Factory of the Future and Where Machine Vision Solutions Fit In

by Richa Gupta | 08/06/2014

I am posting this blog from the Austin Convention Center, home to NIWeek 2014, National Instruments’ rather elaborate annual partner conference. It has been an interesting two days for me at the event, where I’ve had the opportunity to gain some insight into the company’s (embedded) vision for the future, both its own and that of the industries it serves.

NI’s keynote address from earlier this morning was particularly noteworthy and thought-provoking. With a goal to showcase its innovations and partner collaborations, National Instruments made its big picture pitch to a fairly captive audience by calling on stage some of the company’s strategic partners and customers such as Airbus, National Grid and Intel, to name a few. Given my coverage focus on the data capture and machine vision solutions markets, the presentation segment that caught my attention was all the talk surrounding the Industrial Internet of Things and NI’s collaboration with Airbus in building the “factory of the future”. It is essential to note that the growing need for factory automation and systems integration is bringing down silos like never before. Sensors, actuators, and other components are not the whole in itself, but essential parts of the overall embedded system that addresses mission critical application requirements.

The same is true with machine vision cameras. While they continue to become increasingly important to the automation solution, their use for isolated applications will not be what drives adoption and use. Cameras and vision sensors will help facilitate specific tasks (such as 100% quality control) and be part of the connected device paradigm within the manufacturing shopfloor, providing vision-based intelligence over digital networks that help design, produce and deliver high quality products cost-effectively. Industrial automation of the future will cease to be discrete in nature, evolving into a more software and analytics-driven operation that works optimally with input from a wide range of sources – leading to cost savings and improved performance.

I believe global manufacturing is bound to shift away from an “agile” and reactive model to one that leverages the millions of terabytes of data generated via sensors such as cameras to more accurately predict future production requirements. That, in a nutshell, is going to be the driving force behind the "factory of the future", where the solution itself is component-agnostic, but which makes use of the massive volumes of data to enhance operational efficiencies, minimize waste, and maximize production. In keeping with the theme, VDC Research recently published market estimates and forecasts for the global machine vision landscape (hardware, software, and services), expected to grow at more than 7% through 2018. Get in touch with us to learn more.

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