Figure 1 : Industrial Revolution Timeline [1] . Created with Lucidchart.

Industry 4.0 has been a common buzzword heard in tradeshows, blogs, and presentations over the past few years. But what does it mean and what are its implications for control systems?

Industry as we know it has gone through four major revolutions over its lifetime (Figure 1). This transformation resulted in a shift from operating plants with steam and simple mechanical systems to distributed control systems with comprehensive data collection within high tech facilities.

Industry 1.0 is what is commonly referred to as The Industrial Revolution. This took place in the late 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. Advancements here included the invention of the steam engine and its introduction to plants. It also included mechanization of factory production. This invention significantly improved production capabilities in these facilities. The industrial revolution allowed for significant advancements in productivity due to the transfer of the source of power from the workers to steam. In addition to this, advancements in machinery led to improvements in operational efficiency. [2]

Industry 2.0 is the 2nd industrial revolution. This includes the introduction of electricity and the assembly line to industrial facilities. Henry Ford’s assembly line led to mass production which paved the way for reduced cost of deployment. This allowed inventions such as the automobile to go from being a household luxury to an essential staple. Over the 19th century the assembly line and the introduction of electricity further reduced the reliance on manual labour, which helped drive down costs and increase production on a variety of goods.

Between the late 1960s to the 1990s, partial automation was introduced to mark the 3rd industrial revolution (Industry 3.0). This includes the addition of PLCs and computers to industrial facilities. It is extremely common to still see sites operated by infrastructure from this era. These sites are the most likely candidates for modernization projects. Facilities developed as part of Industry 3.0 often have simple controls, with minimal operator intervention required. Monitoring of these sites often includes numerical display, chart readers, or indicator lights. An example of such a display can be seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Industry 3.0 Control Console

We are currently going through the 4th industrial revolution, known commonly as Industry 4.0. This includes the introduction of data collection and comprehensive communication networks across industrial facilities. Industry 4.0 allows us to establish distributed control systems (DCS) and create further dependencies between facilities to improve operational efficiencies and conduct long-term data analysis.

Industry 4.0 highlights

Industry 4.0 is characterized by several significant developments or features, among them are:

  • Data collection and analysis
  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
  • Communication Networks
  • Cyber-Physical Systems

Not all of these developments or features may apply to your facilities right away, but even partial modernization can lead to improvement of your operations and to more time dedicated to maintenance rather than manually operating and interacting with your equipment.

The first on the list above is data collection and analysis. This is a broad area that can have a variety of implications for your facilities. Starting with moving from a paper chart reader to a SCADA-based trend, this allows your operators to analyze a larger data set quickly and easily. An example of a trend is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Historical trend in SCADA showing two-weeks data

Upon dealing with an unusual event, one could go back in time on a trend and see if there were any other similar occurrences. This is not only useful on a long-term scale, but also in the short term. On a tank trend, for example, an operator can view the fill-and-drain cycles. Were they consistent in terms of fill or drain times? Were there any unusual behaviors? Another application in this domain is for long-term monitoring of equipment. Consider a motor for example. How many alarms – and which – has this motor experienced over the past year? Are particular alarms occurring under certain conditions? Is there correlation with specific process events? Addressing such questions can yield further inquiries to be examined using trends. For example, if relevant correlations are found, what can be changed in the process to reduce alarms? Is the motor drawing the same current as it did last year at this time?

With the technology gained within Industry 4.0, we can take this data in and apply it to predictive maintenance techniques. We now have the capability to monitor changing behavior in equipment and corelate it with events or alarms to provide operations indication when an issue may arise. This can lead to reduced downtime and overall costs. As outlined in “What is Industry 4.0? Dispelling 4 Common Myths”, data will be most useful when you first understand what you are collecting before you use models and analytical tools [1]. More data does not necessarily mean a better facility, however more data used effectively can have tremendous benefits.

The second significant area of Industry 4.0 is the Industrial Internet of Things. IIoT and IoT (Internet of Things) have been terms thrown around for the past few years along with Industry 4.0. While IoT typically refers to smart home or commercial interconnected technologies, IIoT refers to the interconnection of industrial equipment with sensors. The technological advancements in this domain have allowed for reduced required infrastructure to accommodate an increase in total connected devices. This could include, but not limited to, remote flow meter connected over cellular to a PAC/PLC across town, network administered locks on your kiosks and/ or buildings to monitor access, wireless access switches on reservoirs, and hatches to detect and monitor entry. Connected infrastructure within the IIoT environment as well as the data collection discussed above rely on both communication advancements as well as cybersecurity considerations (see below). We see less and less municipal water or wastewater sites that are operated disconnected from the rest of the system. When connecting one site to another there are many considerations in terms of implementation. We must look at factors such as sites’ physical locations and requirements regarding confidentiality of data, uptime, and bandwidth. This can lead to communication networks based on cellular, hardwired internet, private network lines, radio links, or a combination of these. But in the end, regardless of which option we choose, the network will allow sites to communicate with each other and to SCADA systems with comprehensive coverage.

When dealing with communication systems, we must also look at cybersecurity. As we are discussing Industry 4.0 applications, this issue primarily relates to Operation Technology (OT) cybersecurity. Alongside the advancements of communication technologies, we must have parallel advancements in security. For the sake of continual and safe operation of industrial facilities, these two aspects of Industry 4.0 – communication and cybersecurity – must be seen hand in hand. As your industrial network expands, more “doors” accessing it may appear; Do you know all the doors that exist? Are all these doors locked? One case when a door went unnoticed and led to a potential disaster was in Oldsmar Florida. In this case, an authorized threat actor gained access to a water system and changed a dosing setpoint to dangerous levels [3]. The access was through a remote access tool that was no longer being used or monitored. Today, as part of Industry 4.0, we have access to support tools such as Team Viewer, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), and RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) that can be very useful when supporting our clients. However, when such tools are not used correctly, they can add avoidable risk. In the wise words of Uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility” [4].

In Summary

Industry 4.0 can bring a variety of benefits to your facilities in how you can interact with your system and what you can get out of it. Between tracking more data through increased monitoring to a more comprehensive and secure communication system, there are a lot of potential enhancements you can make to bring your system to the current era.


Industry 4.0 is the most recent Industrial Revolution, bringing upgrade opportunities including, but not limited, to:

  • Increased data collection and analysis
  • Industrial Internet of Things
  • Communication Networks
  • Cyber Physical Systems

Jason Marchese P.Eng. PMP
Project Engineer


[1] AMFG, “What is Industry 4.0? Dispelling 4 Common Myths,” 15 January 2019. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 09 February 2022].
[2] Desoutter Industrial, “Industrial Revolution – From Industry 1.0 to Industry 4.0,” [Online]. Available: [Accessed 04 04 2022].
[3] S. Bouchard, “Cyber Physical Engineering – Oldsmar Water Treatment Hack,” ICI Electrical Engineering, [Online]. Available: [Accessed 9 February 2022].
[4] S. Raimi, Director, Spider-Man. [Film]. Columbia Pictures, Marvel Enterprises, 2002.