Three reasons to monitor automation, analytics, AI and AR trends

May 3, 2022
"We must allow build-reliability into the network infrastructure."

As consumers and businesses prepare to spend on next-gen or smart-gen factory solutions, the Industry 4.0 market will skyrocket. According to a recent Transparency Market Research report, the global Industry 4.0 market is estimated to register growth at a CAGR of 26.7% and eventually be valued at US $1 Trn by 2031.

IoT, similarly, is growing via increases in smart devices, and IIoT figures to increase significantly with the greater rollout of 5G networks. Quicker speeds courtesy of 5G will enable industrial facilities to become even more interconnected and unified in the future. 

A race is on in the background in the manufacturing space to ensure companies develop digital-transformation strategies to enhance their connections in the right way. From a plant floor, specifically, new algorithms and artificial intelligence are needed to better enable businesses to run more efficiently, understand their consumers, and deliver production for greater profitability.  

This maturity process starts with digital connectivity, and moves to automation, advanced analytics, and then to AI and augmented reality.  

Three reasons to pay attention to these trends 

The first reason is that digital transformation has to be built on a foundation of digital connectivity that enables automation. It directly relates to industrial automation-control systems, systems integration and controls providers for manufacturers.  

According to 2019 Fitch Solutions studies, technology is a leading disruptive influence. More than 75% of respondents see technology as a factor that is driving change and competition. Note that a lack of access to skilled or trained individuals is the most reported obstacle by these respondents. 

The second reason is that ethernet is the leading platform for digital connectivity on the factory floor. Ethernet variants account for 65% of nodes on the plant floor today. What’s driving growth is ethernet is easier to implement, allowing devices, machines and production lines to be connected, ultimately creating a digital factory and enabling real-time transfer of data across an organization. 

We must allow build-reliability into the network infrastructure. Companies with best-in-class OEE (90% or better) place much greater emphasis on reliability built into the network physical layer, data-link reliability, and the use of cable management and wiring strategies. 

The third reason is that the role of ethernet on the plant floor will continue to change, enabling myriad new services.  

With those three reasons in mind, let’s consider a few technologies to monitor that will affect designs going forward:  

The first is power over ethernet (POE), leveraging current technologies, but with an increase in ethernet-based DC devices deployed on the plant floor.  

The second is single pair ethernet (SPE), an emerging technology with ethernet transmission over a twisted pair, at distances up to 1,000 meters with optional power delivery.  

The third is wireless WiFi and 5G, improving the ability to connect mobile devices such as AGVs and robotics, and, in the future, providing key elements of connectivity and simplifying deployments. As mentioned earlier, the greater 5G rollout that started in 2022 is significant from a network-enhancement standpoint.

Last is time-sensitive networking, originating with AV communications, which has particular benefits to the automotive industry and to applying ethernet to more applications across industrial automation. 

By Mike Berg, senior business development manager at Panduit