A Tablet Computer for Hazardous Environments

A Tablet Computer for Hazardous Environments

When Dell developed an Internet of Things (IoT) group, I began following it. The team developed a gateway compute device, brought together various groups within the company, along with many partners. But the market was evidently not large enough to sustain a group. Eventually IoT was moved into the OEM business and the entire team was either laid off or shuffled over to other groups.

Therefore, I found it refreshing that a large IT company not only could spell Class I, Div 2, but develop a product for hazardous areas within petrochemical (and other) plants.

Dell positions its new rugged tablet as an element of digital transformation (of course), but the Latitude 7220EX Rugged Extreme Tablet has ATEX and IECEx certification for use in potentially explosive environments that will give technicians, operators, and engineers a mobile view into operations.

Dell customers in North America and Canada can expect to see Class 1, div 2 certifications on the existing Dell Latitude 7220 Rugged Extreme tablet in the coming months. With these additional ATEX and IECEx certifications which meet EU and International standards respectively, the Latitude 7220EX Rugged Extreme tablet will make it easier for customers to procure and deploy one platform across various regions.

The Latitude 7220EX Rugged Extreme is an 11.6” fully-rugged tablet featuring the brightest-screen in an ATEX-certified tablet, for use in potentially explosive environments. It includes a 1000-nit screen, which increases direct sunlight viewability, and also offers glove-touch capacity. To balance the security of the device with user accessibility, the Latitude 7220EX Rugged Extreme features a built-in infrared camera with “Windows Hello” facial recognition and an optional next-generation fingerprint reader.

20 Metatrends To Blow Your Minds

20 Metatrends To Blow Your Minds


Everybody it seems likes metatrends, megatrends, any-kind-of-trends, especially at the beginning of a calendar year. I think that many of these are good idea stretchers. Whether or not they serve as accurate predictors does not matter. People are working on many projects and ideas that will yield something in the future.

Peter Diamandis publishes an Abundance newsletter, preaches Abundance thinking, did the X-prize, and many more futuristic stretch-the-mind ideas.

I lifted the following introduction to his latest newsletter “20 Metatrends For the Roaring 20s.” I recommend visiting the website and thinking through these ideas. He is an abundant optimist about technology. I’m afraid that I’ve been around too many MBAs and marketers. So his idea that someday the Alexa’s and Siri’s of the world will be our loyal servants freeing us from advertising influence pushes aside the factor that these technologies are being developed by companies who survive on advertising. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

In the decade ahead, waves of exponential technological advancements are stacking atop one another, eclipsing decades of breakthroughs in scale and impact.

Emerging from these waves are 20 “Metatrends,” likely to revolutionize entire industries (old and new), redefine tomorrow’s generation of businesses and contemporary challenges, and transform our livelihoods from the bottom-up.
Among these metatrends are augmented human longevity, the surging smart economy, AI-human collaboration, urbanized cellular agriculture, and high-bandwidth brain-computer interfaces, just to name a few.

It is here that master entrepreneurs and their teams must see beyond the immediate implications of a given technology, capturing second-order, Google-sized business opportunities on the horizon.

Welcome to a new decade of runaway technological booms, historic watershed moments, and extraordinary abundance.

20 Metatrends To Blow Your Minds

Manufacturing Trends to Watch

Despite use of the word disruptive in a significant number of press releases, I expect few, if any, truly disruptive manufacturing technologies. Things simply take some time from conception to adolescence to maturity. Products I’ve seen that looked disruptive often didn’t make it due to executive incompetence or lack of vision (same thing).

Watching the flow of press releases and conversations from technology developers, here are a few thoughts for the near future.

I expect to see Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) increasingly integrated as part of overall manufacturing process. The process is getting stable and tolerances are becoming tighter. More than just for manufacturing obsolete parts for service, it will become simply another tool in the discrete manufacturing process.

One non-technology trend that is happening now and I expect it to become nearly ubiquitous except maybe in the “laggard” companies concerns management making a concerted effort to break down department silos and foster teams–not a technology thing but a people thing. Looking at technology for the infamous IT/OT convergence is like looking for a vegetarian in a pork processing factory.

Everyone talks around Artificial Intelligence (AI) as if either the utopian or dystopian future is at hand. Yet when I analyze the opinions, real knowledge of AI is scarce. I expect ever increased integration of Machine Learning and Neural Net technology into automation and operations workflow. We most likely won’t even realize it. Just as my generation brought PCs into businesses and manufacturing first almost as a gimmick and then a generally used tool, Alexa or Siri for manufacturing workflow will just be there.

Improved data analysis leading to improved interactive visualization including AR. I put a lot in this sentence. For a reason. I think data collection, analysis, and visualization are tied together. Why collect data if we don’t run it through some analysis filters and then use it? How do we prepare data for utility unless we continually develop useable visualization? And Augmented Reality might become part of that visualization solution. The jury is still out there.

The entry of major IT players deeply into manufacturing at the OT as well as IT area brings with it more power and connectivity in edge devices. This circumventing of the Purdue Model will continue unabated. We see the major automation players realizing that the automation and control systems are not the ideal gateway for all (just some) process data to enterprise decision-making systems and either partnering or developing for the edge.

It goes without saying that cyber security is becoming more core to engineering at the manufacturing OT level. A press release just came through announcing Rockwell Automation is acquiring an Israeli security company. Expect to see more of that.

One more thing concerns the way software and service are now being bought and sold. And also hardware in many respects. For software, the trend, perhaps begun by Inductive Automation some 16 years ago (note: it is a sponsor), to not buying seat licenses but of buying usage or software-as-a-service is spreading—finally. A stable cloud helps. The experience of Salesforce propelled the idea. This year Hewlett Packard Enterprise put far more than its toe in the water.

I enjoy interviews, but seldom just take random comments through PR people, but a timely email regarding ideas from Gary Brooks, CMO at Syncron that a combination of technology and flexible consumption plans are propelling Product-as-a-Service fits this mold. I first heard of this idea seriously somewhere around 1998. Customers now expect it.

Last, but maybe first, is the pursuit of sustainable products and processes. I wrote several articles and commissioned others about this way back when I was at Automation World. Recently I heard iPod, iPhone, Nest developer Tony Fadell (@tfadell) on the Tim Ferriss (@tferriss) podcast. It was a great interview worth listening to in its entirety. But his passion was really aroused when he talked about his research into sustainable packaging—eliminating plastics.

Brooks also mentioned sustainability.

This is an area I have shirked for a while. Perhaps I’ll start up a newsletter or something (great if I could get a sponsor) to further this discussion from our point of view. With so many billions of humans in the world, our impact on the environment is cumulative and wreaking havoc.

What should I be adding?

20 Metatrends To Blow Your Minds

A Decade of Digitalization

I give up. To me, the end of the decade is next year figuring there was not a year 0, then the beginning of the new calendar was year 1 and the end of the first decade was year 10. Oh, well, mainstream media just can’t wait to jump into wrap-up frenzy. So, me, too.

The last 10 years in industrial technology was busy with new buzz words—heavier on marketing than on substance in many ways. We breezed through Industrie 4.0 with its cyber-physical systems. Then we had Internet of Things borrowed from the consumer, largely iPhone, space. But borrowing from GE advertising of the “Industrial Internet”, the “Industrial Internet of Things” became originally the European counterpoint to Germany’s Industry 4.0 and then grew into general adoption.

Not finished with all this buzz, the industry discovered “digital”. We had digital twin (derived from cyber-physical systems). But these had to be connected with the digital thread. And all led into a digital transformation.

Let’s take a look at some specific topics.


Much of the foundation was laid in the decade before. Maybe I should say decades. The industry started digitizing in the 1980s. It’s been building ever since. Through the first decade of this millennium great strides were made in control technology, usability, sensors (both sensitivity and communication), networks moving from analog to digital and through field buses to Ethernet.

In this decade, most companies grew by acquisition of smaller, innovative companies and start-ups. The remaining automation giants pieced together strategies based on visions of which companies to acquire and what customer solutions were required. Looking ahead, I’m considering what additional consolidation to anticipate. I think there will be more as the market does not seem to be growing dramatically.

Most innovation came in the realm of data. Decreasing costs of memory, networking stacks, and other silicon enabled leaps in ability to accumulate and communicate data. Borrowing software advances from IT, historians and relational databases grew more powerful along with new types of data handling and analysis coming from the “big data” and powerful analytics technologies.

Another IT innovation that finally hit industrial companies was adoption of “cloud” with the eventual development of edge. Instead of the Purdue Enterprise Reference Model of the control/automation equipment being the gateway of all data from the processes, companies began to go sensor to cloud, so to speak, breaking down the rigidity of PERA thinking.

Digital Everything

It is now old news that digital is everywhere. And, it is not a sudden development. It has been building for 30 years. Like all technology, it builds over time until it’s suddenly everywhere. The question is no longer what is becoming digital, nor is it speculating over marketing terms like digital transformation.

The question about digital everything is precisely how are we to use it to make things better for humans and society.

Sensors—At least by 2003, if not before, I was writing about the converging trends in silicon of smaller and less expensive networking, sensing, processing, and memory chips and stacks that would enable an explosion of ubiquitous sensing. It’s not only here; it is everywhere. Not only in manufacturing, but also in our homes and our palms.

Design—CAD, CAM, PLM have all progressed in power and usability. Most especially have been the development of data protocols that allow the digital data output of these applications to flow into operations and maintenance applications. Getting as-built and as-designed to align improves maintenance and reliability along with uptime and productivity. And not only in a single plant, but in an extended supply chain.

Networking—The emergence of fast, reliable, and standardized networking is the backbone of the new digital enterprise. It is here and proven.

Software—Emergence of more powerful databases, including even extension of historians, along with data conversion protocols and analysis tools provides information presented in an easily digestible form so that better decisions may be made throughout the extended enterprise.


Industry press have talked about IT/OT convergence until we are all sick of the phrase. Add to that stories of in-fighting between the organizations, and you have the making of good stories—but not of reality or providing a path to what works. As Operations Technology (OT) has become increasingly digital, it inevitably overlaps the Information Technology (IT) domain. Companies with good management have long since taken strides to foster better working relationships breaking the silos. Usually a simple step such as moving the respective manager’s offices close to each other to foster communication helps.

New Entrants

Speaking of IT and OT, the modification of the Purdue Enterprise Reference Modal to show data flowing from the plant/sensor level directly to the “cloud” for enterprise IT use has enticed new entrants into manufacturing technology.

If we are not forced to go through the control system to provide data for MES, MOM, ERP, CRS, and the like, then perhaps the IT companies such as Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Hitachi Vantara can develop their compute platforms, partnerships, and software to provide that gateway between plant floor and enterprise without disturbing the control platform.

Therefore we are witnessing proliferating partnerships among IT and OT automation suppliers in order to provide complete solutions to customers.


Remember—it is all meaningless unless it gets translated into intelligent action to make the manufacturing supply chain more productive with better quality and more humane.

Top Ten Manufacturing Podcast

Top Ten Manufacturing Podcast

An email came my way last week notifying me that my podcast, Gary on Manufacturing, had won–no not the Publishers Clearing House millions–a spot in the Top 15 Podcasts in manufacturing. I guess I’ll take an honor anywhere I can find one. And “not look a gift horse in the mouth.” To be honest, I don’t know the criteria or the organization. But I’m happy to be recognized. And realize that now I’ll need to increase my production. Thanks for reading–and listening.

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