The Reference Architecture to IR4.0

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While we will be talking about the business applications related to upgrading your business into IR4.0, we will also talk about the technology and a reference architecture, which you can use to upgrade your business to IR4.0.

What happens if your hand touches something very cold or very hot? The hand senses the high or low temperature, and through nerve impulses, it sends this information to the brain. Using its intelligence power, the brain decides that it is harmful to touch this object and sends this information back to the hands, which causes you to remove your hand from the object to avoid harming yourself. The reference architecture for a digital upgrade to IR4.0 uses the same concept as the human body architecture, an architecture that can be used across industries to generate various solutions.

The reference architecture is built up of four main layers.

Intelligent interaction

Is the first layer; in the human body analogy, it includes any input from parts like the hands, legs, nose, ears, skin, and eyes — basically the five senses.

Intelligent interactions are about connecting all the devices we have. This could be related to flow, pressure, temperature meters in an oil field, robotics in a factory, the car you are driving, home appliances, phones, computers, cameras, or any other device. These devices are required to sense, collect data and receive intelligence.

Intelligent connectivity

Is the second layer; it is like the body torso in our analogy, transmitting the collected data from the intelligent interactions and relaying the intelligence to intelligent interactions. This could be 5G, Wi-Fi, or any other communication technology.

Intelligent hub

Is the third layer; the brain of the human body in our analogy. This is mainly the cloud, including all its different components.

Intelligent applications

Are the fourth layer; these are the different industrial applications we harvest from the under- lying technology. This applies to industries such as energy, network, transportation, cities, finance, manufacturing, and others.

When we implement the reference architecture for the IR4.0 intelligence upgrade, we will be able to re-imagine our customer experience, optimize our business process and enable innovation. We will have an entire chapter explaining the reference architecture in further detail.


The digital business upgrade is a business’s responsibility; it must be sponsored by the CEO, co-owned by the business, ICT, and the industry ecosystem.

As executives, we need to understand the value IR4.0 brings to our business. We need to consider how we can harvest the opportunity to help us lead, innovate, create new markets and opportunities to develop our talent, increase efficiency, compete and win. We also need to understand what a digital upgrade is, the building blocks, the process and steps to follow, and how it looks for different industries to be intelligent and ahead of the curve. This is what we will explain in the coming chapters through some case studies.

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