It is time to begin planning your trip to perhaps the only automation industry general gathering. Here is a teaser from ARC about its upcoming event.
Presenting the 21st Annual ARC Industry Forum Industry in Transition: Realizing the Digital Enterprise February 6-9, 2017 – Orlando, Florida. How will disruptive technologies change existing products and plants? How will open source solutions impact traditional software and automation domains? Is cybersecurity a threat to digitalization and, if so, how can the risk be mitigated? How ‘smart’ are smart machines, and what benefit will these bring? How do Big Data and predictive and prescriptive analytics enable operational change? How do connected products create opportunities in aftermarket services? What software capabilities are needed to achieve transformational change? Which industries are already changing? What steps can organizations take to foster innovative thinking? Join us at the 21st annual ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, Florida to learn more about how the digital enterprise will be realized and the benefits that this can bring. Discover what your peers are doing today and what steps they are taking in their respective journeys.
I plan to attend for the 20th time. The only industry people not there are competitive analysts. There are representatives from most suppliers, foundations and associations, as well as from forward thinking end users. Most of the industry trade media will also be present. Suppliers began setting up press conferences several years ago. For a while it was quite a marathon where we would see a new presentation every half-hour for more than five hours! Then it was time for snacks and wine.
The sessions are usually interesting. ARC strives to have mostly users talking to users discouraging vendor sales pitches. One problem with that is that the vendors are the technology developers. If they would let their technology people speak, then that would really round things off. But marketing people being marketing people, they just can’t let an opportunity to be in front of prospects and customers go by without a pretty blatant sales pitch. So, ARC cuts that off in order to attract good discussions and quality attendees.
Start setting up appointments soon! Hope to see you there. Maybe we could organize a meet up.
On Tuesday April 26 of the Hannover Fair, Dell and Intel gathered thought leaders from about ten partners into a “Think Tank.” We met in a conference room in the middle of the FairGrounds and discussed the Internet of Things for a solid two hours. It was my privilege to moderate the session.
Present IoT situation is robust
Was IoT relevant to each company or organization represented? As each person introduced himself and his company, it was clear that every company was deep into understanding what IoT meant for their business and for their customers. Or, as I stated, “I guess we can’t generate any debate on whether IoT is relevant, so we can move on to considering why anyone cares about IoT in manufacturing business.”
You can tell by some of the pictures that even though most of us were wearing conservative dark jackets each was passionate about the impact of IoT in our business. As we discussed the business drivers, we began with how connectivity enables this entire area. New database technologies were discussed.
The consensus of opinions focused on how IoT is a disruptive element in today’s manufacturing climate. Several noted that we can now build new models of doing business. The people in the room were each in their own domain working on models that disrupt what they’ve been doing and pointing toward new benefits for customers.
Organizational IT Challenges remain
But all is not sanguine in IoT land. Customers are confused about what the Internet of Things is. There are so many names and it comes in so many flavors that customers are beyond trying to figure it out on their own. Members of the panel agreed that it is incumbent upon them and their companies to be able to articulate the Internet of Things clearly and coherently to the market.
The problem of bringing the IT group and the OT group together into some form of meaningful collaboration, and even respect, has been discussed for probably 20 years. Yet, this predominantly European group identified IT/OT convergence and the need for collaboration as a key challenge facing IoT implementation. This group of technology suppliers and integrators acknowledged that in many of their customer’s sites, their meetings often are the first that bring the two groups together in the same room discussing a common problem. More of the same is needed.
Customers and suppliers face the challenge of identifying opportunities where IoT will be a benefit to operations and business. This will require collaboration among many partners and groups.
The challenge “elephant in the room” was security. The topic was brought up gingerly, and no solutions were proposed other than security measures already in place. In other words, we probably need to continue to work on this topic.
Not unlike implementing other manufacturing IT projects, panelists noted the need for customers to rationalize their operations and understand architectures before beginning a comprehensive IoT strategy.
IoT in the future
What about the future of IoT and manufacturing? Some threw out ideas such as wearables and augmented reality (AR). I’ve been enchanted with the Silicon Valley use of bots—from Siri and Cortana to notifications. Panelists jumped all over the idea of bots. This technology is seen as the hot thing for the near-term future.
Dr. Valentijn De Leeuw, Vice President and analyst at the ARC Advisory Group, brought up an initiative in the European Union—Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation.
“The Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI) was initiated by the European Commission in order to develop and support the dialogue and interaction among the Internet of Things (IoT) various players in Europe. The overall goal of the AlOTI is the creation of a dynamic European IoT ecosystem to unleash the potentials of the IoT. This ecosystem is going to build on the work of the IoT Research Cluster (IERC) and spill over innovation across industries and business sectors of IoT transforming ideas into solutions and business models. The Alliance will also assist the European Commission in the preparation of future IoT research as well as innovation and standardisation policies.”
The US government, by the way, under the Obama administration has begun a few organizations working on digital manufacturing and smart manufacturing. I haven’t seen an equivalent of this one. Please point one to me if you know it.
Dell / Partner Ecosystem
Dell holds these think tanks in a number of areas to foster networking and collaboration among its various partners. I’m sure some companies do something similar behind closed doors. Dell records theirs for public consumption, also.
From the Dell point of view one of the main take aways identified was the need to collaborate across a partner ecosystem of vendors and service providers to address customers’ appetite for more efficient and higher quality solutions. Customer centricity and customization of solutions was another point that received general agreement. The group also identified data utilization, edge analytics, standardization and workforce changes as opportunities for collaboration within the full ecosystem of IoT solutions partners.
The future is already here. As this market continues to evolve, staying on top of collaboration opportunities for advancements in IIoT, smart manufacturing and industry 4.0 and collaboration is key. The group agreed that better analytics will provide greater visibility to new revenue streams.
One last comment of mine regarding edge analytics. There was often an unstated assumption about the value Dell brings to the table with its IoT solutions. Not only is the IoT Gateway an adaptation of its PC technology, but Dell also brings such extras as embedded analytics and applications not to mention bringing to larger partners its global service and support network.
Participants include representatives from: · Azeti · Dell · Intel · Knapp · Kepware Microsoft · MPDV Mikrolab · OSIsoft · Relayr · SAP · The Manufacturing Connection, Gary Mintchell (MODERATOR)
Several of the participants recorded interviews. I’ve linked to several here.
Here are summaries:
Ole Borgbjerg, Kepware, “IT and OT have different roles and agendas, get inside that and talk to both, we are getting more IT experience, we are company working on factory floor, but need to take benefit of devices on the edge. It will take some time to take off. curious but holding back but will take off.”
Oliver Niedung, Microsoft, “We operate in all areas of the integration, hybrid solutions, devices/software, cloud subsystems. Dell is a valued partner.”
Joseph Brunner, Relayr, “There exists a skills gap. We need to make abusiness case (save money or make money). We need hardware providers to unleash data, middleware company like us to mix and send up to business. It’s an infrastructure sale, and a strategic decision changing the way companies do business.”
Tim Kaufman, SAP, “Importance is in getting end-to-end data. There are configuration issues, we need more plug-and-play. Potential exists in the horizontal supply chain including track and trace.”
Dirk Sommerfeld, Azeti, “Need to bring many different companies together for project. We found out that many companies are working on IoT from many different directions.”
The undercurrent talk of the ARC Advisory Group Industry Forum this week in Orlando was how ARC’s Andy Chatha promoted the ExxonMobil/Lockheed Martin initiative to develop a new type of distributed control system.
I have to dash this initial thought off since I have about 20 minutes to get to my plane home. My week has been non-stop meetings from 7 am until at least 11 pm all week. This morning was a bit of a breather. Lots of stuff going on.
However, the ExxonMobil initiative provoked much discussion, rumors, speculation, whatever.
Part of the problem is that the program has just been announced and therefore is not defined.
The basic problem seems to be that Exxon is operating with very old DCS technology and has a great need to upgrade. But “ripping and replacing” would be very expensive. From conversations that I can report without naming names, I gather that they are looking for a software-defined distributed control residing above the current hardware control layer. The further wish is that the hardware layer would include parts interchangeable from supplier to supplier.
It hopes that this would be an industry-wide consortium that would drive standards for the software and the hardware. It has requested cooperation from technology suppliers as well as its peers in the oil & gas industry.
There are pieces of this that look very interesting. And, of course pieces that stand probably the proverbial snowball’s chance.
“Software defined” is of course developing in several industries (think Ethernet switches?).
My experience is that this sort of industry-wide standards development takes so much time that the technology it envisions is obsolete.
I’ll have more later after giving the idea more thought.
Meanwhile, I have announcements from Inductive Automation, Honeywell, Bentley Systems, Yokogawa, ABB, Bedrock Automation, and more coming tomorrow when I get a chance to think and write.
Let’s take a look at a product development process today. My pool of things to write about has shrunk recently. I’m stretching out a little.
I will be at the ARC Forum next week. If any of you are going, look me up. Or stop me in the hallway to chat.
Have you ever participated in one of the crowd-sourcing investment projects? I invested in a Kickstarter project one time. Got the product eventually. Don’t use it now. But that’s OK. Have you ever thought about funding a new project through Kickstarter or something? These companies are proliferating.
A notice recently came through about a service for people crowdfunding. Krowdster is a big data powered web app for crowdfunding campaign optimization and promotion. It recently announced the addition of two new features to make it easier for crowdfunders to find targeted influencers and trending content in their industries.
In the past, crowdfunders may have hired expensive marketing or PR firms to do the job for them, but thanks to technology and big data, there are now tools that do the heavy lifting for you and make information accessible that has previously been impossible to access.
Influencer Search is a keyword search to discover influencers, journalists and bloggers in any niche, who have a following and who can help to get exposure for your crowdfunding campaign.
Trending Content is an easy way to discover blogs and news sites with trending content in any crowdfunding niche. Input search terms relevant to your campaign and discover content that is going viral on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google. This information can be used to build targeted media lists of the blogs and news sites that are writing about similar topics.
Both of the new tools work for all donations or rewards crowdfunding campaigns as well as the newly approved equity crowdfunding types “Regulation A+” and “Title III” of the JOBS Act.
Optimize & promote crowdfunding product development
- Find Backers and Super Backers on Kickstarter and Indiegogo
- Build a highly targeted and engaged following on Twitter
- Get a professional Press Release written and distributed
- Reach influencers, journalists, and bloggers in your niche
- Discover viral content in your niche
- Optimize your campaign page setup
Apps are so last year. Now the topic of the future appears to be bots and conversational interfaces (Siri, etc.). Many automation and control suppliers have added apps for smart phones. I have a bunch loaded on my iPhone. How many do you have? Do you use them? What if there were another interface?
I’ve run across two articles lately that deal with a coming new interface. Check them out and let me know what you think about these in the context of the next HMI/automation/control/MES generations.
Sam Lessin wrote a good overview at The Information (that is a subscription Website, but as a subscriber I can unlock some articles) “On Bots, Conversational Apps, and Fin.”
Lessin looks at the history of personal computing from shrink wrapped applications to the Web to apps to bots. Another way to look at it is client side to server side to client side and now back to server side. Server side is easier for developers and removes some power from vertical companies.
Lessen also notes a certain “app fatigue” where we have loaded up on apps on our phones only to discover we use only a fraction of them.
I spotted this on Medium–a new “blogging” platform for non-serious bloggers.
It was written by Ryan Block–former editor-in-chief of Engadget, founder of gdgt (both of which sold to AOL), and now a serial entrepreneur.
He looks at human/computer interfaces, “People who’ve been around technology a while have a tendency to think of human-computer interfaces as phases in some kind of a Jobsian linear evolution, starting with encoded punch cards, evolving into command lines, then graphical interfaces, and eventually touch.”
Continuing, “Well, the first step is to stop thinking of human computer interaction as a linear progression. A better metaphor might be to think of interfaces as existing on a scale, ranging from visible to invisible.”
Examples of visible interfaces would include the punchcard, many command line interfaces, and quite a bit of very useful, but ultimately shoddy, pieces of software.
Completely invisible interfaces, on the other hand, would be characterized by frictionless, low cognitive load usage with little to no (apparent) training necessary. Invisibility doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t physically see the interface (although some invisible interfaces may actually be invisible); instead, think of it as a measure of how fast and how much you can forget that the tool is there at all, even while you’re using it.
Examples of interfaces that approach invisibility include many forms of messaging, the Amazon Echo, the proximity-sensing / auto-locking doors on the Tesla Model S, and especially the ship computer in Star Trek (the voice interface, that is — not the LCARS GUI, which highly visible interface. Ahem!).
Conversation-driven product design is still nascent, but messaging-driven products are still represent massive growth and opportunity, expected to grow by another another billion users in the next two years alone.
For the next generation, Snapchat is the interface for communicating with friends visually, iMessage and Messenger is the interface for communicating with friends textually, and Slack is (or soon will be) the interface for communicating with colleagues about work. And that’s to say nothing of the nearly two billion users currently on WhatsApp, WeChat, and Line.
As we move to increasingly invisible interfaces, I believe we’ll see a new class of messaging-centric platforms emerge alongside existing platforms in mobile, cloud, etc.
As with every platform and interface paradigm, messaging has its own unique set of capabilities, limitations, and opportunities. That’s where bots come in. In the context of a conversation, bots are the primary mode for manifesting a machine interface.
Organizations will soon discover — yet again — that teams want to work the way they live, and we all live in messaging. Workflows will be retooled from the bottom-up to optimize around real-time, channel based, searchable, conversational interfaces.
Humans will always be the entities we desire talking to and collaborating with. But in the not too distant future, bots will be how things actually get done.