At the Nexus of Industry 4.0

Tech companies proliferate as artificial intelligence, cloud computing and automation converge

With world headquarters in Troy, Altair and its workers develop software and cloud solutions in such areas as product development, high-performance computing and data intelligence. Photo courtesy of Altair

Oakland County is the poster child for Industry 4.0.

A moniker for what has come to be known as the fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0 represents the confluence of artificial intelligence, interconnectivity, automation, 3-D printing, cloud computing and other technologies aimed at digitizing the manufacturing sector and overhauling how businesses operate.

Oakland County is home to dozens of tech companies at the vanguard of Industry 4.0. Among them is Troy-based Altair, a global technology company that provides software and cloud solutions in the areas of product development, high-performance computing and data intelligence.

Altair employs approximately 500 people in Oakland County alone and was the first company to introduce the concept of simulation-driven design.

BEYOND AUTOMOTIVE

While the automotive ecosystem in the area is largely driving the growth of technology-focused businesses in the county, it’s far from the only industry riding the wave, according to Thomas Kelly. He’s the executive director and CEO of Automation Alley, an Oakland County-based nonprofit manufacturing and technology business association.

Industry 4.0 represents the confluence of artificial intelligence, interconnectivity, automation, 3-D computing and other technologies.

“Auto has become one of the hottest technological centers,” Kelly says. “It’s creating a lot of talent around high tech that’s spilling into industries like aerospace, defense, health care and agriculture.”

Founded in 1999, Automation Alley has played a role in helping tech companies make strategic decisions during this era of rapid technological change.

“We bill ourselves as Michigan’s Industry 4.0 Knowledge Center,” Kelly says. “Automation Alley helps everyone in Oakland County understand the breadth and depth of change that they are going to contend with over the next decade. We exist to help them navigate the complexity of this change.”

To that end, Automation Alley hosts an annual Integr8 conference in Detroit to bring together international technology and manufacturing professionals and industry leaders to share ideas, exhibit new technologies and network.

“Integr8 is about the integration of all the technologies washing over manufacturing, health care and other industries,” Kelly explains. “Artificial intelligence, 3-D printing, robots, advanced materials — any one of these technologies is disruptive to a business.

The annual Integr8 conference in Detroit brings together international technology and manufacturing professionals and industry leaders. Photo courtesy of Automation Alley

“When you take them all in their totality, it’s an absolute tsunami. Integr8 is about bringing together our members, our industries and our tech community to talk about how to navigate this together.”

Integr8 The Industry 4.0  Conference – https://integr8conference.com/ November 9-10, 2020 at TCF Center, Detroit.

ATTRACTING TOP TALENT

One of the companies capitalizing on the technological tsunami is Aquasight in Troy. Founded in 2015, Aquasight uses artificial intelligence to analyze in real time millions of data points for city water and wastewater systems across the country. The information provides early warnings to cities regarding potential water quality and infrastructure issues and guidance on operating more efficiently.

“Our digital platform is national, which means any city can plug its data into our system and get these benefits,” says Mahesh Lunani, Aquasight’s founder and CEO.

Aquasight in Troy uses artificial intelligence to analyze millions of data points for city water and wastewater systems across the U.S. in real time. iStock photo

Aquasight employs 10 full-time people in Oakland County and approximately 10 additional staff members in other parts of the country. Lunani says the team he has assembled at Aquasight headquarters plays a key role in the company’s growth.

“They’re not switching jobs every two years unlike what happens in other tech-heavy regions,” he says.

For its part, Altair has found no shortage of tech talent to tap as it continues to grow. The quality of life that Oakland County offers has helped Altair attract and retain top talent.

“Oakland County has helped provide a great work-life balance for our local employees,” says Altair founder, chairman and CEO James R. Scapa, “with excellent housing and schools along with easy access to the entire Detroit metropolitan area.”