ICT deployments in manufacturing industries are currently limited to the sporadic use of machine to machine (M2M) communications and cloud solutions. However, cloud adoption for core processes, cyber-security efforts, and the implementation of artificial intelligence for advanced robotics are important for the development of fully automated plants.
Strong long-term prospects exist particularly for IT service, communication equipment, fixed network, and wireless network providers in the industrial automation space.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, “Connected Industry Insight Series: ICT Opportunities in the Global Smart Plants Market”, estimates that the manufacturing, and energy and utilities sectors will spend a combined total of €206,51-billion on ICT in 2019.
“The plant-floor is still dominated by fixed networks installed over industrial Ethernet or fieldbus protocols for field-level networks,” says Frost & Sullivan ICT senior research analyst Shuba Ramkumar. “ICT vendors can contribute to the development of improved plant-floor communication systems in collaboration with automation vendors.”
On the other hand, revenue opportunities for mobile network operators (MNOs) will remain limited. Demand for cellular connectivity services will be low when compared to fixed-line and short range M2M services.
Collaborating with industrial automation providers to design, integrate and implement fully automated plants based on manufacturer requirements will be a crucial step in bringing the concept of smart plants to reality. ICT vendors must work with other providers in the IT ecosystem to develop end-to-end services that include network equipment, connectivity, virtualisation, cloud-based software, data analytics and cyber-security.
“Communication equipment vendors need to build comprehensive services which takes into consideration inputs from all stakeholders in the production process,” says Ramkumar. “By leveraging partnerships with fixed line providers and IT solution providers, MNOs too can extend existing relationships with manufacturers beyond network provision to offer integrated solutions for the plant-floor and branch offices.”
Enabling collaborative manufacturing and real-time connectivity between the end consumer and the manufacturer will accelerate plant-floor automation and help ICT providers anchor their place in the global smart plants space.