Kontron believe 2018 will bring change and progress to the IoT, Industry 4.0 and Embedded Computer sectors. Hannes Niederhauser (pictured), CEO Kontron S&T AG, here gives us an industry forecast, on what we can look out for this year.
Based on standards such as OPC UA and TSN, Embedded Computing as part of IoT will make further inroads into manufacturing
Driven by the advance of processor technology, we expect higher processing power and faster interfaces at lower power consumption again next year. This will enable even more powerful embedded systems. The 'embedded server' matures from vision to product. This in turn enables Edge Computing, being the on-premise intelligence at the shop floor level as part of the Cloud, creating new real-time scenarios for machine control. Concerning this ‘intelligence’, it is vital to have the corresponding, supported software ecosystem delivered as part of the solution. Standards such as OPC UA and Time Sensitive Networking 802.1 TSN will play a central role. Kontron in cooperation with S&T will be able to focus on software and services much stronger than before.
Growth engine IoT
Market analysts rank the Internet of Things as a major growth engine in manufacturing. An October 2017 report by Research und Markets estimates the annual growth of the Embedded Systems market at over 4 percent and a total volume of over 100 billion US-dollars by 2023. Another seven percent annual growth in the Edge Computing market between 2017 and 2022 can be added to that. Volume will rise from $8bn in 2017 to over $13bn by the end of 2022.
In an EETimes survey among 1,200 respondents predominantly from the US, Europe and Asia, half ranked the importance of IoT projects as ‘critical’ or ‘important’ for their corporate success.
We can confirm these forecasts, as more powerful generations of embedded computers combined with corresponding embedded software will bring us closer yet to production- and manufacturing processes. Here, the so-called Edge-/Fog computing will form the interface between OT and IT.
Time Sensitive Networking as the Embedded Computing backbone, software to become a priority in Embedded Computing
IT and OT closing ranks determines further trends, too, such as the extension or replacement of proprietary fieldbus systems by convergent, IP-based, deterministic, time-synchronised networks with low latency: Time Sensitive Networking.
As a rule, the trend towards smaller, faster and more robust embedded computers will of course continue. As a consequence, it is now possible to bring ‘intelligence’ to the manufacturing line by creating a so-called Embedded Cloud using powerful Embedded Servers to control production in real-time close to the machine. Supplying the necessary software is of course vital to this end.
Multi-touch screens as HMI will further enter factories
Driven by the consumer sector, multi-touch screens will be added to manufacturing lines and in machine control in XXL formats. Technologies such as our WideLink, which transmits screen content and touch gestures via Ethernet between machine and console over large distances free of interference and practically without lag, will further drive this trend. Industry 4.0 also means providing individually tailored instructions and information for the workers at the machines. The increased variety of information necessitates bigger displays.
The digitisation of processes continued unabated, creating new opportunities
‘Digitisation’ is the watchword. This is associated with the digitised transformation of processes. It's no longer just about digitising existing processes, but about considering how digital technology can truly improve processes to remain competitive. Competitiveness today includes much more than just making the most economical offer. Companies are looking not only to reduce time-to-market, but, for instance, need to produce customised small series efficiently and profitably, offer complementary services, or scale functionality of standard products depending on needs of their customers.
Enter the secure Cloud together with partners
In the S&T and Kontron company group, it strives to offer customers comprehensive, secure, and scalable Cloud solutions. That is why the company claims, it employs the technology of leading Cloud providers such as Microsoft to securely make our offerings available to Kontron customers in the Azure Cloud. The bulk of industrial computers and workstations is 'Microsoft Azure Certified' already, others will follow. These Cloud solutions encompass a large IoT applications and services portfolio already, which are tailored and managed according to customers' needs by courtesy of extensive know-how in areas such as device management, monitoring, and provisioning.
Many customers are already technically prepared to generate large amount of data. Kontron support them in sensibly storing and using this data. This leads to new insights that in turn have a positive impact on their business: either by designing more efficient processes or by generating new business models.
Future technology such as machine learning or artificial intelligence will also tend to come from the Cloud. Current developments prove, however, that companies must be flexible, which means scaling from On Premise to Public Cloud. This is necessary for computing results in real-time on site, controlling machines, virtualising processes, or locally storing confidential, business-critical data.
Globalisation based on software and services
Concerning markets, can be seen as potential in China, which will be serviced with partner Foxconn, as well as the US. Kontron's position as a technical pioneer will help conquer these markets. Kontron together with S&T continues to evolve from a hardware manufacturer to a leading enabler of IoT and Industry 4.0.
The companies are aided in this not only by hardware, but by software- and consultancy spectrum. A large number of software bundles and services offer added value to customers when using Kontron platforms.
Niederhauser said: “I view Kontron as being ideally positioned for leading the way in the digitalisation and transformation towards IoT and Industry 4.0 of companies in all sectors. With the Kontron hardware know-how, the software and consultancy skills of S&T and partners such as Foxconn and large Cloud providers, nothing stands in the way of future success.”