During this time of year InduSoft always likes to look forward to the future of industrial automation and try to get ahead of trends that both machine builders, system integrators, and end-users will start incorporating into their applications (if they aren’t already). Here are some of the top technologies we forecast will start playing a large role in industrial automation.
IIoT is a reality – now it will start being useful
The Industrial Internet of Things has been possible for many years, but had a few holes to fill. To begin with, the question was how to aggregate and display data in a way that made sense and was actually useful. Another stumbling block was connecting the many disparate systems of an IIoT architecture, since many use different protocols and don’t generally communicate well with one another. Now most of these answers can be solved with the use of SCADA/HMI software that accommodates the IIoT by making it easier to connect these systems, communicate with the cloud, and show information in a way that is can be easily understood and acted on. InduSoft web Studio has worked to make IIoT accessible to companies and machine builders of any size.
Augmented Reality will make its way to the plant floor
Augmented reality was the hot thing in gaming in 2016, but we expect to see applications for this technology on the plant floor very soon. Screen overlays of a plant or a head-mounted wearable will make it possible to view reality on several different levels. InduSoft has been experimenting with this technology, and we expect others to develop ways to incorporate augmented reality into machine diagnostics, part and material inspections, etc.
End users will expect and demand mobile access to machines and applications
Mobile HMI and SCADA access is an expectation for many customers, not an additional feature. Plant managers will expect to be able to track machine performance and process data from anywhere in the plant, and possibly even at home. Mobile access is especially important with applications that have machines in remote locations. The energy sector in particular can benefit from remote real-time analysis and control.
Remote service and maintenance will allow machine builders to offer value and evergreen sales’
Once a machine or solution is sold, remote maintenance or remote monitoring services can keep revenue coming in. Not only that, but by offering services like maintenance and troubleshooting, machine builders and system integrators can see where the biggest challenges are in their systems and continue to refine them to create better products.
Multi-Purpose and reprogrammable robotics will help make production more flexible
Robots are becoming more flexible, and thanks to the ability to connect to the cloud or be controlled remotely, robotics may soon be able to be reconfigured or even reprogrammed to perform new tasks or a multitude of different tasks depending on the application. This will help robotics become a better investment especially in industries like packaging, where processes change quickly to meet demand.
Automation will grow in industries like healthcare and agriculture
Industrial automation is quickly becoming how goods are sourced, made, and distributed. This includes things like agriculture, where machinery uses GPS and the cloud to work fully automated equipment, and everything from sorting machines to warehousing is becoming more intelligent. Food tracking from source to supermarket is increasingly in demand in order to keep up with regulations for recalls and supply-chain management. Healthcare is also making use of traditional automation, with building automation in place in pharmaceutical companies to store medications at the proper temperatures and manage security. Delivery and packaging is almost on-demand, making it easier for pharmaceutical manufacturers to keep up with production needs. Machine builders are increasingly creating interfaces for hospital and clinic equipment that must be made to exacting standards.
Security will continue to be the biggest challenge in industrial automation
Since machines and systems first started connecting to the internet, security has been a growing concern with many different mitigation strategies and threat vectors. This will only increase as hacking becomes easier thanks to bots and open-source malicious code, as well as an uptick in state-sponsored cyber espionage. The best defense against hacking of any type is to make sure IT and OT are working in collaboration with one another, and that safety and security protocols are in place and enforced.