Ian Tracy is engineering manager at HMS Networks.
Tell us about your company’s state-of-the-art industrial-networking technology?
Ian Tracy, engineering manager, HMS Networks: Our 5G wireless router is the perfect way to get started on your own network. 5G creates the ideal conditions for communication in the factory of the future. Depending on the application, peak data rates of more than 10 Gbit/s, latency times of less than 1 millisecond or availabilities of more than 99.999% can be achieved. Extremely energy-saving communication can also be realized. Our initial target customers are within the autonomous guided vehicles segment and similar industrial machines.
What have been the biggest improvements to industrial-networking technology in the past five years?
Ian Tracy, engineering manager, HMS Networks: The continued acceptance and proliferation of industrial Ethernet has delivered on the promise of a single network for control, safety, video and data.
What’s the most innovative or efficient industrial-networking technology application you’ve ever seen or been involved with?
Ian Tracy, engineering manager, HMS Networks: We worked with a company to enable remote monitoring of a spray/coating system, that enabled time-critical reactions to overspray and other events. The scale and speed at which this system acted was astounding.
How has industrial-networking technology benefitted from remote monitoring and connectivity?
Ian Tracy, engineering manager, HMS Networks: One benefit is that devices don’t have to be 100% configured when they ship out the door. With remote connectivity, the device can be commissioned from afar thanks to the features of various industrial networking protocols. Remote monitoring has brought the users closer to their machines, without ever needing to travel on-site.
Can you explain how software development has changed industrial-networking technology design and production?
Ian Tracy, engineering manager, HMS Networks: Software development for embedded industrial networked devices has evolved along with the hardware, developers, tools and applications. Development teams now include security experts, dedicated testers, UX experts and core/platform technology teams. Applications have changed from frozen monoliths to collections of components with APIs that need to be maintained and patched.
How do industrial-networking technologies figure into digital-twin platform models being used by manufacturers?
Ian Tracy, engineering manager, HMS Networks: Industrial-networking technologies enable digital-twin applications often by acting as the gateway or bridge between operational protocols and informational models of the asset. Industrial protocols support features like dedicated information models and service-oriented protocols, which integrate well with a digital-twin platform.
When will industrial-networking technology become IT-friendly enough that engineers are no longer required for installation and operation?
Ian Tracy, engineering manager, HMS Networks: Industrial-networked devices are becoming easier to use. However, there are increasingly more advanced configurations and operating modes for operational technology. Additionally, the convergence of safety protocols, real-time networks and the fact that the OT security model differs from IT will keep operation engineers employed for the foreseeable future.
What future innovations will impact the use of industrial-networking technology in discrete-manufacturing operations?
Ian Tracy, engineering manager, HMS Networks: Private 5G networks, time-sensitive networking (TSN), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are the nascent technologies that have the largest impact potential. Private 5G networks provide the ability for factories to reconfigure rapidly and optimize the use of production space. TSN will provide standards for all Ethernet devices on a network to operate in a deterministic way. AI/ML is for transformational insights into the employed machines.