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[Blog] FPGAs: The Key to Agile and Secure Industry 4.0 Advancements

FPGAs: The Key to Agile and Secure Industry 4.0 Advancements
Posted 04/18/2024 by Lattice Semiconductor

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The global Industry 4.0 market is estimated to exceed USD $279 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 16.3%. While this meteoric rise is no surprise to developers and manufacturers, its impact is only just beginning to unfold. By combining the capabilities of cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI), Industry 4.0 will continue to increase digitalization, automation, and connected computing within manufacturing in the years to come — driving more enterprises to embrace this fourth industrial revolution.

As Industry 4.0 accelerates, standards and processes will shift as many industrial systems require advanced computing engines and multiple types of modern connectivity standards, including industrial Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and 5G. In addition, there’s been an increased focus on more advanced software tools and applications for things like predictive maintenance, functional safety, robotic automation, and much more.

In turn, manufacturers need advanced technology that can drive connectivity, efficiently process data, and optimize systems and services, all while maintaining resilient security. Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are quickly becoming the tool of choice for developers to meet these demands and keep pace with the Industry 4.0 revolution thanks to their inherent programmability, fast performance, low power, and security features.

A Look into Industry Standards

Due to the growth of Industry 4.0, some standards – like OPC Unified Architecture (OPC-UA) and Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) – are merging to help aggregate and scale the plethora of new data generated every day. As a machine-to-machine communication protocol, OPC-UA provides a secure, platform-independent, service-oriented architecture. When combined with the outstanding real-time capabilities of TSN, OPC-UA is a key framework that provides manufacturers with continuous insight and data flow without disrupting operations or security.

As a result of these merging standards, developers need highly specialized technology that can implement OPC-UA and TSN frameworks and enable manufacturers to align and evolve with the intricacies of new regulations. To meet these needs, Lattice provides application-specific FPGA solutions like the Lattice Automate™ solution stack, which supports OPC-UA and TSN, equipping customers with new factory automation and industrial machine vision capabilities. Lattice also has a deep commitment to OPC-UA migration, joining the OPC Foundation in March 2022 and offering a module course on OPC-UA through Lattice Insights, our official training portal designed to help system and application designers maximize their FPGA experience.

Advancing Industry 4.0 Applications with FPGAs

In addition to empowering manufacturers to navigate evolving regulations and standards, FPGAs also enable low power, reliable, and secure development of Industrial applications like robotics, embedded real time networking, predictive maintenance, functional safety, and system security.


The adoption of Industry 4.0 applications for powering intelligent robots is leading to increased factory and warehouse autonomy. As factories integrate these autonomous robots, there are hundreds of sensors, cameras, and motors producing massive amounts of data, driving the need for inference and intelligence. FPGAs have parallel processing capabilities that help aggregate sensor and camera data and quickly analyze high volumes of information. Whereas CPUs can only process one batch of data at a time, FPGAs can consolidate and process multiple functions simultaneously.

Parallel processing also allows FPGAs to monitor multiple communications busses at the same time, empowering developers to work across various connection types and bring more data into the pipeline quickly and securely. For example, in automotive manufacturing, FPGAs can combine or multiplex the signals from multiple high resolution cameras near where the cameras are located, and then have those signals separated again when they arrive at the system on a chip (SoC).

Embedded Real Time Networking

With more connected devices than ever before, embedded real-time networking ensures that machines, sensors, and cameras can communicate and exchange data in real-time. In Industry 4.0, this means seamless communication and data exchange for monitoring, control, and optimization of manufacturing processes.

FPGAs are critical for enabling real-time networking as they can perform signal processing and analytics with low latency and in a deterministic manner. For real-time-based applications in manufacturing, this low latency and determinism is essential to the always-on performance and operations of a factory floor.

Predictive Maintenance

As Industry 4.0 expands, predictive maintenance is evolving through the integration of IoT devices, cloud computing, and advanced analytics. Using data analytics, sensors, and machine learning, predictive maintenance allows for real-time monitoring of equipment health, enhanced predictive accuracy, and optimization of maintenance schedules, leading to improved operational efficiency, minimized downtime, and cost savings.

FPGAs are vital to empowering predictive maintenance as they provide fast performance while consuming a fraction of the power. Their high performance functionalities allow for rapid real-time detection of anomalies and deviations from normal operating conditions, reducing the risk of equipment failure. Simultaneously, their energy-efficient design enables continuous monitoring without significant power consumption, ensuring timely maintenance actions based on real-time insights while minimizing operational costs.

Functional Safety

As systems within Industry 4.0 become more interconnected and autonomous, functional safety (FuSa) ensures systems or pieces of equipment are operating safely and correctly in response to inputs or failure. FPGAs have emerged as a useful tool in enabling FuSa, particularly for their customizable and reprogrammable capabilities. FPGAs can help implement safety-critical functions, such as monitoring, control, and diagnostics directly within industrial systems.

Certified to the latest safety design methodologies, Lattice’s software design tools pair with our FPGAs to provide designers flexibility to implement and develop functional safety into their safety-critical applications.

System Security

Increased connectivity introduces the potential for new security threats within manufacturing. In fact, manufacturing is experiencing more cyberattacks, particularly in the cloud, than any other industry. FPGAs incorporate “crypto agile” capabilities in real-time Hardware Root of Trust (HRoT) products to deliver enhanced protection of server platforms and other connected device applications to protect an organization’s total attack surface from the time they power up to the time they power down.

Additionally, FPGAs with HRoT capabilities have a dedicated cryptographic and asymmetric engine to protect code from being erased, read, or rewritten – utilizing digital signatures to ensure the code being used is the right code. They also establish unique device identities that are verified prior to allowing data exchanges, ensuring that a system’s core functions and critical components are protected at all times.

Empowering an Industry 4.0 Future

As Industry 4.0 continues to gain momentum, the demand for advanced computing and connectivity solutions will only grow. FPGAs are emerging as a key tool to empower and enable critical applications of Industry 4.0 due to their unique capabilities – including flexibility and customization, parallel processing, fast performance and low power, and HRoT infrastructure. FPGAs enable manufacturers to optimize industrial operations, empower connectivity, and adapt to the changing landscape swiftly and securely.

To learn more about how Lattice FPGAs and solution stacks can help you accelerate industrial automation and applications development, reach out to speak with our team.