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ABB’s predicted measurement trends for 2020

20 December 2019

A look back at developments in industrial measurement technology in 2019, and a look forward at the expected trends for 2020 from two leading ABB experts.

It’s hard to escape the tide of digitalisation that is steadily sweeping over the industrial world, with companies embracing the latest digital technologies as they search for enhanced performance and competitiveness. 

When it comes to instrumentation, there is no doubt that the benefits of digital technology, particularly its accuracy, range and depth of information, make it the logical choice for measurement in industrial applications. With precise, pre-analysed data, operators and process engineers have a much more accurate picture of what is happening in the plant.

We asked Dave Lincoln, Digital Lead, ABB Measurement & Analytics; and Dane Maisel, VP Business Development, ABB Measurement & Analytics Americas, to review developments in instrument and analyser technology in 2019 and give their predictions of the potential key trends for 2020.

Looking back at 2019

R&D a priority for instrument and analyser manufacturers – Dane Maisel

• 2019 saw dramatic shifts in the priorities of the instrumentation industry recently, with more investments in R&D. This includes service and customer tools, CRMs, sales and service. 

• Many of the patents lodged by manufacturers of measurement devices over the last 12 months or so have been in areas such as IIoT and digital diagnostics. 

• In the past, investment would have been primarily on new measuring technologies and products, meaning that 2019 saw this important shift in direction continue. 

Cross over between Industry and Consumer Digital Experience – Dane Maisel

• 2019 saw greater interaction with instruments and analysers and an in-depth look into designing them to work more like the electronic devices we use in our everyday lives, such as smartphones and tablets.

• Manufacturers responded to this by developing solutions that enabled devices like an iPad to be used to configure an instrument or communicate with other measurement devices.

• The year saw buyers increasingly applying their experience and expectations as consumers when specifying and purchasing equipment for industrial applications.

The growth of Augmented Reality – Dave Lincoln

• Suppliers were more readily experimenting with Augmented Reality, particularly for maintenance. 

• The benefit of AR is that it makes complex activities simpler – AR enabled guiding improves worker performance and provides a strong training tool, helping to meet the challenge of finding skilled staff. 

Unlocking the power of Big Data – Dave Lincoln

• Data analytics has been the hot growth industry in 2019, with lots of analytics solutions and companies in the market, so the growth of data analytics in 2019 is likely to continue throughout 2020.

• The market has matured with much more opportunity to get data from a device and into the cloud, meaning raw data is more accessible and can be turned into valuable information much more quickly.

• There is also a greater understanding of the practicalities of what you can do now, and how data processing and intelligence has evolved to allow this.

Looking forward to 2020 – Key trends in instrument and analyser technology

Digital Twins – Dave Lincoln

• Digital Twins for measurement devices will become more commonplace in 2020.

• The focus will be on Digital Twins being used to modernize processes and optimise production and maintenance. 

• Digital Twins will be used to optimise system design and increase ‘Right first time’ outcomes through improved performance modelling. 

• Digital twins will also enable an online performance comparison between actual and ideal conditions. Through machine learning anomaly detection, algorithms will be able to identify abnormal operating conditions before they create costly problems in terms of product quality or equipment failure and process shutdown.

Collaboration – Dane Maisel

• ABB Measurement & Analytics will continue to develop deep, collaborative partnerships, a trend also being followed by the automotive and consumer product industries. 

• The future will increasingly see companies such as ABB and other providers of measurement technology working together in certain areas, producing joint design efforts and more packaged solutions, particularly in some of the more evolutionary technologies and protocols. 

• This will benefit all parts of the industry including customers who will be the recipients of evolutionary solutions that leverage the consolidated strengths of these partnerships.

Advanced Digital Services: Technology Literacy – Dave Lincoln

• The rise in services offered in the fields of measurement and analytics will continue. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) are changing the way in which services are offered.

• Increasingly, manufacturers of instrument and analyser equipment will be able to take new and different approaches with customers and provide different services to them. 

• Remote services offer a good example, where lessons from different sites and situations are applied across the organisation to inform and improve best practice.

• AI will grow in popularity, moving from something attractive – a ‘nice-to-have’ – to something expected. 

• With fewer people reading instruction manuals, apps that make documents available electronically and enable a higher level of intuitive configuration through materials including how-to videos, are set to be a game-changer.

• The service model for measurement devices will shift from one where people are required to be technology-literate people to one where technology becomes people-literate.

Smart Predictive Maintenance – Dave Lincoln

• As IoT becomes increasingly mainstream in 2020, there will be significant advances in Predictive Maintenance in instrumentation, even moving beyond this to Smart Predictive Maintenance (SPM). 

• SPM monitors the digital connection network created through IoT. It will enable the automation of maintenance measurement tasks using cognitive data processing technologies. SPM will be linked into other maintenance systems to eventually enable full automation over time.

Open Technology – Dane Maisel

• Open technology will once again, be increasingly important in helping users to get the most from their instruments and analysers. 

• The 2019 trend showed that customers are becoming increasingly resistant to proprietary connections, and 2020 will see them increasingly look for a multi-supplier approach.

• A lot of manufacturers are working on emerging platform-based products, broadening their offer to be more of an environment that you operate in.

• Overall, the drive in 2020 continues towards a more open platform allowing greater co-operation between manufacturers and their products on both hardware and software areas, as well as the interfaces between these elements. 

• Real net-enabled tools and products that are designed to support practical, everyday solutions, rather than simply being ‘me too’ or ‘digital for digital’s sake’ products, will come to the fore in 2020. The development for these will be driven by both customers and manufacturers alike. 

Changing Innovation Sources – Dane Maisel

• 2020 will see a continued trend for manufacturers to lead the advances in instrument and analyser design. This is due to a shortening of the cycle-time between fundamental research in universities leading to technological advances that can be used in the industries served by groups such as ABB. 

• 2020 will also see the impact of the consumer factor. Advances in technology have traditionally come from the military and space sectors, yet the change of pace in the consumer market is now a material driver in dictating what manufacturers need to offer to their industrial customers.

• 2020 will be about two-way communication and collaboration on innovations. Instrument manufacturers will need to transform their relationship from a vendor-based to a partnership model.

New Measurement Techniques – Dave Lincoln

• Non-invasive measurement broke a lot of ground in 2019 opening up measurement points that have not previously been accessible or cost-effective. This trend is set to continue well into 2020 and beyond, offering a strong area for growth. 

• Multi-variable instruments – ‘ride-along’ sensors which can be attached to whatever device is being built to make the datapoint available such as exact ambient temperature. 

• A strong portfolio of measurement sensors combined with the Edge and Cloud will provide the winning combination for 2020.


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