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The Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality revolution in manufacturing

According to Leroy Spence, Head of Sales Development at EU Automation, “like any disruptive technology with roots in the consumer market, industry viewed VR with a certain level of scepticism to begin with.” That is to say, industrial manufacturers didn’t at first consider developments in VR as having value in terms of production. However, for example in the automotive industry, designers and engineers use immersion labs where Oculus Rift headsets support the virtual testing of designs on vehicles. In his article for automation.com, Spence notes how one of the biggest indicators of the potential of AR and VR for industry has come from a shift in recruitment at major engineering companies.

Spence goes on to say that recently, firms have been very open about actively recruiting graduates with game design degrees. “Astute with VR, Android and mobile technology, this next generation of engineering recruits are helping make Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things (IoT) applications a reality.”

Read more about the potential of AR and VR for industry at:
http://www.automation.com/automation-news/article/the-augmented-reality-and-virtual-reality-revolution-in-manufacturing

Image credit: Yuganov Konstantin / Shutterstock.com

Via Automation.com

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Reinventing traditional industries

New realms and areas of innovation can be daunting for individuals and organizations alike. Navigating through the maze of prospects and opportunities, and then recognizing the viable ones to pounce and build on, makes the Industrial Internet of Things a jungle of locks for the shrewdest of locksmiths to take on. Anja Hoffmann, the Founder of Copenhagen based strategy and innovation consultancy company Sentio Lab, is convinced that industries are full of such locksmiths, however, she holds that too often those clutching the keys don’t have a clear mindset as to what locks they ought to open. For Hoffmann, companies across industries must first focus on themselves, before venturing to capitalize – and make sense of – the countless opportunities made possible by new data and technology.

“As increasingly many industries are becoming tech-driven, I always start by looking at the mindset of the company looking to shift their focus to technology, regardless of their industry,” says Hoffmann, who also works as an Innovation Mentor for High-Tech Companies at Scion DTU. “In general, I think we have a lack of mindset across industries when it comes to understanding both the opportunities, and challenges in developing business models using new technologies,” she continues.

Hoffmann’s call for a more measured approach is far from baseless. She has been working closely with a wide range of industries for several years, thus gaining a unique vantage point. For her, more “traditional” industries often struggle to reinvent their approaches internally, especially when it comes to customer relations. However, there are exceptions.

“The pulp and paper industry, which I’ve been working with for some years, is an interesting example of a sort of hybrid between tradition and innovation. When it comes to the production process they remain very traditional and even historical, but because many of their customers are creative and innovative, they have been forced to think about new ways for longer than for instance the steel industry.”

In the case of the pulp and paper industry, mindsets have thus been revised by partners and other actors within an ecosystem, something Hoffmann feels very strongly about. For her, ecosystems and value chains represent one and the same thing.

“Companies need to look into their ecosystem, meaning their partners and so on, and ask themselves: what kind of an ecosystem will match our business ambitions in the future? Ecosystems are so important not only in regards to discovering and integrating new technology, but innovation in general. If you consider some of the companies who have asked questions, and succeeded in answering them, they are companies which have recognized that they are more of a service company than a manufacturing company.”

“Companies need to look into their ecosystem, meaning their partners and so on, and ask themselves: what kind of an ecosystem will match our business ambitions in the future?”

Reconciling tradition and innovation

Finding a balance between the two is easier said than done. According to Hoffmann, there should nonetheless be no reason why more “traditional” companies and industries wouldn’t be able to successfully implement a tech-driven agenda, and thrive from what the Industrial Internet promises. She mentions German elevator manufacturer ThyssenKrupp as a great example of a manufacturing company looking beyond its own industry, and desiring to be part of something what would traditionally fall outside the operating parameters of an elevator manufacturer.

“Although ThyssenKrupp manufacture what is essentially a technical product, their latest Industrial Internet developments have not been oriented for a traditional elevator business, but instead more for a service business. Because they have built an intelligent ecosystem around their solutions, ThyssenKrupp are transforming not only elevators, but elevator services to be a part of a smart-city movement.”

Living in the present, preparing for the future

Considering the popularity of the phrase “we live in a constantly changing world,” and other variations of it, Hoffmann reminds us that while this certainly remains the case, it’s vital to focus on the here and now.

“If companies pursue interesting and innovative partnerships across corporate investors and start-ups, they can minimize how much they change at once. Sometimes we focus too much on the fact that we live in a fast-paced business world, which is of course true, but we also need to do remember to experiment in the present, especially with already existing businesses. In order to do this, companies must assess how they can change their own DNA by looking into their value chain or ecosystem.”

When it comes to introspection into ecosystems, the role of the Industrial Internet can’t be understated. One prevailing innovation concerning manufacturing companies has been the increasing integration of co-bots – or “collaborative robots” – into joint working environments with humans.

Not too long ago, robots being used in the automotive industry for example, were kept in cages. Since then, co-bots have emerged and are forcing manufactures to rethink the structure and processes of their value chains. According to Hoffmann, this brings the need to question the necessity and future value of certain skills within the entire Industrial Internet landscape.

“When it comes to co-bots, what will be a challenge in the near future not only for the manufacturing industry, but also for the retail industry, is the demand for new skills from workers. The Industrial Internet is affecting business models as well as society, without forgetting the potential drawback of information overload and issues of security.”

Thus, the impact of co-bots should be assessed from a workforce and societal perspective. Co-bot technology will undoubtedly assist in driving profits and quality via reduced margins of error and sustained performance capabilities, however, as Hoffmann notes, companies “will no longer need programmers with specific technical skills to work with these robots.”

Despite new workforce demands and implementation possibilities in terms of what the Industrial Internet offers –  and as long as leaders acknowledge the challenges and opportunities, without “just pushing a certain agenda forward,” – Hoffmann is certain that companies across industries will prosper from IIoT solutions on many fronts.

Anja Hoffmann is the Founder of Copenhagen-based strategy and innovation consultancy company Sentio Lab.

Image credit: chombosan / Shutterstock.com

Interview w/ Anja Hoffmann

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  • Dilip Gandhi 08.05.2017 05:41

    Inspiring article for traditional industry to be more proactive and integrate IIOT as a tool to modernise and transform themselves lest they be left out.

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Think beyond the cloud – How platform players can prepare for the next phase of the IoT

Many companies are already combining advanced automation, cloud computing and IoT services, among others, to transform their operations. In terms of the maturity of industrial ecosystems, however, Marianne Hannula, Head of Service Product Management and R&D at ABB, believes that there is still the need to establish business models that fully support the technology. She talks about what needs to be done to usher in the era of global supply chain ecosystems and how to take full advantage of its build up phase.

“I first came across machine-to-machine communication more than 15 years ago when I was working with mobile internet applications; a lot has happened since then,” shares Hannula. “All this technological advancement has built momentum for the evolution in industrial ecosystems. These now refer to ecosystems that manage and control the performance of multiple pieces of equipment that form the supply chain, not just order-type data transfers.”

The different players in the field have been somewhat focused on their own operations and that has, in certain cases, slowed the development of new ecosystems. According to Hannula, ecosystems that offer a win-win situation for both parties are needed. “In the case of IoT, this should mean win-win-win-win for multiple parties, not just two.”

Data ownership as a matter of agreement

Hannula sees positive signs in that the time has come when these groups – not just the few early adopters and startups – are beginning to be more open to collaboration and data sharing. “That openness is needed to enable global supply chain ecosystems to develop, where data from multiple sources are combined for the improved performance of the supply chain and for the benefit of end users.”

As data ownership is more complex in an IoT context, the topic has given rise to various opinions. Hannula sees it as a question of what has been agreed upon. “Basically all players should own their data. Sometimes access to this data might be the sellable item. The question arises when the data facilitates new knowledge as it is analyzed and/or combined with other data,” she continues. “Who then owns this knowledge? Who should be held accountable for the consequences when it is used and something adverse occurs? I view this as a matter of agreement, but the responsibility has to be clearly defined between the stakeholders.”

‘Don’t wait for tomorrow’

With regard to IT and OT convergence, Hannula advises companies to not wait for tomorrow. “Use your existing IT structures and find the connectivity means to combine the data available from multiple devices and systems to enable better business decisions now. With that you will learn and find out where the biggest benefits for your business are.”

In addition to the ability to perform predictive maintenance, Hannula believes that the other clear-cut benefits of the Industrial Internet involve the optimization of performance and quality as well as reliability.

“With real-time data turned into knowledge and insights, we are able to detect topics where the process productivity can be improved and become more efficient. Just saving a second or two in some repetitive process can translate to considerable additional revenues,” she explains. “If that happens in one part of the supply chain, the benefits that can be available at the supply chain level can be even greater. Another example could be automatically combining data from various sources and using that to fine-tune equipment performance. This could lead to savings and better quality.”

“When one talks of the IoT, you often only hear the word cloud. But you also have to consider how these clouds can start talking to each other. Then apart from these clouds, there are storms, sunshine and stars.”

Advice for platform players

Hannula believes that there will be a major build up phase for IoT ecosystems during the next five years. “More and more industrial companies will get involved, there will be more and more cloud solutions, and connections between different cloud platforms will become available. The technological knowledge collected over the years and currently stored in documents – or even only in the heads of experts – will turn into a more automated format, making it scalable and useful to business.”

To take full advantage of these changes, she says that companies should focus on three things. “First is that the future starts today. Start using what is available now and learn from it. The next thing to remember is that IoT is not a game of solitaire: Experiment and collaborate with other players. The third and last is don’t wait to be disrupted. Be open to the idea of adopting new business models and remember the human aspect of all this. Instead of considering something as a threat, embrace it as an opportunity and be curious from a technical perspective.”

Above all, Hannula recommends that platform players widen their general outlook. “When one talks of the IoT, you often only hear the word cloud. But you also have to consider how these clouds can start talking to each other. Then apart from these clouds, there are storms, sunshine and stars,” she concludes. “The cloud is a simplification of a technical aspect, but to gain the full benefit of IoT a broader view is needed.”

Marianne Hannula works as Head of Service Product Management and R&D (Portfolio Management, Development, IoT) at ABB.

Image credit: kerenby / Shutterstock.com

Interview w/ Marianne Hannula

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Integrating IT, OT and security: convergence to collaboration

“OT and IT are working towards the same goal, uptime,” writes Daniel McGinn of Schneider Electric.  “Whether that means the comfort of building occupants and business continuity or the specific needs of safety and security.” In part one of a two-part blog entry, McGinn highlights the integration of IT and OT, and what that means for security. Companies developing IoT solutions must consider the implications these new systems, applications or even platforms have in terms of security.

“Keeping buildings operational, IT running and security systems up, depends on the availability of the network and server platforms they are running on, and these systems are only as available as the power supporting them. Because these systems are increasingly connected and open, the departments themselves must come together as well,” notes McGinn. “This is where safety and security now begins for any structure that requires active monitoring and access control.”

Read more about the risks and management challenges of IT environments at: http://blog.schneider-electric.com/datacenter/power-and-cooling/2017/01/04/integrating-it-ot-security/

Image credit: Scanrail1 / Shutterstock.com

Via Schneider Electric Blog

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Trends and themes from the Industry of Things World USA Survey Report 2017

Findings from the Industry of Things World USA Survey Report 2017 reveal that compared to Europe, the US is very advanced on the software side and IoT platforms, analytics tools, as well as AI approaches. Maria Relaki, Group Production Director at we.CONECT Global Leaders, the organizer of the Industry of Things World conference series, talks about the key results that shed light on the current state of the American IoT market.

A clear majority of the cross-industry IoT and Smart Manufacturing managers that participated in an online survey by Industry of Things World – conducted from August to October 2016 – considers Smart Manufacturing as the main driver and contributor for US manufacturing competitiveness.

“One interesting fact from this year is that 71% of the respondents actually have industrial IoT or Smart Manufacturing systems in their organization, compared with 41% who rated the importance of IoT project implementations in their companies as very important last year,” states Maria Relaki, Group Production Director at we.CONECT Global Leaders.

Relaki adds that another key finding is that access to necessary infrastructure is rated as the biggest challenge to implementing IoT within companies (53%), followed very closely by cost (46%). “The positive news is that in 2016 the biggest challenge was ‘uncertain ROI/ lack of business case’ – so here it seems we have had some significant progress. The business case is now a given and it’s a matter of making it happen,” she says.

The survey also reveals that Smart Manufacturing systems are not applied only on a machine (32%) or plant level (43%), but they are being more and more integrated across all levels (36%) within a business.

Challenges and opportunities

By far the biggest opportunity that IoT offers has been recognized as the increased efficiency (68%) that comes with smart manufacturing systems. “As the second biggest opportunity, respondents listed the competitive advantage that IoT can offer as well as, very interestingly, that it can increase product quality,” continues Relaki.

Access to necessary infrastructure is rated as the biggest challenge to implementing IoT within companies.

According to survey participants, some of the biggest challenges they face involve the lack of standards and interoperability, and costs associated with the integration of new systems. They also cited security breaches – that IoT needs a new security approach rather than the traditional one, for instance – and management buy-in as other factors that affect the implementation of industrial IoT technologies in their organizations.

Trending topics

Relaki believes that the industrial IoT landscape is going through a transition. Shifting industry boundaries are changing competition, and businesses need to be aware of that. “Traditional competitors need to look beyond their universe and keep an eye on how IoT technologies can enable other businesses to eat away parts of their market share.”

The interoperability of connected devices in the world of IoT is still a big issue, one that is subject to discussion. “How far away are we from a universal standardization? Discussing the implementation of open source and open standards might be a way to move into a direction with fast results,” offers Relaki.

While robotics is a theme that is becoming more and more relevant, she says that the human factor in all of this must not be forgotten. “The Internet of Things involves new ways of thinking about how humanity and technology can cooperate differently when ‘things’ get smarter. Augmented reality and virtual reality in manufacturing simulation, as well as M2M and Artificial Intelligence for improved productivity, will be discussed throughout the conference.”

Industry of Things World USA 2017

Organized by we.CONECT Global Leaders Industry of Things World USA is an international knowledge exchange platform where over 500 high level Industrial Internet of Things executives will meet. Scheduled to take place in San Diego, California from February 20 to 21, 2017, this year’s two-day program aims to encourage and inspire participants to rethink their technology and business strategy for scalable, secure and efficient IoT, from cloud, robotics and automation to standards, interoperability and security.

“We will have the pleasure of hearing from Alex Tapscott, a blockchain expert, on the impact of Blockchain on the Industrial Internet and how this will change the way we do business. Jeff Burnstein, President of the Robotic Industries Association, will discuss how robots in a smart factory can use self-optimization, self-configuration and artificial intelligence to complete complex tasks in order to deliver vastly superior cost efficiencies and better quality for goods or services,” shares Relaki.

At the same time, the event will attempt to demystify the complexity of getting started with integrating robotics into an IIoT network. “Small and medium sized companies in particular may be overwhelmed by jargon, fears about cost and the difficulty of knowing how to apply these technologies, so these talks will hopefully be of use to them in understanding how to explore robotics and IIoT further.”

To find out more about the agenda and speakers of Industry of Things World USA 2017, visit http://industryofthingsworldusa.com/en/.

Download the full survey report:

http://industryofthingsworldusa.com/cms/media/uploads/events/3755/dokumente/formular/Industry_of_Things_World_USA_2017-Survey_Report.pdf

Maria Relaki works as Group Production Director at we.CONECT Global Leaders and is responsible for the Industry of Things World global event series.

Image credit: we.CONECT Global Leaders

by Industrial Internet Now

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