7 Engineering and Tech Trends to Watch in 2013
Credit: IBM
Credit: IBM

New technology greatly improved industrial production in 2012, as manufacturers focused on non-traditional resources, such as mobile apps, the cloud, and a wide range of sustainable energy sources. As we begin a new year, what are the tech trends we should watch out for in 2013?


 

Mobility Will Be King

Tablet computing and mobile device use will continue to grow and companies will continue to explore the opportunity to gain greater access to customers and implement connectivity in the plant. In fact, analysts at technology research firm Gartner, Inc., expect mobile devices to overtake PCs “as the most common web access device worldwide” in 2013. As companies and individuals rely more and more on their phone or tablet, industrial companies are expected to allocate more resources to developing proprietary apps that help make sales, monitor equipment, and manage workflow.

The Internet of Things

As we’ve reviewed on sister publication IMT Machining Journal and here on IMT, the “Internet of Things,” or “Industrial Internet,” has greatly increased its presence in the industrial world. The idea that machines, vehicles, and tools produce terabytes of information that remain uncollected and unanalyzed has led companies like General Electric to double down on a network to chart this data.

GE is betting that the type of data being produced by, for example, a cross country flight by a jetliner, can be digitally aggregated and reviewed to determine gaps in efficiency and functionality. 2012 saw the beginning of heavy investment into the Industrial Internet, while 2013 should reveal the many types of information the Internet of Things can reveal.

Manufacturing Operations Management

LNS Research writes that Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) have gradually been gaining traction in companies looking to gather real-time intelligence to monitor shop floor activities through centralized software. Although adoption has been slow, shop floor managers who have devoted resources to these systems have reported considerable return-on-investment, leading LNS to predict that 2013 will show an increase in manufacturing operations management software development and investment.

Enterprise Sustainability Management

With the benefits of “going green” becoming more widely recognized, companies are turning to more sustainable technologies and production methods. But managing sustainability presents an added challenge to managing an entire enterprise. LNS predicts enterprise sustainability management will emerge as a new software category to help organizations improve industrial energy management, product stewardship, operational risk management, sustainability reporting, and environment, health, and safety functions.

Online Education

Mark Andreessen, venture capitalist and CEO of Andreessen-Horowitz, gave Inc.com his predictions for future tech trends. Surprisingly, he forecast that within five to 10 years, “most college students will enroll in online universities,” citing the need for innovation in public education from private start-ups.

While his timeline exceeds the boundaries of 2013, could this be the year we see online education in manufacturing make a breakthrough? We’ve already seen innovative education tools, such as virtual reality welding systems from Lincoln Electric. Will industry embrace the digital education movement?

Sense Computers

IBM Chief Innovation Officer Bernard Meyerson said that his company, building on the cognitive computing lessons learned in the development of Jeopardy! champ Watson, will continue to develop computers based on human abilities. Up next: the five senses. Meyerson outlines computers that will be able to taste food and manage diet plans or enable users to feel touch sensations on their computer screen.

Of particular interest is the development of machine vision systems that use pattern recognition to see like human beings. This type of application could help doctors better treat patients or analyze tools over time to accurately alert the operator about wear.

IT Security

All of the aforementioned tech trends point to a massive increase in data. The ability to store and protect that data will undergo a major change in 2013. As Information Management points out, “IT needs to manage [big data] effectively and the business side needs to know how to use it. This tends to leave big data static.”

Gartner predicts companies will be forced to use innovative methods of handling and protecting their data by using the cloud, engaging in de-duplication (deleting multiple data units), and only holding on to necessary information. Gartner also sees the development of “integrated ecosystems,” networks of information combined over the cloud that are compatible with devices and apps that make the information secure in one homogenous system.

 

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