What exactly is Information 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is the term for firms using automated systems and data within a “Smart Factory” environment to create increasingly customized products where physical goods are accompanied by a virtual component. In the Industry 4.0 context, how can we best assist users and provide them with the precise information they are looking for as accurately and quickly as possible?

Industry 4.0, meet Information 4.0.

The concept – introduced in February 2016 in Portugal at TC Europe – relies upon emerging technology and structured content to enhance the user experience.

What are the characteristics of Information 4.0?

The purpose of Information 4.0 is to convey the requirements of an informational environment in a way that evolves with users’ needs – as defined by the Information 4.0 Consortium – thanks to its main characteristics. These include:

  • Molecular. Small, molecular content replaces large documents. These are small, self-contained units of information that are clear, straightforward and focused on user intent. Molecular content should also be modular to enable their combination and recombination in different ways.
  • Dynamic. Continuously updated according to the needs of the user and the specific context they find themselves within.
  • Offered. Information is delivered to users as an offer, so they can select what piece of information they need, when they need it.
  • Ubiquitous, online, searchable and findable. It must be available everywhere, to anybody, at anytime. A user should not have to seek for the information, it should always be there, available when needed.
  • Profiled automatically. Individually personalized information applying to the specific person using a product at a single point of time.
  • Spontaneous. Information must respond to contextual needs, meaning it is tailored uniquely for individuals who find themselves in a given context.

Molecular Information and DITA

Preliminary research has shown that while DITA topics are too broad to be considered molecular information, portions within those topics often conform to the definition. These portions, however, might not necessarily have all of the characteristics necessary to be considered full information molecules. But DITA is definitely a step in the right direction.

What are the challenges with Information 4.0?

Information 4.0 opens new possibilities for integration information into the design of products— from concept to delivery. However, Information 4.0 also raises challenges and complications:

  1. It requires technical writers to predict what users will need in the future with limited information. This directly ties to the requirement for personalization as users now lack time to browse through lengthy documents. Instead, they are expecting to be presented with contextual, valuable, and up-to-date information. New ways of dynamically tackling “big data” and merging that with information derived from smart sensors in real-time is beginning to respond to this demand. In fact, context sensing is a considerable challenge when we are aiming to do so for millions of users simultaneously, all while eliminating any that may be present in the data, ensuring that information provided to users is truly tailored to who they are.
  2. Another is how to best manage molecular content. This is a call-to-action for component content management system developers (or maybe we should say, molecular content management systems).
  3. Finally, with contexts that are constantly changing and evolving, information needs to be updated constantly, so there is an additional complexity in determining what content should be delivered to the user and when.

The one sure thing is that Information 4.0 is coming, and that it will challenge CCMS developers (MCMS developers?) to offer ingenious features to technical communicators, information architects, and other information specialists to make this level of personalization happen.

This blog was originally presented as an IXIAtalks webinar by Ray Gallon and Sydney Jones. You can find the webinar here.

Learn more about our IXIAtalks webinar series.