Interview with Hannes Niederhauser (CEO Kontron & CEO S&T AG) on the IT-Trends for 2019: " In the age of Digital Transformation, waiting for the success of others is simply no longer an option!"

Our CEO at Kontron and Chairman of the Management Board at S&T AG Hannes Niederhauser dares to take a look into the future. For our blog, he has identified five key trends for 2019 that will further accelerate Digital Transformation in the industrial sector: Intelligent Edge Computing, OPC UA with Time Sensitive Networking (TSN), Connectivity, 5G Networks and Artificial Intelligence.


Hannes Niederhauser, CEO at Kontron and Chairman of the Management Board at S&T AG

Hannes Niederhauser, CEO at Kontron and Chairman of the Management Board at S&T AG


Kontron Editorial Team: Mr. Niederhauser, why does the digital world really need Intelligent Edge Computing?

Digitization requires computing power and networking, as the exponential increase in the number of IoT-enabled devices, machines, and consumer gadgets also increases the number of data that needs to be evaluated. Data acquisition with unfiltered transfer to a cloud is pointless and very expensive. In an Industrial 4.0 environment, reactions to sensor and actuator feedback must more often than not occur virtually in real time. Here Intelligent Edge Computing with compact, robust and increasingly powerful embedded boards and modules as well as industrial PCs, ensures fast, reliable and uninterrupted data processing close to the point of origin.


Kontron Editorial Team: And what about the cloud?

The cloud assumes different tasks. In this area, the trend will continue – tied to the development towards more processor power and extended memory size: more and more cloud tasks such as Edge Analytics will be shifted to Intelligent Edge Computers.


Kontron Editorial Team: You identified OPC UA with Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) as another big trend in 2019 – how will this trend be reflected in practice?

With the increasing performance of boards and modules, but also with the integration of functions like TSN (Time Sensitive Networking), deterministic Ethernet Networks can be set up in practice with manageable effort. Machines, plants and processes can be seamlessly integrated into the IT networks. Thanks to the initiative launched at SPS IPC Drives 2018 by the OPC Foundation to extend OPC UA and TSN from the IT level via the controller level to the field level, this development will gain momentum faster than we all thought, especially because all big players are pulling in the same direction. This is a very exciting development that has the potential to ensure a successful market penetration of the TSN standard in the foreseeable future.


Kontron Editorial Team: In the digital age, nothing works without a stable and fast Internet connection - what does the 5G mobile communications standard have to do with that?

With their increasing performance and storage capacity, industrial PCs are becoming – also as Intelligent Edge Gateways – more and more powerful as well: they can filter large amounts of data and only forward the data that is really needed, for example to an embedded/private, public or hybrid cloud. However, this requires a stable and fast internet connection. The expansion of networks and the provision of the latest 5G mobile communications standard will provide additional impetus here. Not only can IoT terminals be integrated, but also large amounts of data can be transported in private and public clouds and results can be quickly and reliably passed back. This makes 5G one of THE drivers for IoT and Industrial 4.0 applications.


Kontron Editorial Team: Let’s talk about AI – will intelligent machines more and more replace people and their skills?

Artificial intelligence is and remains topical. The question of whether it really comes down to "intelligence" also remains. Artificial intelligence will certainly not replace employees, but relieve and support him. Currently, it is a matter of fast, algorithm-based evaluation of large amounts of data using self-learning systems. The transitions from Big Data to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are smooth. With the growing performance of edge devices, better connectivity, e.g. through 5G, the increasing spread of Industry 4.0 architectures, also based on TSN, we will see that AI concepts are adapted ever faster. We see the primary focus on industrial applications in the field of Object Recognition/Machine Learning.


Kontron Editorial Team: Will 2019 be the year of the digital twin?

It will be a long time before the entire company can be depicted as a digital twin in the cloud – if this ever happens at all. The predictive maintenance of offshore wind turbines will soon be just one example among many. Machines and systems that are controlled, monitored and maintained via Digital Twins will find their way into many companies more and more quickly. The technologies for this are already mostly available. In many companies, however, there is a lack of the necessary specialists to implement digitization, especially in the software/IT sector.


Kontron editorial team: The digital transformation obviously picks up speed - what can a service provider do to avoid being suspended?

I do not want to generalize here  but talking about the S&T Group, we are ideally positioned: In addition to standard and customer-specific hardware from Kontron, we also offer software consulting and software development based on the IoT Software Framework SUSiEtec via S&T Technologies. This enables us to offer everything from a single source. In the age of Digital Transformation, waiting for the success of others is simply no longer an option!


Cover picture: iStock

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