Industrial IT organizations are pushing enterprise architectures to the edge, moving processing intelligence closer to the target devices, assets, and processes. The data sought by edge and cloud-based solutions resides in the logic, process, and motion controllers marketed by the traditional industrial automation (IA) suppliers, who as a group were late to edge compute relative to IT players, hyperscalers, and ISVs. Introduction of industrial IoT edge solutions by IA providers, typically large players with deep domain knowledge, lends credibility to edge computing among customers who wish to remain with known suppliers who have supported their applications and know their business.
Early industrial IoT edge implementations tended to emphasize an infrastructure orientation focused on orchestration, virtualization, and similar cloud-native characteristics. The real value at the edge, however, lies in applications and typically domain-specific use cases, as these are the means of achieving desired business outcomes.
Automation suppliers are already leveraging public cloud infrastructure for its advantages in centralized configuration, model training, management, security, and other areas. Those targeting the edge are taking further advantage of existing edge technology and ecosystems, partnering with and/or investing in complementary infrastructure providers and joining open source organizations.
IA suppliers tend to closely integrate their edge offerings with their higher-level software-based solutions, including compatibility with their system-wide semantic data models. Analytics-based applications are at the top of the list due to their ability to drive incremental improvement through local data availability. Edge execution helps ensure that requirements for low latency, determinism, security, on-prem execution, and other critical metrics are met.
Industrial Automation Providers Partnering, Investing in Edge Infrastructure
The supply side of the industrial IoT edge is populated with numerous alliances between different categories of providers. Complementary ecosystem partners may provide cloud compute, store, and other horizontal infrastructure services, connectivity, protocol conversion, security, compatible or alternative device platforms, and/or solutions that are complementary to specific use cases.
Most prominent among these emerging alliances at the edge are relationships between IoT infrastructure suppliers, such as ZEDEDA and Red Hat, and automation suppliers focused on specific use cases that reflect both their legacy domain expertise and an emphasis on adding incremental value, typically via analytics. These relationships often involve equity positions through participation in early funding rounds.
Edge-enabled applications range widely, but lead candidates include asset and condition-based monitoring to prevent critical failures and downtime, lifecycle management, real-time analytics-driven performance enhancement in support of applications, such as OEE, as well as rapid situation response, video processing for automating quality, inspection, and surveillance, and remote capabilities that reduce travel and maintenance costs while improving service response times. Industrial IoT edge activities of the leading automation providers is a harbinger of the emphasis on business outcomes enabled by domain-specific expertise and edge-native technology, providing further testimony that the historically separate worlds of industrial automation, software-defined architectures, and cloud computing are converging at the edge..
Material for this blog was drawn from ARC’s recent research report Industrial IoT Edge Compute Software Platforms. This report quantifies and analyzes the market from the perspective of geographical region, industry, new vs. retrofit installations, platform vs. application execution environment, software vs. services, licensing vs. SaaS, sales channel, customer type and customer tier. Further information is available at Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) Edge Compute Software Platforms | ARC Advisory Group (arcweb.com). Information on ARC’s complete coverage of digital transformation at the industrial IoT edge is available at: Digital Transformation at the Edge, Endpoint Devices Trends, Market Size | ARC Advisory Group (arcweb.com)