A recent report from ABI Research, presented this year at Hannover Messe, indicates the biggest changes in industrial trends through 2018. Here are the key takeaways:
• The marketplace is nonetheless focused on step one of connection — bringing assets online and retrieving data — not the second step, studying that data and making use of it to make decisions.
• As often happens, automotive technology is moving into the industrial space, becoming a “lighthouse segment” for digital platforms. Technology utilized in automotive is trickling down to tier 1 and 2 providers.
• 5G and LTE are believed to be more advantageous than wireless, but 5G is among the many technology solutions which are in starting stages and not anywhere near practical use.
• consumers are torn over whether cloud or edge computing are good for mission critical data, but it is steadily becoming more trusted and integrated.
Artificial intelligence remains a big part of conversation in industrial applications. Intelligence for most of these companies is considered machine learning, complex automation, and predictive maintenance, areas whereby traditional industrial providers are bumping up towards new companies committed to the AI space specifically. For instance, robot maker ABB is using the reinforcement learning toolsets it has had in development for eight years for machine training and digital twin work. Up to now, ABB has used it in the field on crane systems but not offered it publically. In the meantime, augmented reality remains to be a better talking point than it is a practical part of industrial applications, with more offerings than applied, practical use cases.
Autonomous material handling and autonomous robots are also part of the conversation, but ABI finds that “there was very little evidence this has been integrated into the actual workspace.” key reasons for this are the difficulty of using robots over wireless connections and the alterations required to integrate them into existing workflows.
Security continues to be a concern for the Internet of Things. Demonstrating another challenge to broad adoption, the report says IoT players presented “a relatively confusing and fragmented mix of technologies and approaches,” which “the critical need for standardization was not addressed sufficiently.” in general, the field remains in transition, with a disconnect between offerings and practical solutions.