Convergence and networking, machine-to-machine communications, industrial wireless, integrated safety and energy networks, plus the industrial Internet, are just some of the reasons factory connectivity is perhaps the No. 1 story in automation and control for 2013.
It may seem ironic to some that connectivity is industry's biggest trend, and to some extent more important going forward than the nuts and bolts that make factories work. But increasingly, technological advances are putting the focus on how effectively systems work well together, and the ability for plants to communicate and make control/business decisions based on more and more data.
Hannover Messe 2013, the gigantic industrial technology event coming up on April 8-12, will be staged this year under the banner of "Integrated Industry." According to the show's website, the lead theme signals the fair's key focus on the growing integration of all areas of industry: "Machines, industrial equipment, work pieces, and system components will soon be capable of exchanging data in real time."
"Hannover Messe is where international decision-makers and industry leaders go to gear up for today's global competition," said Dr. Jochen Kockler, member of Deutsche Messe's Managing Board in a press release :
- Under the buzzword "Integrated Industry," here they will find the latest smart technologies and solutions for future-proofing their production facilities. They'll get to rub shoulders with all the relevant market leaders and make contacts with leading international subcontractors and suppliers of industrial automation, energy, drive, and production technologies.
In addition to various forms of electronic networking, the Integrated Industry theme encompasses the challenge facing all areas of industry as they cooperate across corporate and geographic boundaries. Keynote themes will be covered in no fewer than 11 tradeshows presenting the following topics: Industrial Automation - Motion, Drive & Automation (MDA), Energy, Wind, MobiliTec, Digital Factory, Compressed Air and Vacuum Technology, Industrial Supply, Surface Technologies, Industrial Green Technology, and Research & Technology.
"Integrated Industry is about making industrial production smarter and more efficient. It's also about multidisciplinary cooperation between different industries and different enterprises," Dr. Kockler said.
For instance, in the near future, intelligent materials will be able to tell machines how they should be processed, and components will be able to issue their own maintenance and repair requests. "Direct communication between the various systems involved in production will facilitate material and energy savings and make processes much faster and more efficient," said Dr. Kockler.
For once I would say that a tradeshow theme, even given the marketing hyperbole, may actually live up to its advanced billing. Along with visits by Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the world's most important industrial technology event will create a showcase for how factory automation and communications, energy efficiency, and more intelligent digital factories are likely the most important topics for automation and control in the years immediately ahead.