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Weak Economy Slows Growth of Industrial I/O

Shipments of input/output for use with industrial PCs and open networks is still growing, but at a slower pace than in the past, says a recent report from Venture Development Corp.

Worldwide annual shipments of distributed and remote input/output (I/O) are projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.5 percent over the next couple of years, rising from $2.5 billion in 2002 to almost $2.9 billion in 2005, according to a newly released report from Venture Development Corp. (VDC), a Natick, Mass.-based research firm.

The report looked at I/O shipments intended for use with programmable logic controller (PLC) systems, distributed control systems (DCSs) and personal computers (PCs). Perhaps one of the report’s most notable findings is a slowing in the growth rate for shipments of I/O aimed for use with PCs, says James K. Taylor, VDC group manager for industrial automation, and author of the report.

A previous VDC report projected a 15% compound annual growth rate for shipments of distributed and remote I/O used with industrial PCs between 2000 and 2005, Taylor says. But the current report—which looks at a shorter, three-year forecast period ending in 2005—scales back that number to 6.3 percent, he notes. Projected market growth rates for I/O used with PLCs and DCSs were also scaled back, though not as dramatically, going from 5.9 percent to 4.5 percent for PLCs, and from 4 percent to 3.3 percent for DCSs.

The current report found the same slowing growth trend for shipments of I/O intended for use with Ethernet and other open networks, Taylor adds. “I think a lot of this may have to do with the general economic climate,” Taylor surmises. “Right now, rather than spending the money that it would take to invest in some new or different technology, people continue to use what they have been using. So it’s possible that after a couple of years, these trends might pick up again.”

Despite the slower growth rate, I/O shipped for use with PCs is still projected to see the fastest growth of the three categories between now and year-end 2005, Taylor points out. Currently, distributed and remote I/O for PCs accounts for just 13.4 percent of the market, compared to 50.1 percent for PLCs and 36.5 percent for DCSs, according to the report.

Growth in the use of Ethernet and the displacement of proprietary buses and networks by open buses and networks is also expected to be a significant trend going forward, Taylor says. I/O shipped for connection with Ethernet and other open networks currently accounts for more than 15 percent of the market, according to the report.

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