@advantech's World Partner Conference Shows Global Vision of the Internet of Things

Nov. 9, 2011

Global Internet of Things and the Cloud: an Appreciation of Advantech

Advantech’s vision of the future is far larger than industrial automation

Global Internet of Things and the Cloud: an Appreciation of Advantech

Advantech’s vision of the future is far larger than industrial automation

In the last week of October, Advantech held its annual World Partner Conference (WPC) in Taipei, Taiwan. The overall conference topic was “Enabling an Intelligent Planet.”

In 2007, Advantech’s revenue was close to $500 million. Today, it is over $880 million, and Ming-Chin Wu, president of Advantech’s Industrial Automation group believes the company will crash the $1 billion level in 2012. Situated in the land of PC, tablet and smartphone manufacture, Advantech is recognized as one of the 10 largest high technology firms in Taiwan—the only one not in the consumer electronics or custom manufacturing space. Much of that growth, but not all of it, is entirely organic, too.

But they don’t want to be known as a Taiwanese company. In 2007, K. C. Liu, the CEO of Advantech, repositioned the company and re-framed the mission statement to make Advantech move in the direction of becoming a global company. They’ve made great strides in that area. Today, Advantech’s offerings are much larger and wider than they were just four years ago. A number of those offerings have come from acquisitions of companies outside of the Greater China area, including a logistics company from Germany, and others. European and American partnerships have also grown the company’s offerings.For example, the acquisition of DLoG in 2010 for Euros 12.85 million gave Advantech a comprehensive logistics solution including mobile applications. A partnership with AutomationX from Austria has given Advantech a highly capable batch and advanced process control capability. Partnering with GE Medical has taken Advantech further from its industrial automation base. And the Partner Conference was across the street from the TaipeiConvention Center where there was a GreenBuilding conference and exposition ongoing. Advantech’s booth in the exposition was the largest in the show.

“We are not just the IPC company anymore,” Ming-chin Wu declared at the general session.

There is a global shift, Advantech’s Liu said, from a stand alone world to a tightly connected world. Originally considered machine-to-machine, or M2M communications, the concept has expanded dramatically with the reduction of cost and the intelligent enabling of devices into a global Internet of Things. “In response to this global shift, Advantech developed the slogan, “Enabling an Intelligent Planet,” as a long-term mission statement to face the new IoT trend with confidence and maintain its leading position,” said Liu.

“Furthermore,” Liu said in his keynote address, “another industry trend known as Intelligent Services has been growing.  It is flourishing in many vertical markets and will enable infinite possibilities in many new areas including the intelligent city, medical care, retail, transportation, logistics, and smart building automation.  Right now, many mature technologies are in place and sufficient to support the basic needs of the market.  So, how to transform these technologies into intelligence and integrate these solutions will be Advantech’s most important goal to empower system integrators in enabling an intelligent planet.”

The three day conference attracted a record high 563 attendees from 47 countries and covered the following topics: Automation, Digital Healthcare, Intelligent Services, Digital Logistics, Industrial Communications, Machine Automation, Green Energy, IntelligentBuildings, and Advantech iPlanet Online.A special focus was how businesses must adapt to the advent of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) and to prosper in the Intelligent Planet era.

So how does Advantech fit into the world of industrial automation? Especially since they slop over the automation bucket into embedded computing, gaming, signage, medical instrumentation, logistics and mobile communications, it isn’t easy to pigeonhole them as either fish or fowl. They are a little bit of each.

Perhaps Advantech is showing us the wave of the future. The clear overarching trend among all the future trends is convergence of communications. Ethernet and WiFi, WiMAX and low power mesh wireless networks are making seamless communications between applications in various industries not only doable but also relatively simple and inexpensive to do. The proliferation of smart device apps in the manufacturing sector and the energy sector and smart grid is outstripping company attempts to control it. By refusing to be labeled as any one thing, Advantech is playing the field, betting on the come.

They are also a prolific product development company. Both a blessing and a curse, Advantech’s new product development mill creates many more new products—some of which are actually really revolutionary (like the original ADAM I/O module was in the 1980s)—than the company can satisfactorily market and sell, even through its growing network of distribution and system integrators.

The identification of the Internet of Things as a core functional business for Advantech, however, gives pause to anyone who considers Advantech’s development cycles to be a function of “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks.”

The Internet of Things, or the Intelligent Planet, call it what you will, can and will allow functionality we don’t visualize yet—and may not see until someone produces an app for that. As the number of connectivity nodes increases, the system complexity increases exponentially—and the synergies that will (not may or can) develop will have great effects on our lives.

By staking out this horizontal across all verticals, Advantech is positioning itself to be nimble enough to respond no matter which way the IoT heads next.

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