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Industry Overview: Connectivity is Growing, But Remains ‘Fragmented’

A recent report from ABI Research, presented this year at Hannover Messe, shows the major changes in industrial trends through 2018.

A recent report from ABI Research, presented this year at Hannover Messe, shows the major changes in industrial trends through 2018. Here are the key takeaways:

  • The marketplace is still focused on step one of connection—bringing assets online and retrieving data—not the second step, analyzing that data and using it to make decisions.
  • As often happens, automotive technology is moving into the industrial space, acting as a “lighthouse segment” for digital platforms. Technology utilized in automotive is trickling down to tier 1 and 2 providers.
  • 5G and LTE are considered more beneficial than wireless, but 5G is among the many technology solutions which are in beginning stages rather than anywhere near practical use.
  • Customers are torn over whether cloud or edge computing are effective for mission critical data, but it is slowly becoming more trusted and integrated.

Artificial intelligence is still a big part of conversation in industrial applications. Intelligence for most of these companies is defined as machine learning, complex automation, and predictive maintenance, areas in which traditional industrial providers are bumping up against new companies dedicated to the AI space specifically. For example, robot maker ABB is using the reinforcement learning toolsets it has had in development for eight years for machine training and digital twin work. So far, ABB has used it in the field on crane systems but not offered it publically. Meanwhile, augmented reality continues 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.” Primary reasons for this are the difficulty of using robots over wireless connections and the changes required to integrate them into existing workflows.

Security remains a concern for the Internet of Things. Demonstrating another challenge to broad adoption, the report says IoT players presented “a rather confusing and fragmented mix of technologies and approaches,” and that “the critical need for standardization was not addressed sufficiently.” Overall, the field remains in transition, with a disconnect between offerings and practical solutions.

For more detail on connections between industry and supply chain using IoT as well as other elements of the above, the full survey of the show from ABI Research can be found here.

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