IT, AI, and platform economy
In the first ten years of Digital Factory, which began in 2004, only specialists were able to tell what was new. The foreground was taken up by various IT systems, the standard software that supported industrial processes from development to production and sales to customer service. Over the past couple of years, the exhibits have become much more colorful.
In goes without saying that these systems – from CAD/CAM and CAE to MES and PLM – retain their central importance since industry can only maintain its competitive edge if they are used properly. Innovative development and manufacturing methods such as augmented reality (AR) and 3D printing also draw the attention of experts. However, this general view has changed since the role of Industrie 4.0 and digitalization in the industrial sector has increased.
Artificial intelligence (AI), a topic for top-class specialists at the cutting edge of research until just a few years ago, has become the topic of the day even at industrial SMEs thanks to machine learning. Usage data collected from products and machines can be used to provide services for old and new customers but cannot be analyzed in the same way that accounts from the past month can be analyzed; it is only worth integrating sensors, agents, cameras, and microphones if value can also be generated by using the explosive amount of data that they deliver – suddenly artificial intelligence is not just suitable for industrial applications – it is at the center of Digital Factory.
It won't take much before all the important global AI providers with numerous partners will be found at the greatly expanded exhibition area. In 2018, Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft will be represented with large stands.
It's impossible to separate this topic from another that has simultaneously taken over Digital Factory for the same reasons and made it even more versatile: Industry platforms in the cloud. Individual companies are not able to construct and operate the infrastructure for cloud services or the platforms themselves. This creates a new sector of platform providers for industrial apps. Siemens and Bosch have already begun. However, new platforms are being added where machine tool manufacturers have banded together with software specialists to create their own platform for medium-sized machine construction.
That's why many people are talking about platform economics, which has developed alongside the traditional industrial market economy. Infrastructure providers, AI manufacturers, platform specialists and ultimately the manufacturing industry itself are facing off on cloud-based platforms with novel services that have Internet and digital integration as a basic requirement.
Like AI and cloud technologies that fill Digital Factory parallel to IT services, traditional products will solicit users alongside industrial offerings via platforms. It may become
less important whether users are actual buyers of products or services, or whether they only use them temporarily or for one particular task.
Digital Factory is becoming more colorful. It will also attract more visitors who are not looking for a new software feature but just want to see where the industry is heading. Like last year, you will be amazed at the increasing number of providers from China, along with those from Germany, Europe, and the USA.
Integration is the nuts and bolts of Digital Factory .