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Sensing the Future of Industry 4.0

Almost every technological device today is equipped with smart sensors in one way or another. By Frederik Troester, head of connected devices and solutions, ASEAN, Bosch

Also known as micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), smart sensors will continue to improve in its capabilities as industries tap onto this technology to enhance the performance of larger machinery. As evidence of this growth, sales of sensors have taken a leap in recent years with 17 percent sales growth each year and are estimated to double what it was in 2015 by 2020. As MEMS get smarter, they will also become more affordable as supply increases to meet demand.

Beyond personal devices, MEMS are essential drivers of the Internet of Things (IoT), digitally enabling tools and machines to do more, so that processes across industries become more efficient. Asia Pacific has been the most active market seeking for MEMS.

MEMS In Industrial Applications

Despite being widely used, current MEMS may not meet the full requirements of many high-demand industrial applications. When the technology is further developed, future MEMS will be a valuable asset across industries.

From healthcare to transportation and construction, future MEMS will provide many solutions for businesses to ramp up productivity. Sensors today can already obtain real-time data to facilitate intelligent management and connectivity in manufacturing, allowing engineers to monitor machine health in real time. Additionally, more is being done to ensure a better user experience.

As MEMS can be placed in various parts of a machine, it will also be able to identify and diagnose the problem—such as vibration detection in machines. In more complex systems, this smart evaluation can also be handled by the router to which the sensors transmit data or the manufacturing facility’s computer network.

Beyond machine health monitoring, future MEMS will be lighter, easier to implement and more energy efficient through its ability to harvest energy from machine vibrations. The low barrier to entry makes it an even more attractive solution. While it may seem tedious at first, businesses need to welcome this disruption for long-term success.

Reaping The Benefits Of MEMS

With real-time data generated by MEMS sensor devices, machines in the near future will not only become smarter but will also be more responsive and reliable as a result. The ability to connect data from cloud services with these highly intelligent sensors has opened doors to unchartered territory.

Interoperability for one will be much more seamless between systems, resulting in increased productivity levels as well as enabling companies to become more adaptable. Maintenance will also be much more targeted, with an estimated saving of up to 30 percent off regular maintenance costs as the need for thorough, scheduled maintenance is no longer required. Apart from the cost savings, future MEMS will help build a more sustainable product life cycle in the long run. Cost of operations and carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced significantly, as companies do their part for a greener future.

The Manufacturing Race Ahead

While much has been done, the full potential of MEMS on an industrial level remains untapped with engineers and data scientists continuously doing their part to improve its capabilities. The day MEMS achieve industrial-level capabilities, the battle for the manufacturing powerhouse title would begin with the deciding factor being a region’s ability to fully leverage on Industry 4.0. It is expected that industrial-ready MEMS will be rolled out in the next two years.

While Asia Pacific is currently holding on to the title of manufacturing powerhouse, Industry 4.0 would easily enable Europe and North America to claim the title as the industry moves towards automation. As such, the Industrial IoT market is estimated to grow to a total of US$195 billion globally by 2022 with a CAGR of 7.89 percent between 2016 and 2022.

For Asia Pacific to remain as the global manufacturing powerhouse, companies in the region must begin to understand what exactly Industry 4.0 means for their organisation, equip themselves by restructuring their processes to accommodate new ways of working and ensure they are Industry 4.0-ready.

APMEN Moving Into Industry 4.0/IoT

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