Essentially, we can see significant progress on the solutions and technologies relating to Industry 4.0 at the same time as further consolidation. From Weidmüller's perspective, it is all about the consistent implementation of digitalisation and the translation of Industry 4.0 into concrete products. And things have changed a lot in this area: while two years ago many people were talking about a vision, we are now working with our customers on specific benefits and added value for their solutions. This means Industry 4.0 is no longer a vision, it offers practical added value with operative benefit. The starting point is communication-enabled machines and automation technology, as this is the key to successful digitalisation.
One of our highlights at HMI is definitely ProTop, our latest development in terms of high-end power supply. We are changing the focus in terms of functionality with ProTop, as the power supply is communication-enabled and the user will therefore be able to control it by means of remote maintenance in future and obtain information. This is a real benefit in, for example, offshore wind farms, but also in other applications and machines which need to offer high-availability, such as smelting furnaces. We can guarantee this high availability with our new power supply.
Weidmüller is pursuing a consistent digitalisation strategy with all its products, from infrastructure through to predictive maintenance solutions. For example, we are working with the Fraunhofer Institute on an intelligent plug-in connector, as diagnostics and communications capability will play an important role in the electrical connectivity of the future. Users use plug-in connectors not only to distribute signals, data and power, they also want to access information about the connector itself. This can involve, for example, a monitoring function on the plug-in connector which displays its status at all times. At the same time, we are moving towards was is known as the "Industry 4.0 Administration Shell", also called the "Digital Twin". The aim is to provide the user with all the technical features of the plug-in connector at all times, plus of course the current data on actual use. The so-called Administration Shell is all this in compact form, allowing rapid response to errors to prevent downtime, for example.
A second aspect of digitalisation which we are starting work on is Industrial Analytics. In this case, we have established an excellent position in the market with our solutions in the field of Machinery Analytics - detecting machine faults before they occur - and Energy Analytics - predicting peak loads in energy consumption - and are getting very positive feedback from our customers.
These days, this is mostly signal-based, which means it is based on the continuous monitoring of one or more sensor signals. But predictions based on historical data of this kind are only possible with some limitations. But the higher-performance model-based signal processing and industrial networks become, the closer we become to a real-time analysis and thus very accurate predictions on the wear status of machine components or impending faults in plants. This means that these systems process more current information and independently detect interactions, and they learn from this. This is a very exciting development.
The subject of data security or secure data management is a key issue. The NSA scandal and risks associated with IT security in the office are still very much on people's minds. Given the host of data protection problems, companies' reservations are very much justified. But for medium-sized companies too, Industry 4.0 and digitalisation are more a question of "when" than "if". After all, Industry 4.0 means digitalisation and networking, with a perspective working towards self-organisation. Functions that will play a key role here include mobile communications technology, smart devices and cloud services, which are becoming noticeably prevalent in the field of automation.
Cloud-based systems are the foundations of most of the current trends, and many things would not be possible without cloud solutions. Many providers are launching their own cloud solutions, but that is not our approach. We are platform-independent, which means we can adapt the best solutions to meet each customer's individual situation. This works, for example, via u-link, our web-based remote maintenance solution.
Our considerations started from the fact that machines have a service life of 30 years or more. When these machines were built, communication capability was very rare, so we are talking about retrofitting too. Machine and plant manufacturers need to adjust even quicker to changing customer requirements. The flexibility needed in order to do this can be achieved by having an increasing level of automation with a growing number of software components. This leads to increasingly complex systems. In this challenging environment, we aim to offer our customers the greatest possible flexibility - which we can achieve through solutions for consistent networking and the use of what are known as web technologies, which offer new approaches in the context of Industry 4.0 and also simplify M2M communication at a production site and even across sites. We are also presenting our new automation solution at the Hannover Messe, which was also developed based on open, manufacturer-independent web technologies.
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