CONTEXT has been keeping a close eye on developments in the heavy industry and manufacturing sectors known collectively as Industry 4.0. The combination of IoT, AI, 3D printing, cloud computing and other transformative digital technologies offers innovative new ways to optimise processes, cut costs, improve agility and drive growth for organisations. For the channel, this area represents a massive opportunity for growth over the coming year, as we argue in our 2019 predictions report.
In many ways Hannover Messe is ground zero for all things Industry 4.0. This week, over 200,000 visitors were expected to fill a space the size of a small town, eager to see what the 6,000+ exhibitors from all over the world had to show off. Here’s what we found.
Size and scale
In many ways Hannover Messe is a fitting home for the world’s leading industrial technology tradeshow, given the term “Industry 4.0” was first coined by the German government. The sheer scale of the event is impressive: this year’s revamped show features seven categories which were previously branded under different tradeshows. These are:
Future Lab: focusing on R&D, startups, emerging technologies, innovation culture, and the “future of work”.
Automation, Motion & Drives: covers factory, process and energy automation; mechanical and electrical power transmission and fluid power; robotics; industrial sensor technology and image processing; transformers; energy management; logistics automation; and warehousing technology.
Digital Ecosystems: focuses on industry applications and digital integration in areas such as AI, 5G, logistics, cloud solutions, business software and AR/VR.
Energy Solutions: includes tech for industrial power plants and electric vehicle infrastructure.
Logistics: features material flow and warehousing tech; warehouse and factory equipment; industrial trucks and accessories; automated guided vehicles; packaging technology; and logistics services.
Engineered Parts: covers area such as lightweight construction, additive manufacturing (3D printing), surface technology and fastening systems.
Compressed Air & Vacuum Technology: speaks for itself.
AI, 5G and partnerships
It’s always difficult to pick the highlights from a show covering such a huge range of technologies. But this year’s main theme was “Industrial Intelligence”, and certainly the integration of artificial intelligence into Industry 4.0 processes was key, with firms showcasing over 100 applications of machine learning technology.
One of these was Siemens: it announced a tie-up with SAS which will allow firms to access the latter’s analytics capabilities in Siemens’ “IoT operating system” MindSphere, to build new IoT edge and cloud solutions. The duo promised the partnership would enable “near-real-time embedded AI for IoT devices at the edge”. Siemens also claimed that its AI capabilities can optimise robot-based handling processes.
Energy efficiency was also a recurring theme at the show. ABB had a strong focus here: the Swiss-Swedish robotics giant showcased its Ability Smart Sensor, designed to perform a health check on mounted bearings to improve operational efficiency. The firm also demonstrated fast-charging solutions for electric buses, trains, ships and trucks in the growing EV market. In a PR win, its High-Power 300PD OppCharge system powered the show’s first emission-free hybrid shuttle bus.
Finally, let’s not forget the forthcoming networks that will help to unleash a whole new era of Industry 4.0 innovation. Qualcomm teamed up with Nokia to demonstrate how industrial applications from partners Bosch, Festo, Goetting, IFAK, Siemens, Wiedmueller, and Zeiss would run on a live 5G NR network at the show. Not to be outdone, Ericsson also operated a live 5G network at the event.
Hannover Messe’s organisers are hoping to have 5G supporting the entire exhibition centre grounds next year, by which time Industry 4.0 will have taken yet another major leap forward. For the channel, that means growth opportunities aplenty.
© CONTEXT 2020