Manufacturers 'must prepare' for soaring data traffic

AT&T predicts that in the first two months of 2015 it will be carrying the same amount of mobile data traffic on its network as in all of 2010.

As the number of smartphones and tablets used in the workplace rises, manufacturing businesses must prepare for increased traffic on their networks. The added option of backwards compatibility will also allow new systems to incorporate legacy equipment, meaning even more devices will be joining local networks.

Historically, manufacturing environments have dealt with increasing data flow by scaling down networks and reducing the number of devices that share them. But as the volume of data flow continues to grow, scaling down is no longer considered a viable option, and experts are warning that the effect of this level of data growth on an unprepared network could be catastrophic.

“The potential for IP in industrial manufacturing is now largely infinite,” said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. “Potentially, you could have an IP address for every grain of sand on the planet; you could track every single part and product made in your factory.”

Paul Brooks, European product manager at Rockwell Automation, believes that as well as rising numbers of IP addresses, another contribution to increased data flow in plants will be video content, now accountable for 30 per cent of all Internet traffic.

“The type of data that will travel through our networks will be fundamentally different and in real-time,” said Brooks. “The traditional paper manual will be replaced by a smart code, which will take the user instantly to online video instruction explaining how to install the relevant device. This will also apply to maintenance and repair.”

Automation software companies are preparing for this change by releasing iPad-compatible versions of new automation software.

“From 2015 the majority of communicative devices we use in the workplace will be tablets, which will have a major impact on our industry,” Brooks said. “Production managers will always vote in favour of technological devices that make their workforce more productive and the manufacturing industry has to prepare for this change.”

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