The concept of the fourth industrial revolution was first introduced in Hannover earlier in this decade. This followed several decades of industrial automation, albeit at lower levels of functionality and complexity. Many developments have since shaped several industry 4.0 technologies that were previously under the purview of researchers. This is possible today, mainly due to innovations in technology, software, and hardware. Already, the increasing human-machine, machine-machine, and human-human connectivity influence production systems and processes across the world. Industry 4.0 trends and technologies are fundamental in achieving connected manufacturing geared towards smart and autonomous factories.
Innovation Map: Top 10 Industry 4.0 Trends
Covering more than 1.379.000 startups & scaleups globally, we use our proprietary StartUs Insights Discovery Platform to identify innovative applications and solutions that will impact the manufacturing sector in 2021. Our Innovation Analysts conducted exhaustive data-driven research to identify the various innovation trends and technologies emerging in industry 4.0. For this research, we analyzed 770 startups and emerging companies and present the Top 10 Industry 4.0 Trends along with 20 highly relevant solutions for each of them.
The Innovation Map below visualizes the major trends that impact the sector and showcases two hand-picked startups for each.
Tree Map: The Top Trends Impacting Industry 4.0
The Tree Map below illustrates the top 10 industry 4.0 trends that will impact companies in 2021. Employing artificial intelligence (AI) techniques across devices and processes forms the top industry 4.0 trend. Increasingly, emerging companies develop wearable solutions for the industrial workplace to ensure the safety and efficiency of the manufacturing process. Collecting data by implementing cloud and edge computing and designing cybersecurity solutions allow companies to establish the building blocks for setting up smart factories. Advanced robotic solutions comprising autonomous mobile robots, cobots, and swarm robotics, as well as robotic software development is also a major part of industry 4.0 trends.
Global Startup Heat Map: Industry 4.0 Startups & Emerging Companies
For this analysis, we used a data-driven startup scouting approach to identify the most relevant solutions globally. The Global Startup Heat Map below highlights the global distribution of startups & emerging companies that also include the 20 promising examples out of 770 relevant industry 4.0 solutions.
Top 10 Industry 4.0 Trends in 2021
The flow of information due to the connectedness in Industry 4.0 is raising concerns about security, transparency, and privacy. As the manufacturing practices are increasingly becoming personal and customizable, the data management practices done outside and within the shop floor will hugely influence the appeal of the company. The transmission and processing of sensitive industrial data need to be done securely to avoid cyberattacks on critical industrial facilities. Digital ethics and privacy, privacy-enhancing technologies, self adaptive security, zero-trust security, end-to-end communication security, DevSecOps, blockchain are some of the new developments in this front. The focus on cybersecurity needs to be balanced with transparency and privacy.
Alias Robotics – Robot Immune System
Spanish startup Alias Robotics develops a robot immune system (RIS), an endpoint protection platform for robots. This solution provides malware protection to robots and robotic components. The modular architecture of RIS gives the system flexibility and adaptability and caters to a variety of robots. The company also offers a secure data recorder for investigating cyber attacks or malfunctions in robots. The use of industrial robots in all stages of manufacturing is necessitating innovations like RIS.
Adolus – Secure Software Updates
Industry 4.0 makes use of smart, connected devices sourced from multiple vendors. These devices need to be updated constantly with the latest software, firmware, and configuration files. Adolus is a Canadian startup providing a secure update process for embedded devices. Cybercriminals potentially interfere with the upgrading process and compromise industrial facilities by tricking the staff into installing infected files. Adolus develops FACT, which solves this problem by working with equipment vendors to collect unique fingerprints of the files and compares these fingerprints with the ones received by the manufacturers. FACT gives a confidence rating during installation as well as visibility over the upgrading processes in critical systems.
The immense amount of data being generated by the industrial internet of things (IIoT) is propelling the adoption of edge, fog, and cloud computing capabilities in Industry 4.0. Custom hardware and software solutions like connected clouds, distributed clouds, distributed compute and storage, hybrid computing, low code development platforms, microservices, mobile computing, and multi-access edge computing are shaping up this industry 4.0 trend.
Edgise – AI-Powered Edge Computing
Belgian startup Edgise provides hardware development as a service for edge computing applications. The startup shortens response time by moving AI from the cloud to the edge. The optimal performance of industrial systems depends on the efficient execution of the algorithm present in the machines. Edge computing facilities, along with IIoT, greatly improve the speed, security, and efficiency of the manufacturing process by accelerating the running of algorithms. The company provides support to the entire edge computing product development cycle.
Atrio – Hybrid Cloud Computing
The US-based startup Atrio offers the Atrio Hybrid Composable Cloud, a software-defined single computing platform. Cloud computing capabilities improve manufacturing cycle times by providing quick insights into all steps in manufacturing. The platform made by Atrio offers a single cloud-agnostic computing network that integrates common infrastructure and cloud services for creating, managing, and operating hybrid and multi-cloud environments.
AI and machine learning are driving innovations across industries and functional areas. AI-specific hardware and new algorithms are being developed to optimize the existing systems and tackle new challenges facing manufacturing. Factories are beginning to integrate AI across their production systems and processes. Advanced AI makes it possible to conduct predictive maintenance, cognitive computing, swarm intelligence, context-aware computing, smart machines, hardware accelerators, and generative design. All of these technologies propel manufacturing facilities to move towards complete lights-out manufacturing.
Mechanica AI – Production Grade AI
Mechanica AI is a Dutch startup that offers production-grade AI for industrial operations. The technology enables the manufacturers to extract value from limited or imperfect datasets. They have incorporated industry domain knowledge into the AI system for delivering optimal performance. The solution enables using imperfect manufacturing data for autonomous decision making and process control. In addition, these AI products integrate with legacy assets, allowing more factories to adopt technology solutions.
Oqton – AI-Powered Data Integration
The US-based startup Oqton develops FactoryOS, an AI-powered platform for integrating manufacturing system data in order to streamline factory production and output. Machines, systems, and data from manufacturing facilities are usually kept as independent data silos, making it difficult to derive actual value from them. The cloud-based platform integrates and uses data from all stages of the industrial ecosystem such as design, production, and supply chain. Over time, the AI learns continuously from these data inputs to generate critical insights for improving overall productivity.
4. Human Augmentation & Extended Reality (XR)
The physical and cognitive augmentation of humans forms another major industry 4.0 trend. The limitations in humans are being augmented with the help of technologies such as wearables and exoskeletons. Further, industrial mobile devices, natural and intuitive UI, and portable machine control screens enhance the ease of using such technology. XR technologies like mixed reality (MR), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) are already in use in Industry 4.0 from the research and development (R&D) to full-scale production and post-production processes. This multi-experience paradigm is changing the way industrial manufacturing systems function. The nature of human-machine interaction is aligning more toward machine-enabled workers.
ULS Robotics – Exoskeleton Technology Platform
ULS Robotics is a Chinese startup developing an exoskeleton technology platform. Many workers on the shopfloor encounter fatigue, weakness, and other physical discomforts due to the repetitive and monotonous nature of their tasks. The use of exoskeletons on the shop floor helps workers in doing their tasks efficiently while reducing or eliminating any physical strain. Exoskeletons usually provide support for the waist, upper limb (with 4 degrees of freedom), and lower limb (with 12 degrees of freedom).
VirtuFab – Virtual Fabrication
The US-based startup VirtuFab develops an enterprise-level VR tool aiming to assist manufacturing and fabrication teams for product design and pre-visualization processes. Product design requires tight collaboration among team members and extends to multidisciplinary team coordination. The use of VR for this process enables direct location-agnostic access to the designs. Virtufab offers a virtual customizable tool belt that enables remote collaboration capabilities.
5. Network & Connectivity
Network and connectivity are among the main driving forces in enabling Industry 4.0. A number of technology developments such as edge-to-cloud, gigabit ethernet time-sensitive networks, low-power wide-area network (LPWAN), 5G, machine-to-machine communication (M2M), real-time deterministic ethernet, time-sensitive networking (TSN), ubiquitous radio access, unified IoT framework, and zero-touch networks nudge factories to implement IIoT to transform into Industry 4.0 facilities. These technologies constantly improve machine-machine and human-machine communication, as well as data transmission. As a result, innovations in this area increase speed, improve security and efficiency, and reduce the cost of network connectivity.
BehrTech – Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN)
BehrTech is a Canadian startup developing MIOTY, an LPWAN solution standardized by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute for IIoT. LPWAN solutions are ideal for connecting numerous machines in industrial complexes as they have a sufficient range and low implementation costs. BehrTech uses Fraunhofer’s patented Telegram Splitting protocol, wherein a message is split into multiple smaller sub-packets and sent at different times and frequencies. It enables interference resilience, massive scalability, extensive coverage, and ultra-low power consumption.
Coretigo – Wireless IIoT Communication
Israeli startup Coretigo offers a wireless IIoT communication service based on the IO-Link Wireless standard. IO- link is a communication protocol that works point to point and is usually wired. The IO-Link Wireless design allows it to handle a large number of devices while maintaining low latency and high reliability. Coretigo helps in wireless communication between sensors, actuators, and controllers.
Advancements in robotics make the processes in industry 4.0 faster, efficient, and safer. The most prominent robotic technologies impacting manufacturing include autonomous robots, collaborative robots (cobots), collaborative autonomous mobile robots, humanoid, mobile robots, cloud robotics, APIs, pick and place robots, and robot swarms. The use of robots offers higher precision and agility while improving the capability of rapidly developing customizable robots. Robots also free up time for the human workforce to focus on other non-repetitive or high-value tasks.
Giga Automata – Cobots
Bulgarian startup Giga Automata offers a cobot, Animoto. Cobots increase the efficiency of human-performed tasks as they are designed to work alongside the human workforce. Cobots, in general, are easy to set up, flexible, and low-cost when compared to other robots. Animoto has 6 degrees of freedom with a precision of 0.1 mm and carries up to 5 kg of load within a 1-meter reach, with a speed of up to 2 m/s.
Sesto Robotics – Autonomous Mobile Robots
Singapore-based startup Sesto Robotics offers SESTO Element, a multi-purpose autonomous mobile robot. Autonomous robots are essential for industrial automation facilities and allow the human workforce to focus on higher-level tasks, such as factory management. The compact mobile platform of SESTO Element is customizable with different types of top modules and is based on the nature of the tasks. The company also offers SESTO Prime, an autonomous mobile robot equipped with a 7-axis robotic arm.
7. Internet of Everything
The machine-machine, human-machine, and human-human real-time connectedness together comprise the internet of everything in manufacturing. It includes IIoT, internet of skills, internet of services, internet of systems, and shop floor IoT. The internet of everything combines together real-time data, machine intelligence, and human skills, resulting in faster, efficient, and cost-effective manufacturing processes. Interoperability and a unified internet of things framework are crucial for the smooth implementation of industry 4.0 facilities.
Cumulus – Internet of Industrial Maintenance
Cumulus is a US-based startup developing an internet of tools-enabled operations and maintenance management platform. The platform intends to replace the time-consuming nature of paper-based planning, execution, and reporting of maintenance activity. The use of smart connected tools, along with their platform, lead to transparent and traceable records of all maintenance operations. This helps in reducing costs associated with quality control and improving overall productivity.
Hubbox – Remote Industrial Connectivity
Turkish startup Hubbox provides a secure industrial remote connection device for manufacturing companies. Currently, machines are still connected through a complex network of wires. Hubbox enables wireless connectivity between machines by creating a shop-floor internet of things solution. The device comes with WAN, LAN, and WiFi interfaces and makes use of secure SSL certificates and advanced encryption methods. The device is also capable of communicating with ERP and creating ad-hoc M2M networks.
8. Digital Twin
Digital twin technology creates virtual models of industrial assets by combining dynamic real-time sensing and visualization data. Some of the promising use cases of digital twins include model-driven design, virtual prototyping, virtual system validation, throughput optimization, and evolutionary design. The use of digital twins is propelling industry 4.0 manufacturing towards hyper-automation. Digital twins provide valuable insights into all steps of the manufacturing process.
Gemius – Industrial Process Twin
The US-based startup Gemius develops a digital twin solution for various industrial processes. The solution allows manufacturing facilities to standardize meticulous operation and maintenance practices to optimize output. The physics-constrained AI, which drives the Gemius digital twin, provides self-optimized design and operational intelligence. The digital twin utilizes SCADA systems to integrate with operational data, historian software, sensor gateways, and enterprise asset management tools.
Simularge – Digital Twins With Less Data
Turkish startup Simularge develops a patented approach for making digital twins without the requirement of big data. Usually, huge amounts of data are needed for making effective digital twins and ensure minimal under-utilization of input parameters. Simularge’s algorithms enable quick creation of digital twins and faster adaptation as it identifies and monitors for changes in the raw materials of the production process.
Manufacturers constantly search for new technologies to cater to all aspects of the growing market demand. Additive manufacturing, which started out as a prototyping technique, is revolutionizing and decentralizing production. Hybrid manufacturing aims to integrate both additive manufacturing and subtractive manufacturing. The advancement in material science and techniques such as stereolithography and metal 3D printing enables simpler fabrication of intricate structures and complex components. Additive manufacturing is making highly-customizable and sustainable cloud-based production a reality.
AMBOTS – Autonomous Additive Manufacturing
The US-based startup AMBOTS develops an autonomous additive manufacturing solution by making use of swarm robots. Digital designs are split into smaller tasks that several different types of robots perform. Currently, the speed of additive manufacturing is limited by the size of the product. AMBOTS addresses this bottleneck by making use of a proprietary chunk-based 3D printing method.
Exaddon – Micrometer 3D Metal Printing
Exaddon is a Swiss startup providing a metal additive manufacturing system, CERES, which prints at a micrometer scale. Producing micrometer-scale components is challenging with traditional manufacturing techniques such as lithography. CERES uses electrochemical technology for achieving micro-manufacturing, conducting the process at room temperature while also eliminating post-processing. The system prints complex metal objects in sizes ranging from 1 micrometer up to 1000 micrometers.
The scale of industrial data collection eventually enables factories to make the transition into industry 4.0 facilities. Big data is complex and is valuable only when it is captured, stored, and analyzed in a quick and cost-effective manner. Advancements to utilize data for gaining valuable insights into the manufacturing systems, along with the availability of immediate and real-time data, open up opportunities for prescriptive, predictive, and augmented analytics at different levels of a company’s manufacturing facilities.
Qsee – Predictive Analytics
Qsee is an Israeli startup developing prescriptive and predictive analytics tools for manufacturers. The software is capable of predicting product quality outcomes for every production batch and even for single products. Downtimes cause unnecessary losses to manufacturing firms in terms of both money and time. Qsee performs root-cause analysis on manufacturing units to identify hidden contributors to low productivity and sends alerts to prevent downtime.
Curiosity – Knowledge Extraction Tools
German startup Curiosity offers software platforms for extracting knowledge from structured and unstructured data. The platform integrates with the existing data infrastructure and provides accessible knowledge for users in any industrial setting. Data integration challenges in manufacturing companies arise due to the vast range of technical terms, documents, and abbreviations. Curiosity combines all relevant data sources into a knowledge graph that later helps in building custom tools for search and exploration.
What Does This Mean For Manufacturing Companies?
Mounting challenges face the manufacturing sector with a major focus on optimizing production and balancing costs. Rapid advancements in emerging technologies such as the industrial internet of things (IIoT), advanced mobile robots, additive manufacturing, industrial connectivity, and artificial intelligence-enabled solutions enable companies to tackle these challenges head-on by choosing the most suitable technologies to invest in. As technology progress continues, it is important for factories and production facilities to be proactive and identify potentially disruptive changes at an early stage.