Automation enterprises invest in cloud technologies

Facing new demands from manufacturers and the latest developments in the Internet of Things, enterprises in industrial automation begin to invest in cloud technology.

By Aileen Jin November 7, 2015

With the popularization of cloud storage technology in commercial fields, consumers are accustomed to enjoying information in the cloud in smart phones, tablet PCs, and laptops. The cloud provides flexible and convenient information transmission. It works like an invisible USB with unlimited capacity.

Just like commercial fields, the recognition of the cloud by the manufacturing industry is also quietly changing. The industry went from having doubts and concerns over safety of using a cloud platform to realizing value in cloud-based asset management, historical data analysis, industrial business flow optimization, remote real-time access, better energy efficiency management, more cost cutting, and efficiency improvements.

IDC, a market research organization, said the global cloud-computing infrastructure grew by 25.1% and reached $6.3 billion in first-quarter 2015. The expenditure of private cloud and the expenditure of public cloud grew by 24.4% and 25.5% respectively, year over year.

Relevant data from the China Ministry of Industry and Information Technology indicated that the fastest growing information technology service industry of China in the first half of 2015 was service business with cloud and big data as representatives. The growth rate reached 22.1%. It was undoubtedly a new blue ocean as far as "new normality" of China’s economy was concerned.

Growing demand from manufacturers

Facing the new demands from manufacturing users, leading enterprises in industrial automation also are giving increasing attention to cloud services. As a promoter of the concept of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), GE formally declared a plan to enter into the cloud service market through the Predix cloud, an industrial Internet cloud platform exclusively developed for Predix. It is said to be the first cloud solution developed and designed exclusively for collection and analysis of industrial data. Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, indicated that GE would provide higher-level services in the industrial field through the Predix cloud and helped users to capture and analyze massive high-speed running and diversified data generated by various machines in a highly safe industrial cloud.

Siemens is constructing an open cloud platform that aims to provide industrial users with big-data-based services such as predictive maintenance, assets analysis, and energy data management. Other automation enterprises have launched cloud-based products and services in recent years. For example, Wise-cloud platform of Advantech, Proficloud of Phoenix Contact, Electric "cloud Energy Efficiency" management platform of Schneider, and a cloud-computing-based solution from Rockwell Automation also draw attention.

As a domestic, long-established industrial automation enterprise, Hollysys is also actively researching and developing industrial cloud.

"All technologies for construction of a cloud platform are basically mature in terms of content. The challenges are information security and depth of industrial application," said Shi Hongyuan, vice president of Hollysys Group. Hongyuan continued, "China has many medium- and small-sized industrial enterprises. It will seem very uneconomical if they organize their own teams to establish [a] private cloud system. Hollysys has nearly 10,000 industrial customers among which there are lots of medium- and small-sized customers." The Hollysys cloud platform service helps customers and Hollysys.

Today, industrial enterprises are starting to adopt cloud technologies for big-data-based intelligent manufacturing through data sharing, assets management, remote monitoring, and information analysis. It is estimated that more traditional manufacturing enterprises will join the cloud, offering continuous improvements in safety and reliability. How to provide customized professional cloud services for industrial enterprises will become an important question for the cloud-service industry.

– Aileen Jin, editor-in-chief, Control Engineering China. Edited by Joy Chang, digital project manager, Control Engineering,

Consider this

Will major automation vendors see value in collaborating in the cloud, or will there be multiple, incompatible platforms?

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This was translated and edited for Control Engineering from Control Engineering China. 

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Author Bio: Aileen Jin is editor-in-chief of Control Engineering China.