When Things Rule the Internet

The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) seems to be finally moving toward critical mass after several years’ worth of gestation. During the gestation period, the nomenclature and scope of the technology has undergone metamorphosis. What began as machine-to-machine (M2M) communication morphed into pervasive Internet and now to the IoT.

As early as 1999, Motorola was showing concepts of a Coke machine calling home with a request for replenishment of Diet Coke. Industrial automation companies joined the progression with the idea of a machine—say, an automated assembly machine—calling back to its maker with machine status and diagnostic information. Original equipment manufacturers could then track their machines to accumulate data for product development and perhaps sell additional services.

Advantech Co. Ltd. (www.advantech.com), a Taiwanese-based controls, computers and automation supplier with U.S. offices in Cincinnati, has jumped into IoT in a big way. Mark Lochhaas, product sales manager, automation control, says, “IoT is an awareness of the cloud using the Internet and all the intercommunication that it offers. For us, it’s all the stuff that’s going to communicate with other stuff. For example, it could be as simple as a pilot light that needs to be controlled over the Internet. Mostly, people want one IP (Internet protocol) address with many devices hanging on it.”

The state of the market right now, according to Lochhaas. lies more in education and understanding needs than in direct sales. But he sees that latter part coming. He also links IoT to supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software. “We bought a software company called Broadwind several years ago and realized that it fits well as a SCADA application. Then we caught the vision of cloud computing and the server world and saw that this software would fit nicely there. Right now, we sell WebOP and Advantech Studios that are local solutions. Our vision is to be part of the ecology of robust industrial transducers as an interface to the real world connected to the cloud.”

Gary Mintchell, gmintchell@automationworld.com, is Editor in Chief of Automation World.

Advantech Co. Ltd.

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