“No matter the industry, one common denominator propelling and advancing industrial applications is the reliable, compact, and efficient power supplies and systems needed to make them all work – and that will likely always be the case,” says Harry Kaffenes, VP of Product Management, ABB Power Conversion in an exclusive interview with EnterpriseTalk.
ET Bureau: How can IoT-enabled devices and data analytics help businesses dynamically manage assets, cut costs, and improve worker safety?
Harry Kaffenes: IoT-enabled devices are introducing significant impacts and benefits to the business world. By sharing data via a wired or wireless network (and forthcoming 5G-powered private wireless networks), IoT devices provide real-time information about the state of “the thing” that is monitored. They’re advancing business operations and completely revolutionizing the way information is collected and processed to generate predictive analytics. Simply put, IoT-enabled devices can help businesses work smarter, stay nimble and adapt as quickly as needed, even in the face of an unprecedented global event.
To manage assets, businesses can implement IoT devices and software to track and manage inventory – a notorious challenge for businesses dealing with perishables and highly sensitive inventory like national grocery chains or transport companies specializing in cold-chain logistics. Improved inventory tracking and management ultimately helps improve efficiencies and cut costs, moving manual processes to intelligent, automated IoT systems.
And with regard to worker safety, many businesses use IoT devices to collect information about air pollutants, temperature, gas leakage and radiation. Industries dealing with hazardous substances such as the nuclear industry are accelerating the transition of potentially dangerous operations from human employees to automated robots, while also advancing the human-to-robot working model. The skilled manufacturing worker of the future will have IoT expertise in a hybrid environment where employees and robots work together. And with the rollout of 5G, we expect to see the development of next-generation contactless and wireless robotics that bring a new level of efficiency to the factory floor and to help eliminate unnecessary downtime.
ET Bureau: What does the future hold for industrial applications? And to stay competitive and bring costs down, how can businesses increase energy efficiency in industrial applications?
Harry Kaffenes: At ABB, we firmly believe that power is the ultimate enabler. To serve this purpose, power solutions must deliver the increased reliability and efficiency necessary to maximize uptime from the building (AC feed) to the box (devices and equipment) to the board (components on a printed circuit board).
Regarding the future, we can certainly imagine industrial operations becoming more automated and digitized through the application of new technologies.
For example, we are seeing a convergence of technology with the intersection of 5G and edge computing to facilitate the communication of tomorrow’s IoT-enabled applications – applications that will revolutionize industries like contactless, wireless robotics that can be used for remote surgeries or used to power smart factories.
And even with heavy industrial applications, miniaturization of components at the board level and using newer technologies such as SiC offer a path to increased energy efficiency. More and more, electrical engineers are being called on to create circuits with higher densities, better efficiencies, and high reliability.
No matter the industry, one common denominator propelling and advancing industrial applications is the reliable, compact, and efficient power supplies and systems needed to make them all work – and that will likely always be the case.
ET Bureau: What role does ABB play in powering and unlocking automation, with demand growing across a variety of industries?
Harry Kaffenes: The convergence of technology also plays a strong role in unlocking automation, with IoT-enabled technology and device-to-device, and device-to-human communication via 5G networks.
At ABB, we believe that private 5G networks and the applications this will better enable – such as wireless warehouse robotics – will help businesses realize the full potential of automation, effectively reshaping the future of supply chains and logistics. Advancements in wireless power transfer technology have been critical to powering Industry 4.0, electric vehicles, and the next era of smart manufacturing. And reliable, efficient power is vital to driving these advancements.
By eliminating the power cable, magnetic transfers untether robots from their charging stations, removing the constraints of traditional wired charging. Instead, charging is integrated into the daily workflow via smaller, more compact charging stations distributed throughout a facility — enabling automated devices to charge on-demand, increasing uptime by optimizing downtime in between jobs, and significantly improving productivity and efficiency.
ET Bureau: Cities are undergoing transformations as a result of recent advancements in digital technologies, allowing them to streamline smart services and offer new products. What role can smart cities play in achieving sustainability goals and increasing energy efficiency?
Harry Kaffenes: The transformation is indeed underway, and at ABB, we don’t see this trend slowing down soon. Investment in smart city technology is on the rise globally, with Europe alone expected to reach US$49 billion in spending on initiatives in 2023.
As is typically the case with public infrastructure investments, cities must figure out how to responsibly allocate their funds. They will have to incorporate sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind in their planning. When implementing new technologies like the power infrastructure required for 5G (such as smart poles and small cell repeaters installed on street infrastructure), municipalities must first identify the business case and specific applications that will be enabled by the investment at hand. This also applies to the private sector and enterprise deployments.
Once the business and use cases are established, it’s time to think about the actual infrastructure needed – and power needs to be part of that discussion. Too often, power is not thought of at the forefront of major infrastructure and construction projects, even though power technology impacts applications and is also a key driver of increased efficiencies that lead to more sustainable outcomes.
Municipalities that emerge as the leading smart cities and communities of the future could be the ones that invest in the power infrastructure required to enable the next generation of IoT/IIoT-enabled technology. And with the realization of 5G, smart cities will benefit from enhanced computing at the edge (closer to the end applications) with high-speed processing power and ultra-low latency. This will open the door to applications that will have major societal benefits— such as autonomous and electric vehicles that will not only help reduce congestion but will also help cities reach sustainability and energy efficiency goals.
Ultimately, these investments will enable cities to continue attracting and retaining top companies and talent, and support ongoing innovation for a more sustainable, energy-efficient future.