By Keith Larson, Smart Industry editor in chief
As a provider of essential networking and edge-computing infrastructure technologies,
Advantech has ridden industry’s burgeoning interest in connectivity over the past decade to become a $1.6 billion global provider of the hardware that makes the Industrial IoT (IIoT) tick.
But to fuel continued growth, the company realizes it must provide more than just hardware and a generic IIoT “platform-as-a-service” enabler to its customers. Rather, Advantech sees tailored, pre-configured solutions consisting of both hardware and software designed to address specific industry challenges as its path forward. The company is partnering with other companies with domain-specific expertise to bring to market these “solution-ready packages,” or SRPs.
As proof of its commitment, the company unveiled the first 30 SRP applications of a larger planned portfolio at the Advantech IoT Co-creation Summit, November 1-2, 2018, in Suzhou, China. The event was the company’s first ecosystem-wide conference featuring technology exhibits, a robust conference program and more than 7,000 registrants. Among the array of SRPs unveiled were those for CNC machine management, wind turbine monitoring, distributed solar power, pump and motor monitoring, and intelligent water management solutions.
Advantech Chairman K.C. Liu sees this new era of SRPs as a transition from the company’s early reliance on automation and embedded technologies to a future increasingly focused on integrated, ecosystem-created applications and cloud solutions.
Indeed, the company’s longer term plan is to co-create solutions through alliances with domain-focused system integrators who understand specific industry needs and requirements. These new solutions may even take the shape of new joint ventures, supported and minority owned by Advantech. “A mix of internal and external resources will be key to success,” Liu said in his keynote address. “If we go together, we can go far.”
A key hindrance to broader adoption of IIoT solutions is fragmentation of the supplier and integrator community as well lack of technology standards, added Ween Niu, general manager, North America, Advantech. Consider a manufacturing company that wants to implement a unified IIoT solution across a dozen factories. Each region will often be served by a different system integrator, and available standards and preferred technologies may vary as well. “A diversity of integrators and plant locations means a multiplicity of business negotiations,” Niu said. “Our approach is to reduce the number of touchpoints needed to implement a solution.”