Category Archives: Opinion

Opinion: Augmented and virtual reality ‘open up whole new world of opportunities’

augmented-reality-glasses atheer

By Douglas Bruey, electrical engineering program lead at Synapse

At first glance, a gamer playing Pokémon Go has little in common with a surgeon saving lives in an operating theatre. But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that might not be the case for much longer.

Augmented reality and virtual reality technologies are poised to open up a whole new world of opportunities. We’re already seeing the effects of VR when it comes to gaming. But in future could AR add a new dimension to surgery?

AR and VR both have the ability to alter our perception of the world. AR takes our current reality and adds something to it – virtual objects or information. VR, on the other hand, immerses us in a different – virtual – world. 

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PLC vs PAC: Similar but not the same

arnold machine

By Zach Arnold, founder, Arnold Machine

Programmable logic controllers, or PLCs, and programmable automation controllers, or PACs, are similar as they both perform the same essential functions. But with modern technology, their differences are becoming more blurred. 

The most notable difference between PLCs and PACs is their programming interface. PACs are more intricate, using C or C++. PLCs on the other hand, are programmed using ladder logic.

These programming differences create distinctions in the architecture and capability between the two computers. 

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What will America’s roads and highways look like in the future?

The New Jersey Institute of Technology has been looking into the future to see how roads and highways will change over the next few years, and found a significant proportion of roadways in a poor state. 

Across the United States, says the NJIT, there are more than 4 million miles of public roadways, and 28 percent are listed as being in “poor condition”.

Throughout those roadways, 61,000 bridges are considered “structurally deficient”.

On top of the needs for rebuilding US roadways, 42 percent of America’s major urban highways remain congested, which costs an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually. 

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    The US state of Pennsylvania has decided to be an early adopter of autonomous cars and speed up the process of legislation surrounding…
    Tags: will, technology, future, cars, highway, driverless

Innovative sensors are empowering the smart factory robot, says AMS

ams Industrial-Robotics

By Mark Donovan

The next industrial revolution is arriving on a shore near you. It’s called Industry 4.0, and like its three predecessors, it’s about to bring sweeping changes to manufacturing that will globally affect everyone.

Industry 4.0, and the resulting manufacturing changes that are coming with it, have spawned a new type of production plant called the smart factory.

Central to the smart factory is the prolific use of autonomous and collaborative robots that work symbiotically with each other and alongside human beings to yield a more productive and efficient manufacturing plant. 

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Opinion: Is digitalisation the key to remote plant operation?

3d printing

By Eric Duchesne, SVP technology experts for Total, who will be addressing at the ERTC Ask the Experts conference in Cologne on 20-21 June 

There have been many advances in the field of digitalisation in recent years.

As the industry moves towards remote operation it is plant optimisation and integrity management which will provide the tools to enhance safety and anticipate potential problems within the plant, ensuring that the right human assets and replacement parts are available when required.

Today, there’s lots of talk about big data, but before we start to consider how we use big data we can dramatically improve the performance of our plants through the more effective interpretation of data that already exists. We need to become proactive rather than reactive. 

Finding a third way forward for China’s economy

chinese wall

By Edward Tse, CEO of Gao Feng 

China’s fast economic growth, its gradual but consistent transition from a planned economy toward a market economy, the emergence of highly intensive competition in the open sectors, the increasing prevalence of technology and the availability of angel investing and venture capital funds all contributed to the emergence of waves of entrepreneurship and innovation in China that the country had not seen before. 

In their search for growth strategies, these Chinese entrepreneurs were typically fast and agile. Some of them developed diversified conglomerates, and there were others that decided on a narrow focus, taking the core competence approach.

The results have been mixed. Interestingly, some of them, through trial and error, discovered a third way of strategy development. We call it “multiple jumping”. 

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How China’s ‘copycat’ tech companies are now the ones to beat

made in china label

By Edward Tse, CEO of Gao Feng 

For a long time, Chinese companies have been known for copying market-proven products, brands and business models from the West and adapting them for the local market with only minor modifications. Such a phenomenon is known as shanzhai, a Chinese term that was originally used to describe a bandit stronghold outside government control. In today’s slang, it refers to businesses based on fake or pirated products.

Shanzhai has been prevalent in China in recent decades and this has earned China the reputation of being a “copycat nation”. Western media report that China’s preferential policies and regulations to restrict market access, such as the the “Great Firewall” in the internet industry, and the lack of intellectual property protection, give Chinese companies an unfair home advantage to create copies.

While shanzhai is common across a range of products and services, it is particularly prevalent in the internet sector. Chinese internet companies are often compared to their Western counterparts based on the similarity of their business models. For example, Baidu is known as the “Google of China”, Alibaba as the “eBay of China”, and Xiaomi as the “Apple of China”, just to name a few. 

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China must take holistic approach to future of Hong Kong


By Edward Tse, CEO of Gao Feng 

Hong Kong’s government has a reputation for being inward-looking when it comes to formulating policies.

Prior to the 1997 handover, such an approach was acceptable and made sense, as Hong Kong was separated from mainland China.

However, interactions between the city and mainland have significantly increased since the handover.

The government must now take a more holistic approach to understanding the overall developments on the mainland and their implications for the future of Hong Kong.

A case in point is Hong Kong’s land use planning. 

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Doctor, I shrunk the robot. Or… Out of their tiny little robotic minds

Chris Wagner, head of advanced surgical systems at Cambridge Consultants, with the Axsis robotic surgery technology

Chris Wagner, head of advanced surgical systems at Cambridge Consultants, with the Axsis robotic surgery technology

By Chris Wagner, head of advanced surgical systems at Cambridge Consultants

Surgical robots today are large and unwieldy. This causes a number of challenges in the operating theatre. 

Setting up and managing the robots, for example, takes up valuable operating time. It’s also difficult to swap a robot in and out of a surgical procedure if traditional tools are more appropriate for some elements of an operation. And there are safety issues when clinical staff work in close proximity to a large piece of moving equipment.

So a surgeon has to weigh the benefits of surgical robotics against these limitations for each procedure where a robot is used.

There is an opportunity here – if we can simply make the robot smaller, many of these limitations disappear. It is much easier to move a small robot into an operating theatre, put it into position for an operation and move it out again afterwards. The safety concerns are also much reduced. 

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Robots are taking over the world. Run for the hills now, or cash in quick – the choice is yours

money face

In this guest article, supplied by SKS Media, the spectre of high-net worth individuals teaming up with robots offer a terrifying vision of the future, with some hapless humans finding themselves in the nightmare situation of having mountains of money but not enough opportunities to spend it 

The word exponential is often used to describe the pace of technological change which has come to define the world we live in. And with new technologies such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing and virtual reality only just warming up, the pace is unlikely to let up.

In this environment is it easy to become convinced that, when competing in a global marketplace, speed is the greatest of virtues. Indeed, in The Great Acceleration, author Robert Colvile argues that speed has become the defining feature of the modern economy, the driving force behind wealth creation in the 21st century. 

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The machine and AI: What’s in our future?

arnold schwarzenegger

Eat, drink and take regular exercise if you want to live

Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director at obsolete industrial automation parts supplier, EU Automation discusses how recent developments in machine learning are influencing industry

In 1950, computer scientist Alan Turing developed a way of testing a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour, equivalent to humans.

Since the Turing Test was first used, the world has become fixated on the possibility that, one day, a computer could function like a human being.

Machine learning is a concept that has been around for many decades. In machine learning, the computer doesn’t rely on rule-based programming, rather the algorithms can adapt and learn from the data. 

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Robot ethics: Three things industry can learn from new robotic standards

Ethical robots

Graham Mackrell, managing director of robotic gearing specialist Harmonic Drive UK, explains the three things industry can take away from the new standard

The British Standards Institute recently released a new set of standards for the ethical design of robots and robotic devices.

The standards highlight the growing need for guidelines on robotic safety, contact with human beings, robotic deception, addiction and possible sexism or racism exhibited by self-learning artificial intelligence systems.

When science fiction writer Isaac Asimov wrote about the three laws of robotics in his book Runaround in 1942, little did he know they would one day become a reality for a world filled with robots.

From automated manufacturing plants, medical and pharmaceutical applications to military, agricultural and automotive systems, robots are everywhere in our modern world. 

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NarrativeWave claims first of its kind IIoT platform


Today, large industrial assets, such as airplane engines and gas turbines, generate data through sensors.

In fact, there are around 6 billion connected sensors in the world today and by 2020, more than 20 billion sensors will be connected worldwide, according to Gartner.

During a commercial airline flight, data such as the engine’s health and status is sent to diagnostic engineers to be closely analyzed.

Approximately 1,000 gigabytes of data are generated per flight and with over 100,000 flights per day, this equates to over 100,000,000 gigabytes of commercial flight data every day.

That is what you call BIG data.

While big data can be a curse to manage, it is becoming the most critical asset.

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SCADA systems: Security – industry’s second nature


Martyn Williams, Managing Director of industrial software provider Copa-Data UK, discusses the latest developments in industrial cyber security

When hackers hijacked the electrical systems of three major Ukrainian power distributors back in December 2015, over 230,000 people were left without power for several hours.

The uncertainty caused by the attack lasted much longer, especially since employees in both engineering and IT teams alike were initially unclear about how the hackers managed to infiltrate the system.

The scale and severity of this incident illustrated, yet again, how important it is for companies to secure their cyber systems at all levels.

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Proactive vs reactive obsolescence management

Proactive vs reactive obsolescence management

Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of obsolete parts supplier EU Automation discusses the benefits of a proactive obsolescence management strategy for manufactures

With industrial obsolescence speeding up, it is vital for manufacturers to have some level of obsolescence management strategy in place to mitigate the risks of obsolescence.

Companies can implement strategies that are proactive, reactive or a mixture.

According to one of Aesop’s fables, one summer’s day an ant was working hard dragging food back to its nest when came across an idle grasshopper, singing to its heart’s content.

The grasshopper asked the ant to stop and chat – but the ant ignored him and carried on preparing for winter.

When the seasons changed, the grasshopper looked enviously upon the ant’s vast food supplies and regretted his idleness bitterly. 

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    Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of industrial automation equipment supplier EU Automation, discusses his considerations for designing for obsolescence It’s fair…
    Tags: obsolescence, product, parts
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