2013: Innovations in Automation & Control

Each year, the Golden Mousetrap Awards offer the Design News editorial staff a chance to review the most innovative products of the previous year. In the automation and control area, the process also normally reveals some of the major trends in products and technologies that are making the biggest impacts in manufacturing, since the Golden Mousetrap is all about innovation and forwarding looking designs.

This year's finalists in one specific category, industrial network technologies, definitely provide insight into one of the hottest product areas and technology focus in industrial control. I think that over the next 10 years, we'll all be amazed by the steps that industrial networking takes, especially given the resources being plowed in Internet of Things (IoT) and energy usage optimization.

Industrial networking

Ethernet, wireless, cellular, and M2M are all vitally important technologies moving forward, so it's not surprising that our three finalists provide solutions in this area. And I think we can all agree that innovations in this area are precursors to a sea change in the way that factories will be connected in the (near) future.

The SPECTRE3G-W wireless cellular router with WiFi from B&B Electronics is a plug-and-play, single box solution that provides local machine-to-machine (M2M) network connectivity via built-in WiFi and its Ethernet 10/100 and I/O ports. Plus it provides Internet connectivity via the CDMA and HSPA+ cellular telephone networks, and is certified by AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint, as well as by Rogers, the largest cellular network in Canada.

Red Lion's N-Tron NT24k managed Gigabit Ethernet switch series features a flexible modular format for different configuration options. The NT24k series enables customers to select the media type, form factor and module combinations that best meet current network requirements across industries such as factory automation, utilities, video surveillance, security, transportation, and alternative energy.

From Renesas Electronics , the R-IN32M3 industrial networking communication application-specific standard product (ASSP) features an integrated RTOS offload engine, an Ethernet accelerator, and on-chip communication controllers that enable support of the latest Industrial Ethernet protocols from a single device. This new device addresses demands for high-speed real-time response and high-precision control for automation devices including programmable logic controllers (PLC), I/O modules, servo motor drives and equipment that need Industrial Ethernet protocol-specific connectivity.

Which of these products do you think has a chance to win? I would like to say that I have the envelope and can tell you. But the plan is to announce the winners at a live awards ceremony Anaheim, Calif. on February 11, in conjunction with the Pacific Design and Manufacturing show. If that is a show you are planning to attend, don't miss out on this industry event.

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