Industrial Automation & Sensors Blog

New Webcast Series: Industrial Internet of Things Insights

by Jared Weiner | 10/23/2017

VDC recently concluded its latest survey of the industrial automation community, receiving more than 225 web-based responses from a worldwide panel of industrial professionals in engineering, logistics, R&D, and executive leadership roles. In support of our findings, I am pleased to share a 3-part webcast series in which I discuss some of the key takeaways from our coverage on the Industrial Internet of Things. Part 1, which can be viewed here, previews the full set of results and takes a look at Industry’s progress toward Industry 4.0. Learn more

SaaS Model to Drive Growth Within IIoT Security Market

by Jared Weiner | 09/13/2017

The market for security solutions serving embedded systems has grown considerably in recent years, and will continue to do so as the expansion of Internet of Things intensifies. The demand for security solutions is especially strong in the industrial space, where spending on embedded security software trailed only that of the mobile phones industry according to research recently published by VDC. Learn more

National Instruments Adds Time-based Synchronization to Industry-leading DAQ Solutions

by Jared Weiner | 06/06/2017

I recently attended National Instruments’ annual customer conference, NI Week. Each year, NI augments hands-on training sessions, partner showcases, and customer success stories with a series of announcements regarding new or enhanced product offerings. This year, as detailed by my colleague Dan Mandell, the focal point of these announcements was very clearly the unveiling of LabVIEW NXG. However, NI also revealed some important enhancements within its suite of CompactDAQ solutions, centered on the concept of Time Sensitive Networking (TSN). Learn more

Reactions from Hannover Messe 2017

by Jared Weiner | 05/04/2017

As a first time attendee at Hannover Messe, I was simply blown away by its scale. This year’s show drew an unprecedented 225,000 attendees and featured 6,500 exhibitors from more than 70 countries. The Hannover Fairground—the largest exhibition ground in the world, with more than 5 million square feet of covered exhibition space spread across 27 halls—was sold out down to the last square meter. The largest single exhibitor, Siemens, constructed a “booth” that was nearly the size of a football field. Another exhibitor, FANUC, featured a massive robotic arm lifting and spinning a full-size sport-utility vehicle as if it were a Matchbox toy. Learn more

The Automotive Segment’s Role in DAQ Market Growth

by Jared Weiner | 03/31/2017

DAQ technologies are deployed in a diverse mix of vertical market segments in a range of divergent use cases. Of the more than 20 consuming industries VDC tracked as part of this research, none generated more than 15% of DAQ revenues. While smaller consuming sectors leveraging new Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) use cases will attain the greatest growth rates, traditional DAQ consumers such as the automotive sector will drive market growth from a dollar volume perspective. Learn more

Five Industrial Automation Trends to Watch in 2017

by Jared Weiner | 02/02/2017

Manufacturers’ ability to effectively harness the power of Big Data to maximize operations will be the single biggest Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) trend to watch in 2017.Though nearly two-thirds of respondents within the Industrial Automation segment of VDC’s Voice of the IoT Engineer survey reported their organization’s customers are not currently realizing the full benefits of IoT connectivity, this will be a major emphasis this year. Learn more

VDC Cocktail Event at Mobile World Congress 2017

by VDC Research | 12/22/2016

Meet with our team of IoT and Enterprise Mobility analysts and executives to learn about our key research findings, current offerings, and upcoming initiatives, as well as network with other technology stakeholders. We’ll cover some of the latest technology trends we are following. Space is limited, so please REGISTER NOW to attend. Learn more

Evolving User Expectations Driving Vendor Strategy

by Jared Weiner | 11/14/2016

Among the greatest challenges data acquisition (DAQ) vendors face today is adapting to the evolving expectations of their customers. Consider the nature of the current wave of startups and kickstarters; more than ever before, the entrepreneurial spirit is centered on the creation of actual devices and physical products as opposed to the websites and mobile applications that dominated the earlier part of this millennium. Read more

Data-Hungry Enterprises with Intricate DAQ Systems Require Sophisticated SW Development Platforms

by Natasha Menon | 09/02/2016

As data-mining techniques have gained paramount importance across every industry, the associated devices and software solutions handling these tasks have become integral for every enterprise. Chasing data has transformed every enterprise operation – from managing massive production lines in factories, tracking assets in remote locations or analyzing customer behavior in retail stores. Never before have large streams of data been scrutinized at such granular levels to drive operational efficiency, improve agility, manage costs and reduce redundancies to achieve a diverse set of goals concurrently within organizations. Read more

IoT Gateways: The ‘S’ Factors for Successful Deployment

by Natasha Menon | 08/12/2016

As low power technologies become increasingly popular, more organizations are implementing LoRa WAN technologies in their gateways as the near-term solution. The flexibility of LoRa WAN is the ability to integrate numerous devices without complex installations. The gateways can provide bi-directional communication channels, as these devices are often connected to a network server via standard IP connections and the end-points communicate using single hop wireless communication to one or many gateways. Read more

Intelligent Gateways: Redefining Connectivity Architecture

by Natasha Menon | 08/11/2016

The Internet of Things (IoT) has resulted in the clash of the informational (IT) and operational technologies (OT) realms, and this convergence is expected to aggressively accelerate as enterprises, suppliers and customers move towards implementing next generation technologies. The overlap of technologies between the OT and IT domain has industries struggling with the complexity of connecting new systems and legacy infrastructure. The reality of jumping onto the IoT bandwagon has become imperative for most industries to drive operational efficiencies in capital constrained business environment. Read more

What’s in Store for Inventory Tank Gauge Suppliers? (Part 2)

by Natasha Menon | 07/11/2016

As the oil & gas industry continues to face the worst downturn experienced in the last three decades, affecting inventory tank gauge suppliers dependent on this vertical. In the past, most leading suppliers persistently focused on the oil & gas vertical to obtain a significant portion of their revenue. However, the recent slowdown of the oil & gas industry hampered revenue goals for leading tank gauge suppliers, forcing them to explore new opportunities within other verticals. Read more

What’s in Store for Inventory Tank Gauge Suppliers? (Part 1)

by Natasha Menon | 07/07/2016

Industry gurus prophesied the downward spiral of oil prices would be brought about by increased oil production activities resulting in oversupply worldwide. As this prediction came to life, the industry was unprepared for steep declines it witnessed in prices, leaving producers baffled, as oil prices dropped further from $80-90 per barrel to $30-40 per barrel. Read more

2015: International Economic Divergence Could Surprise Manufacturers

Recent leading economic indicators for the US economy have been astounding. Last Friday, Dec 5th was jobs days in America. The US added 321,000 new jobs in November and revised up 44,000 jobs for previous months for a total of 365,000 net new jobs added. The real stand out was manufacturing which added 28,000, bringing the total for the year to 171,000. Another promising data point was average hourly earnings which rose 0.4%. On Wednesday, a positive Consumer Spending Report also pointed to strong trends in the US economy, possibly buttressed by low gasoline prices. WTI traded to below $58/bbl today, a level not seen since the financial crisis. Read more

How the R&D 100 Awards Reveal Clues About the Future of AGVs

The R&D 100 recognizes the most critical advances in technology and science. Some of the categories include measurement devices, sensors, telescopes, and other scientific instruments. For 2014, 3 technologies stood out in particular and will serve as critical technology building blocks in the push towards automated transportation. The first is The Automotive Phased Array Radar developed by Toyota. APAR utilizes a single germanium System-on-Chip (SoC) design and is a Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit (RFIC). Silicon-Germanium (SiGe) integrated circuitry technology is nanotechnology, and can dramatically decrease the cost of radar systems. Read more

Man-Machine Collaboration Webinar Review

On October 30th, the IAS team conducted a webinar in conjunction with Photonics Magazine on the topic of Man-Machine Collaboration and Safety Sensors. The Webinar content included a comprehensive overview of current machine safety technology as well as anticipated future product developments. The session concluded with an examination of the applications that will provide growth within the segment, followed by a question and answer period. Read more

Is Peter Thiel Wrong About the Future?

Last night I had the pleasure to listen to Peter Thiel speak during an interview with Tom Ashbrook on the NPR radio show, On Point. The recording is available online. Thiel is a Silicon Valley visionary, originally co-founding PayPal (which spun off of Ebay today) with Elon Musk, and eventually moved on to invest in Facebook when it was smaller than the then rival Myspace. Peter is a techno-libertarian and argues that the human race has entered a period of stagnation and will ultimately flame out unless significant technological advances can be made. Read more

Why the Next Two Weeks are Critical to Level, Pressure, and Temperature Sensor Suppliers

The oil & gas sector is the most important vertical industry for level, pressure, and temperature related automation component manufacturers. This process industry is highly automated and proprietors are continuously looking for new solutions that drive efficiency and production. Refineries and their various operating units such as the crude oil distillation units and fluid catalytic cracker units will soon undergo scheduled maintenance and downtime, commonly referred to as a Turnaround. Turnarounds, or TARs, are scheduled periods of downtime where a processing unit is altered in order to prepare for the process of different materials or chemicals. Read more

Welcome to Kryvorizhstal

Kryvorizhstal (MT) is the largest steel producer in the Ukraine just ahead of the Illich Steel and Iron Works in Mariupol, 15 miles west of the contested Russian border. This area is also close to Donetsk which has been in the news recently. These two gigantic and fully integrated metallurgical enterprises are critical to the European and Russian economies as well as the global steel market. Each has the equivalent capacity to produce the steel for 100 aircraft carriers and both are at severe risk of shutting down or being commandeered. Read more

110 Yen: How Japan’s Systematic Currency Devaluation is Affecting Automation Suppliers

The devaluation of the Japanese Yen was one of the biggest global macro-economic themes affecting automation suppliers in 2013. As the picture for 2015 comes into focus, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) looks to continue its role in manipulating global markets.

The Japanese economy has been mired in stagnation since the early 90s due to a confluence of factors including aging demographics, poor oversight, a high level of debt to GDP, and the emergence of China as an electronics manufacturing powerhouse. Read more

What in the World do Limit Switches have to do with Self Storage Rental Units?

September is upon us which means leases are up and millions of people will be moving. Since the financial and housing crisis, many people have downsized or moved to renting for their housing needs resulting in exploding demand for self storage units. Several companies including publicly traded CubeSmart (CUBE), Extra Space Storage (EXR), Public Storage (PSA), Sovran Self Storage (SSS), and U-Haul under Amerco (UHAL) have benefited from this trend. The demand for more square footage of storage space has led to increased construction of these highly automated storage centers. Below is a small sampling of the stock performance of the companies within this space, courtesy of Yahoo Finance. Read more

How Sensata’s Acquisition of Schrader Further Solidifies ST as the Leader in Onboard Automobile Sensors

On August 18th, 2014 Sensata Technologies NV (ST) announced that it would acquire, in its entirety, for about $1 billion, the operating assets of Schrader. Netherlands-based Sensata, with significant operations and US headquarters in Attleboro, MA, is the leader in onboard automobile sensors. Applications include oil pressure sensors, occupant weight sensing, fuel system sensors, and anti-lock brake systems among others. The acquisition of Schrader adds to Sensata’s portfolio with their tire pressure monitoring sensors (TPMS). Read more

What the KMI Consolidation Means for Suppliers to the Oil & Gas Industry

On Monday Aug. 11 Kinder Morgan announced that the company would be consolidating its various divisions into one publicly traded corporation. KMI will be the third largest US producer, transporter and refiner of oil and natural gas.  Previously, the various business divisions of Kinder Morgan had been separated into different MLPs or master limited partnerships. An MLP is a specific type of investment vehicle, and to put it simply, instead of the company paying tax on corporate earnings the earnings are distributed to the shareholders of the MLP who are then required to pay taxes on the distributions through a special tax form, K-1. MLPs have been a popular corporate structure since the Oil & Gas boom however the capital structures make investment and M&A activity more difficult given the accounting and tax implications. Read more

The Siemens Automation Summit: Optimism Abounds

This week I had the honor of attending the Siemens Automation Summit held in Orlando Florida. During the conference analysts had the opportunity to interview Raj Batra, CEO of Siemens Automation division, 1 of 16 business divisions within the conglomerate. Raj and the entire Siemens team were optimistic for several reasons as they herald the manufacturing renaissance taking place here in the United States. Read more

3D Printing Poised to Alter the Manufacturing Landscape, are Automation Suppliers ready?

As 3D printing continues to evolve, the technology has the potential to become one of the next manufacturing game changers. 3D printing, also coined as additive manufacturing, has existed since the 1980s mainly using plastics. There are many companies utilizing the printers nowadays to create new products or to improve old ones. This revolutionary technology has gradually enhanced industries’ operational processes. Read more

Maquiladoras face challenges despite rapid changes in the Mexican economy.

Implemented in 1965, the Mexican maquiladora (also known as “twin plants”) program created a free trade agreement for foreign countries to bring materials into the country for manufacturing.  Initiated as a means of attracting foreign investment and fostering industrialization along the US/Mexico border, maquiladora factories tend to be located within a short distance from the border and are typically owned by non-Mexican corporations from the U.S., Japan, and European countries. These companies have been using maquiladoras to import equipment and raw materials to Mexican assembly plants on a duty-free and tariff-free basis for assembly or manufacturing. The assembled goods are then usually re-exported back to the origin country or a third party country. Read more

Why the South China Sea is the Fastest Growing Region for Data Acquisition and Automation

Throughout history small bodies of water surrounded by multiple trading partners have acted as bastions of economic growth. The Mediterranean Sea is the premier example, followed by similar regions such as the Great Lakes, The Persian Gulf, and also the Black Sea to some extent. The South China Sea will have the highest amount of economic activity for at least the next 20 years. This hotly contested region is dominated by China, but Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, The Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam all lay some claim to the geographic region. At stake is one of the largest deep water oil reserves left in the world as well as control of the world’s new economy. If DAQ and Automation component suppliers are looking for a place to grow their business, this is certainly it. Read more

Mergers & Acquisitions Musings for the DAQ Market

2014 is well underway, and after years of head fakes from the economy and political uncertainty in Washington, the year finally brings with it some semblance of medium-term stability. With policies like the most recent budget deal and Obamacare in place, the stage is set for the next couple of years. Companies are emerging from safe mode and starting to take steps toward revenue growth. As we look at what this means in terms of the Data Acquisition space, we find that the larger companies like Agilent, National Instruments, and Honeywell boast balance sheets that are stronger than ever with ample cash reserves and low amounts of debt. Read more


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