REDwire Panel discussion examines Industry 4.0 and its impact on connectivity

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Leading experts participated in a panel discussion about the impact of Industry 4.0 on industrial connectivity.

Leading experts from hardware, software, industrial connectivity and academia gathered recently to discuss the impact of Industry 4.0 on industrial connectivity — and the opportunities that exist in this new age of industry.

Moderated by Jon DeSouza, president and CEO of Harting North America, as well as Nancy Friedrich, executive director of content and user engagement at Penton Media, the group discussed what’s happening today to prepare for the factory of the future, and what this future will look like. 

The discussion kicked off with a question about how industrial companies can get started in this new era of the Internet of Things (IoT). 

Calum Barnes, senior integration engineer with LogMeIN, ­said it’s about the low hanging fruit.

“The companies we’ve seen be really successful at this are ones that go after tangible problems they can solve,” he said. “Find just one problem that’s easy to start solving now with a connected product.”

Barnes recommended tackling simple problems like, for example, using connected products to determine how many units are rolling off the assembly line. 

“If you can start with these simple problems and look at connectivity or connecting your product,” he said, “then usually it’s easier to get going or easier to build an IoT or industrial Internet knowledge base inside your company.”

MIT professor Tomas Palacios was also on the panel. As a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, he is focused on the demands of the future (and not the low hanging fruit). The future, he said, is about “ubiquitous electronics” — electronics will be highly integrated in everything we own. There will be multiple sensors and power management is going to be key. To be able to introduce these electronics, this additional intelligence, in charged environments with high temperature and high vibration is going to be critical.

“We need to start developing the building blocks to enable this vision,” he explained. “At MIT, we are developing microcontrollers that can operate at much higher temperatures than what we have today, in order to allow us to have the intelligence closer to the source of data. At the same time, we need to provide power and miniaturize the power management for all these systems.”

He said MIT is working on new semiconductor material and new approaches that will allow a reduction in the area occupied by power management solutions. 

Another panel member, Dr. Ahmad Bahai, chief technology officer with Texas Instruments, said that connectivity in the future will be much more affordable than it is today, and much more prevalent.

“I think ubiquitous connectivity is the wave of the future,” he said, adding that industry will adopt it “if it can solve their problems; if it can save money; if it can make the system more reliable; if it can make the inventories more effective; warehouses better managed.” 

Harting already has a range of offerings to create solutions in an IoT environment, said Dr. Frank Brode, a board member with Harting Technology Group. The leading connectivity company offers system integration, too. This enables the customer to get the hardware, software and middleware from Harting — all of the components necessary to ensure that the customer’s ERP system gets the information required to make smart business decisions. 

In fact, Harting will be offering customer-specific Industry 4.0 solutions at the SPS IPC Drives trade fair in Nuremberg, Germany from November 24-26. 

To learn more about its connectivity solutions, contact Harting. To watch a recording of the panel discussion, click here.

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