Kontron Tech Talk: Quo Vadis ECT – Embedded Trends 2017

Technology trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT) have an enormous economic impact and change entire industries as a whole. Naturally this development is spearheaded by the IT industry. Hardware and software vendors that make possible tomorrow’s data-driven future in the first place. As one of the leaders in the embedded computing market Kontron actively shapes the digitalization and plays an important role as enabler for future technologies. Reasons enough for a chat with Norbert Hauser, an industry veteran with more than 30 years’ experience in ECT and Kontron’s VP Marketing. For the first part of our new blog series “Kontron Tech Talk” we sat down with him to discuss the embedded trends 2017 and to gain insights in what will be shaping the industry in the years to come.

Kontron Editorial Team (KE): Mr. Hauser, you have been actively involved in the Embedded Computing Technology (ETC) sector for more than 30 years. What are the trends we can expect in 2017?

Norbert Hauser, Vice President Marketing at Kontron

Norbert Hauser, Vice President Marketing at Kontron

Norbert Hauser (NH): Established topics such as cloud computing and IoT will remain important this year, especially in industrial production where Industry 4.0 concepts are gaining more and more ground . Archiving and analyzing the data volumes from IoT scenarios will have to happen in the cloud because it makes sense for only few companies to have in place the necessary resources – the initial investments are simply too high. This is why we have to establish standards to make possible a smooth data exchange between the individual platforms in the future. 

With this relocation of data into the cloud, however, transmission security becomes an issue. Securing company data must have the highest priority, which also goes for end device protection in IoT and Industry 4.0 scenarios – data is only as secure as the weakest link in a long chain of different entities. This is why security will become more important as an issue in 2017. We have already been going through a strong development in this area and were able to present a pioneering solution that is now integrated as a standard in all our computer-On-modules and motherboards: the Kontron Security Solution “Approtect”.

KE: Which challenges do you see besides IoT and cloud computing?

Kontron is already offering innovative Human Machine Interface (HMI) solutions such as the Kontron FusionClient.

NH: I’m sure that digitalization will grow into completely new fields with advancing miniaturization and the continually decreasing energy consumption of end devices. Specific use cases include Smart Factories, Smart Cities, and aspects such as intelligent traffic control. An especially tough challenge that also comes with ever smaller, faster, and smarter end devices is the integration of existing embedded concepts in a future-ready overall concept.

Besides IoT, cloud, and miniaturization, there is another issue that will be part our work for industrial environments in 2017: consumerization. The term includes all efforts to make controlling machines and other devices in productive application as intuitive as we are all used to from smart phones or tablets. Known among experts as Human Machine Interface (HMI), we are already offering innovative solutions such as the Kontron FusionClient, a full industrial PC with an integrated, extremely robust, frameless touch-display based on PCAP. The device does not only look like an oversized smart phone, it also works like one. The difference is its application in industrial production for machine control.

These modern HMIs not only help with employee motivation but significantly reduce the potential for errors as well. This saves time and results in noticeable productivity increases. Of course, the controlling of machines and other tools with the aid of these devices must be secure and correct. All this makes consumerization an extremely exciting issue and a big challenge at the same time.

KE: During 2016, a growing shift from hardware to software could be felt in the embedded market. What is Kontron’s positioning in this respect?

The Kontron Security Solution – Approtect: embedded security safe and sound

NH: We are convinced that “more software in hardware” means an enormous advantage and strong opportunities for our customers, and we deliberately enrich our hardware with software. This enables us to integrate individual, solution-specific functions or activate them according to customer needs, opening up new business models for us and our customers. These may include subscription- or license-based “Pay Per Use” models in which specific, more comprehensive device functions can be activated and deactivated for certain periods of times or numbers of devices .

The Kontron Security Solution already mentioned above also is an example for this kind of software integration. It enables us to give our customers numerous protective mechanisms according to their individual needs. Take Approtect, a solution from the Kontron Security Solution product line. It is a combined hardware and software solution uniting a hardware security module with a software framework that delivers comprehensive security functions such as IP Protection and measures against copying or reverse engineering. We will continue our activities in this important growth field.

Of course, there is also the possibility of our customers bringing more software on our devices to be able to make their end customers more flexible offers. There are few limits to the imagination. 2017 will be an exciting year for the embedded sector.

KE: Mr. Hauser, thank you for this interview.

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