What is the cloud? It is a virtual computing world. Server farms with massive computer resources that can host any application. Instead of installing Excel spreadsheet on your laptop, you can connect over the Internet to a spreadsheet program. You can run the application, do calculations, and save data as a server file or on your own drive. Instead of paying for the application, you pay for the services as a subscription.
Depending on the business situation, cloud based services can save money. Investment in support and centralized hardware for the business are not needed. Email services, accounting software, network, storage and security are all included. There are a few missing details here, but you get the idea.
I am not the expert in the Internet arena, but it seems there are a great many in the industrial community taking a keen interest who are. Every major control supplier has, or partners with a company that produces Internet interface hardware. The cost of Ethernet and Internet hardware is so cheap, sometimes it’s easier to get an Internet connection to go across a large factory than it is to pull hard wire.
From a data standpoint there is no difference between the actual manufacturing process and virtual data. This presents several interesting possibilities. One can model an existing or proposed manufacturing environment and model it’s data with equal ease. With the right tools, optimizing process flow and developing best practices should be relatively easy.
In order to apply Cloud computing services more broadly one needs to examine the use requirements in different industries and thoroughly understand what’s important to the user. Food Industry, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to keep process records for compliance with FDA standards for traceability. A cloud based service might provide an ideal solution for customers in these segments.
In the healthcare industry, doctor’s offices have benefited from the digital age with electronic patient records, integration of audio transcription of doctor’s evaluations, even X-ray and imaging embedded in the digital record. What happens when hospitals can record and monitor patient biometrics directly from the hospital bed without using hardwire?
How many hundreds of millions of IP addresses will be created by smart home implementations? Thermostats, hot water heaters, refrigerators, can all be smart devices that are programmable and monitored from the web. These kinds of volumes will continue to drive the cost per point for web connections down making it the defacto standard for all sorts of applications we wouldn’t consider today.
No matter how the details work themselves out, the future of manufacturing will be web based.