Industry 4.0: a future-oriented project

Industry 4.0: a future-oriented project– benefit from the opportunity, avoid risks

The future-oriented project Industry 4.0 targets the fortification and sustainability of the German industry. At the same time the data privacy protection needs to be respected.

Chances and ambitions of the future-oriented project Industry 4.0

The future-oriented project Industry 4.0 targets the fortification and sustainability of the German industry.

Foreign companies especially from the Asian region enhance their competitive position by increasing the productivity and by accelerating the process of innovation while the German industry has to deal with raw material scarcity and the increasing average age of the employees. The industry has to meet these challenges.

The German industry needs viable solutions for the future to that.

The technology of cyber-physical systems (CPS) carries the potential for a solution. These systems are small computers with sensors and actors (drive units; converter). They can be integrated in almost all objects and be connected via Internet. When the physic and digital world mix we talk about the Internet of things. The collected data can serve for the appropriate and customizable use of resources. The machines are able to signal when the maintenance needs to be done and spare parts are necessary. Therefore production delays and loss of production are minimised (predictive maintenance).
Germany’s traditionally very export-orientated mechanical engineering can profit massively from this new and intelligent technology. The main benefit of this technology is the connection of machines and services as a service package.

The data privacy protection is not negligible

This practice requires caution as to the data privacy protection: often the collected data have personal references and are therefore subject to the BDSG in Germany.

Employees for example have to log in into their machines before they start working. This procedure allows to collect data that show which person when, how long and by doing what has operated the machine.

This information enables companies to create complete usage profiles of their employees. If these profiles are suitable for performance monitoring and behaviour control, they need to be checked in advance as prescribed by law by the data protection officer.

The legislator enacted protective laws that need to be respected before implementing the new technology as possible in order to avoid the possible degradation of several employees to machines and expose them to continuous control (privacy by design).

Furthermore, the exchange (transmission, general data comparison) of personal data to recipients outside the company is difficult. Especially the data transfer to non-EU states can be complicated because every transfer requires a legal basis that allows it (e.g. §§ 28, 4b BDSG).
Industrial companies should involve their data protection officers on time as he knows the concerns of the industry and is able to bring them in line with the legal situation and the jurisprudence. Our experienced data protection consultants are happy to support you in the process.