Happy New Technology

Dec. 8, 2008
What Does 2009 Hold for Us in Terms of Technology?
About the Author

Katherine Bonfante is senior digital editor for Control and Control Design. You can email her at [email protected] or check out her Google+ profile.

When it comes to technology and cool gadgets, we never know what to expect. Trendy innovations are introduced into the market each day. But what does 2009 hold for us?

During 2008, we saw the launch of Google’s G1 cell phone, which promises to be the toughest iPhone competition yet. We also saw the latest technology in smart washers and dryers, a watch/GPS system for runners, HP’s touchscreen personal home computer and even new breeds of cancer-fighting produce like purple tomatoes.

Machine builders also benefited from the latest product technologies of 2008. Control Design covered many of these product innovations, which included new trends in industrial PCs, new developments in smaller sensors, more secure cybersecurity systems and smarter, handheld, plant-floor devices.

When it comes to industrial PCs, the ’08 trend was for suppliers to manufacture smaller and better products. Better-designed products are always superior innovations, but why go smaller? Well, the factory-floor real estate for industrial PCs has decreased, and designers felt the need to shrink the technology. Factory-floor space is limited, but the need for industrial PCs on the factory floor is essential.

Sensors were another feedback tool that changed due to the lack of floor space. Suppliers concentrated on developing tiny, more-efficient sensors that allowed better device mounting and accessibility. The demand has been for machine footprints to get smaller, while machine performance, functionality and flexibility expands quickly. Even control system components at the sensor level had to follow suit. A great example of tiny sensors introduced this year is SuperShorties developed by Balluff. To learn more, read our March 2008 product exclusive “Tiny Sensors Bring New Possibilities” (pg 73).

Handheld, graphical, touchscreen operator interfaces were among the most popular and latest plant-floor device innovations for this year. Lack of floor space, device flexibility and user-friendliness were major factors that pushed for better operator interfaces. Read “Handheld OI Aids Security, Safety and Efficiency” to learn more (June 2008, p. 81).

This year, machine builders faced a growing demand to protect themselves from reverse-engineering, piracy, sabotage and other infringements on their intellectual property. Opto 22 developed Secure Strategy Distribution System, an automation software suite that gives industrial machine builders the capability to encrypt control and firmware programs securing programs under an encryption key. To learn more about Opto 22’s Secure Strategy Distribution System, read “Automation Suite Adds Security” (April 2008, p. 66).

So again, what will 2009 bring machine builders? I’m not sure, but I probably should expect the upcoming products to be faster, better, smaller and smarter than the ones released this year.

Check back with us monthly to see the latest product releases.

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