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Oct 4, 2017  Düsseldorf

A guest article by Anna Notholt, Business Lead Industry of Things at Microsoft Germany

How the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Mixed Reality revolutionize industrial production

Anna Notholt, Business Lead Industry of Things bei Microsoft Deutschland

Anna Notholt, Business Lead Industry of Things at Microsoft Germany

“In a few decades, there will hardly be any industrial products in which computers are not involved.” This was prophesized by the German computer scientist Karl Steinbuch in the mid-1960s – and he was proven right. More and more objects used in our daily lives, devices, machines, vehicles, etc. are connected through internet of things (IoT) and are enriched by artificial intelligence (AI). According to an evaluation by the market research firm Gartner, internet of things already comprises 8.4 billion “things”, and this number is believed to more than double by 2020. It is crucial that the right data is analyzed in the right way in order to generate data insights and in turn derive decisions that foster a specific operating result.

Together with artificial intelligence – technologies that complement and strengthen human capabilities to see, hear, analize, decide and act – and mixed reality (MR) – a holographic technology that combines both physical world and virtual reality – internet of things provides the foundation for intelligent cities, more efficient energy solutions, intelligent connected means of transportation and self-driving cars – as well as for a fundamental revolution in industrial production. Industry 4.0 involves machines autonomously coordinating production processes, robots cooperating with people in intelligent ways and a connected company-spanning value chain that continuously optimizes itself. Through close incorporation of classical production and digital technology, intelligent manufacturing emerges.

Track records of digital added value and production

IoT, AI and MR technologies, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, offer entirely new possibilities: Holographic 3D machine renders, so-called digital twins, are utilized to remotely monitor machines, or connected factories are networked through the cloud and are steered more efficiently. An intelligently connected factory, like the one already implemented by Henkel, is just another example of an Industry 4.0 scenario. Participants at last year’s Smart Factory Roadshow, hosted by Microsoft Germany, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the industry association “VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik” could get a first-hand experience of it at Henkel’s headquarters in Düsseldorf.

From the digital reading of production data to self-driving forklifts: Visitors at the Smart Factory Roadshow in Henkel’s detergent production plant got to witness how the company implements Industry 4.0.

According to a recent study from the market intelligence firm IDC, most companies in Germany have started to invest in digital technologies, to adapt their processes or to develop new business models. Microsoft is helping companies to utilize the opportunities offered by digitalization. In Munich, for instance, we recently established another IoT & AI Insider Lab (in addition to the ones in Redmond, USA, and Shenzhen, China). The lab offers free access to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, to IoT and AI services, to industrial hardware and to the expert knowledge of our developers, engineers and data specialists – explicitly for the project phase – that is, for implementation.

Easy access to the internet of things

Companies should invest not only in the automation of production, but also in the digitalization of products, services and business models. Cloud computing is fundamental for a lot of future-oriented concepts – from internet of things and intelligent use of large amounts of data to application of artificial intelligence – because cloud solutions can provide increasing efficiency, productivity gains and enable entirely new business models. Technological advancements are available every day – we only have to take advantage of them more efficiently.