What an exciting SPS it was! Held under the motto "Smart and Digital Automation", the trade fair lived up to its reputation as the most important leading trade fair for automation/digitization & industry 4.0. I have been attending every year since the fair started 30 years ago and I am always excited about the continuous development of the PLC. Even though there was a slight decline in the number of visitors from around 4,500 to 65,700 compared to 2017, this did not detract from the general success of the trade fair. Especially impressive for me was the press conference of the OPC Foundation on Tuesday afternoon, announced in advance as "historic", with more than 140 participants and the sealing of the cooperation towards communication standards by representatives of Siemens, Rockwell and Mitsubishi together with Stefan Hoppe, the new President of the OPC Foundation, on stage. Mr. Hoppe even called the OPC Foundation the "UNO of Automation".
It was also impressive to see how the areas of automation/OT and IT are growing ever closer with cloud and big data technologies, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and how more and more tasks are being shifted to Intelligent Edge computers. The big trends from my point of view are: the open global standards TSN (Time Sensitive Networks) and OPC UA which are becoming more and more accepted, from the cloud via the controller level up to the field level, the upcoming mobile standard 5G for an area-wide broadband coverage and additional frequencies for local use on the factory premises, as well as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in various applications such as image processing and machine learning.
Here we go: OPC UA over TSN conquers the field level
The SPS IPC Drives 2018 marked a milestone in the penetration of OPC UA and the Ethernet standard TSN into the field level. With the initiative of the OPC Foundation, which already includes 21 of the industry's most important automation companies at the start, the train is picking up speed unstoppably. The big players in the automation industry have joined forces under the umbrella of the OPC Foundation to advance the further development of OPC UA down to the field level and to support only one TSN variant "TSN-IA" in the future. I explicitly welcome the initiative of the OPC Foundation, because now the fast and successful market penetration of the TSN standard has moved into the foreseeable future!
And things remain exciting: Even though the big players in the automation industry have committed themselves to the uniform OPC UA and TSN standard and decided to work together, these companies naturally compete with each other. It will be interesting to see how this direct competition develops and how the suppliers position themselves in the OPC UA over TSN environment.
We do the groundwork for the hardware infrastructure in convergent TSN networks.
At Kontron, we recognized the benefits of TSN and OPC UA and their importance for the future of automation at a very early stage and can already point to a wide range of marketable TSN-based products. Kontron has been offering industrial PCs and standard interface cards designed for TSN and OPC UA PubSub for a year now. The OPC members' commitment to the new standard and the speed with which it is to be implemented show that there is a need from the industry and automation vendors have had to respond. With the rapid creation of standards, users receive the security that is the basis for further investment. In particular, this step will also help Germany as a high-tech industrial location to strengthen its leading role in industry 4.0 and IoT solutions.
This underlines Kontron's claim that every device, every machine, every robot equipped with Kontron Embedded PCs is an IoT-enabled device. With our industrial PCs and industrial servers, we already offer a comprehensive infrastructure from sensor to cloud: from Edge to Fog to Cloud. The architecture is complemented by the IoT software framework SUSiEtec from our sister company S&T Technologies, which connects sensors, end devices and embedded, private or public clouds. We expect the 'OPC UA over TSN' initiative, which was launched in Nuremberg, to generate considerable momentum for our offerings and are looking forward to the impetus we will receive in realizing IoT and Industry 4.0 projects together with customers and partners.
The prerequisites are in place - now we need 'enablers' for digitization!
The foundations and technologies for digitization in automation are in place; now it is a matter of using them in companies in such a way that digitization can be implemented individually and successfully. Companies often lack the resources to do this, especially in the software sector. Competent and reliable partners are therefore essential. In my view, the shift of cloud tasks to intelligent edge computers together with the progressive introduction of TSN and OPC UA play an important role. As a result of standardization, it is becoming increasingly important to offer not only powerful, scalable boards, modules and industrial PCs in all variations, but also services such as consulting for the implementation of digitization as well as individual hardware and software development. At the SPS, S&T Technologies signed a contract with ICONICS, one of the world's leading providers of automation software for visualization, HMI and SCADA. Based on this partnership, we will also be able to make well-known SCADA functions cloud-capable in conjunction with the IoT software framework SUSiEtec and offer them from a single source. In short: with more than 2,600 engineers in the hardware and software area in the S&T Group and the OT (Operational Technology) products from Kontron and the IT (Information Technology) services from S&T Technologies and the entire S&T Group, we see ourselves as "enablers" of digitization and look forward to everything that the future - and SPS 2019 (:-)) - will show.
How did you like SPS IPC Drives 2018?