Technology trends to follow for 2020

February 2020 News

Industrial end users today are demonstrating an improved grasp on how disruptive technologies and approaches can be implemented effectively in their operations and across their enterprises to gain business value. This is critical for any organisation to not only survive, but to thrive long-term in a world where the only certainty is change.

The new technologies and approaches that ARC Advisory Group analysts are tracking are all poised to either enter the mainstream or – if already there – to continue to gain acceptance. All relate to the overall digital transformation of industry, infrastructure, and today’s increasingly smart cities and municipalities. While far from a complete list, the technologies discussed in this report will almost certainly make an impact on industry, infrastructure, and municipalities in 2020.

Deploying IIoT Edge 2.0 solutions

The edge of industrial Internet-enabled architectures is becoming increasingly important. This is due largely to its often-critical role in determining the success of digital transformation strategies. Initially focused on delivering timely, clean data to cloud-based applications, the edge is emerging as an entirely new ecosystem within the overall enterprise architecture. Solution architects now rely on the edge not only for cloud integration, but also as a solution to address manufacturers’ concerns about latency, security, cost containment, and isolation for production environments.

Edge computing applications, particularly high-value analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) delivered via machine learning (ML), allow data to be processed near its source. The spike of investments targeted at this space helps demonstrate its increasing importance. IT and OT suppliers alike are introducing new IIoT edge hardware, software, and solution offerings. ARC now refers to this as ‘Industrial IoT Edge 2.0.’ It offers important improvements in ease-of-use, self-service, and turnkey operation; while emphasizing business outcomes and application-specific solutions versus pervasive infrastructure. Moving forward, Industrial IoT Edge 2.0 offerings will place greater emphasis on turnkey solutions that address specific outcome-oriented use cases. This represents a shift away from a simple ‘run the operations’ mentality to use of realtime data analytics to rethink competitive fundamentals.

Increasing use of cyber-physical systems

While manufacturers ramp up to meet demand for the growing ‘smart product’ market, they face challenges developing and manufacturing new and more complex products and systems. These require tight integration between the computational (virtual) and the physical (continuous) worlds. To meet these complex and integration requirements, more cyber-physical systems will be deployed using advanced simulation platforms that cover model-based mechatronic systems engineering, embedded system design integration, and simulation models that validate product and system design in the physical world.

Cyber-physical systems are an engineered system or mechanism controlled or monitored by computer-based algorithms and tightly integrated with both the Internet and its users. In cyber-physical systems, physical and software components are deeply intertwined and get much of their intelligence from the use of AI and ML. Factory production lines, process plants for energy and utilities, and smart cities will depend on cyber-physical systems to self-monitor; optimise; and even run infrastructure, transportation, and buildings autonomously.

In the future, cyber-physical systems will rely less on human control and more on the intelligence embedded in the AI-enabled core processors. These will run the devices, products, and systems that will be a pervasive part of the industrial world that produces them.

Accelerating development of Open Process Automation Systems and related standards

Advances in hardware, software, networking and security, increasing global competition and cybersecurity risks, and the need to gain more value from automation technology will accelerate the development of open process automation systems and related standards.

For example, one initiative being driven by a collaboration of end users, including ExxonMobil, Aramco, BASF, ConocoPhillips, Dow, Georgia-Pacific, and Linde. These companies are members of the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) established by The Open Group to identify and select appropriate standards for technology and systems to support interoperability, avoid technology obsolescence, and deliver more business value.

The goal of this collaboration is to accelerate creation of a standards-based, open, interoperable, and secure automation architecture that addresses both technical and commercial challenges of current systems.

A recently developed test bed for use by the collaboration partners will act as the foundation for testing the performance and operation of individual components and standards. The collaboration partners will nominate and prioritise new components, standards, and system features to be added and tested. The results from the test bed will be shared with all collaboration partners and create a foundation for developing future solutions.

At the asset/application level, a parallel (and potentially converging) end user-driven effort, the NAMUR Open Architecture (NOA) standard for transferring field equipment information, continues to gain traction in Europe and elsewhere. NOA uses a standardised information model to securely transfer field data from within the control system to cloud or on-premise applications for monitoring and optimisation (M+O) purposes.

The main purpose of NOA is to reduce the cost and effort required to integrate M+O applications while safeguarding real-time, deterministic process control and instrumentation. NOA demonstrators have shown that the principles behind NOA are sound. Proof-of-concept installations show they can be transformed to technical specifications and standards that could lead to marketable products.

Applying systems engineering practices to industrial cybersecurity

Ensuring the cybersecurity of information systems and associated networks has always been challenging. Serious vulnerabilities are identified on a regular basis and new threats continue to emerge to exploit those vulnerabilities. Industrial systems share many of the same vulnerabilities and are subject to the same threats. However, the consequences may be very different and, in some cases, more severe. This makes cybersecurity an imperative for the asset owner, who ultimately must bear the consequences of an adverse event.

The threat is ongoing and evolves constantly, so cybersecurity should not be viewed as a one-time ‘project’ with a defined beginning and end. Since there is no such thing as being fully secure, the preferred approach should also be ongoing. This is similar to the approach used for safety, quality, and other performance-based programs. It’s also not sufficient to focus on specific elements. Instead, asset identification and management, patch management, threat assessment, and so on are all parts of a broader response that must address all phases of the life cycle. This response begins by identifying principal roles and assigning responsibilities and accountability for each stage of the system life cycle. With these addressed, the well-established systems engineering discipline can provide effective tools and methods to help define, plan, and conduct the response.

Digital transformation shifting focus from digitisation to digitalisation technologies

As part of a natural evolution, digital transformation is shifting its primary focus from basic digitisation to digitalisation. Digitisation focuses on technology and infrastructure and involves creating digital versions of previously analog data, such as replacing paper-based work orders with digital work orders and replacing legacy analog field instrumentation and control systems with digital technologies.

Digitalisation, in contrast, involves using digital data and technologies to improve business or work processes: for example, utilising data from a digital work order to improve maintenance work processes and execution, or using digital twins to improve asset information and/or engineering processes. Digitalisation can improve the way people work, collaborate, and get things done within a plant, across a company, or across the entire value chain. Examples would include using digital twins to support engineering, augmented reality (AR) for assembly and maintenance, and virtual reality (VR) for training and simulation.

Successful digital transformation involves both digitisation and digitalisation. Digitisation makes it easier to capture, organise, and manage a variety of data, while digitalisation enables organisations to gain tangible business value from those data. Digitalisation focuses on multi-process disruptive change and how to implement these throughout an organisation. It engages an entire company and its people, rather than just processes and data.

Digital Transformation Council provides opportunities to learn from peer organisations

Thanks to the pioneering efforts of many of today’s industrial, infrastructure, and smart city-related companies and organisations, we are seeing an increasing number of pilot-level digital transformation projects being launched. This includes projects that utilise the technologies and approaches discussed here. Many leading end user organisations have started to see meaningful and measurable results.

Certainly, embracing newer technologies involves a degree of risk. ARC’s research indicates that many digital transformation projects can fail to produce meaningful business value because either the critical cultural and workforce issues were not addressed in advance or the project team was unable to scale up their pilot-level projects successfully.

To help overcome these and related issues, ARC encourages end users to engage with their peers via the Digital Transformation Council (DTC), a global, member-driven community for professionals in industry, energy, and public-sector organisations on a digital transformation path. DTC members have an opportunity to share their strategies, experiences, and practices to mutually support each other. There is no fee to participate.

For more information contact Paul Miller, ARC Advisory Group, +1 781 471 1141,,

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