Sensor Intelligence helps manage Smart Factories of the future

24th November 2017
Posted By : Anna Flockett
Sensor Intelligence helps manage Smart Factories of the future

With Industry 4.0 on our door step and smart factories predicted to be the next big thing, SICK has got its head screwed on and is concentrating on intelligent and communicative sensors and sensor solutions for use in smart factories at this year’s SPS Drives show in Nuremberg. With years of experience under its belt, combined with intensive research and development work, SICK has a range of products and solutions that help to lay the foundation for more flexible, transparent processes in a variety of ways. 

The aim is to enable the digitisation and networking of production and logistics systems so that they can optimise and control themselves autonomously.  

It’s not just smart factories that we need to keep an eye on, industrial automation is changing at an extremely rapid pace, and SICK aims to ensure it is offering solutions that in the industry today are ready for all the challenges it could possibly face in the future. How? Intelligent sensors that collect data, evaluating it in real-time, adapting to environments and communicating in the network. 

Sensor Intelligence: A tailored solution
At SICK it focuses on the individual requirements of processes. This is where ‘Sensor Intelligence’ comes in, as this is the solution which draws on all of SICK’s system knowledge, which is supplemented in a variety of sectors. The company aims to combine detailed application knowledge with reliable software architecture to optimally integrate its sensors into systems – because intelligent is the only way.

‘Sensor Intelligence’ refers to the ability of SICK’s sensors to use decentralised computing power to complete tasks more reliably, more comprehensively, or more efficiently. To achieve this, SICK take the intelligence required to perform these tasks from the central control system and places it in its sensors.

The availability of ever-smaller, ever-cheaper microcontrollers is beneficial to intelligent sensors, primarily because these controllers enable the sensors to process increasing volumes of data directly, which uses ever-more complex algorithms. This technology helps to optimise production and control networks.

Sensor Intelligence: Organising the factory of the future
The industrial future will be determined by networked production and control processes in complex machine environments. The smart sensor solutions from SICK already support dynamic, real-time optimised, and self-organised industry processes.

SICK claim that the sensors it produces record real operations statuses which are then turned into digital data, and shared automatically with process controllers.

The degree of digitisation, intelligence and networking is set to increase continually in production and logistics systems, until these systems can eventually control and optimise themselves autonomously. The cyber-physical production systems in the smart factories of the future will organise themselves, using huge amounts of up-to-date information to make independent decisions. This information is provided by SICK sensors.

SICK believe that with ‘Sensor Intelligence’, it is making Industry 4.0 a reality – and it is doing it today.

SICK’s Smart Sensors
In order to create the best possible basis for a future-oriented automation system, SICK has equipped its Smart Sensors with four special properties.

Enhanced Sensing

Custom intelligence and performance – Smart Sensors can recognise arising errors automatically throughout operation and quickly counteract them. Smart Sensors can aid the fitter to find the suitable operating point as they are installed. A lot of Smart Sensors even offer various operating modes including the entirely manual adjustment of detection or measurement parameters to enable them to be dynamically adapted to tasks as necessary.

Efficient Communication

Smart communication between sensor and control - Smart Sensors are diligent data collectors and intelligent analysts. The knowledge is shared with the environment through the integrated IO-Link interface in real time. Smart Sensors are always responsive to all types of control commands - for example, the sensors can receive new parameter sets within seconds, for flexible production up to batch size 1. Even if a device is defective, the most recently used parameter set can be automatically transferred to the replacement sensor via IO-Link.


Efficient processes thanks to predictive maintenance – The Smart Sensors from SICK are even able to send a notification independently if safe operation is at risk. Sensors with the diagnostics option enable predictive maintenance with flexible, needs-based maintenance plans, this is so if problems were to occur, the cause can be easily determined thanks to the comprehensive visualisation possibilities, which significantly reduces down-time.

Smart Tasks

The right information directly from the sensor – Smart Tasks help process the detection or measurement signals of the sensor, which helps the burden on the machine developer when creating the control programme and the control itself. In particular, when it comes to the fast, partial plant processes, which take place near to the sensors, it is useful to carry out further processing on the detection signals remotely. Not only does this help to save time during data evaluation in the control, it helps accelerate machine processes and make high performance, costly additional hardware pointless.

At SPS IPC Drives 2017, SICK will be showcasing its intelligent and communicative sensors and sensor solutions for use in smart factories. These solutions enable workstations to coordinate their processes and functions independently, which therefore creates units which can organise and optimise themselves. This requires new functionalities in the sensor to supply the necessary data to the smart factory.

Safety solutions at system level

The company's appearance at the trade fair will also focus on safety. Safety systems that are specifically tailored to applications are becoming an increasingly vital part of the future of functional safety technology. SICK therefore provides its customers with packages that are ready to install and is constantly working to refine the components of the safety system.

This includes the hardware complete with all documentation as well as all the information that is relevant to certification. These systems are further enhanced with safety services specifically tailored to the manufacturing industry. As a provider of complete solutions, SICK also includes the commissioning of ambitious modernisation projects in these services. You can find SICK in hall 7a on stand 340.

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