Industrial Automation and the Cloud

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We’re hearing so much about the cloud lately – and I get asked often what cloud computing means in the context of industrial automation and about the benefits delivered, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my thoughts on the cloud as it pertains to industrial automation.  It's a topic I recently covered in a Q&A session for the Intel Embedded Community.

As embedded devices are increasingly connected to the enterprise, arguably the most cost-effective way to implement these systems is via cloud architecture. Within industrial automation, clear targets for a cloud architecture are typical IT components like manufacturing execution systems (MES) and production planning systems (PPS).  There is no need for discrete servers in industrial automation environments that perform functions for only a few machines or manufacturing processes, when they can be performed as cloud services, and thus operated more efficiently.

In industrial automation, the shift to cloud computing is causing a disruption in the embedded space by changing key paradigms regarding data and the location of intelligence.  Specifically, the cloud is affecting the architecture of IT structures (moving from a fixed client server architecture, to a distributed architecture with local and global intelligence), and it is also impacting machine-to-machine (M2M) communication in the embedded cloud.

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