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Technology trends that will shape industry in 2020

02 March 2020

Hannes Niederhauser considers five technology trends to be the defining themes for the industry in 2020

Edge computing remains indispensable for the realisation of the digital transformation in the industry based on embedded and IoT solutions. Dmand for powerful edge computers for different industries with diverse requirements triggers modern edge platforms that can be used for high performance edge computing and as embedded edge servers. With the extension of the established COM Express standard for Computer-on-Modules (COM) by the specification of the "COM-HPC" standard, new solutions with higher processing power, larger memory capacities and increased bandwidths for data transfer become possible. In November 2019, the pinout of this high performance COM standard was approved by the PICMG standards committee and the ratification of version 1.0 is expected in the first half of 2020.

The uninterrupted trend towards networking and digitisation means that there is a sustained high demand for modules that can be used to easily integrate things, machines, sensors and actuators. For this reason, standardisation measures have also been initiated for soldered System-on-Modules (SOM), which are used in cost-sensitive low-end/high-volume applications. An initial specification by the SGET standardisation committee is expected in mid 2020. We then also plan to develop the first products based on this standard.

An important basis for edge computing in our core markets are real-time network infrastructures that give the architectural concept a strong boost. In the wireless mobile communications sector, the trend topic is of course 5G and in the wired sector standards-based real-time communication via TSN and OPC UA.

With its short latency times and thus real-time capability, 5G is an ideal supplement to the wired TSN standard – and I see both of them as basic technologies not only for Industry 4.0, but also, for example, in the transportation, automotive and medical sectors.

In the mobile communications sector, virtual radio access network (vRAN) concepts and projects such as OpenRAN in TIP (Telecom Infra Project) are paving the way to purely software-defined, centralised general-purpose network platforms. The purely software-driven development made possible by this ensures faster innovation cycles and maximum flexibility in implementation.

The new Edge Servers from our Communications division are also increasingly being used in this environment and help to achieve the lowest latencies, for example for IoT devices in the machine environment, to relieve the connection to the core network and to increase data security by processing the data closer to the company.

In wired communication, standards-based real-time communication via TSN and OPC UA is evolving. 2020 will be the year of TSN application standards. I expect that the application profiles for vertical markets, such as Industrial Automation (IEC/IEEE 60802 TSN Profile for Industrial Automation) or Automotive In-Vehicle Communication (802.1DG), which are currently being worked on, will be decisively advanced. The topic of TSN network configuration can also be brought to a conclusion this year, so that nothing should stand in the way of rapid integration within the industry.

In connection with standards-based real-time communication in automation technology, OPC UA is becoming increasingly important as a manufacturer-independent machine-to-machine protocol.

Climate protection

In 2020 many investments within Europe will be made in infrastructure and public transport to reduce CO2-emissions. With Kontron Transportation (formerly KAPSCH Carrier Com), we are taking a leading role in research projects and standardisation committees to define the future communication system for rail transport, called FRMCS, based on 5G and to validate it through various test projects. With innovative software solutions in the areas of Mission Critical, mobile communications and IoT, Kontron is thus a reliable partner not only in the digitalisation of rail traffic.

In 2020, the demand for hardware and software solutions for the high requirements of AI applications with especially developed processors will increase. The acquisition of Habana Labs by Intel shows that development is progressing very quickly and justifies massive investments. Initially, I expect demand to come primarily from the field of vision, intelligent pattern recognition with video/image processing, and autonomous movement of robots and vehicles. Kontron will expand its existing portfolio of hardware and software with solutions from Intel and other partners accordingly, and initial systems are available as "proof of concept".

With SUSiEtec, our IoT Software Framework and our various industrial solutions, of which we now have many new ones in our portfolio thanks to our latest acquisition - AIS Automation Dresden GmbH, now Kontron AIS - Kontron is addressing the growing market for Industry 4.0 and AI solutions and services.

Hannes Niederhauser is CEO at Kontron and Chairman of the Management Board of the S&T Group

Key Points

Standardisation has initiated for soldered System-on-Modules (SOM) used in cost-sensitive low-end/high-volume applications

With short latency times and thus real-time capability, 5G is an ideal supplement to the wired TSN standard

OPC UA is becoming increasingly important as a manufacturer-independent machine-to-machine protocol