Once there was a fork lift.

Now there are just the forks left!

discovered at the SPS fair in Nürnberg

Every year just before the big Christmas market in Nuremberg opens, engineers from all around the world meet to take a look at what is hot in the automation business. Being a German myself I had no idea that the area around Nuremberg is a kind of Silicon Valley for the automation industry. The universe of autonomous systems and the galaxies of subcontractors within is impressive.

My observation point was the industrial internet and the usage of mobile devices. At first sight the slogan INDUSTRY 4.0 was shown at almost every booth on this 117800 square meter, 1620 exhibitors´ and 56787 visitors´ fair. Although the version 4 is meant to be build around the industrial internet as the core, barely anything was ready to be shown. While the engineers seemed to push doability frontiers further and further they struggle heavily on the information architecture. My question: “What is the important information right now” when I was looking at one of the dashboards displaying all the data that sensors can offer, the usual replied was “All, of course!” This might be also a reason why there are rarely mobile applications on the market. If it is expected that your mobile phone runs an all-in-one monitoring, measuring, calibrating and local controlling application then the starting point remains challenging and in most cases simply wrong.

The big players in the game, namely Siemens and ABB, were able to show how mobile applications will more and more appear as a part of the every day toolbox. It will be very interesting to see how the traditionally long life cycles in automation R&D will be influenced by the fast moving mobile market. Already noticeable is the focus changed towards user experience as a core driver in the application creation process.

What I was able to test at the fair: