The Year of IoT Digitalization


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Around this time last year, many people, including myself, were quite confident that 2017 would be the year of shop-floor IoT communication. While progress in many areas has been strong, 2018 is now looking like a more realistic contender for practical application of IoT in manufacturing, but, it all depends on you.

There have been some very important lessons learned and progress made in 2017. There is, for example, no longer any significant disagreement that having an industry-wide standard for IoT communication is absolutely essential for digitalization of factories if they are going to deliver on Industry 4.0 performance expectations. The business perspective of Industry 4.0 is now understood by many more people, understanding how the technology will deliver business benefits and opportunities. Seeing how Industry 4.0 solutions exist in layers, bringing as much benefit, for example, to individual machine vendors as well as customers and solution providers, has gained significant traction. Seeing how the Smart Industry 4.0 digitalized communication platform can and will be based on a free and open standard, the Connected Factory Initiative (CFX) from IPC, supported by a consensus of over 100 companies and counting, brings optimism.

In a year's time, I want the industry to look back and see that all the hype, concern, complexity, risk and cost of IoT technology will instead be experienced as simple, inexpensive and open to all. The barriers that have held us back for a generation in the industry will be history.

While this is all very optimistic, yet realistically based on the fact that everything is now in place to make it happen from the technology point of view, there are still pockets of entrenched reluctance in the industry to get involved. Machine vendors, manufacturers of all sizes, shapes, industry tiers and segments will need to put themselves forward to help create the critical mass of adoption that will take.

Those who have been active contributors to the CFX specification to date find themselves in the ideal position to go forward as we collate the multitude of needs and wants from the industry. Even more importantly, all companies in the industry are invited to step up and support CFX from early in the New Year. Seeing the open specification, providing feedback if desired, but mainly stating 'we will adopt and support the IPC CFX standard' is very important for the industry. The IPC is a consensus-based organization. There is no other medium in the industry that gives everyone a voice, and creates something that is genuinely intended to bring value opportunity to everyone, without contracts, licenses or restrictions. Anyone reading this blog has the opportunity to be a part of this voice of the industry, and show leadership. Please don't waste this opportunity.

Being a recognized CFX supporter does not necessarily imply exclusivity, there is room for solutions with differing scopes with associated strengths and limitations. Companies recognized as industry leaders with values based on real customer needs, such as those behind the recently announced Hermes communication standard for example, are very clear that their technology innovations are positioned as being complementary, rather than competitive.

Hermes and CFX will work very well together, each bringing benefit potential to the other. This is the way that a responsible industry behaves. Companies and customers have the opportunity to support both together without risk or loss. There is no need to be concerned, to shy away from the changes happening in the industry. Digitalization of manufacturing is the key business opportunity of the decade, whoever and wherever you are, so stand-up and be a part of it, and create your opportunities. 2018 is the year it will happen. Really.

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