One of the sucky things about becoming an adult is you begin to lose people, and many things that used to seem permanent are revealed to be fragile and fleeting. I've watched more than a few useful publications close over the years, usually due to a lack of revenue, support, confidence and belief, and now Industrial Networking has reached the end of its road, too. Sadly, you're reading the last issue.
As it's been explained to me, the world of industrial networking has evolved to the point that many formerly proprietary and highly engineered components have become more standardized, low-cost commodities, or they're headed in that direction. As a result, they're so similar in form and function that few of their former differentiating characteristics remain, so they no longer require help to point out their relative advantages.
For example, I heard a Home Depot radio ad a couple of years ago that offered 1,000 ft of Cat. 5e cable for about $20. This was unremarkable, until I realized that they hadn't even mentioned the word "Ethernet." The company and its copywriter presumably estimated that just saying "Cat. 5e" was enough to alert a general listening audience that they were selling Ethernet cable. Now, that's real product recognition and market penetration, but then I never heard another cable ad like it. Most supermarkets and convenience stores usually don't spend much on advertising staples like milk, bread and eggs either. Despite these economic and other realities, I still hate shuttering this magazine. Even before I went to work for it, I appreciated its plucky attitude and no-nonsense devotion to delivering useful information on fieldbuses, Ethernet, wireless and all the cables, connectors and other hardware and software that support them. I hope that I've helped provide some of that useful information.
So what do you do without your quarterly issue of Industrial Networking? Well, we'll still be covering many networking topics in our monthly Control and Control Design print magazines. And, truth to tell, with all the websites, blogs, chatrooms, LinkedIn groups, Twitter feeds and other resources devoted to industrial networking, you may not even notice that this little magazine is gone.
But I think you will, at least indirectly or unconsciously. That's because we've sorted through mountains of nebulous statements, downright hype and other baloney to find the few, best examples of instructive experiences, beneficial innovations, best practices, lessons learned and other advice on selecting and implementing the most productive networking technologies in a host of applications. Unfortunately, the Internet and all its websites and other online sources contain more smoke and mirror than all the print sources ever did, and now you'll have to navigate through more of it on your own.
Luckily, if we can boil things down, then you can, too. Deprived of a news source, any community can do the job itself because the same tools are available to everyone. Not surprisingly, I've found that researching on the Web can give some useful, initial, partially baked answers, but then some follow-up can help zero in on precisely what's needed. Online discussions may be enough, but I still depend on telephone conversations with sources for the give-and-take needed to secure more specific answers. There's no reason any reader can't do the same, and many are no doubt doing it already. However, others may need a reminder that it never hurts to ask for something you need or are curious about, even if you have to ask repeatedly.
Being a pest just comes naturally to some of us. Of course, video conferencing, WebEx, Skype and other tools can make asking these questions even easier. So get cracking. I'm pretty sure that I never researched and wrote a story that readers didn't have to make more inquiries about to arrive at a solution they could use in their own applications.
Finally, I probably shouldn't be mentioning this yet, but one potentially positive epilogue to Industrial Networking's demise is that some of the resources that went into it will be redirected into a new publication covering intelligent manufacturing, Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things. I think it's supposed to come out about twice per year at first, but I don't have all the details yet. Personally, I think this could be an excellent idea because if there was ever a topic that needed some clearing up and specifics, it's this new smart manufacturing monster. With a little luck, we'll be back helping readers cut through the baloney in this realm, as well.