The embedded industry increasingly relies on hardware-related services. This is reflected in the technology trends for 2020. Advantech, the Taiwan-based industrial PC specialist, is also investing in the change.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) – two buzzwords that are not only popular in Asia. More and more the boundaries of hardware and software are merging. Advantech, known in the past primarily as a supplier of industrial PCs, will in future focus on complete solutions. IoT applications are becoming more and more intelligent, the so-called AIoT (Artificial Internet of Things) is becoming increasingly important. What does this mean for a hardware manufacturer like Advantech? Company founder K.C. Liu and his staff presented the new strategy in December on the Campus in Linkou, Taipei, and explained what lies behind the new strategy.
Embedded IoT President Miller Chang (Figure 1) sees many opportunities for his company in the digital future: from 5G to the combination of AI and IoT products to subscriptions of cloud applications. Chang sees geopolitical risks, supply chain difficulties and the transformation of manufacturing chains as challenges in the transformation to a digital enterprise.
In 2020, the company's embedded IoT business will focus on embedded design-in services, edge AI applications and embedded software services. In the embedded sector, the hardware manufacturer is focusing on the latest interface standards such as COM-HPC, UTX, MI/O Extension and UIO-40 Express. Advantech also intends to provide its customers with increasingly networked products through wireless applications. This can be useful, for example, in the medical, transport, bridge building and logistics sectors.
In the field of software services, the Taiwan company relies primarily on »WISE-Paas« (Platform as a Service). According to Chang, the platform offers customers an all-round package for IoT applications, and from 2020 even on their own private or public clouds. A separate server for cloud applications will be set up for customers in the EU. In addition to WISE-Paas, Advantech is constantly developing its DeviceOn application. With DeviceOn, Advantech offers its customers comprehensive device and data management. The application runs on WISE-PaaS, third-party cloud platforms or alternative infrastructures such as on-premise servers. To implement customer-specific projects, Advantech relies on development teams in North America, Europe, China, Taiwan and Japan. In Europe in particular, further investments are being made in expanding the existing infrastructure.
One important driver is AIoT – this requires powerful edge computers. Advantech estimates the potential of the market for intelligent edge devices at nine billion US Dollar in 2024. Steen Graham, General Manager IoT Ecosystem & Channels at Intel, sees the following drivers for intelligence at the network edge: low latency, bandwidth, data security and networking. According to the market research company Gartner, 75 percent of corporate data in 2025 will be generated outside a central data center or cloud. In addition, about 43 percent of AI tasks will be performed on edge devices in 2023, according to a study by ABI Research. This underlines the importance of edge computing for the future.
Graham reports on the importance of deep learning (DL) at the network edge (Figure 2). Intel is providing the DL-Toolbox OpenVino for this purpose in cooperation with the company from Taiwan. Customers can use it to program their AI applications. The toolbox is now being used, for example, in transport, smart banking and medical diagnosis. Intel will come up with a new Movidius Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) for applications in 2020. Among other things, it will offer a greater memory bandwidth.
Besides the GPU from Intel, Advantech is bringing various accelerator cards of the VEGA Board series as well as edge computers such as the DIN-Rail series AIR-101 or the Rugged series AIR-200 to the market. In addition, Release 3 of the OpenVino software offers new functions for the user. For example, from 2020 the so-called »FaceView I.App« will be available for automatic face recognition in OpenVino. Among other things, it ensures real-time identification and analyses of customer habits.
Cyberlink is also demonstrating its expertise in face recognition for Advantech's products with the »FaceMe« platform. Dr. Jau Huang, Chairman and CEO of Cyberlink, explains the areas of application: smart retail, security and surveillance, access control and point-of-sales (POS) systems. Cyberlink also plans to equip smart kiosk systems with FaceMe in the future. With FaceMe, personalized offers and authentication should be executable. Another application for automatic face recognition is the dispensing of medicines in pharmacies, where fingerprint sensors do not provide sufficient security.
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