The term Industry 4.0 was first mentioned at the Hannover Trade Fair in 2011. Experts proclaimed that a new Industrial Revolution had arrived, driven by automation, communication and the internet. A flag was planted and smart industrial manufacturing had arrived.

Industry 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0

As you can probably surmise, there were several “Industry” iterations before Industry 4.0. The first industrial revolution, or Industry 1.0, was built around the development of steam/water-based engines. Industry 2.0 gave rise to the light bulb, telephone, phonograph and internal combustion engine.

Starting in the 1980’s, Industry 3.0 saw analog technology give way to digital technology. The personal computer became a reality and the internet was gaining momentum. During this same time period, often referred to as the digital revolution, SCADA’s functionality increased. From head end systems to SCADA endpoints, utilities were getting more out of their systems. This correlated closely with the escalation in computer processing power during this era.   

Industry 3.0 enabled water, gas and electric utilities to remotely monitor and control field equipment more efficiently. Operationally, utilities realized tremendous cost savings. They were able to reduce the need to go to physical locations, were able to remotely monitor and control operations, and through digitalization, utilities were able to offer much greater reliability to industrial and residential customers. Arguably, this era was the single most important time for the utilities…until now. 

Industry 4.0

If Industry 3.0 was a digital revolution, then Industry 4.0 should be called a quantum leap. By adding embedded systems, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 is pushing forward at breakneck speed.

For critical infrastructure like water, gas and electric SCADA, this means more intelligence, automation, self-learning and a fundamental shift from a centralized to a de-centralized approach. Instead of the centralized head end SCADA system bearing the brunt of the decision making, devices at the grid edge have the power to act intelligently. Today there are examples of edge intelligence being implemented by utilities around the world. It’s disruptive and efficient. Utilities are taking notice.

Electric SCADA

There are plenty of illustrations that showcase this disruption. For instance, let’s examine two components common to electric distribution—a pulse closer and a recloser. Simply put, a pulse closer is a recloser with additional intelligence. When it detects a fault on the line, instead of operating immediately, it sends a pulse down the line to see if the fault it still there, and then only operates based on persistence of that fault. This intelligence extends the product’s lifespan and reduces network blips. Both the utility and the end-user benefits.   

Another example is the ability of field assets to intelligently speak with each other over a secure communication network. One recloser with an intelligent communications module may see a fault, can ‘team’ with other reclosers to see who can back feed and carry that load, and then operate accordingly. Completely without instruction from a centralized SCADA system. This cuts down on restoration times, introduces higher levels of efficiency, and improves overall SAIDI, MAIFI, CAIDI metrics.


In Water SCADA, consider an intelligent communications module connected to a pump controller. Pair it with a Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) that is connected to a level sensor on an overhead storage tank and a powerful solution is born. When the RTU detects a critically low level of water in the storage tank, a signal can be sent to the Pump Controller to turn on and start filling. Additional logic like suction/discharge pressure, flow and more can be added into this edge logic without intervention by the head end SCADA system.


In Gas SCADA, a product with embedded intelligence can host an integrated radio, remote shut off valve, pressure and temperature sensor. When the SCADA endpoint detects a dangerous situation, it shuts off the supply of gas and can send notification to nearby devices alerting them to this critical situation. Each year there are countless casualties and injuries attributed to gas explosions.

In essence, each of these devices are now acting like little mini SCADA systems, and have the sophistication to create communication networking between them to do intelligent actions. In Industry 4.0, it doesn’t just stop there. Once these autonomous devices start performing these automated actions, learning can occur. The notion of artificial intelligence and machine learning of these embedded systems is in the scope for Industry 4.0. This not only reduces the utilities need to micromanage assets, but allows their devices to build confidence as they grow into their learning.

Lastly, it’s impossible to discuss Industry 4.0 without mentioning the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT will have a large impact on both AMI and distribution automation systems. Today, thanks to the rise of smart home systems such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, residential consumers are adopting IoT accessories such as intelligent thermostats, connected home security systems and smart lighting systems at lightning speed. 

Forward-looking utilities are seeing the benefits of leveraging programs to tie into some of these smart home systems. For example, a utility may offer a Demand Response program that gives the utility control over a smart thermostat during peak times. The customer gets a price break and the utility gets more control during peak load events to reduce unnecessary expenses related to additional power generation or purchasing.

Outside of the home, utilities are seeing the benefits of investing in street lighting control systems that offer a myriad of sensors. From motion detection to gunshot notification alarms, street lighting is another connected system that gives value to end-users as well as the utility. The net effect on the SCADA market is that Industry 4.0 is affecting us all: consumers, SCADA system vendors, SCADA IED vendors, communication providers and sensor manufacturers.

When done correctly, smart cities are born.