Hannes Niederhauser, CEO at Kontron and Chairman of the Management Board of the S&T Group, considers five technology trends to be the defining themes for the industry in 2020, including edge computing, real-time networks including 5G, new standards for embedded platforms, cyber security and artificial intelligence. Niederhauser is convinced that the continuing trend towards digitalization in companies and the continuing rapid innovation cycles in IT are a guarantee for growth, even if the economic environment should become more challenging.
Edge computing remains indispensable for the realization of the digital transformation in the industry based on embedded and IoT solutions.
More and more concepts from the cloud and data center area, such as virtualization, modular software in containers and software defined networking, but also artificial intelligence are moving into the area of traditional embedded systems, making applications more flexible, scalable and easier to manage. Accordingly, the demands on edge computing platforms are constantly increasing, and new standards and products are needed to meet these demands.
The demand for powerful edge computers for different industries with diverse requirements triggers modern edge platforms that can be used for high performance edge computing and as embedded edge servers. With the extension of the established COM Express® standard for Computer-on-Modules (COM) by the specification of the “COM-HPC” standard, new solutions with higher processing power, larger memory capacities and increased bandwidths for data transfer become possible. In November 2019, the pinout of this high performance COM standard was approved by the PICMG standards committee and the ratification of version 1.0 is expected in the first half of 2020.
The uninterrupted trend towards networking and digitization means that there is a sustained high demand for modules that can be used to easily integrate things, machines, sensors and actuators. For this reason, standardization measures have also been initiated for soldered System-on-Modules (SOM), which are used in cost-sensitive low-end/high-volume applications. An initial specification by the SGET standardization committee is expected in mid 2020. We then also plan to develop the first products based on this standard.
An important basis for edge computing in our core markets are real-time network infrastructures that give the architectural concept a strong boost. In the wireless mobile communications sector, the trend topic is of course 5G and in the wired sector standards-based real-time communication via TSN and OPC UA.
With its short latency times and thus real-time capability, 5G is an ideal supplement to the wired TSN standard – and I see both of them as basic technologies not only for Industry 4.0, but also, for example, in the transportation, automotive and medical sectors.
In the mobile communications sector, virtual radio access network (vRAN) concepts and projects such as OpenRAN in TIP (Telecom Infra Project) are paving the way to purely software-defined, centralized general-purpose network platforms. The purely software-driven development made possible by this ensures faster innovation cycles and maximum flexibility in implementation.
The new Edge Servers from our Communications division are also increasingly being used in this environment and help to achieve the lowest latencies, for example for IoT devices in the machine environment, to relieve the connection to the core network and to increase data security by processing the data closer to the company.
In wired communication, standards-based real-time communication via TSN and OPC UA is evolving. 2020 will be the year of TSN application standards.
I expect that the application profiles for vertical markets, such as Industrial Automation (IEC/IEEE 60802 TSN Profile for Industrial Automation) or Automotive In-Vehicle Communication (802.1DG), which are currently being worked on, will be decisively advanced. The topic of TSN network configuration can also be brought to a conclusion this year, so that nothing should stand in the way of rapid integration within the industry.
In connection with standards-based real-time communication in automation technology, OPC UA is becoming increasingly important as a manufacturer-independent machine-to-machine protocol.
New technology for climate protection: In 2020 many investments within Europe will be made in infrastructure and public transport to reduce CO2-emissions. With Kontron Transportation (formerly KAPSCH Carrier Com), we are taking a leading role in research projects and standardization committees to define the future communication system for rail transport, called FRMCS, based on 5G and to validate it through various test projects. With innovative software solutions in the areas of Mission Critical, mobile communications and IoT, Kontron is thus a reliable partner not only in the digitalization of rail traffic.
In 2020, the demand for hardware and software solutions for the high requirements of AI applications with especially developed processors will increase. The acquisition of Habana Labs by Intel® shows that development is progressing very quickly and justifies massive investments. Initially, I expect demand to come primarily from the field of vision, intelligent pattern recognition with video/image processing, and autonomous movement of robots and vehicles. Kontron will expand its existing portfolio of hardware and software with solutions from Intel® and other partners accordingly, and initial systems are available as “proof of concept”.
With SUSiEtec, our IoT Software Framework and our various industrial solutions, of which we now have many new ones in our portfolio thanks to our latest acquisition – AIS Automation Dresden GmbH, now Kontron AIS – Kontron is addressing the growing market for Industry 4.0 and AI solutions and services.
At the same time as the requirements for performance and mobility of solutions and systems are rising, the demand for greater security is also growing. This applies not only to IT systems, but also to IT-related machines, sensors and actuators from the production environment. An offering that Kontron has been maintaining for years is thus becoming a trend: We offer functions such as Secure and Measured Boot, Remote Attestation and the rollout of encrypted software with hardware-based support through Trusted Platform Modules.
All in all, the following is true for 2020: Digitalization and innovation will continue to ensure growth, even in economically more difficult times.