Carsten Wittenberg: Usability 4.0

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Today’s usage of the internet

Nowadays we use the internet e.g. for getting information, for shopping, meeting (virtual) friends. We use designated devices like pc, web pads or smartphones. And – we think that we have the control over the information flow.

Different research projects have the objectives to increase the information flow on the one hand – and to hide it on the other hand. Some examples are listed in the following passage:

Future Internet(s)

One example is the idea of the internet of things. Devices like the TV exchange information with the fridge. The following scenario could be possible in the future:

  • TV to Fridge: … this evening is the final of the world championship … is enough beer cold? …
  • Fridge to TV: … oh no …
  • Fridge to Supermarket: … send us some beer ….
  • Supermarket to Fridge: … thank you for your order … it will deliverer in a few moments …

Maybe you are wondering why somebody brings you a six-pack …

internet of things

Figure 1: Internet of Things

Smart grids have the focus on the energy consumption. Depending on the energy load these grids switch devices like washing machines or tumble dryer  for an evenly energy consumption.

Connecting cars in a network have comfort and safety aspects. Comfort aspects are e.g. that navigation systems exchange information about the actual speed to circumnavigate the evening rush hour traffic.  A safety aspect could be that cars sending information when braking so that following cars can avoid the collision.


Figure 2: Car network

All these research projects have in common that the interface to the human will be dramatically changed.

Industry 4.0

The industrial production domain picked up some of the ideas above to develop the industry 4.0.  Beginning with the steam machines (Industry 1.0) over the assembly line (Industry 2.0) and the introduction of electronic systems like plc (Industry 3.0) the so-called cyber-physical systems are the basis for the smart factories (Industry 4.0).

internet of machines

Figure 3: The internet of machines / cyber-physical systems

For the production of any products classical machines with mechanical and electrical capabilities are still needed. Cyber-physical systems extend these machines with IT-capabilities like self-learning and self-organization functions.

For example the (smart) factory gets a new order and has to change the production line.  Because of the self-optimizing/self-configuring/self-learning characteristics of the cyber-physical systems the smart factory does this on its own – it need only the ERP/MES-command.

It is obvious that the complexity of such production systems increase drastically. But there is also no question that the human operator or the human service technician is still necessary. But how can the human handle such a complexity? In the same way the functionality of the smart factory expand the usability of the Human-Machine Interface must be improved.

I am not sure if this will be the Usability 4.0 (or 3.0/2.0/ …) but there will be a lot of work.

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