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The five biggest takeaways from IoT's biggest show of the year

What do you get when you put 27 halls of industrial innovation, advanced robotics and loads of schnitzel together? Hannover Messe. If I am honest, I approached the event tagline of being the “World’s Largest Industrial Fair” with reasonable skepticism, this being my first attendance at the show. The show hosted a whopping 210,000 visitors this year, of which more than 70,000 were from overseas, and had 5,000 exhibitors from 75 countries. The lead theme? Man-machine collaboration.

Five days later, after a whirlwind of keynotes and visits across the massive booth landscape, I did not leave disappointed. The technology community was in full force, clearly demonstrating how the latest and greatest in IoT is and will continue to transform manufacturing. Here are my top five takeaways from the show.

1. Machine data is transforming the internet of things

Industry 4.0 and the biggest buzzword of the past five years — “digital transformation” — appeared in demos, videos and text on just about every stand. But Hannover Messe showcased how digital transformation is so much more than just a trendy phrase. This year, attendees learned how to take action. Several halls were dedicated to “digital factory,” where vendors such as my own (Splunk) demonstrated how things like machine data are changing smart factories and IIoT organizations from top to bottom. Many organizations detailed best practices, outlining how they were using machine data to diagnose issues, improve availability and performance. Take for example DB Cargo, Europe’s largest freight operator, which showcased how analyzing its machine data helped improve locomotive availability and the customer experience.

2. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are inextricably intertwined

While AI and machine learning were sometimes used interchangeably, they are not quite the same thing — and the perception that they are often led to confusion at the show. While it is evident that on the industrial side, AI can be applied to predict when machines will need maintenance or how machine learning can be used to analyze manufacturing processes and production lines, there remains an evident void of analytics leaders in this space. What does that mean for the rest of us? As a community, we need to better explain the benefits of and differences between AI and machine learning to ensure customers’ success.

3. Smart factories need smart analytics

Unplanned equipment failure and system downtime is still the number one challenge giving manufacturers heartburn. This boils down to the fact that organizations are struggling to combine and correlate data from diverse industrial control systems (SCADA, sensors, applications, infrastructure, IT systems) which often have varying communications protocols and a wide range of data formats. As a result, these organizations have multiple technology vendors, rolled out on a site-by-site or project-by-project basis, which can often result in data silos. Or, even worse, they are still using Excel! Industry 4.0 needs analytics and development tools for the process and automation engineers (the technicians on the factory floor) to succeed as they tackle issues such as lack of real-time insights, predictive analytics and cybersecurity.

4. The seat for the digital factory floor leader remains open

Many continue to believe that the digital revolution will continue to be driven by data analytics platforms from legacy vendors. But will they truly solve real-world problems driven by the aggregation of complex data sources? Whichever machine data vendor can help customers quickly identify problems on the plant floor, fix issues, reduce unplanned downtime events and integrate with existing IT and OT systems will emerge the true leader of the space.

5. If you play a role in manufacturing, Hannover Messe is must see

If you have an interest or a play a role in manufacturing, budget and plan to attend Hannover Messe next year. Whether you’re nursing an interest in manufacturing, are intrigued by the “World’s Largest Industrial Fair” claim, or looking to simply understand the “digital transformation” you keep hearing about, the conference is a must. It covers all areas of manufacturing, and as IoT, AI and machine learning continue to redefine the industry, Hannover Messe is indeed the benchmark for the innovation in the next industrial revolution.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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