Since Dorn Cox began automating his 250-acre New Hampshire farm four years ago, he has installed dozens of sensors. Some measure moisture in soil around his squash. Some track temperatures in the greenhouse air around his cucumbers. Others track wind speed and rainfall in segments of field roughly a quarter-acre in size. When something is amiss—temperatures are too high or the soil is too dry—he receives an alert on his smartphone. He also sends out drones to survey his field crops for dryness, soil erosion, and plant health.
Makers of semiconductors spend upward of $5 billion to build and operate fabrication plants—known as “fabs”—that run 24 hours a day so they can recoup their investment before the equipment becomes obsolete in five years or so. Rows of pristine machines sit in windowless cleanrooms, which are almost as free of humans as they are of dust. Intel and Texas Instruments have spent decades perfecting this almost sci-fi form of manufacturing. Now they want to show the rest of the world how it’s done.
The chipmakers have set their sights on what researcher IHS estimates is a $185 billion global market for gear to automate industrial production. To capture a portion of that spending, they’re prodding companies to bring the Internet of Things—a term that describes a world in which physical objects are embedded with electronics and talk to each other—into factories. “It’s moving beyond hype and into engineers rolling up their sleeves,” says Doug Davis, senior vice president of the IoT division at Intel, which had more than $2 billion in sales last year. “The economic value and impact are unquestioned.”
ProGlove, developed by Workaround, is an “intelligent” glove that uses chips to power a simple display on the wrist. If the person wearing the glove completes an assembly task correctly, a large green check mark appears.
A great story in National Geographic to embed and then track artificial tusks with GPS chips into the ivory supply chain.
"To start, Christy asked taxidermist George Dante and Quintin Kermeen, founder and president of Telemetry Solutions, to lend their expertise to the project.
Real ivory is tough to impersonate. First of all, it won't melt when you hold a flame to it. Genuine ivory also has "Schreger lines" — small imperfections on the cut-end of the tusk, much like rings on a tree trunk, that show the elephant's age.
Despite these challenges, Dante created such a believable version that Christy and his editor were detained for a night at an airport in Tanzania.Officials thought the tusks were real even though Christy and his editor had notes from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Geographic certifying the tusks were artificial.
After navigating a few other hiccups, Christy dropped the tusks directly into the ivory supply chain through the coastal city of Mboki in the Central African Republic."
“I have since installed a few WeMo and Hue devices in my home, and I have to say, I like what Echo can do with them.
It's cool to be able to say "Alexa, Bedroom lights fifty percent" and then have the Philips Hues in the entire room dim. Or say "Alexa, Espresso machine on" and have the Rancilio Silvia in my kitchen connected to a WeMo smart switch begin its heat-up process.”
Flex’s 2,500 product designers have created a library of 130 component designs that can help companies cobble together devices more quickly. Some of its engineers have built a tiny sensor that scans your retina, useful for products that need to log in users without keyboards. Another group focuses on bendable circuit boards that will be used in electronic tattoos to track vital signs, or in sneaker-mounted wireless chargers that draw power from a wearer’s movement, says Joan Vrtis, who heads that team. “We are trying to be very much in front of what our customers want,” she says.
To help customers make use of its components or create new ones, Sargent has opened 23 R&D labs across the country where they can work with designers and use 3D printers and industrial manufacturing equipment to make prototypes. Flex is developing smart shelves with Intel and crop-monitoring sensors with Farm2050, a food production consortium started with Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
Fortunately for Nokia, Google’s control of the mapping industry, combined with its prototype self-driving cars, has made a lot of powerful tech companies and automakers nervous, says Richard Wallace, director of transportation systems analysis at the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research. “If nobody is left to battle Google on map quality, maybe not this year but three years from now, then you can’t fight it when they say the price is going up,” he says. “That’s why I think this bidding war is so severe.”
It’s tough to create a database of map info that’s 100 percent reliable. (Ask Apple.) Factor in the 3D elements, public transport data, and regular addition of new cities, and Nokia probably spends about $2 billion a year on Here’s R&D, estimates analyst Horace Dediu, a former Nokia business development manager who runs researcher Asymco.
Mention “Industry 4.0” to most manufacturing executives and you will raise eyebrows. If they’ve heard of it, they are likely confused about what it is. If they haven’t heard of it, they’re likely to be skeptical of what they see as yet another piece of marketing hype, an empty catchphrase. And yet a closer look at what’s behind Industry 4.0 reveals some powerful emerging currents with strong potential to change the way factories work. It may be too much to say that it is another industrial revolution. But call it whatever you like; the fact is, Industry 4.0 is gathering force, and executives should carefully monitor the coming changes and develop strategies to take advantage of the new opportunities.
Positive train control (PTC) is a set of highly advanced technologies designed to automatically stop or slow a train before certain types of accidents occur. Specifically, PTC, as mandated by Congress in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), must be designed to prevent:
Derailments caused by excessive speed
Unauthorized incursions by trains onto sections of track where maintenance activities are taking place
Movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position
PTC is an unprecedented technical and operational challenge. Since enactment of RSIA, railroads have devoted enormous human and financial resources to develop a fully functioning PTC system over the 60,000 miles that are subject to the PTC mandate. Progress to date has been substantial. Railroads have retained more than 2,400 signal system personnel to implement PTC and has already spent $5 billion on PTC development and deployment. Railroads expect to spend more than $9 billion before development and installation is complete.
“..all 30 ballparks will have a new tracking system called Statcast that can rank defensive powerhouses just as well as star batters. It uses cameras, radar, and sophisticated AI to put numbers on every element of a play—from the rpm of the pitch to the exact trajectory of the ball to the fielder's split-second defensive moves.”
At Convergence this week, customers profiled in various sessions played to Microsoft’s positioning of the “intelligent cloud”. They represented Azure cloud computing, machine-learning and leverage of Internet of Things in a wide range of industries. CEO Satya Nadella posited that other industries could become as margin rich as the software industry has been if they can learn to tame the coming explosion of devices and data.
The customers represented asset-heavy ones like Ford (which is using the Azure cloud for various connected services and has partnered with Microsoft for its Sync infotainment system) , Rockwell Automation (using the Azure cloud to monitor asset health).
They include Wash (an operator of laundromats which described how Microsoft helps in a low margin industry to deliver differentiating service calls and how it is starting to help with dynamic pricing )
They also represented (somewhat) asset light ones like Accuweather (which amalgamates a wide range of weather related data feeds to provide forecasts and other useful weather/climate data), J&J Services (a UK food service provider which described how machine learning is making their eCommerce portal far more interactive). Marston Pubs and Taverns in the UK discussed Microsoft tools for social engagement.