Nine Technologies to Watch for the Automation Industry

This guest post is an excerpt from an ARC Advisory Group report.  It is authored by Roy Kok, vice president of marketing at ARC.

ARC Advisory Group analysts track a broad range of emerging technologies related to manufacturing, infrastructure, industrial automation and IT, and enterprise applications.  I’ve created this post, excerpting from a report our analysts compiled for our clients.  The report highlights selected technologies that we believe will have significant impact over the next several years, if not well into the future.Business Focus

Clearly, many of the hottest technology trends today represent a convergence of largely internet and IT-based enabling technologies.  We believe that this convergence is likely to remove many existing constraints to help transform the way manufacturers and other industrial enterprises operate and collaborate, both internally and across their extended value chains…and do so to a degree that we have not witnessed in recent decades.

While far from a comprehensive list, we feel the following hot technologies provide a good “feel” for the overall landscape:

  1. Intelligent Devices and the Internet of Things
    As microprocessors and other electronics become increasingly smaller, more efficient, and less expensive, we’re seeing intelligence being embedded into more and more consumer, commercial, and industrial devices. Increasingly, these devices communicate with each other via the emerging “Internet of Things” (IoT).
  2. Predictive Analytics for Big Data
    Leading software providers offer full analytics suites for enterprises to use to monitor, analyze, and manage a wide range of business activities. But while many industrial enterprises already use business analytics packages, their successes are primarily in customer-facing activities like sales, marketing, and product development. We will see a much greater use of analytics to improve other critical, but more inward-facing industrial processes like operations and asset management.
  3. Cloud Computing and Services-Based Solutions
    Cloud represents a new and more efficient model for IT, challenging an organization’s established IT practices in every area; new platforms, new services, new deployment, licensing, and support models. Cloud forces an IT organization to examine each application within its portfolio and reevaluate the way the application is currently deployed and supported.
  4. Virtualization
    A computing approach that decouples hardware and software, is rapidly gaining traction in the traditionally conservative automation and control industry. While initially met with skepticism for industrial applications, this is no longer this case as end user demands to reduce costs and make more efficient use of computing resources drive suppliers to incorporate the technology.
  5. 3D Simulation and Augmented Reality
    An increasing number of companies in the energy and process industries use 3D virtual simulation and visualization tools. This technology allows plant engineering and operations groups to create very comprehensive and accurate virtual environments that represent the complete physical plant/facility. These are used to help to plan operational procedures, train operators and maintenance technicians, and meet health and safety requirements; all within a computer-simulated 3D environment.
  6. Mobility-Enabled Applications and “Wearable” Technologies
    New technologies often provide the key enabler for process re-engineering and business process optimization that can significantly enhances performance. For maintenance, mobility can provide major improvements in its primary objectives: uptime, asset longevity, safety, and cost control.
  7. BYOD
    “Bring Your Own Device” — Driven by the today’s profusion of commercial smartphones, tablets, and other handheld computing devices, is another enabler for mobility in industry. Increasingly, plant personnel at all levels prefer to use their own familiar handheld devices while on the job.
  8. Remote Operations/Asset Management
    Traditional hierarchical SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems used to monitor and manage remote operations are evolving into a new generation of more flexible remote operations management (ROM) technologies. Emerging technologies, such as FOUNDATION fieldbus for ROM (essentially an extended control LAN), will provide operations staffs with tools that define precisely what is happening, what will happen, and if the current trajectory is leading to an unacceptable result, what needs to change to achieve an acceptable result, thus providing the opportunity to take corrective action.
  9. Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing
    This technology provides product design teams the ability to perform rapid prototyping to speed product design and reduce costs. Additive manufacturing systems, driven from CAD models, can use a variety of different build materials; including metal, polymer, or sand to build prototypes.

Roy Kok

About the Author
Roy Kok has worked in the automation industry for more than 30 years, in the areas of OPC technology, communications, HMI/SCADA software, historians, embedded software, and industrial computing. At ARC Advisory Group, Roy is responsible for all marketing management, working with our team to deliver value for both the market and ARC clients. Roy’s experience includes management positions with Intellution, GE, VenturCom, Nematron and Kepware, among others. He has run his own consulting business offering business development and marketing services to a variety of hardware and software companies and he specializes in the areas of strategic positioning, sales process, messaging, social media, and website SEO.
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