The manufacturing sector has traditionally implemented a range of wired networks to automate plant floor operations. However, emerging machine-to-machine (M2M) systems such as short-range wireless and long-range cellular networks are evolving into options of choice for factories of the future. M2M systems can supplement or replace wired networks to enable advanced robotics and enterprise mobility on the plant floor, enabling convenient connectivity in inaccessible areas, communication across barriers, and simplified installation based on wireless local area, wide area, and sensor networks.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, M2M Communication in Manufacturing, finds that telecommunication companies (telcos) will be an important stakeholder in the provision of M2M products and the growth of the Internet of Things in the manufacturing sector in Europe.
Frost & Sullivan Information and Communication Technologies Research Analyst Shuba Ramkumar says: "Telcos' ability to offer enterprise-grade communication services integrated with plant-level communications is critical to reliable plant-level operations. Existing partner networks can also be leveraged to provide end-to-end services, including network implementation, provision of applications, and data analytics."
The pace at which M2M communication is adopted may, however, be slow as the traditionally conservative manufacturing sector will be apprehensive about potential downtime and the risk to the value and quality of their output. Security concerns are another reason manufacturers are reluctant to use wireless networks. Apart from these technical challenges, the relative inexperience of telcos in this market dissuades manufacturers from availing their services.
Educating manufacturers on the benefits of advanced M2M technologies, ensuring secure functioning of wireless networks, and consulting with manufacturers to tailor systems to their requirements will make smart manufacturing a reality that much quicker.
Ramkumar notes: "In areas where telcos do not have in-house expertise, there is room for partnerships with automation providers, system integrators, or data analytic providers. Acquiring smaller companies that specialise in innovative enterprise mobility applications and data analytics will help telcos capitalise on the immense potential available for M2M communications in the manufacturing sector."
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