There have been four paradigm shifts that have shaped technological innovation, manufacturing, economic growth, and the general wellness of people throughout the world. The first of these industrial revolutions began in the 18th century with the introduction and utilization of steam and water power in manufacturing processes and machinery. The two subsequent revolutions introduced oil, gas, and electric power, and digital computing and communications, respectively.
The fourth industrial revolution, commonly referred to as Industry 4.0 (or simply I4.0), entails the use of smart machines and devices (connected through the IoT or IIoT) and smart factories. It is characterized by increasing automation and the strategic employment of data to optimize processes and maximize efficiency in production. This revolution has been made possible through the continuous improvement and development of computational hardware and capabilities (i.e. Moore’s Law), and the advent of big data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, edge, cloud, and hybrid computing, etc.
Industry 4.0 is unique in that it is the only industrial revolution that has been predicted rather than observed. This has allowed organizations to anticipate and adapt their processes to meet market demands and stay competitive. Furthermore, it has allowed for the creation and widespread adoption of industrial standards that have shaped the landscape of products and services in Industry 4.0. Collaboration is integral – the era of proprietary solutions is over. Interoperability through standardization is paramount and benefits all players in industry.
Standardization in Industry 4.0
Making industrial standards a reality in Industry 4.0 has relied on initiatives from forward-thinking organizations and alliances. By definition, industry standards are established technical specifications that are adhered to, and adopted by a wide range of manufacturers. The overarching goal is to increase reliability, predictability, inter-compatibility, consistency, and efficiency. Industry standards ensure that different products are compatible with each other and that customers can mix and match products from different vendors. They spearhead innovation, reduce costs, and enable a plethora of cost-effective and holistic solutions.
The key to standardization in Industry 4.0 is interoperability in terms of interfaces, data (semantic interoperability), and communication protocols. By employing standardization in manufacturing and logistics, processes and procedures become more consistent and predictable, resulting in higher degrees of quality and efficiency. Total cost of ownership is reduced due to greater flexibility in terms of vendor and hardware compatibility and infrastructure setups. Additionally, implementing a well-established standard into existing platforms and solutions reduces engineering and development efforts in the long term due to familiarity working with the standard and the large community of users and contributors to the standard.
We need not look very far to see the benefits of standardization in our day-to-day lives. Wi-Fi – defined in the IEEE 802 set of standards – has revolutionized the way people and businesses interact with each other. It enables the connection of devices from any manufacturer to a wireless network, irrespective of the type of device. Devices, routers, and access points are all compatible with each other due to the IEEE 802 standard.
Until a few years ago, there was a missing component in the ecosystem of Industry 4.0 standards – an open standard for locating technologies and applications.
omlox Fills the Gap
Several standards and associations have emerged with the shared goal of promoting interoperability, accessibility, and process automation in Industry 4.0. All of them satisfy a certain niche of the industrial production process, such as designing a digital twin of a product or production site, utilizing sensors to optimize efficiencies, and various communication and software elements.
In 2020, we co-founded omlox, the world’s first open locating standard. Through the omlox standard, location data from different locating technologies and vendors can be transformed and homogenized. As a widely-recognized standard, omlox facilitates vendor independence, comprehensive interoperability, and simple integration of technologies and systems across location and company boundaries.
This interoperability opens the door to a wide spectrum of use cases and ensures scalability, flexibility, and cost reduction. Additionally, the large omlox partner ecosystem is comprised of organizations from various disciplines and specialties, including RTLS providers, hardware and software providers, IT system integrators, and full solution providers.
A rising tide lifts all boats, and this is particularly true in the context of industry standards. Since its inception, the omlox community has strategically collaborated and formed alliances with a diverse array of standards and associations. A few of these collaborations are outlined below.
PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI)
With over 1,700 members worldwide, PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI) is the largest global automation community and is responsible for managing, hosting, promoting, and developing the omlox standard. PI facilitates a global network of vendors, developers, system integrators, distributors, machine builders, and end users across all industries. The relationship between omlox and PI is mutually beneficial – in order to become an omlox member, organizations must become a PI member.
Through collaboration between the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) and the VDMA Materials Handling and Intralogistics Association, the VDA 5050 communication interface was developed for the standardized communication between automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and a central control system.
Late last year, a group of core omlox members launched a joint solution at ARENA2036 that combined the omlox and VDA 5050 standards. The result was a holistic and interoperable fleet management system that allowed for quick and seamless deployment of AGVs in various environments, such as smart factories.
AIM-D e.V. promotes the use and standardization of AutoID technologies and processes, such as RFID, NFC, barcodes, two-dimensional codes, industrial sensors and RTLS.
In March 2021, omlox and AIM-D e.V. began collaborating in order to harmonize the different industrial standards relating to identification and locating. Through this cooperation, a unique pool of knowledge and a host of different options for knowledge transfer in logistics and production – as well as in other industries like retail and healthcare – are being devised.
Standardization is not new to the world of industrial automation. However, with its ability to standardize and homogenize location data, the omlox standard has filled a crucial gap and proven to be an integral ingredient in facilitating interoperable, vendor-independent, and cost-effective solutions . Through it’s widespread adoption and implementation, omlox is now synonymous with Industry 4.0 standardization for organizations in industry.
Our contribution to omlox extends beyond our collaboration with omlox Working Groups and the broader ecosystem. We were instrumental in conceptualizing the omlox hub, one of the two pillars of the omlox standard (alongside the omlox core zone). Based on this, we developed the only implementation of an omlox hub – the DeepHub®. The DeepHub is a lightweight, high-performance middleware that enables interoperability of all locating technologies through a single API, allowing for the cross-integration of hardware and software components from any vendor.
Proprietary solutions in Industry 4.0 are a thing of the past. As associations and standards continue to collaborate together, the possibilities for generating new, innovative use cases and added-value will continue to increase. This is particularly true in the context of omlox, as the need for standardized location data becomes ever-more apparent.
To learn more about the omlox standard and the DeepHub, get in touch with us today!