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Industry 4.0

TerraE borrows Gigafactory from Tesla

Friday, 4 August, 2017 0 Comments

Fact: The car industry provides jobs for 828,000 people in Germany. This accounts for a hefty 14 percent of the country’s manufacturing industry workforce.

There’s no way Berlin will allow #Dieselgate to sink the ship, but there is an increasing awareness that things have to change if they are to remain the same, for the auto industry, that is. As usual, the future is on the other side of the Atlantic and it has a name: Gigafactory.

The Tesla Gigafactory is a lithium-ion battery production facility in Nevada and its full capacity would enable the company to produce the power packs for 1,500,000 e-cars a year. In a subtle change of terminology, Tesla now refers to what was called the Gigafactory as Gigafactory 1 and Elon Musk has taken to describing the SolarCity Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York, as Gigafactory 2. Next up is Tesla Gigafactory Europe, a combined electric battery manufacturing facility and automobile factory. Locations said to be under consideration are in the Czech Republic around Prague, with a nearby 330 kilotonne lithium deposit, and Portugal, with Europe’s biggest lithium reserves and one of the world’s biggest solar centres.

With Tesla knocking on Europe’s door, German car makers need to get a move on. Enter Terra E. The Frankfurt-based holding company announced yesterday that it has “composed 17 major companies and research institutions to a consortium to handle planning for building large-scale lithium ion battery cell manufacturing in Germany.” In a cheeky act of imitation, it’s calling the proposed facility a “Gigafactory”. What did Picasso allegedly say about great artists and copying?

Terra E will choose one of five candidate sites next month to build the 34 gigawatt-hour battery factory. The plan is to break ground in the fourth quarter of 2019 and reach full capacity in 2028.

So, despite the current crisis, the German car industry is gearing up for the next stage in the mobility upheaval. Millions of plug-in cars are expected to roll off production lines in Munich and Stuttgart early next decade and Berlin believes it has an ace up its sleeve in the race to dominate the roads: Industrie 4.0. The national strategy for the Fourth Industrial revolution could give Germany an edge in manufacturing robotics and automated production. If that were to happen, #Dieselgate would be remembered, if at all, as just one more word with a hashtag and a popular suffix.

Picasso car and bird


“We’re building a world-size robot”

Monday, 20 March, 2017 0 Comments

So says Bruce Schneier, the cryptographer, security professional and privacy specialist. His robot alarm is expressed in a New York magazine piece with the very clickbait title “Click Here to Kill Everyone.” Schneier is worried about the Internet of Things (IoT)and says we should think twice about what we connect to the net and reverse the trend to connect everything to it. With the IoT, we’ve started building a world-size robot, he claims, but we haven’t stopped to think about how we might control it. Bottom line:

“The world-size robot we’re building can only be managed responsibly if we start making real choices about the interconnected world we live in. Yes, we need security systems as robust as the threat landscape. But we also need laws that effectively regulate these dangerous technologies. And, more generally, we need to make moral, ethical, and political decisions on how those systems should work. Until now, we’ve largely left the internet alone. We gave programmers a special right to code cyberspace as they saw fit. This was okay because cyberspace was separate and relatively unimportant: That is, it didn’t matter. Now that that’s changed, we can no longer give programmers and the companies they work for this power. Those moral, ethical, and political decisions need, somehow, to be made by everybody. We need to link people with the same zeal that we are currently linking machines. ‘Connect it all’ must be countered with ‘connect us all.'”

Some of these issues will be discussed this afternoon in Hannover by the CeBIT panel on The future of IoT and society/technology/policy. Participants include Kenichiro Yamanishi, Chairman, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Ammar Alkassar, CEO, Rohde & Schwarz Cybersecurity, and Henning Kagermann, Global Representative and Advisor Plattform Industrie 4.0.


The gathering storm that is Industry 4.0

Thursday, 9 February, 2017 0 Comments

All our posts about machine learning this week have been prompted by a dramatic shift going on right now called “Industry 4.0.” In essence, this is the end-to-end digitization of all physical assets and their integration into digital ecosystems. Along with machine learning, Industry 4.0 buzzwords include connectivity, supercomputing, artificial intelligence, robots, self-driving cars gene editing and globalization.

The preceding industrial revolutions freed us from animal power, made mass production possible and opened digital doors for billions of people. This Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0, is profoundly different in that its technologies are melding the physical, digital and biological worlds and forcing us to confront uncomfortable questions about work, identity and life itself.

The World Economic Forum, which is “committed to improving the state of the world,” produced this clip about Industry 4.0. It’s a positive view, overall, but it does not address the issue that’s roiling politics today: the conflict between the elites, who stand to gain from early access to the upsides of this transformation, and the precariat, which stands to lose the jobs that glue their communities together. More on this here tomorrow.


Talkin’ Industry 4.0

Saturday, 5 November, 2016 0 Comments

Today, at the 29th IATEFL BESIG Annual Conference in Munich, I’ll be talking about the language of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its seven key components: Industry 4.0, IoT, Big Data, cloud computing, robotics, AI and cybersecurity.

As with the three preceding Industrial Revolutions, which were powered, respectively, by steam, electricity and transistors, the cyber-physical systems now driving this fourth upheaval will transform manufacturing and replace William Blake’s vision of dark Satanic sweatshops with that of a better, cleaner, cleverer place — the smart factory.

“And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?”

Jerusalem by William Blake (1757 — 1827)


The war of the Mirai and XiongMai

Saturday, 22 October, 2016 0 Comments

It sounds like something from Star Trek: The war of the Mirai and the XiongMai. But it’s neither Hollywood nor science fiction. It’s real. Yesterday, users of Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit, Spotify and Netflix experienced problems because Dyn, an internet infrastructure company that provides critical services to these sites, sustained a massive, malicious attack. Spearheading it was Mirai, malware that had hijacked digital video recorders and cameras made by XiongMai Technologies, a Chinese hi-tech company. Mirai trawls the web for cheap devices protected by just their factory-default usernames and passwords and then conscripts them for attacks that launch wave upon wave of junk traffic at targets until they can no longer serve legitimate users.

Only a week ago, US-CERT, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a warning titled “Heightened DDoS Threat Posed by Mirai and Other Botnets.” It pointed the finger at the vulnerability of the Internet of Things (IoT), “an emerging network of devices (e.g., printers, routers, video cameras, smart TVs) that connect to one another via the Internet, often automatically sending and receiving data.” According to US-CERT, “IoT devices have been used to create large-scale botnets — networks of devices infected with self-propagating malware — that can execute crippling distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. IoT devices are particularly susceptible to malware, so protecting these devices and connected hardware is critical to protect systems and networks.”

The solution? Security expert Brian Krebs is calling for a major, global effort to recall and remove vulnerable systems from the internet. “In my humble opinion, this global cleanup effort should be funded mainly by the companies that are dumping these cheap, poorly-secured hardware devices onto the market in an apparent bid to own the market. Well, they should be made to own the cleanup efforts as well.”

Malware  code


The glorious revolution

Monday, 3 October, 2016 0 Comments

Mobile network coverage and evolving technologies

“Advanced mobile-broadband networks have spread quickly over the last three years and reach almost four billion people today — corresponding to 53% of the global population. Globally, the total number of mobile-broadband subscriptions is expected to reach 3.6 billion by end 2016, compared with 3.2 billion at end 2015” Source: ITU


The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Sunday, 2 October, 2016 0 Comments

“The prospect of being hanged focuses the mind wonderfully,” is the popular variant of a famous quote by Dr Johnson. And the prospect of making a presentation on the topic of the language of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in early November means this blog will be focusing on all things i4.0 in the coming weeks. So let’s get going with some basic terminology:

  • The First Industrial Revolution: The steam engine freed people from relying on their own muscular strength or that of animals for manufacturing and transport.
  • The Second Industrial Revolution: Electricity powered spectacular improvements in productivity, innovation, comfort and well-being.
  • The Third Industrial Revolution: The microprocessor, the computer and the internet led to dramatic developments in efficiency, commerce and creativity.
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution: The smartphone, the Internet of Things, 5G, genetic engineering, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, unmanned vehicles, robotics, nanotechnology, machine learning… will affect how we live and work for the remainder of this century.

“Our ancestors could believe that their achievements had a chance of bearing up against the flow of events. We know time to be a hurricane. Our buildings, our sense of style, our ideas, all of these will soon enough be anachronisms, and the machines in which we now take inordinate pride will seem no less bathetic than Yorick’s skull.” — Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work


The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Wednesday, 21 September, 2016 0 Comments

Mobile super-computing, intelligent robots, self-driving cars, AI, neuro-technological brain enhancements, chatbots, the Internet of Things… It’s a revolution! “The evidence of dramatic change is all around us and it’s happening at exponential speed,” says Marta Chierego, who directed this clip for The World Economic Forum.

“The second industrial revolution has yet to be fully experienced by 17% of the world as nearly 1.3 billion people still lack access to electricity…

…The fourth industrial revolution, however, is not only about smart and connected machines and systems. Its scope is much wider. Occurring simultaneously are waves of further breakthroughs in areas ranging from gene sequencing to nanotechnology, from renewables to quantum computing. It is the fusion of these technologies and their interaction across the physical, digital and biological domains that make the fourth industrial revolution fundamentally different from previous revolutions.” — Klaus Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution


The Robolution federator

Tuesday, 2 August, 2016 0 Comments

The Fourth Industrial Revolution’s upgrading of English vocabulary is a regular theme here and the prospect of public presentations on the subject in October and November is concentrating the mind, to paraphrase Dr Johnson. We’ve had some gems recently and more are to come. Central to the revolutionary stuff going on right now is robotics.

Definition: “Robotics is the branch of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science that deals with the design, construction, operation and application of robots, as well as the computer systems for their control, feedback and data processing.”

If you create an €80 million private equity fund dedicated to robotics, you’re going to need a name for the venture; one that combines the essence of the business with its revolutionary role in 21st-century industry, ideally. Robolution The result is… Robolution. Or, more precisely, Robolution Capital. But there’s something slightly unmelodious about the word “Robolution,” with its hints of ablution and absolution. Sure, it’s an attempt to capture an element of “revolution,” but the “robo” bit at the front doesn’t quite make a harmonius unit, does it? Perhaps it sounds better in French because Robolution Capital is based in Paris.

Along with robotics, Robolution Capital is focussing on artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), two very hot areas right now, and this is why it defines itself as a facilitator, an accelerator and “a federator at the heart of the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, corporates, public organizations, universities and research centers.” What’s a federator? The usually indefatigable Wiktionary does not have an entry for the word and Techopedia offers “Federation” from the world of enterprise architecture that allows interoperability. The word, however, is a version of fédérateur, the French noun that means “unifier.” And with its philosophy and its focus on robotics, AI and the IoT, Robolution is true federator.

News: 360 Capital Partners, an early-stage VC business based in Milan and Paris has just done a deal with Orkos Capital, also based in Paris, to manage Robolution Capital.


WoTD: Servitization

Monday, 1 August, 2016 0 Comments

“I spent the past week at the University of Birmingham in England with a group of 16 Operations and Economics Professors from across Europe,” wrote Rosemary Coates on 6 July in Supply Chain Management Review. She was there to lecture and to represent the Reshoring Institute, which provides “research and support for companies bringing manufacturing back to America.” As we know, manufacturing jobs will be one of the hottest topics in the so-called Rust Belt states during the US presidential campaign, and both candidates have made their positions on the subject clear.

In her blogpost, Ms Coates noted, “Some of the biggest buzz of the week was around the idea of Industry 4.0 (the Internet of Things) and Servitization.” What might appear to some as a misspelling there, “servitization,” is a real word. But what is it?

“This is the process of companies transforming from simply producing a product to including service in the total product offering. The complete product package includes field service, service level agreements and pricing for spares and replacement parts. European manufacturers are way ahead in Servitization.

Some American companies such as Cisco Systems have been including product services and consulting services in their product offerings for many years. But US companies like Cisco, that understand a fully integrated product offering and co-sell product and services, are few and far between.”

The etymology here involves creating a word from “service + -ization.” One assumes “serviceization” was considered unspellable and so we got “servitization” instead. In jargon-speak, “servitization is a transformation journey that involves firms developing the capabilities to provide solutions that supplement their traditional offerings.”


Buzzwords: platform effect

Monday, 23 May, 2016 0 Comments

As an occasional contribution to the language of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this emerging Buzzwords lexicon is intended to explain the jargon of the, er, paradigm shift, that’s now underway in our sunlit digital mills. We’re starting with the so-called platform effect, by which intelligent enterprises create networks that link buyers and sellers of products and services and thereby make truckloads of money. Economists call this “enjoying returns to scale.”

“Facebook development tools encourage the creation of new features, services, and apps, which facilitate content distribution and stimulate innovation and new jobs.

It is estimated that the platform effect of Facebook in 2014 enabled $29bn of economic impact and 660,000 jobs globally.”

Source: Facebook’s global economic impact by United Ventures, a Milan-based venture capital firm.

The problem with the platform effect is that a handful of companies end up dominating their markets. For the powerful few, the rewards are obvious. For consumers, there are benefits as well in the form of greater convenience and lower costs, but the concentration of so much influence and wealth in so few hands is risky societally, financially and technologically. The solution? Convince or coerce or the platforms to allow collaborative innovation.