In this issue, you will find several new-technology discussions. In my article, “Technology Speeds Change for Thermal Processing,” we discuss AI, robots, autonomous cars, 3D printing and other technologies to watch. We also interview Professor Chris Pistorius – a new IH columnist for 2017 – about new steelmaking technology. One of January’s articles discusses a new quench “technology,” which illustrates how developments result in process improvements.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is something else I would like to discuss here. Most of us probably know something about this, but I’m sure few of us have much experience with it. In the past year or two, we have run several articles discussing how maintenance can be more predictive and how temperature surveys can benefit from IoT. An article from October 2015 tells us that the IoT term was first coined in 1999 as a way to describe how physical objects are connected to the Internet. The IoT creates and helps us analyze Big Data, which was addressed in November 2016’s temperature-survey article.

What is the current state of IoT, and what does the future hold? A recent research report indicates that “very little IoT was deployed in 2016.” As I mention in this month’s article, however, IoT is beginning to move exponentially. It is predicted that IoT growth will be more than 20% annually. It is expected that business will drive IoT adoption for the following reasons.

  • Lower operating cost
  • Speed up operations
  • Support increased productivity
  • Open new markets
  • Lead to a better customer experience

With all of this upside potential, what is the downside? Security/privacy has slowed adoption to this point. Almost half of IoT companies have difficulty finding security professionals. The other thing slowing the growth of IoT is business as usual. Many of us are too busy doing our jobs to try to figure out how to do them better. The bulleted items will help drive future growth.

Communication “language” is another issue to address, and no one is particularly “interested” in addressing it. It is expected that connectivity will be improved in 2017 by a low-power, low-range wireless protocol called LoRa. Low power is important from the standpoint of infrastructure to support IoT.

Augmented Reality

As part of IoT or as separate technology, augmented reality is something that could affect our businesses or have a personal impact in the coming years. Augmented technology would integrate software into the real world in such a way that it becomes part of you. The original Google glasses are an example of this type of technology. Bank of America Merrill Lynch has estimated that augmented reality could have 75% of a $90-$117 billion market by 2020.

Other Tech

An interesting press release in November announced an industrial exoskeleton called MAX. This or something like it could help your employees in the future. It is designed to help avoid injuries due to overexertion by augmenting workers’ strength when doing repetitive tasks in awkward postures that can injure the shoulder, back or leg.

New for Industrial Heating

As previously mentioned, Industrial Heating is launching a new quarterly technical column in cooperation with Carnegie Mellon University. We trust Professor Pistorius will communicate new technology throughout the year.

With so many of us having smartphones these days – more than 120 million iPhones and iPads in the U.S. – how we interact with our media may be changing. Beginning in 2017, Interactive Media Tags (IMT) may begin to appear in various ways, including advertisements. Be on the lookout for IMT technology in your favorite thermal-processing magazine, and begin interacting with your media differently.