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Industry 4.0, as the German government coined the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technology, creates what has been termed “smart factories”. The term represents the digital transition in manufacturing from embedded toward cyber-physical systems. With Industry 4.0, production shifts from a centralized to a decentralized model, symbolizing an impactful reversal of the traditional approach. With connectivity and smart devices providing the foundation, disruptive innovation areas ranging from 3D printing to advanced robotics and predictive analytics have made the shift toward Industry 4.0 all but reversible. With a market value of €185 billion by 2022, companies addressing the emerging opportunities imminently are acting prudently.

As innovation is our business, cutting-edge startups are the focus of our attention. At StartUs Insights, our unit dedicated to Innovation Scouting and Open Innovation, we conducted a detailed analysis of 12.500 startups, and consequently discovered several innovation areas that deeply impact Industry 4.0. To shed light on the application and potential of the most disruptive of these technologies, we decided to outline the six most dominant innovation areas that influence the entire industry. As our focus lies on emerging startups, we provide an example for each innovation area in order to engender a better understanding and highlight existing cooperation potential.

Big Data & Predictive Analytics

When it comes to Industry 4.0, data and analytics play a key role in creating value. Armed with big data and analytics, companies active in the field are able to reduce downtime by up to 45%, additionally increasing output by as much as 25%. Big data is used increasingly for real-time decision making, while predictive analytics are incredibly useful due to their capability to foresee the failure of a machine, thus acting as an enabler for preventive maintenance. Predictive analytics will be followed by prescriptive analytics, which will suggest decision options to take full advantage of the results provided by predictive analytics. Indeed, manufacturers themselves expect both big data & predictive analytics to have substantial impact as they markedly improve customer intelligence.

Israeli startup Augury allows “machines [to] talk”. Bringing predictive maintenance to the market, this company is focused on “listening” to machines in order to anticipate malfunction or failure. Founded in 2011, the startup was funded with €8,2m to further develop the machine diagnostics backend of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Big Data & Predictive Analytics

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Cloud Computing

The importance of cloud computing is quickly explained: Industry 4.0 would not exist without it. Due to this technology enabling the handling of large amounts of data, which is needed to automate production processes, cloud computing serves as a key element in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Over time, cloud technologies are anticipated to improve even further, reaching extraordinarily short reaction times. Cloud computing can already be utilized in solution packages, some of which are Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Software as a Service (SaaS).

Waylay is one example of a startup masterminding an intelligent SaaS decision-making platform (if this, then that). The Belgian-based company describes itself as the developer of “the ultimate rules engine for IoT”, as it generates a compact logic for easy maintenance – dynamic processes in the cloud, for the cloud.

Cloud Computing

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Additive Manufacturing

More commonly known as 3D printing, additive manufacturing has undergone an incredible transformation over the last three decades. Its development has compelled usage of other material than plastics to 3D print, including metal, ceramic and even biomaterials. Additive manufacturing changes the process through which products are made as it provides customers with the capacity to co-create goods together with companies. Furthermore, additive manufacturing highly benefits cost-efficiency of low-volume productions and positively impacts the supply chain through shorter delivery times and inventory reduction, adding another cornerstone to the decentralized production model.

German startup Additive Works is on a mission to make additive manufacturing less costly. Their solution entails a four-step system called the ASAP Principle (Assessment, Simulation, Adaption, Process), on which their software solution “Amphyon” is built.

Additive Manufacturing

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Cybersecurity

The connectivity Industry 4.0 brings with it also adds a layer of vulnerability. The increased exposure due to connectivity means it is at high risk of falling victim to potential cyberattacks, urging companies to increase the security level of their manufacturing lines. The damage inflicted by a cyberattack can be immense in the case of cyber physical systems, yet devices continue getting smarter and more connected, thereby becoming more vulnerable. Wearables reveal location and personal data, turning corporate espionage and hackers with the ability to take control of their systems into a legitimate threat. Manufacturers who act proactively, facing challenges before they arise, will be rewarded with a vibrant, well-equipped ecosystem capable of securing their smart factories through innovative solutions.

London-based startup Sharewell is just one example of this ecosystem, concentrating its efforts on assisting enterprises to avoid data leaks and minimize the risk of cyberattacks. Sharewell’s technology is designed as a cost-effective option for companies to take full advantage of cloud collaboration, in addition to strengthening the security framework immensely.

Cybersecurity

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Predictive Maintenance

Manufacturers agree that, ideally, a machine should only be repaired when necessary, meaning at a point when a defect is affecting the machine’s performance, but where keeping it running is still safe until the company finds a convenient time slot for repair. As one of the most hyped innovation areas, predictive maintenance is capable of generating considerable cost reductions, with the cost of repairs estimated to decrease by 12%, thus lowering the cost of planned repair by 30%.

Founded in the Netherlands, Semiotic Labs works with Artificial Intelligence (AI), specifically machine learning algorithms and sensors, to optimize the process of predictive maintenance in smart factories. Other respectable benefits of their solution include early warnings and the elimination of unplanned downtime.

Predictive Maintenance

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Augmented Reality (AR)

By now, Augmented Reality has reached the right maturity level to be used in a productive environment like smart factories. The innovation area has already proven to increase both people and process performances, thus decreasing costs emerging from human error or inefficiency. In fact, it has been shown that AR is powerful enough to improve performance by up to 50%. Some of the potential usage scenarios for AR in Industry 4.0 include Operations, Maintenance & Remote Assistance, Training, Quality Control as well as Safety Management.

Counting on clients like EPSON, Google or Microsoft, Atmo was created to solve the problem of remote troubleshooting, using an AR-based platform that works on any device. Claiming to “turn anyone into an expert instantly”, the cutting-edge startup eliminates mistakes made through poor communication possibilities.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

The six outlined innovation areas above are just a few of the crucial digital drivers we recognized in Industry 4.0. Others include Robotics, Simulation, Industrial IoT Platforms, and Artificial Intelligence. As these emerging technologies develop further, challenge existing structures, and transform the entire industry, companies eager to rapidly identify relevant innovation areas and act on them will make their mark as industry leaders. Using the potential of evolving, disruptive and innovative startups to collaborate and achieve a lasting competitive advantage in their respective area contributes to their success. StartUs Insights enables collaboration with these disruptors by providing actionable innovation intelligence on startup driven innovation.


StartUs Insights provides actionable intelligence on startup driven innovation.
Want to discover more innovation areas? Get in touch!

Author Andra Cataniciu|Design Eugen Stoicov|Executive Editor Susi Wallner|Copy Editor David Prasser, Iryna Bursuk, Glenn Leaper|Web Development Reza Rastgoo