Wednesday, 2 November 2016

INDUSTRY 4.0: a review of the key technologies and trends

Further to our recent announcement concerning our forthcoming Industry 4.0 webinar ("through the lens of patents"), here's the Cipher report on Industry 4.0 which, we hope, will convince you of the importance of the subject.


INDUSTRY 4.0: a review of the key technologies and trends

The increasingly connected, automated, computerised industrial revolution known commonly as ‘Industry 4.0’ (and sometimes as the 'Internet of Things') is used to described anything from smart refrigeration to industrial automation. To understand the macro trends in this field, we examine the five technologies widely regarded as the cornerstones of Industry 4.0: cloud computing, robotics and automation, smart sensors, 3D printing and RFID.

Analysing Industry 4.0 through the lens of patents and as a proxy for innovation:

* Provides a unique insight into the key technologies

* Reveals China’s dominance in output in the last few years, placing China in an increasing position of influence

* Suggests the need for an increase in corporate collaboration as the medium for delivering competitive advantage

Key Technologies

Only 1% of organisations we have analysed (9000+) own patents in each of the key technologies, and within each technology 75-90% of all patents belong to the “long tail” of companies (outside of the top 30).

* Industry 4.0 does not have one player dominating any of the technologies
Figures 1a to 1e above show that the technologies are fairly evenly spread in terms of active patent families, but no player is a top-three patent owner in any two technologies.

Key Geographies

Besides differences in technological focus across companies, there are also clear geographical trends. Only 10 countries had an organization that was in the top-30 of any one of the technologies. Out of these France, Switzerland, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan only contributed with single companies.

* Industry 4.0 is primarily driven from five countries: China, USA, Japan, Korea and Germany.

Asia, and more specifically China, dominate Industry 4.0, particularly across the Robotics and Sensors. Other technologies are more evenly spread across countries of origin.


Applying big data analytics to global patent data enables comparison and analysis of the surge of activity in China over recent years.

Although the US surpassed Japan in terms of patenting output, this has been dwarfed following a surge in patenting activity by Chinese entities since 2008.

* Dramatic surge in Chinese patenting activity dwarfs the rest of the world There are, however, two important things to note with China from an IP point of view. Although they are very innovative, its domination is far from settled.

* With a bias towards domestic patenting, and the 10 largest patenting organisations being state controlled/universities, China’s potential for control in Industry 4.0 is not proven

For this reason, we include Chinese domestic patent filings only in Figure 3. Chinese companies do file outside of China, but to a much lesser extent e.g. Huawei files around half of its patents in China only.

Industry 4.0: what the future holds

In analysing the five largest organisations that own Industry 4.0 patents, it is evident that all companies have different strengths and strategies. While the corporate giants will still have significant influence, their Industry 4.0 patents only make up a small fraction of their total portfolios and there are a vast number of emerging companies and technologies.

Figure 4–Industry 4.0 – Map of Market Top-5 companies with patents
in all technologies (share of patent families and change in share 2011-2016)
Companies are beginning to focus on specific areas in order to secure control and leverage in the new industrial revolution. At the same time there is an increased need for collaboration.

Owing to the nascent state of the industry, it is not yet clear whether it will be corporate collaboration or monopolistic domination that will shape the future. Either way, for Industry 4.0 to succeed, there will need to be a focus on interoperability and collaboration, relying on common standards and platforms - and an abundance of licensing.

History teaches that, in these situations, IP plays a critical role. This includes being vigilant about who owns what. Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning can now help monitor the patent landscape so that this information can be integrated into mainstream decision making.

Cipher IP analytics aggregates and analyses patent related data from multiple public and curated sources. The analysis in this Cipher Report has been produced for the purposes of illustrating the insights that can be generated by Cipher, and should not be relied upon for commercial purposes. 

This report may not be reproduced without the consent of Aistemos. Aistemos, 3rd Floor, 90 Long Acre, London WC2E 9RA | T +44 (0) 20 7420 0222 |

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