“Internet of things” and intelligent detectors to support automated productive processes
The internet is normally intended as a “virtual” or somehow “dematerialised” world: a typical example is the normal letter we used to send by post which has now been substituted by the e-mail which is “immaterial”, but just as effective. The “semantic web” revolution has improved and speeded up communication and the way we exchange information, but it is not the only way to do so. There is a breakthrough: The Internet of Things. It is an extended network (with extended functions) able to reach the concrete world. Things can now communicate thanks to the internet and they can do this with themselves, with other objects or accessing files, thus becoming more intelligent and able to increase exponentially capability and apps, making everyday life easier and automating complex production processes.
The objective of an intelligent factory is to create production systems which may satisfy real needs, using available resources at their best. Furthermore, we need to design products which take into account not only their life cycle but also their waste and recycling systems. The intelligence of a product is its capacity to interpret what is happening in the surrounding environment and hence adapt to it.
Besides, an intelligent factory needs to pay attention to the coordination of the various phases of production, controlling at the same time the whole process.
There are several devices which make the production process in factories more efficient (power reduction, speeding-up production, greater accuracy, safety, etc) or in agricultural holdings (for example a more rational use of water). According to Gartner, 26 billion objects are expected to be connected by 2020.
Obviously in order to become an intelligent object, hardware and software able to connect to the internet, communicate, acquire information and “learn” autonomously are strongly recommended. These devices need to be extremely small and “embedded”, that is integrated with the object they control. Besides, they will need to monitor the surrounding environment and process data continuously in order to be updated and adapt to different scenarios.