that are no longer just networked and centrally controlled (Industry 3.0) but also make independent decisions decentrally based on digital information and incorporate them into the overall production system. Adaptive systems will be created over time.

Industry 4.0. Terms and definitions

In discussions relating to Industry 4.0 or digitalization, a number of terms are frequently used. Here are three that are important for us in these contexts:

Internet of Services

In the Internet of Services envisioned, services and functions are represented as software components and made available by providers via the Internet (cloud). In the Internet of Services, cloud-based development and service platforms from a variety of market players provide the simple option of developing and offering web-compatible services.

The Internet of Services is regarded as one of the largest areas of potential growth for the Internet of the future. In particular, business-related services are to be offered and largely performed using the Internet. While Web 2.0 applications such as Facebook and Twitter are aimed primarily at consumers/individuals, the Internet of Services is mainly targeted at companies and public administration. Internet search engines made it possible to find information in the last decade. Now, semantic technologies will find the appropriate services. Among other things, this will be aided by a new Internet standard known as USDL (Unified Service Description Language), which enables the description of services. [1]

[1] Internet der Dienste, Lutz Heuser, Wolfgang Wahlster, Springer, acatech

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is the technological vision of integrating objects of all kinds, devices and people in a universal Digital network . The objects have a unique identifier and are located or move in an 'intelligent' environment.

What Wikipedia says about the Internet of Things:

The Internet of Things (IoT) describes how the (personal) computer is increasingly disappearing as a device and being replaced by "intelligent objects". Instead of itself being an object of human attention – as is currently the case – the "Internet of Things" is intended to subtly help people with their work. The increasingly smaller embedded computers are designed to help people without distracting or being noticed at all. For example, miniaturized computers – wearables – with various sensors are incorporated directly into items of clothing. [...]

The Internet of Things refers to the linking of uniquely identifiable physical objects (things) with a virtual representation in a web-like structure. It no longer only consists of human participants but also objects. The term "Internet of Things" was coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999 and the concept was popularized by the activities of Auto-ID Labs.

Automatic identification using RFID is often regarded as the basis for the Internet of Things. However, objects can also be identified uniquely using a barcode or 2D code. Components such as sensors and actuators expand functions to include detection of statuses / execution of actions. Extended definitions of the Internet of Things emphasize the link to the future Internet and differentiation from related research topics."

Cyber-physical system (CPS)

Components of a cyber-physical system

  • … are objects, devices, machines, and logistics components that contain embedded systems and can communicate
  • … can communicate via the Internet and use Internet services
  • …can network with each other and make decisions autonomously and decentrally in conjunction with people .

As Wikipedia explains,

"A cyberphysical system (CPS) refers to the network of IT/software components and mechanical and electronic parts that communicate via a data infrastructure such as the Internet. A cyber-physical system is highly complex. Cyber-physical systems are formed by networking embedded systems via wired or wireless communication networks. The term derives from the need for a new theoretical basis for researching and developing large, distributed, complex systems such as further development of the electricity grid throughout Germany, an intelligent electricity grid and designing innovative industrial production facilities that can be adapted highly dynamically to specific production needs. [...]

Cyber-physical systems can be used in a wide range of areas. The areas of application include highly reliable medical equipment and systems, ambient assisted living systems (AAL), IT traffic management and transportation logistics systems, networked safety and driver assistance systems for cars, industrial process control and automation systems, sustainable environmental impact and monitoring systems, energy supply management systems, military system networking systems and infrastructure systems for communication and culture."


Please enter your postal code to find the corresponding contact person.

Find out more


Lean Sm@rt Factory based on Industry 4.0 principles

Fewer questions - understand more?

Fewer questions - understand more?

You want to know what terms like "Industry 4.0", "Cobots", "Gamification" or "Ubiquitos Computing" mean? Then order here our handy Industry 4.0 dictionary

Industry 4.0 white paper
Industry 4.0 white paper

Industry 4.0 white paper

Printed copy of white paper

Get your free copy

Industry 4.0 white paper

White paper as PDF

Register for a download

Last visited