25 Feb, 2021
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The maturity of the industrial edge market and Industrie 4.0 offerings has led to diverse players participating as service providers within the industry. Service providers fall under different categories depending on the scope of the services they offer. So, while some offer turnkey services, others either help you set up your available tech such as web HMIs or sell only edge technology to you. When deciding to go with an industrial edge product or service provider some important questions must be asked.
Industrial edge providers include service and product developers creating technological solutions for industrial edge applications. Although every provider sells unique solutions for diverse case studies, a broad classification can be used to breakdown the diverse services they offer. This classification makes use of the different customer segments that providers choose to service with their solutions.
Industrial edge providers that sell technology solutions to the Industrie 4.0 market while leaving the buyer to decide how they intend to use the provided solution is one of the popular categories of service providers. In this scenario, the provider targets more mature customers who have defined strategies for what they intend to accomplish with their edge applications and simply shop around for the technology required to achieve specified goals.
Another category is the managed industrial edge service provider. The managed service provider ensures extensive support services are provided alongside the solutions they offer. The provider may sell its own technology or choose to use third-party technologies to meet an enterprise’s edge computing requirements. In this scenario, the service provider services customers who do not have extensive knowledge about industrial edge computing, as well as customers who purchase edge solutions and need experts to manage the application process.
Lastly, but not exhaustive of the diverse categories, a category of edge service providers who interview business owners, assess their edge computing requirements, and develop solutions to meet the specified requirements. Large manufacturing organizations which choose to apply edge technology in unique ways may well choose this route.
Web HMIs are the visualization endpoint for data on edge applications, which makes choosing providers that offer excellent visualization solutions an important part of subscribing to or purchasing edge technology. Once you have determined your industrial edge requirements and ascertained the niche of service providers that meet your requirements, you can whittle down the list of potential providers by asking these questions:1. What visualization solution is provided?
Getting the best out of your industrial data starts with visualizing the important key performance indexes that highlight how factory assets and processes are working. A large assortment of figures or data sets without any contextual information will not cut it if you intend to optimize specific processes or monitor performance. Visualization solutions with the capacity to showcase contextual information are important to implementing a successful industrial edge strategy.
When evaluating prospective industrial edge providers, the visualization questions to ask are:
2. Is your industrial edge platform hardware agnostic?
The use of proprietary hardware and software is still prevalent in the industrial sector despite the unification efforts of the OPC Foundation. When subscribing to industrial edge platforms such as the industrial cloud or an IIoT platform it is important to ask if they support a wide range of edge hardware that produces data or if they’re tied to specific proprietary technologies that you may not have deployed on your factory floor. Some questions to ask when choosing an industrial edge platform includes:
3. What technical support does your business provide?
After-sales services are important considerations when choosing an industrial edge provider. Technical support ensures that you are not left hanging when technical difficulties arise – from configuration to accessing your data and visualization. For industrial edge providers not providing plug-and-play solutions or providing services locked to a proprietary solution, external technical support will be required to ensure that the implementation process goes smoothly.
The unification of industrial edge technology ensures that the future of edge computing will become open-source and nonproprietary as time passes, although bottlenecks still exist with setting up and running industrial edge frameworks. The questions highlighted above will ensure that you get started with the implementation process on the right foot by choosing the perfect fit for your company.
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