Monthly Archives: mei 2016

Inequality is the defining challenge of our time

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Rapid technological advances, shifting political movements, changing economic dynamics and accelerating societal change are seldom far from the news headlines and many of us struggle to understand their implications on day-to-day life. Such are the challenges that it seems clear that the major issues facing our planet are of such a magnitude that no single institution or organization can truly understand their impact alone. As change accelerates in an increasingly connected world, we must get a better understanding of emerging opportunities and challenges. Read More

human–induced species losses: beyond nature’s ability to regenerate

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The general trend during the more than 3.5 billion years that life has been evolving on Earth, has been toward ever greater complexity and diversity, with more new species evolving into existence than there were species going extinct.  Extinction is common, but normally it is balanced by speciation. The balance wavers such that at several times in life’s history extinction rates appear somewhat elevated, but only five times qualify for ‘mass extinction’ status. Different causes are thought to have precipitated these extinctions and they all stand out in having extinction rates spiking higher than in any other geological interval. These extinctions altered ecosystem processes and disturbance regimes at continental scales, triggering cascades of extinction thought to still reverberate today. Read More

Philosophical reflection

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We tend to think of technology as objects, usually tools or instruments. People believe the neutrality claim about technology because objects themselves don’t act. The neutrality claim is a truism that comes from thinking of technology as objects that are used by humans; hence, only humans are morally responsible for what happens. The objects cannot be blamed; hence, technology cannot be blamed. As the philosopher Martin Heidegger (“The Question Concerning Technology”) suggests, this line of thinking leaves us only with the question of when (and how) we will bring technology under moral control. It is important to note, technology is not good or bad, but they can do bad and good things.   Read More

From the old to the new

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Volatile markets and global and inter-industrial networks are creating a radically more dynamic market environment which calls for considerably greater on-demand flexibility in resource deployment. Today’s businesses have to respond to evolving trends. As well as increasing flexibility, this also means taking action in two further areas, namely increasing transformability and responding to demographic change. Furthermore the global change towards a fully networked society is in progress, more or less all over the world.

The domain of industrial systems is increasingly changing from both, structural but also functional point of view, as it adopts emerging internet based concepts, technologies, engineering-tools and –methodologies. Manufacturing and industrial systems have to adapt to the increasing dynamism of sales markets and the radical challenges thrown up by the innovation process, particularly in regard to energy and resource efficiency and the increasing hybridization of products using mechatronics, software and services. New approaches are needed to accelerate the product creation process, optimize the transitions from product development to production, and ensure that the cost of manufacturing is competitive. The combination of customer-specific and technically sophisticated products and short innovation cycles forces companies to demonstrate a high degree of dynamism, transformability and customer orientation. The challenge is to find the right balance between optimum quality standards, the ability to deliver products quickly, and a competitive pricing strategy. So the centralized process of order planning and scheduling which is still in use today is too sluggish and too costly to achieve this goal. As well as making turnaround times longer, it also requires considerable buffer stocks of materials and leads to significant waste. A strategy of customer-led lean production offers a far greater likelihood of success.

The rapid advances in computational power, coupled with the benefits of the cloud and its services, has the potential to give rise to a new generation of service-based industrial systems whose functionalities reside in-cloud (Cyber) and on-devices and-systems (Physical). The Factory-of-the-Future is relying on an ecosystem in which large scale functional collaboration is taking place within a structurally evolvable system of heterogeneous components and systems. Mainly, over the Internet-of-Things (Everything), networked Cyber-physical systems communicate with each other and humans in real time for monitoring and controlling physical processes, create a digital copy (cyber-shadow) of the physical world, offer both own and cross-organizational services via the Internet-of-Services and cooperate making decentralized decisions. Digitally networked and data-intensive are the main attributes of a smarter production: industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 is a disruptive paradigm, which challenges the ways we think about intelligent knowledge-intensive, semantically and cognitively enhanced industrial enterprises. An engineering eco-system, where processes govern themselves, smart products take corrective actions to avoid damages, individual parts are automatically replenished, and raw parts and production machines enter into a dialogue in order to optimize manufacturing processes. The fundamental objective is to utilize the progress achieved in information and communications technologies and that expected in the near future for the benefit of manufacturing enterprises. Preparation therefore has to be made for the increasing and consistent embedding of those technologies in production systems – and that in ever smaller partial systems and components. Additional communications capability and (partial) autonomy in reactions to external influences and internally stored specifications are transforming mechatronic systems into Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS). The objectives derived from that transformation are developments and adjustments in ICT for manufacturing applications: robustness, resilience, information security and real time capability.

Industry 4.0 describes a new, emerging structure in which manufacturing and logistic systems in the form of Cyber-Physical Production Systems intensively use the globally available information and communications networks for an extensively automated exchange of information and in which production and business processes are matched. Cyber-physical systems unite the physical and virtual worlds. As Cyber-physical systems, intelligent machines, storage systems and production facilities independently exchange data, initiate manufacturing steps and mutually control each other. In Industry 4.0, production essentially organizes itself. All involved means of production and products are networked to each other, clearly identifiable and localizable. They are aware of their condition, know which steps are required in order to continue the production process and automatically initiate the next production step as well as logistics processes.

In such a broad environment, a large number of models, systems and concepts from an extremely wide range of domains play an important part shaping that structure. They are however not the heart of the Industry 4.0 concept itself. Industry 4.0 can be regarded as an additional level of integration on the basis of existing structures, integrating increasing networking of previously extensively autonomous systems.

Recognized as an essential characteristic of The 4th Industrial Revolution, networked collaborative smart cyber-physical systems allow building a highly dynamic flat information- and data-driven infrastructure that empowers the rapid development of more efficient next generation industrial applications, whilst simultaneously satisfying the agility required by modern enterprises within the whole value chain organization. All this evolution shows that changes in the emerging Industry4.0-compliant economy are likely to come more from the introduction of new business models, new organizing principles and best practices around which the business is built, mainly capitalizing on the knowledge generated during the development and utilization of services, exposed and/or consumed by the networked things and  increasing ratio of Technology Time to Market to Technology Time on Market.

Networked collaborative smart cyber-physical systems are not only penetrating the industrial environment but also the daily life, producing visible societal changes and impacting all levels of the society. The disruptive technologies emerging from combining the cyber and physical worlds of an Industry 4.0-compliant environment is already providing an innovation ecosystem for a broad range of industries, creating entirely new markets and platforms for growth. A formidable change in business and private life likewise – in a radically and sustainable way. The economic potential is enormous. But not only in technology many things are changing, humans and the society transforms, too.

Many aspects are evolutionary, since new products and services mainly are based on the use and application of an existing big amount of data (now digital and machine-understandable), which are facilitating the creation of new functionalities based on the collaboration of heterogeneous systems in the cyberspace, the creation of new and retention of high-value jobs, and supporting the continuous improvement of the quality of life for the citizens of the digital Society 4.0.