Miconex in Beijing: Food safety, home automation, Internet of things

A major trade show in China shows how industrial automation and smart-grid technologies may be influencing innovative, blue-ocean life and home automation markets.

11/04/2011


The recent Miconex (International Conference and Fair for Measurement Instrumentation and Automation) conference and show in Beijing was well received, with food-safety testing getting a lot of discussion in the summit forum. Automation manufacturers also introduced products related to smart grid, Internet of things (IOT), and home automation, including those for residential natural gas heating, hot water, and electrical meter and energy monitoring.

Michihiro Tomonaga, director for the international business promoting department of Azibil (formerly Yamatake; name change will be completed in 2012), described several opportunities in the emerging Japanese market, including life automation, which includes real-time health monitoring for eldercare so doctors can give help in time. In addition, home monitoring of abnormal states, such as leakage of indoor gas and heat, will be alarmed and automatically shut off. Such technologies also could apply in China, with its rapidly aging society.

Life automation and intelligent home automation and decorating are not new concepts. When Bill Gates first described the vision of intelligent home decorating, people were very interested in the concept. Home automation opportunities are independent of an aging population. A consultant from China Investment Corporation indicates in “Investment Analysis and Prospect Forecast Report on Future 2010-2015 China Intelligent Home Decorating,” that an upper-middle class is forming in China. This group has an average annual family income of more than $56,000 and population of more than 14 million, for purchasing power of $6 trillion. This contributes to the estimated $42 billion 2009 China intelligent home decorating market. With estimates exceeding 20% growth per year, market size could reach $124 billion by 2015.

However, the recent HC Industrial Market Research report differs in view. It notes that demand for home automation is relatively low, and the concept of intelligent home decorating is limited to building automation products, such home security. While intelligent electronic appliances play a key role in intelligent home decorating, there are few available products at present.

In September 2010, a leading domestic electrical household appliance manufacturer released the first refrigerator adopting the Internet of things (IOT) model (Internet-connected). A touchscreen displays refrigerator contents—such as apples, green peppers, and bananas—in real time, when the food management button is pressed. The refrigerator uses radio-frequency technology, feeding the information from internal sensors to the door. When the apples are eaten, the user clicks the Internet delivery button, and then the refrigerator orders apples from a networked supermarket nearby. What’s more, IOT refrigerators have video capabilities, so users can enjoy online entertainment. Manufacturers assume consumers will surf and watch TV on refrigerators, and want to see an on-screen inventory rather than opening the refrigerator door.

Here are some points that intelligence appliance manufacturers might consider. When Apple issued the iPhone, most people were wondering what Steve Jobs really wanted to produce—telephones or consumer electronics. The changing market had significant impact on traditional market leaders, which were previously as steady as Mount Tai. The traditional mobile phone giant Nokia appears on the edge of a tumble. Motorola has been purchased by Google, along with 24,500 patents. At the end of July 2011, according to financial statements, cash holdings of Apple were $76.2 billion, more than the U.S. government’s $73.8 billion.

Blue-ocean innovations are not restricted to Apple. I believe that, in the biggest consumer market in the world, intelligent household appliances with the title of IOT or life automation will be a wide open field. The blue ocean requires firing one’s imagination with “high-end concepts” and innovative products, like Apple has done. As Tomonaga said: “There are no technical limits to today’s technology developments; what’s really important is to meet the specified or unspecified demands from consumers.”

A price of 100 thousand Yuan for an intelligent household appliance solution from a famous automation manufacturer is frankly not cheap. But perhaps it is acceptable, considering that Bill Gates’ intelligent home reportedly cost $60 million. Maybe in the near future, automation manufacturers will be as well-known as consumer electronics manufacturers. Don’t be surprised if they soon have fine products that can win customers.

Andy Zhu, editor, Control Engineering China

www.cechina.cn 

www.azbil.com 

www.china-inv.cn 

www.cis.org.cn (Miconex organizer, China Instrument & Control Society)

www.hcgroup.com 

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