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The IIoT and the Maker Movement Will Revamp the Tech World

The IIoT and the Maker Movement Will Revamp the Tech World

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the Maker Movement are leading the technology future, according to National Instruments (NI). Each year, NI produces Trend Watch, a document that outlines the current or soon-to-be-current technologies that will change industry and change our lives.

In TrendWatch 2015, NI points to the major technologies that will alter our world in the near term. This is the second of a two-part article on NI's Trend Watch 2015. (Click here to read part 1.) This article looks at developments in IIoT and the Maker Movement. NI expects the IIoT will revamp industrial production delivering new levels of productivity. The company also expects the Maker Movement -- smart devices built with edgy technology in the garage -- to become an abundant stream of new products and new businesses.

This is NI's second Trend Watch. The company will track the technology that's featured in the report and present a set of sessions at NI Week that tracks the trends. "Some things change a bit over the year. We want to communicate the impact of these critical trends on our customers over 2015," Ray Almgren, a VP at National Instruments, told Design News.

IIoT will revamp industrial production

NI defines IIoT as a vast number of connected industrial systems that are communicating and coordinating their data analytics and actions to improve industrial performance. NI characterizes IIoT as the connective systems in cars, power generation, smart grids, smart cities, and production plants. "The fundamental elements are the same in all of these settings: you automate data to make more productive decisions," said Almgren. "It's machine-to-machine, and the human may not be in the loop of the interoperability between systems, safety, and security."

Almgren sees challenges and opportunities in IIoT. The challenge is that networks can be exploited by bad guys. The opportunity is the ability to retrofit industrial systems or deploy new systems that can reach productivity levels we haven't yet seen.

The Maker Movement will become transformative

The Internet is fueling a massive maker community. NI notes that makers around the world are inspiring each other to create smart gadgets, robotic gizmos, autonomous drones, and wearable devices. They work in home garages or collaborative workspaces. They openly share their inventions online. This movement has been called viral innovation. NI sees this as the beginning of the next industrial revolution. "The makers are part of a social movement that is cool, transformative, and synergistic," said Almgren. "Anyone who has access to the tools and technology can innovate. It's been going on for years and we've serviced it since the beginning with our low-cost tools."

Almgren notes that creative people with good ideas can start their own companies, and they don't have to work for NI or GE to make it possible. "This is not just about the hobbyist. It's a movement that had led to a surge of real companies," said Almgren. "They prototyped it, and boom, it's a successful company. There's a real flow of innovations and products out of this movement."

Almgren notes that the Maker Movement is turning the education system on its head. "In the past, people went to school to learn what they needed to know to be an innovator. Then they would go to a company to innovate. Now people with a good idea start working on it and they demand that the educators give them the background to work on this thing," said Almgren. "The single innovator can basically start dictating to the establishment how this is supposed to happen."

Design engineers and professionals, the West Coast's most important design, innovation, and manufacturing event, Pacific Design & Manufacturing, is taking place in Anaheim, Feb. 10-12, 2015. A Design News event, Pacific Design & Manufacturing is your chance to meet qualified suppliers, get hands-on access to the latest technologies, be informed from a world-class conference program, and expand your network. (You might even meet a Design News editor.) Learn more about Pacific Design & Manufacturing here.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 15 years, 12 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years he was owner and publisher of the food magazine, Chile Pepper.

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