The fourth industrial revolution, more commonly known as “Industry 4.0,” derives its name from a 2011 initiative spearheaded by businessmen, politicians, and academics, who defined it as a means of increasing the competitiveness of Germany’s manufacturing industries through the increasing integration of “cyber-physical systems,” or CPS, into factory processes.
CPS is basically a catch-all term for talking about the integration of smart, internet-connected machines and human labor. Factory managers are not simply reimagining the assembly line, but actively creating a network of machines that not only can produce more with fewer errors, but can autonomously alter their production patterns in accordance with external inputs while still retaining a high degree of efficiency.
In other words, Industry 4.0 is the production-side equivalent of the consumer-oriented Internet of Things, in which everyday objects from cars to thermostats to toasters will be connected to the internet.
This would be a “completely new approach to production,” according to a rep?ort released in 2013 by the Industrie 4.0 Working Group, a conglomerate of major industrialists, artificial intelligence experts, economists and academics.