The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), also known as the Industrial Internet or Industry 4.0, is no longer a conceptual part of the Internet of Things (IoT), but is now a major phenomenon. Having enormous potential to change how industries work by bringing machine learning, industrial Big Data, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, cyber security, and automation technologies together, the IIoT is poised to drive new levels of productivity, efficiency, and operations of industries of various sizes and complexity worldwide.
As a large number of industrial manufacturers have started to implement the IIoT in their ecosystems, Tractica is witnessing a several fold increase in the development of collaborative efforts being made by big industrial players who understand the value of timing and opportunity in the new industrial revolution. ABB and Huawei have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that results in the integration of Huawei’s LTE-based OneAir products and technologies with ABB’s robots and industrial automation solutions. The MoU was signed during HUAWEI CONNECT 2016 (August 31 to September 2) in Shanghai. The latest ABB robot, YuMi (highlighted in Tractica’s previous blog post titled Collaborative Robots in Industry 4.0), was also showcased at the event. For the first time, the robot was demonstrated with an integrated Huawei OneAir wireless module.
Strategic Significance of the Agreement
The MoU is strategically very significant for both parties. As the leading supplier of industrial robots, having installed more than 250,000 robots worldwide, ABB can make full use of Huawei’s OneAir@Smart X, while Huawei can gain enormous experience in the domain of industrial robotics when China is ramping up investments in foreign robotics companies. According to Mr. Li Gang, Vice President of ABB (China) Co., Ltd., Head of ABB China’s Robotics Business Unit, and President of ABB Engineering (Shanghai) Co., Ltd., “Huawei is a global leader in communications, especially wireless communications. We are convinced that our cooperation and mutual strengths will help reinforce ABB’s technological advantages in industrial robotics and automatic production to improve production efficiency and promote internal industrial manufacturing upgrades in enterprises.” Notably, in the past 5 years, China has become ABB’s largest market for robotics customers and, last year, the YuMi robot was launched specifically to keep the Chinese market in sight.
Meet Huawei’s OneAir@Smart X Network
Launched at CeBIT 2016, Huawei’s OneAir@Smart X is a private network that provides a wireless solution across a wide range of sectors, including manufacturing, logistics, port, power, chemical, open pit, and Internet service providers (ISPs). Huawei claims that based on the most advanced LTE technologies, OneAir@Smart X networks feature “reliability, stability, flexibility, and easy installation and maintenance.” The network is capable of carrying multiple services for enterprise campuses, including SCADA, automatic control, data transmission for smart meters and sensors, video surveillance, broadband access, and voice communication, including voice trunking and group calls. The network supports both licensed and unlicensed frequencies within one network, giving enterprises the flexibility to choose LTE@Licensed band, LTE@Unlicensed bands at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, and dedicated M2M connectivity on an unlicensed sub-GHz band. The network also provides a software development kit (SDK) for customization, which is useful for integrating OneAir and other industry services. As for robots, OneAir@Smart X provides wireless modules with standard interfaces and mobile processing capabilities.
Leveraging Interoperability and Security
The two key issues in the IIoT are interoperability and security. While interoperability between the devices and machines that use different communication protocols and architectures is important for smooth real-time operations, the security of sensitive data is equally important for the manufacturing units. It appears that Huawei has made attempts to resolve these issues with OneAir@Smart X. During the MoU signing ceremony, Edward Deng, President of Huawei Wireless Network Solution commented, “Reliable industrial wireless networks are an important component during the automatic, digital, and intelligent transformation of industries. We are positive about the prospect of incorporating LTE wireless communication technology into the industrial sector. Huawei, with its profound wireless R&D and innovation competencies, will join hands with industrial leader ABB to develop E2E wireless products and solutions tailored to industrial characteristics and requirements. In the future, Huawei and ABB will fully leverage their respective strengths and extend cooperation and influence to multiple vertical industries.”
Manufacturers Need to Get On Board Now
There is no doubt that the IIoT involves real-time analytics of supply chains, robotics, automation, and other machinery, and is the fastest and most prominent growing market segment among the other IoT segments. Manufacturers making timely decisions regarding implementing the IIoT in their operations will be able to remain competitive on a global basis and may even position themselves as future leaders, while those who do not will simply run the risk of facing a hard struggle to catch up eventually.