Robotics & Automation News

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AI, edge computing and AR/VR are ‘key enablers’ of future automation, says Frost

Artificial intelligence, edge computing and augmented and virtual reality are “key enablers” for the future of automation and smart factories, according to new white papers by Frost & Sullivan.

“The world of manufacturing has never been as dynamic as it is today,” says the research consultancy.

Automation powered by AI, edge computing, and augmented and virtual reality are “driving a new chapter in the industrial revolution”, says the company. 

It adds that the journey and progression of industrial machines from steam engines to control devices and robots are “exciting and at the same time a bit concerning”.

Today, it is not merely about operational automation anymore. Instead, it is more about how capabilities such as awareness of the self, intelligence, and predictive prowess can shape the future of industrial automation.

As automation of today is gradually becoming unable to meet future requirements, there is a “dire need to reimagine the automation solutions”, it says.

Frost & Sullivan has released a series of new white papers, The Future of Automation, in collaboration with Siemens, which includes a Primer and the three technologies of Artificial Intelligence, Edge Computing, and Augmented Reality. The company says it provides an “insightful perspective on the impact of these technologies on the automation solutions of future factories”.

The white paper series delves into the key aspects that are driving the market currently and some of the challenges that are restraining faster adoption of these technologies in the field of industrial automation. The paper is designed to give “a utopian vision of advanced industrial control systems”.

Karthik Sundaram, industrial IoT programme manager at Frost & Sullivan, says: “Innovation has played out, but fundamental designs have not witnessed a major overhaul.

“However, the automation of yesteryear is slowly becoming untenable for realising future needs. This requires reimagining automation across all facets, starting from design, engineering, deployment, and operation.

“Envisioning the future of factories must first begin with a vision for the future of automation, an approach that has been relatively less explored in the industry today.”

In particular, Frost & Sullivan has identified the three trends of AI, Edge, and AR as factors that can strongly influence automation in the following ways:

  1. Artificial intelligence has the potential to transform human-centred engineering models into automated systems, facilitating continuous operational learning and resulting in productivity gains that can exceed existing human-led approaches.
  2. Edge computing can help expand PLC functionalities with additional computing power and personalised operational needs without sweeping changes to production architecture.
  3. Augmented reality will be the HMI of the future, enabling operators with high transparency and superior insights into controllers, machines, and production processes.

Sundaram says: “With the convergence of advanced technologies, industrial automation is expected to go through a phase of explosive growth in the coming years.

“Emerging technology paradigms such as AI, Edge, and AR are poised to drive the evolution of control process automation from the early days of control switches and relays to advanced control systems.”