As the manufacturing and energy sectors look to digital solutions to enable transformation, CIOs are facing the challenge of identifying the best technology solutions for their IIoT requirements. Susan Chang, Middle East + North Africa Channel Sales Manager, Advantech, introduces us to Advantech and its main focus areas, and outlines some key advice for CIOs looking for solutions to enable Digital Transformation.
Introducing Advantech and its customers
Advantech’s corporate vision is to enable an intelligent planet. The company is a global leader in the fields of IoT intelligent systems and embedded platforms.
To embrace the trends of IoT, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, Advantech promotes IoT hardware and software solutions with the Edge Intelligence WISE-PaaS core to assist business partners and clients in connecting their industrial chains.
Advantech is also working with business partners to co-create business ecosystems that accelerate the goal of industrial intelligence.
In the Middle East and North Africa, Advantech has a network of professional partners to provide services in this region. We aim to continue to grow the business by working closely with existing partners both now and in the future.
In the Industrial 4.0 era, businesses require integrated solutions for entire system orientation.
We work with partners who not only have a good sales network but also have good vertical knowledge and know how to create synergy as well as software integration in the selected vertical markets such as O&G, energy and environment, Smart Cities and Digital Transformation.
Regional challenges and technology use cases
In the MENA region, there are ecosystems for O&G, power generation and distribution system industries with full solution offering. Previously, the closed world of OT worked perfectly, but the industrial IoT is becoming the new trend. The business model is a crossover between IT and OT, such a M2M, E2E, node to cloud. This is a totally different working model and a change for organisations. Customers cannot simply rely on their existing experience to adapt to this.
Advantech’s IIoT solution provides an open structure, PC-based gateway and data concentrator as infrastructure. We also have a solution for versatile Edges, hardware devices, an edge soft ready to use package and the Wise-PaaS cloud platform which contains industrial apps composed by our co-creation partner.
For both technology and business models, Advantech provides a ready to use platform to fulfil the gap to help the Digital Transformation progress smoothly.
One case in the GCC area, is for an O&G application. The customer is planning to build up piping monitoring systems and needs to have a full solution including I/O to retrieve data from a levelling sensor and a switch to communicate to the central control room. The control room also required visualisation. At Advantech we offer ADAM WISE IO/EKI SWITCH/Wise-PaaS/Webacess HMI as a one-stop ‘shopping to domain’ SI partner.
The C1D2 certified IPC/PPC/Switch/IO/router are still very popular in the MENA region, as well as AI use cases for vehicle application and industrial M2M Node and Gateway with NBIOT/ LORA wireless communication.
Working with partners
We work closely with local partners. Normally we work with a distributor and vertical focused SI.
For example, if the application is related to water treatment then we will work with our local partner to offer products requested by the SI – it will normally come from an EPC contractor or the SI’s suggestion.
If the project scale is smaller, our local partner will offer a solution diagram to the end user directly. So, we are very flexible and work closely with our local partners to best serve the needs of end users.
One local partner we’d like to highlight, and who we work closely with, is Startech GCC. They have been an integral part of our extended team in helping to promote and pass the benefits of this year’s star product (New FPM-200 Series) to end users.
Advice for CIOs accelerating Digital Transformation
Digital Transformation is a big topic but here are some practical suggestions:
1. Make sure to prioritise efficiencies and technology optimisation first.
2. Carefully outline the expectation for ROI.
At our recent IIoT Virtual Summit, entitled ‘Connecting Industrial IoT innovation’, our IIoT President, Linda Tsai, told delegates that agile innovation in the area of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will be the key in driving forward Digital Transformation in industrial applications into 2021 and beyond.
She identified six key technology trends for 2021: Digital Transformation, 5G, decoupling, device-to-cloud digitalisation, empowered Edge and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Responding to a question from Intelligent CIO during a press conference, she highlighted how 5G, AI and Edge technology would be central to discussions around post-COVID recovery.
She said while uptake in AI and 5G technology in manufacturing settings had been ‘very slow’ before COVID, due to there being no urgency, the challenges over recent months had shone a light on the importance of these technologies.
“We also feel that AI and 5G are speeding up Digital Transformation in manufacturing,” she added. “We need more intelligent technology, as there are now fewer human workers on the line. Data communication between equipment will become very important.
“We see a lot of manufacturing organisations considering using 5G as their internal network because of low latency and compatibility with IoT devices.”
She also highlighted existing use cases for AI technology, including for surveillance and security, while stating that there had been an increase in enquiries from companies wishing to speed up deployment.
“This technology is helping governments and the private sector during the pandemic, enabling temperature detection and social distancing, for example,” she added.
She told attendees that, according to the GSMA Mobile Economy 2019 Report, 5G will contribute more than US$2 trillion to the global economy up to 2035, of which 35% will go to the manufacturing and utilities sectors. Meanwhile, research from MarketsandMarkets estimates the value of AI in the manufacturing at US$17.2 billion by 2025.
“Advantech has developed an extensive portfolio of AI platforms including Edge AI systems, sensors and inference servers, as well as Deep Learning training servers, to assist customers in exploiting the potential of AI. Meanwhile, in the area of device-to-cloud, we are again at the forefront of innovation, with solutions including private cloud solutions, industrial APP, Edge intelligence software and cross-platform middleware – all specifically developed to combining optimised computing with robust and reliable performance in even the most demanding environments.
“There is no getting away from the fact that Digital Transformation will impact every manufacturer in the world in the years to come and harnessing the power of data will be critical to competitiveness as we move from Industry 4.0 and towards Industry 5.0.”
Meanwhile, our CTO, Allan Yang, discussed the important role of technology in ensuring organisations can stay competitive.
He said: “40 years ago, a company that didn’t invest in IT is probably no longer running. 20 years ago, a company that didn’t start evolving towards Internet technology might not exist today. 10 or 20 years from now, probably no company would survive without adapting to use AI or a data platform.
“Technology actually helps a company to stay competitive or even get ahead. As new technology emerges, it helps a company to cope with the changes more effectively.”