forthcoming events

The Internet of Things and Industry 4.0

6:45pm, Thursday 2 March, Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Rd, London EC1R 3GA

Most people understand by the Internet of Things (ioT) the use of IT to control one or more household gadgets – heating, perhaps, or security cameras – in a systematic way. Here as elsewhere, the IoT is about machine-to-machine connections, sensors, and means of analysing and acting upon the data unleashed. However, the consumer use of the IoT, complete with the possibility of your home being hacked, is not the most significant one.

The use of the IoT, or ‘cyber-physical systems’, in factories, process industries and supply networks promises to be more economically significant than the consumer applications of the IoT – the ones that get media attention. As the Industrial Internet of Things, or Industry 4.0, the IoT should bring about much-needed improvements in productivity, product quality and product reliability. In the medium term, the IoT should lead to significant product and system redesign and innovation, and, in the longer term, to research collaborations around an international Internet of Ideas.

The evidence to date, however, is that – with the exception of certain non-manufacturing industries such as farming, mining, oil and gas, and retail – the IoT has yet to be applied cheaply and consistently enough to bring about major productivity benefits in manufacturing. German logistics is also not about to go over to investing large sums in the IoT.

The faltering implementation of the IoT is consonant with the continued weakness of capital investment in the West. It also tallies with a general overestimation of progress toward Artificial Intelligence, fully-
robotised factories, etc.

· Distinguish, if you can, Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution
· What can we learn from the German origins of Industry 4.0?
· What are the potential benefits of the IoT?
· In which sectors are these benefits already evident?
· In what way do some IoT practices speak of low ambitions
· What do we make of the claim that the components of Industry 4.0 must be ‘self-aware’, self-organising, etc?


James Woudhuysen
visiting professor, London South Bank University; independent consultant; journalist and broadcaster


Industry 4.0 – prerequisites and visions, Birgit Vogel-Heuser and Dieter Hess (April 2016)

Internet of Things, Internet of Apprehension, James Woudhuysen and Mark Birbeck (July 2016)

Top 10 IoT Technologies for 2017 and 2018, Gartner (January 2016)

There’s a battle in the enterprise for ownership of ‘chaotic’ IoT, says Gartner, IoT Now (November 2016)

Video meets the Internet of Things, McKinsey (December 2016)

Winning in IOT: it’s all about the business processes, Boston Consulting Group (January 2017)

The real problem with the US economy, James Woudhuysen, spiked (January 2017)