Is software eating high-tech systems?

Guestblog as an introduction for the High-Tech Systems Conference and Exhibition 2017 by Ton Peijnenburg and Georgo Angelis, Fellows @ TU/e High Tech Systems Center. This post is also published in Mechatronica en Machinebouw.


The annual High-Tech Systems Conference and Exhibition offers a program that allows developers, technical managers and decision makers to stay on top of the latest trends and technologies in the fast moving high-tech systems arena. One of these trends, and also one of the four parallel sessions of this year’s conference, is the Internet of Things (IoT). It shows every sign of a rapidly transforming industry. Gathering, analysing and sharing of meaningful and actionable data from and between systems, to improve productivity and quality, is at the heart of the industrial IoT. What does this mean for your industry? What is beyond the hype? Join the parallel session on the IIoT of this year’s conference if you are interested to see how companies and academia are preparing themselves to make maximum use of the developments in IIoT and to stay fit for the (near) future.

iotSystems are becoming systems of systems. The complexity of these highly automated and connected systems increases quickly. At the same time, end-users demand simple and intuitive user interfaces to control these systems, monitor performance of manufacturing and logistic processes or even to predict maintenance needs. To support decision making we will rely extensively on the massive amounts of data harvested from these systems of systems, balanced with (predictive) models that describe individual parts. Maintenance prediction will have to be tied to system design, and preferably we will use the same models for both purposes. Reuse will then both improve productivity by eliminating rework as well as increase the quality of the models.

What will be the role of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in better understanding and optimization of our industrial processes? How can machine learning support new and better generations of equipment, maybe even enable the next industrial revolution? Can we successfully translate the rapid developments of AI in social media and robotics applications to the field of high-end equipment and high-end manufacturing? Are you interested in the limitations and the opportunities of deep learning? Make sure you attend the parallel track on AI.

mfgWe should not forget our key strength and where we come from, i.e. the development, realization and integration of very high-end manufacturing equipment. Multidisciplinary system design, hard-core mechatronics is at the heart of this. Our dialect of mechatronics and system design evolved from the development of faster and more accurate automation for manufacturing of light bulbs, CRTs, electronics, semiconductors, et cetera. It is now time to evolve our dialect and incorporate new technologies and new balances between them. Mechanics becomes a commodity, and software the differentiator, although new manufacturing technologies such as additive manufacturing put a new and fresh focus on materials and complex functions.

There are a lot of OEM challenges related to this. Is there life beyond Moore’s law? Think also about the pressure to manufacture and deliver complex products with increased speed and with well-controlled costs. In the track on OEM challenges, these considerations will be discussed.

The fourth parallel track will be on medical systems. The presentations highlight next generation products being developed in this area. How can robotics supplement surgical interventions? Will robotics be playing an increasingly more dominant role in this field? What are the options in care and cure? What are the challenges that medical equipment builders face? Can we identify a roadmap for the introduction of new technologies in this relevant field of growing needs? There have been many efforts for some time now; is now a time to expect some breakthroughs?

What do the four track themes have in common? Well, software seems to be a common denominator. The IIoT and AI are fuelling software development. It is the access to technologies they represent that make OEM’s become digital. Software is transforming our industry. And it is both an opportunity as well as a risk. Much of the high-end equipment that we have developed and realized (and still are) have enabled the electronics based products that in turn have enabled the software revolution. The time has come to innovate our equipment development with the large jumps that have been made in other, software centric, industries. When Marc Andreessen in 2011 wrote his famous essay ‘Why software is eating the world’ in The Wall Street Journal, he was not making an exception for high-tech systems. So, we think it is fair to state that software is truly eating high-tech systems!

We at the TU/e High Tech Systems Center are well prepared and excited to be part of this journey. On behalf of the organizing committee we wish you an inspiring conference.



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