When industry talks about Big Data and cloud computing, the first thing they talk about is the Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 4.0 and around software applications. Last but not least, the question arises as to which business model automation and mechanical engineering companies will use to earn their money tomorrow. And here there were interesting as well as surprising statements.
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Two years ago, there was still a lot of uncertainty when the subject of big data and cloud computing came up. Are the data secure? How to find the necessary data analysts? Is the investment worthwhile at all??
In the meantime, the market has matured, IT and industry have converged, and the debate is slowly shifting away from the risks and toward the opportunities. For Dr. For Thomas Holm of Wago, the technologies mentioned are tools for making complexity manageable. Today, it is no longer possible to see all the dependencies; the data situation is already too complex for that. For Alexandre Mendes of Siemens, big data and cloud computing primarily represent opportunities for new business areas and models in a market that is changing ever faster due to increasing connectivity. The fact that the amount of data is increasing and that it is becoming increasingly available, including mobile data, is the top priority for Rebekka Heiland of Sensor-Technik Wiedemann. The added value that results from this is the possibility of optimizing business processes, he says. Reiner Grubmeyer is convinced that there will be new business models not only for customers, but also for the manufacturers themselves. The signals are clearly pointing to more software and more services.
Very quickly, the panel agreed on the success factors for the solutions needed. Whereas in the past, signal edges were measured and complex programming was carried out, today’s users have to focus more on the analytics of the data. This means that the requirements for man and machine are shifting: a largely ready-to-use connection technology is already a prerequisite, which can be put into operation by simple configuration and has integrated reliable safety measures. What’s missing then is an application that reduces the complexity of data flows and connection paths to make life easier for the user here too.
Security is a must
However, Grubmeyer emphasized that IT security remains a key aspect that should not be checked off as a done deal. Customers must be able to trust the solutions; only under this condition are they prepared to accept analytics in the cloud. Therefore, it remains an urgent task for manufacturers to integrate reliable security functions into their products. Holm also points to a change in paradigm: Defense in Depth is now being followed by Security by Design, according to which each component must be secure in itself. This requirement arises from the fact that IT and automation technology are becoming more closely intertwined and networks must become more permeable. The bridge between the two worlds is ultimately the cloud, as Rebekka Heiland put it – sensor data on one side, analytics on the other.
The question of which data should be transferred to the cloud at all remains a point of contention. There are two contrasting approaches here. The first aims to save the complete data stream. However, this is only feasible if the available connections can also handle the data stream. In the case of mobile machines equipped by STW, the data there is limited to the relevant variables and partially aggregated. Only this reduced amount of data is then transferred to the cloud. The need for data arises from the business model, replied Mendes. It is not yet possible to estimate what these will look like in the future. Only complete data storage gives users the freedom to create their own applications. He has to contend with a completely different problem: The different laws of the individual EU states make the Europe-wide business with data very difficult, he reports.
Cloud to cloud
And there is another point that could slow down development in the future: the providers do not trust each other. "If I am responsible for a secure connection, then I must also be able to control the endpoint of encryption. That’s why we believe that you can’t avoid having your own cloud with the appropriate certificates, cryptography mechanisms and so on," said Dr. Thomas Holm clear. The other attendees agreed with him there – which of course means that everyone is promoting their own systems, from sensors to cloud platforms.
Whereas these are not closed systems: "We are open to integrating sensors from other manufacturers," emphasizes Rebekka Heiland. This is realized via the TC3G module, which directly accesses the CAN bus. This means that the infrastructure basis comes from a single source, and the data is also stored in the STW machines solution.cloud. The situation is similar at Kontron and Siemens. And data exchange from cloud to cloud is also possible. But just not the direct collaboration in a single cloud.
This does not mean, however, that the companies themselves will operate the infrastructure in the form of data centers. But they have each created their own platforms that run their applications in different data centers. Siemens, for example, currently relies on infrastructure from SAP for Mindsphere. In the near future, services from Atos, Amazon and other companies will also become available.
OEM business of tomorrow .
In the meantime, word has got around that Industry 4.0 is not primarily a technology issue, but one that affects business models. But to what extent are those interested in Big Data and cloud computing already addressing this question? At Sensor-Technik Wiedemann, this is always part of the customer discussion. And the answer, "We want all data in the cloud," is not sufficient there, the STW representative asserts. In such a case, there would have to be a more intensive exchange of ideas.
At Kontron, the changing view of customers means they are less and less interested in computer architectures or specifications. The only thing that has to be ensured is that the desired application runs on the hardware. Some OEMs are surprisingly well aware of data-centric business models. Others are not yet ready, but are being driven by customers to get involved, according to Grubmeyer’s experience. There is therefore a wide range of consulting needs among his clientele.
Alexandre Mendes reports that some OEMs want to change their business model and no longer sell the machines themselves, but rather their output. On the other hand, Kontron is increasingly dealing with non-industry players, such as consultants with creative business ideas. "They are just waiting for the IoT to get going so they can implement their ideas."
In fact, all roundtable participants expect strong growth in the IoT market in the coming year. One reason for this is more cost-effective gateways combined with easy-to-use applications. Many such solutions will be on display at the upcoming SPS IPC Drives. Mendes points out that two to three years ago, connecting an availability solution cost between 2000 and 15.000 euros per machine would have caused. With a software connection via Mindconnect technology, which is integrated in Sinumerik controllers, for example, this costs almost nothing today. This allows more machines to be economically connected to the cloud. And the simpler operation speeds up implementation.
… and the manufacturer of today
Asked about new business models within his own company, Mendes noted that some Siemens departments already rely heavily on total solutions that are developed jointly with OEMs. The partners often contribute supplementary software. Wago is working to make its controllers fit for the IoT. New models are already equipped with appropriate additional functions. In a freemium model, the use of these services is free of charge up to a certain extent (free), while those who need more services have to pay for them (premium). Controllers already in the field will also receive the new functions via a firmware update.
The representative of STW emphasized that by collecting and analyzing, more informed decisions can be made. This opens up new business models that were previously unthinkable because the technical basis was lacking. This is now being developed, and in some cases already given. As an example of a cloud feature, she cited geofencing, i.e. the erection of virtual fences so that a vehicle optionally does not enter or leave certain areas, or that an alarm is triggered if this occurs.
For the Augsburg-based embedded manufacturer, IoT services and more extensive software offerings are increasingly in demand, as are more extensive services in terms of warranty processing, technical support or customer-specific developments. Kontron has to be careful not to get in the way of the OEMs, but to provide them with the necessary tools and know-how to enable them to score points with their own applications and services vis-à-vis the end customers.
Close cooperation with OEMs
Siemens is focusing on openness with its Mindsphere IoT platform, says Mendes. This allows OEMs to develop their own applications, for example, to monitor their machine fleets. The electronics giant is not alone in this approach. Because other manufacturers are also facing the challenge that they alone can no longer meet the multitude of different requirements.
It is therefore important to create solutions in a patchwork of different building blocks – hardware, software or software components as well as services – together with partners, says Heiland. The company’s own core competence is supplemented by OEMs and service providers so that the best possible customer benefit is achieved.
This is good news for machine and plant builders who have interesting solutions to offer and are willing to cooperate closely with a manufacturer. Because it means that vendors are willing to let them take a larger share of the value chain than in the past. Of course, this can only work if it is profitable for both sides. For the manufacturer, this is always the case when it wins additional projects in which it can place its infrastructure, its software or its services. Many customers come up with interesting ideas, but don’t know how to implement them. The partners deliver a wide range of solutions, the consulting of the customers makes the service business grow.
The Siemens representative reported, for example, on a cooperation partner that produces beacons, i.e. devices at a price of 10 to 20 euros, consisting of one or more sensors, a connectivity module and a battery for about ten years of operation. These are also not wired in a complex way, but work with radio and can simply be glued on. This enables cost-effective use cases to be realized, particularly in the retrofit and optimization business, where demand is currently at its greatest.
Kontron is also breaking new ground in terms of hardware and software. For example, pay-per-view, permanent activation of additional hardware features or higher performance, or a time-limited runtime are possible. Even the temporary retrofitting of applications or algorithms for specific jobs and projects is possible. And it benefits not only the manufacturer, but also the OEM, who makes these services available to its customers in a leasing-like model. According to Grubmeyer, it has long been accepted by the customer that for additional services, corresponding fees are also charged.
One example of a Big Data application from partners is vibration analysis. STW also provides other applications and complements its own portfolio with solutions from its partner network.
On a good path
Big Data and cloud computing need to be actively supported by manufacturers, Reiner Grubmeyer’s appeal says. That means providing customers with assistance and solution partners. The goal must be to enable end users to use IoT and Industry 4.0 solutions. Data analysis, device management, IT security and, last but not least, end-to-end solutions are the points on which he places a particular focus.
"We’re nowhere near our goal with IoT and Big Data, but we’re well on our way," is Rebekka Heiland’s interim assessment. She is sure that the current development is not just a trend, but a significant change that every company that does not want to fall behind in the competition must go along with.
Alexandre Mendes finds the idea of a partner patchwork very interesting. Siemens is focusing on building an international ecosystem to increase the added value and attractiveness of Mindsphere.
Dr also sees this. Thomas Holm of Wago said. He also appeals to all parties involved to always find solutions that are a win-win situation for both sides. The joint development of the market can only work, he says, if profits are not distributed unilaterally.
"We manufacturers must actively support Big Data and cloud computing."
Reiner Grubmeyer, Vice President, R&D Product Management, Standard Base Products, Kontron
Image: Dominik Gigler
"The need for data comes from the business model."
Alexandre Cottini Mendes, Head of Regional& Target Accounts Management, Siemens
Picture: Dominik Gigler
"If I’m responsible for a secure connection, then I need to be able to control the endpoint of encryption as well."
Dr. Thomas Holm, Global Industry Manager, Future Concepts, Wago
Picture: Dominik Gigler
"We’re nowhere near our goal with IoT and Big Data, but we’re on a good path"
Rebekka Heiland, Project Management Networking& Data management, sensor technology Wiedemann