It will come as no surprise to read, given the nature of my job, that I love new technology. I’m not one who must have the very latest mobile phone, or very newest bicycle (more on my hobby shortly), but I’m not a long way behind – I certainly believe in the power of technological progress to improve the human experience. For anyone familiar with Rogers’ Innovation Adoption Curve for diffusion of innovation, I’d probably put myself in the “Early Adopters” category.
The great innovation of our time is, of course, Industry 4.0 – the digitisation of global industry – and the promise of it is nothing short of a revolution. The adoption of it though, is much more a diffusion akin to evolution.
A great part of my job is speaking to engineers and industry managers across the EMEA region about digitisation and Industry 4.0. I love the variety of applications I learn about, and the different countries and industries with their different needs and drivers. Essentially, my job is to help enterprises that are seeking to digitise their operations – be they companies with extensive, comparatively mature digital strategies that are looking to take the next steps in performance or efficiency, or enterprises working with very traditional processes looking to take their first steps towards digitisation, such as undertaking a pilot project.
I find the industrial adoption curve I experience on a day to day basis fascinating – and I got to thinking about this recently when I saw a new technology for cycling doing the rounds on social media.
I am a pretty keen cyclist, I’ve always loved being out on the bike, and almost equally loved working on my bike to keep it running well or upgrading parts to improve performance a little.
So, the idea of a completely new way of converting the energy I put into the pedals into forward motion is immediately interesting (see the link above). I find myself wondering if it will catch on, if it really is more efficient, or if existing chain sets are just so ‘normal’ that they can’t be shifted as the standard approach. And that’s to say nothing of the role played by sport governing bodies regarding regulation of equipment – think recumbent bicycles and the controversy surrounding skin suits for Olympic riders.
Back in industry, we know digitisation is catching on. But there are countless technologies and approaches within it that are at various stages of adoption, and many industries have compliance issues to work through too. My particular part of Industry 4.0 or the IIoT is where the data that is produced in the connected, digital enterprise is computed. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. What we are talking about here is the notion that in order for the information revolution to improve industrial processes, we need to have computing power somewhere to crunch the data and run the control software as well as other virtualised computing requirements. It’s essentially IT converging with Operational Technology (OT), and it’s at the heart of Industry 4.0. As a company that makes servers and software that helps its customers to have a truly reliable, fault tolerant IT layer, we are able to help companies with their computing needs wherever they need them. For some companies and industries, it’s all about the cloud. For others, the server room. For some the computing is starting to happen at the industrial edge – on machines or the plant floor. For many companies, the computing will happen at more than one of these levels.
Each enterprise, each industrial sector, each country – we all have very specific needs. We all have a slightly different path to Industry 4.0, and we’re all at different milestones along the way. The most important thing is to recognise that it is the right path and to keep pedalling along it, whether that is using the very latest direct drive technology, or a traditional chain set! And not to be afraid of asking for directions along the way – such as where the computing should happen for your application – your own route should be tailored to your exact needs.
If you’d like to talk about industrial computing at the edge, in the cloud or in the server room, or if you’d like to know more about running control software, reducing server downtime or running virtualised processes from a centralised computing platform, get in touch.