You may have recently read about the most connected human on the planet. Chris Dancy from Denver, USA, is wired up to 700 sensors that capture every single detail of his existence - he uses a range of devices, services and applications to give him real-time data about his body.
His connected lifestyle means he knows more about himself than, arguably, anyone else on the planet and his monitoring has even allowed him to lose 45kg (100lbs). Dancy tracks what he eats and drinks, when he sleeps, how he emails, where he takes photos and even the activity of his dogs. Using technology ranging from Google Glass and narrative camera to a BodyMedia FIT, a Fitbit, Blue HR heart rate monitor, Lumo Back and a Pebble smartwatch, he has taken the concept of a networked environment to new heights.
Dancy is representative of the move towards an enlarged focus on analytics in the consumer environment, which is very much reflected in an increased reliance on data in the manufacturing world.
The recent launch of CC-Link's Gateway to Asia (G2A) scheme has reinforced this idea - there is a strong demand for increased data acquisition and handling. CC-Link have been working for some time to help enable businesses reach China, but the launch of G2A means that they are now able to fully extend their reach into other Asian markets.
For instance, parts of India, compared to some of Europe, could be described as still discovering the productivity and quality benefits that automation can bring. Hence this trend to automate is providing opportunities for the automation industry and its customers, as well as the chance for the Indian work force to increase its skills and standard of living.
Big companies normally write long-term business plans. If these plans don’t anticipate the technological changes affecting manufacturing, they are unlikely to be successful. There was also a degradation of the idea that handmade means high quality. Automated manufacturing means less waste, fewer returns and lower product cost, as well greater quality levels.
The launch of Gateway to Asia is based on the notion that automation and networking technology is growing across the globe - not just in countries where industries are more established. Recent reports about how Asia is now accounting for about half of all automation spending are validating the premise of the programme.
So back to Chris Dancy. He is reminiscent of manufacturing sites in Asia, where nascent concepts such as Industry 4.0, big data, Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to machine (M2M) are already creating the factory equivalent of Dancy's 700 sensors. And, just like the insight he gained allowed him to improve his fitness and lose 45 kilos, businesses are using the understanding provided by increased levels of automation and consequent data transparency to optimise their processes and improve their own bottom lines.
CC-Link enables devices from numerous manufacturers to communicate, resulting in a fast, deterministic control system. It is managed by the CLPA, which represents manufacturers and users, academics and other interested parties.