Without competitive software, even the most advanced industrial PC (IPC) hardware will be left behind in the industrial IoT. As industry 4.0 advances, IPC manufacturers are being forced to adapt their offerings, tooling, and support to embrace the IIoT. Most IPC manufacturers are quickly expanding their strategic alliances with various software vendors, boosting the abilities of their hardware offerings in order to meet the needs of smarter and more connected industrial environments. In exchange, software companies are offered an expanded market, and the chance to prove that their platforms can be effective in the IIoT. The growing complexity and breadth of embedded software in current embedded engineering projects has led IPC manufacturers to source more of the stack from third-party ISVs, or build integrated channels with them, to enable new (edge-based) data acquisition capabilities, analytics, security, machine learning, gateway functionality, and more.
These relationships between IPC manufacturers and ISVs are budding in a variety of areas. In late February, Intel launched a new AI development program that was integrated into AAEON’s embedded technology. Logic Supply has also begun a new venture with Amazon Web Services, offering pre-installation of AWS Greengrass on their edge PCs. While Logic Supply is one of the first companies to offer this package, AWS is hoping to expand its embedded partner network and ecosystem.
Even leading IoT & embedded technology providers with substantial software assets already like Advantech and Eurotech continue to expand their third-party support. In March, B+B SmartWorx (an Advantech subsidiary providing intelligent M2M and IoT connectivity solutions) teamed up with Inductive Automation to create pocket-sized IPCs with new edge data and networking solutions. In addition to bolstering its hardware, Advantech has built up its Wise-PaaS Marketplace, an online software store where both Advantech and selected partners’ software is available for various cloud, security, and other services. Eurotech is a pioneer in the IoT space and was among the first traditional IPC suppliers to develop their offerings further into IoT gateway offerings featuring a rich feature set enabled through software. The company continues to add to its software support such as with the announcement in April 2018 that Eurotech’s ReliaGATE 20-25 had achieved SAP-certified integration as Built on SAP Cloud Platform.
The broad effort by leading IPC suppliers to integrate new software exemplifies the rapidly changing embedded requirements for industrial technology. The new technology that comes from these partnerships improves safety, security, and data acquisition, which have become more important as factories must manage and protect their information while improving efficiency. The IIoT opens up a large new sector for software companies to expand their addressable markets while hardware suppliers contend with growing (pre-)integration demands of OEMs, systems integrators, and others. Software availability for IPC solutions has quickly evolved from a value-add to a core competitive differentiator – with the IIoT fueling this trend through the next several years.