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Shaping the future of industrial technology

11 November 2015

As we approach the second half of the decade, Martyn Williams lists his predictions for the industrial technology trends of 2016.

Martyn Williams

In 15 short years, rapid advancements in technology have changed the way we live. With each passing month, we’re introduced to new, innovative ways to play, eat, shop and communicate. But new technology isn’t just for consumers.

In recent years, several waves of new technology have emerged and transformed the face of industrial automation. While traditionally, the manufacturing industry has been relatively slow on the uptake, a number of new trends are causing a growth spurt in industrial automation.

Energy management
In recent years, energy efficiency has become a huge priority for manufacturers. While the legal requirements surrounding energy management are clear, developing a strategy for meeting these requirements is not always so straightforward. To put it simply, energy management is now far more complex than simply switching off the factory lights at the end of a shift. 

Many organisations are turning to energy data management systems (EDMS) to analyse and visualise energy consumption and efficiency within an industrial environment. An EDMS enables continuous company-wide improvement through better quality information, above and beyond simple compliance.

Inevitably, as we move into 2016 the financial and efficiency benefits of energy management will begin to show and, as a result, the trend is likely to spread to smaller businesses too. Energy saving schemes aimed at large businesses, such as the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), are likely to be put into place for SMEs over the next few years.

The smart factory
The Internet of Things (IoT) is certainly not a new phenomenon; even back in 2008, before Apple had released its first generation iPad, there were more objects connected to the internet than there were people on earth and this figure continues to grow. Estimations suggest that by 2020, the number of connected devices on the planet could reach as many as 50 billion.

For manufacturers, IoT has enabled the rise of the smart factory. This technology has enabled organisational transparency and seamless connectivity from the sensor, right up to ERP level. Ultimately, allowing for a more intelligent analysis of business operations, enabling smarter business decisions, faster.

Still, less than 0.1 percent of devices that could be connected to the internet are currently online, meaning IoT has room to grow, in more ways than one.
 
Cloud computing
As a result of factories becoming smarter, more and more data is being generated. Unlike traditional practices, data can no longer be logged manually. This is where cloud computing steps in.

Generally speaking, cloud computing has become a universally accepted computing paradigm in office environments. For industrial automation it’s a relatively new, but somewhat essential, technology. As manufacturers embrace new technology such as IoT and 3D printing, the cloud works to support these major industry shifts. Estimations state that by 2017, almost half of large enterprises will be using hybrid cloud data storage.

Security 
With the introduction of big data in EDMS, smart factories and cloud computing, levels of concern surrounding data security are higher than ever before. Today, news of hackers targeting and breeching the systems of national companies is relatively common. Naturally, there’s an increased need for certainty and security where our own corporate data is concerned.

While many cloud platforms already include advanced security settings, we’re likely to see further advancements in industrial security in the next 12 months.

As we approach the second half of the decade, these technological trends are just a taste of the innovations still to come, and I for one, can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

Martyn Williams is managing director, COPA-DATA UK


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