Industries the world over use a mindboggling number of devices that will benefit from being connected. Take a medium-size mine for example, the rollers in conveyer belts and rock bolts alone can add up to well over a million potentially connected devices. Then there’s the modern car manufacturing plant, which could need more than 100,000 sensors and actuators to monitor production and relay information regarding progress, failures, and estimated delivery times.
Today’s industrial control systems are mostly based on the widespread ISA-95 model, an international standard for industrial information management. These largely closed systems are based on vendor-specific protocols and technologies and, while they are both high performing and reliable, they do not scale well and are typically costly to extend.
The use of connected devices and the intelligent handling of data can boost the productivity and profitability of any industry. Ericsson partners and invests in the device ecosystem to support its customers with a rich yet cost-effective supply of options. Contrary to only a few years ago, processors are now so powerful and inexpensive that the customization of devices such as sensors and actuators can be almost entirely done with software. This creates a strong economy of scale for hardware, reduces the number of SKU (stock keeping units, i.e. unique versions of sensors and actuators) and lowers the total cost of ownership.
The emergence of standardized platforms and software protocols for industrial use will drive inevitable consolidation in the device sector, just as it has with consumer devices. The past eight years of smartphone boom has driven the evolution of electronics and software to a level where consumers get stunning value for money. Industrial applications are lagging behind in this area but I am confident they will inevitably adopt selected technologies and practices already familiar to consumer devices, with massive cost savings and productivity gains as a result.
Reflections by Ericsson
Learn about the latest telecom, datacom, IT, media and IoT trends with these articles from Ericsson technology leaders. They will share insights and reflections about architecture, design, research, security, standardization and strategy.
Head of Device Technology and Ecosystem, Ericsson Research
Björn Ekelund is Head of Device Technology and Ecosystem at Ericsson Research. Apart from his direct responsibilities as a research leader he is also involved with Ericsson's device and chipset ecosystem partners and in direct industrial research collaborations. As a wireless device industry veteran with over 30 years in business and academia he has contributed in the design and market introduction of everything from analog belt-clip pagers to 4G smartphones. During his time at Ericsson he has worked in all parts of the mobile value chain, from handset chipsets to antenna towers and in all disciplines; from applied research to marketing and sales. Beside his role at Ericsson he is also an advisor to several industry associations, government agencies and the European Commission. He holds M.Sc. and Lic.Eng. degrees, both from Lund University.