The Internet of Nano Things in Industry 4.0
The Internet of Nano Things in Industry 4.0
The manufacturing, industrial and process industries (as well as many aspects in everyday life) are changing from manned, but technology-assisted, processes to autonomous networks; and are being governed by advances in software and improvements in the capability of sensors. This is the emergence of Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 wouldn’t be possible without the above advances, all of which have contributed to the development of the Internet of Things (IoT). Whilst most people focus on the IoT in general, and in some cases, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), there is another area which will have its place in Industry 4.0. This is the Internet of Nano Things (IoNT).
The IoNT is a subset of the IoT, where the main difference between it and the IoT systems you will often hear about, is that it is a miniaturised form that operates at the nanoscale. As it stands, the way forward for facilitating an effective communication between central systems and devices is the utilisation of nanomaterials. You only need to look at other areas that are being developed, such as quantum computing, which are using nanomaterials to transfer data and communicate over long distances. The same can be said for the advancement of the IoT sector, and Industry 4.0 in general. With large amounts of data being transferred from many data collection points, an effective communication line, via the internet, over long distances, will be key. Electronics which utilise the IoNT are highly suited for communication-based applications, and this is mainly due to them not suffer from a great deal of interference—something, which again, is crucial when large amounts of data are being transferred.
There is not one single way that an IoNT system will be utilised in Industry 4.0. Whilst only certain sectors are currently ahead of the game and starting to implement IoT-based systems, the reality is, that most industries, and anything that involves data transfer, will most likely employ an IoT system in some form in the future. For IoNT systems, their small size means that they are well-suited for the medical industry, where different sensors can be located inside the body of a patient to monitor different factors autonomously, and alert staff when some of these factors in a patient significantly change.
However, there are also many other areas. One key area where the IoT will make a difference on a large and global scale, is through the implementation of smart cities. These cities will be able to measure both the internal environments of buildings and the external atmosphere, as well as many other processes within buildings and around the city. For IoNT systems, the most likely area where they will find use is in the measurement of particulate matter and pollution (something which is plaguing some cities these days), by employing different interconnected nanoscale devices around the city. It may even be possible to utilise these small sensors on the surface of everyday handheld devices, such as a mobile phone, so that any person can directly (and easily) obtain the air quality information in their current locale. This could even extend to vehicles employing IoNT sensors to determine the proximity of the vehicle, provide data for vehicle assistance systems, and again, be fitted with environmental-based sensors to measure the local environmental conditions.
Another big area of Industry 4.0 in which the IoNT could find some use is in smart factories. Manufacturing is one of the biggest areas that could be benefitted by Industry 4.0, and this spans all manufacturing sectors. In factory environments, IoNT systems could be employed to monitor the temperature, humidity, water quality and the emission of gases during a process (or processes), as well as being used to check the level of carbon emissions being released from the exhaust.
Whilst the IoNT is not quite as developed as other IoT systems, yet, they will offer a way for new smart advances to be made, and new applications could be brought into the realm of the IoT and
Industry 4.0 that would not necessarily be possible with the larger IoT systems (in particular, the larger-sized sensors). However, the one thing that will be crucial for the widespread realisation of IoNT devices will be whether they can integrate with existing micro-devices and micro-scale technologies. If they can, then it is more likely that we will see their use within this next industrial revolution.