In an interaction with Dataquest, Ram Ramaseshan, Senior VP and Head, Automotive and Industrials Business Units, Sasken Technologies Limited, talks about the current role of connected devices and AI in addressing specific requirements in the Industry 4.0 era. He also delved on how Sasken is transforming itself in the industrial segment and creating a connected future. Excerpts:
How do you see the Industrial Automation market in India with the rise of IoT and AI?
Though the Industrial Automation market in India is behind that of other nations such as Japan, Taiwan, Germany, US etc., it is going to catch up slowly but surely. The abundant and inexpensive workforce was hampering the adoption of industrial automation in the Indian context which in turn was slowing down the adoption of burgeoning technologies. With the recent adoption of nascent technologies such as IoT, AI, machine vision, etc. by developed countries, India has to follow suit and adopt them in order to keep pace and remain competitive. So we will surely see a rapid adoption of AI and IoT technologies by the Industrial Automation market in India as well. No longer are global manufacturers developing different products for different markets – based on affordability and price-point. Consumer is also demanding same functionalities and features from their products as in the international market. For instance, products customized to individual preference in automotive, electronic gadgets, etc. are of reality these days. To satisfy customer preferences, Indian companies also have to adopt latest technologies such as 3D printing, IoT, and AI based solutions.
With growing importance of Automation, how can companies employ IoT and AI in a connected manner to efficiently manage industrial assets?
In order to compete in this globalized economy, improving utilization and productivity is the need of the hour for most industrial manufacturing companies. IoT and AI technologies can enable companies to achieve the same. Solutions such as Asset Performance Management, Predictive based Maintenance, Connected Enterprise, etc., are aimed at reducing the down time to zero and increasing the utilization to 100%. These technologies can help companies to track, monitor, analyze, and predict the productivity/performance of their industrial assets to a great extent. To employ these technologies, companies have to start with IoTizing the existing Industrial assets. This includes sensor integration in respective devices for collecting relevant data, uploading the collected data to cloud through an IoT gateway with edge analytics, performing data analytics on the cloud, enabling industrial operator/management to take decisions based on the right data.
What are today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities for companies in India in the era of Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 provides a framework to classify today's challenges and convert them into tomorrow's opportunity. If you look at the Industry 4.0 that the German government is pushing for, it has the following classification of technologies:
⦁ Big Data & Analytics
⦁ Autonomous Robots
⦁ Horizontal & Vertical System integration
⦁ Industrial IOT
⦁ Cyber Security
⦁ The Cloud
⦁ Additive Manufacturing
⦁ Augmented Reality
Though these technologies are meant to be adopted by industrial shop floors and supply chains, if you look closely in to the nuances of these technologies, it is clear that most of them are software- or analytics-heavy in nature. The Indian IT industry is traditionally known to be good at solving analytical problems using software technologies and by getting exposed to processes pertinent to respective industries, the Indian IT industry can easily address most of the knotty challenges that current Industrial shop floors and supply chain face. So we believe India is at an advantage with regard to Industry 4.0 technology innovation.
How do you see the future of driverless cars?
Though the related features required for driverless cars (for example, connectivity, ADAS, etc.) have progressed a great deal technologically in the recent years, the adoption of the same into mainstream transportation is far from reality, considering the ramifications with respect to insurance, regulations, legal systems, existing legacy cars on the road, government authorities, lack of infrastructure etc. According to us, instead of driverless cars, it will be assisted driving features that are going to become mainstream soon. Driverless systems might first get implemented in military applications, off road industries such as agriculture, mining, etc.
What is your take on how Industrial IoT is enabling digital transformation through connected devices and smart wearables?
IIoT is all about connecting devices and machineries with appropriate connectivity technologies in order to collect, ingress, and analyze data to generate insights which need to be provided to the user in a digestible format. This will change the way industrial workers, management, and end customers interact with each other as well as with machines. Apart from increasing the productivity and utilization, these technologies will bring new safety standards as well in to the industry. Using wearable devices, future industrial workers will be protected and alerted about different situations arising in their workplace. Smart helmet is a good example of a smart wearable, providing for a safe work environment and also help increase productivity. Sasken’s solution of an AR based FSO solution is an excellent example of a smart wearable device for industrial workers.
What are some of Sasken's business innovations through digital transformation in heavy machinery and plant automation industries?
The industrial division at Sasken focuses on the following:
⦁ NPI, Connectivity and Android-upgrades for Industrial products
⦁ IIoT enablement for Legacy Systems
⦁ Asset Performance Management solutions
⦁ Augment Reality based FSO (Field Service Operator)
IIoT enablement for legacy PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) systems is meant to IoTize the existing machineries in plant automation. The legacy PLC, actuator, motor systems needs to be equipped with sensors and connectivity interfaces in order to collect and upload relevant data to cloud. This is the primary objective of IIoT enablement for legacy systems. Through these solutions, existing legacy controllers can be upgraded and brought to a common data architecture and IoT platform so they lend themselves to different IoT applications and use-cases.
The Asset Performance Management and AR based FSO solutions are targeted towards the heavy machinery industry. It is of utmost priority for heavy machinery owners to have 100% utilization and 0% down time of machines in order to increase the return on investment. The asset performance management solution will help them to track, manage, and predict the performance of their equipment real-time and also be able to manage the assets remotely.
What is your focus on security technologies? How do you believe is India growing in terms of increasing value of data security measures?
We do understand and back the fact that security is of utmost importance in the Industry 4.0 context. As machines and industrial assets are getting connected, the need to make sure that security vulnerabilities are the least is all the more important. According to us, security cannot be an afterthought. A separate third party technology cannot bring security to a system. Security angle should be inherent to any system/technology from the architecture and system design phase itself. It should also be abided by during the development and implementation stage as well so that every stake holder considers the security aspect.
There is significant room for improvement and tremendous amount of work needs to be done in the Indian context. Consumers need to put more emphasis data security measures. Even government needs to be proactive with regard to the concerns of data security measures to address issues such as the recent reports on Aadhar data security breaches.