Greater factory connectivity and control is ushering in what has been named the fourth industrial revolution, after the earlier revolutions of steam power, assembly lines and early automation.
This movement advances machine-to-machine communication with exponential growth in data, bandwidth and networking, creating so-called smart factories with more responsive automation at all levels.
Although large systems such as robots and coordinated assembly lines capture attention, the automation they enable would not be possible without the sensors and actuators that are busy communicating with the programmable logic controllers (PLCs) that run production lines. Sensors and actuators, functioning both locally and remotely, often greatly outnumber the complex systems they support. Optimizing overall factory communications is necessary to meet the wide variety of requirements from systems of all sizes.