Knud Lasse Lueth, founder and leader of the firm IOT Analytics in Germany, wrote a comprehensive report on trends picked up at the SPS fair in Nuremberg in November. Note: I have an affiliation with the analyst firm as an advisor. I recommend visiting the web site to check out the full report.

Smart Production Solutions (or SPS), one of the leading industrial automation fairs, was back in action earlier this month. The event that took place from 8 November –10 November 2022 in Nürnberg, Germany, showcased once again the latest industrial automation developments. Despite a smaller crowd (44,000 visitors—roughly 30% less than pre-pandemic), the fairgrounds were buzzing and filled with senior executives from many leading industrial automation companies, software providers, and related companies. The conference remains a key show for industrial automation hardware and (increasingly) software. It is perhaps the most important fair for some European (especially German) industrial automation companies, such as Siemens, Beckhoff, or Phoenix Contact.

IoT Analytics had a team of three analysts on the ground. They visited approximately 75 booths and conducted over 50 individual interviews to get a handle on the latest industrial automation trends with a special focus on IT/OT convergence. 

The main reason we are seeing interest and movement toward the convergence of IT and OT in the manufacturing space is because of IT technologies’ promise to significantly improve manufacturing. The market dynamics of an increasingly competitive world have “forced” OT, a traditionally less hi-tech sector, to consider these IT technologies. As a first step, IT/OT convergence can happen by creating the necessary (secure) interfaces between IT and OT systems.

10 IT/OT convergence trends visible at SPS 2022

1. IT-based containerization technology at the edge

2. Integration of IT and OT tools

3. Cloud-native (IT) tools for improved manufacturing operations

4. IT programming tools and languages for controllers

5. Virtual PLCs—containerized controllers

6. Digital twins to virtualize physical assets

7. Low-code tools

8. MQTT protocol connecting OT and IT

9. IT cybersecurity models for OT

10. IT approach for industrial software quality control

On another note: The team would like to give a shoutout to Schneider Electric for being one of the few companies at the fair that embraced sustainability by leading with a carbon-neutral booth completely made from recyclable materials (such as walls made of reusable wooden pallets).

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