Kiran as grown up in a single small room that does not have running water. But he has a goal: He wants to be an engineer. “Engineers come up with all the ideas,” he said. “They’re the ones who innovate.”
Kiran has grown up in a small room that he shares with his parents and two younger sisters. The room has one light bulb, no running water and no restroom.
Despite his humble circumstances, Kiran was the top student in the government elementary school that serves his community. He now attends a selective Bangalore-area boarding school where he’s studying in English and is being exposed to sports, music and even yoga classes. And the 12-year-old has set a tough, but rewarding, goal.
“I want to be an engineer,” he said through an interpreter. “Engineers come up with all the ideas. They’re the ones who innovate.”
Kiran, 12, was the best student in his elementary school and now is attending a selective boarding school near Bangalore.
Opening the doors of opportunity
While government schools are accessible to children from low-income households like his, there is a need for better amenities, infrastructure and teaching support to encourage more children to attend school. And today – thanks to a partnership between our company, non-governmental organizations and some of the government schools – Kiran and other motivated students are embracing education as the path out of poverty and into a better future.
Learn more about our commitment to improving education.
The help begins with the basics: providing back-to-school backpacks and notebooks, installing clean drinking water systems, offering breakfast and lunch, building separate restrooms for boys and girls, organizing health checkups, painting the school, and paying the salaries of some teachers so that schools are adequately staffed for learning.
Our company provides computer labs and pays the salaries of the computer and English teachers in the elementary school that Kiran attended.
“If a child does not have food to eat, clean water to drink or access to a basic education, we have to focus on that before we can help them learn topics like science, technology, engineering and math,” said Aditya Salian, who manages our company’s corporate citizenship efforts in India.
This year, our company will provide back-to-school resources for about 18,000 students in 130 schools in Bangalore and in far-away rural areas.
After the basics are in place, the doors of educational opportunity swing open. Our company has adopted 16 schools where we provide in-depth support to about 2,000 students, including computer labs, science labs, backup power supplies, visits to historical sites, smart classrooms and learning centers where students can get help with their homework – all far beyond what’s typically available in public schools. We also fund mobile science centers – many sent in vans or even in boxes on the backs of motorcycles – that serve about 120 schools in rural areas.
Ganesh Shamnur, a design automation manager for our company, is among the hundreds of TI volunteers who spend much of their free time improving educational opportunities for students in India. Every year, like many TIers, he loads up boxes of backpacks and notebooks and sets off by train on a couple of 12- to 14-hour journeys to villages in some of the remotest, hardest-to-reach areas of southern and western India. His mission: Work with local non-governmental organizations to deliver the school supplies, check on learning centers we support and, just as important, let the students know that someone cares.
“Many of the kids don’t even have proper shoes,” he said. “In these situations, a school bag or a notebook and pen are luxuries and amazing motivations for students to be in class.”
Aditya Salian manages corporate citizenship initiatives for our company in India.
That passion for volunteering is an important part of our support for education.
“Volunteering is integral to our whole program,” Aditya said. “Volunteers are driving it, and that makes a difference in the communities. The people know we’re not just throwing money at problems. We’re getting involved.”
But the volunteers get something in return.
“I started volunteering because I saw my parents help many people when I was growing up,” Ganesh said. “But it has become a habit and then I started enjoying it. It’s an amazing feeling to see people get pleasure with the help we provide.”
Getting parents to send their children to school isn’t easy in the low-income communities in Bangalore. While government schools are accessible to most of the population, they often aren’t equipped with the facilities, teachers and other support to provide the education that children need. The government system provides one teacher for every 30 students, and the teachers have to go door-to-door to recruit students.
The first year that Pavithra was headmistress at Kiran’s school, 2005, the school had 12 students who met in a single small room and didn’t even have paper or pens. But with clean new restrooms, pure drinking water, back-to-school supplies and uniforms, computer and English classes, and other educational opportunities that our company has provided, attendance has increased to 78 students.
Pavithra is the headmistress of Kiran’s elementary school. She goes door-to-door to recruit students for her school.
“Most of the parents here are daily wage workers,” Pavithra said. “For them, even the expense of notebooks and bags is big. They’re not comfortable spending the money. But because of TI, we don’t have that problem here. We are able to provide the basic things they need, including uniforms.
“To clap, you need two hands,” she said. “While teachers, parents and support staff are one hand, the support we get from TI is the other hand. Both are required to clap. I hope the sound and energy of the clapping is in the lives of the children.”
And now Pavithra is persuading parents of the best students to send their children to a free boarding school after fifth grade. The first year, only one student attended the school. This year, the second for Kiran’s school, five have been admitted.
“Most of the parents here haven’t been to school, so these students are first-generation learners,” she said. “Most of the parents are daily-wage workers and many of the students only aspire to that kind of life. They don’t have examples in their day-to-day lives about how education can bring about change. So this is a huge change in the mindset of the parents. They are OK sending their kids for a better future.”
Kiran’s parents are convinced about the importance of learning and committed to his education.
“I do not have any hope of wealth,” Kiran’s father, Shyam, said through an interpreter. “Whatever I earn, I’m putting into my children’s development. I hope they’ll get educated and have a better future.”
TI aerospace engineer Verie Lima and his family were swimming in a neighborhood pool in the Dallas area on July 20, 1969, when he suddenly heard a woman’s voice shouting, “It’s about to happen!”
“Man was about to land on the moon,” Verie said. “Everybody jumped out of the pool at the same time and got in their cars.”
Within minutes, Verie and his wife and three kids were home, watching the historic moon landing on the television in their living room.
“The biggest thought I had was about the technology that was letting that happen,” said Verie, who retired from our company.
It was a surreal moment – the culmination of years of work for engineers like Verie, who was a TI circuit designer for the unmanned space program. TIers developed products that were used in Apollo 11 systems to steer the lunar excursion module, to initiate and terminate rocket bursts, and control radar and navigation gear essential to the success of the moon landing.
Verie was captivated as he watched Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. But he was also thinking about work.
“It was really important to me that Apollo 11 was a success, because if it failed, the failure would have propagated to other areas of the space program,” he said. “The moon landing meant that I could continue my work.”
A front-row seat to the space race
In the 1960s and ‘70s, Verie worked on ICs that went into the Mariner and Voyager spacecrafts. He and thousands of other TI employees had a front-row seat to the space race.
Sid Parker, a TI chemist who retired from our company, developed a process to create mercury cadmium telluride material that was used to enable forward-looking infrared (FLIR) cameras that sense infrared radiation.
“Forward-looking infrared creates images with very nice details and has many uses, including seeing out into the depths of space,” Sid said.
Solving technical challenges to enable space exploration was critical to fulfilling President John F. Kennedy’s goal to put man on the moon within the 1960s.
“Kennedy said before he died that landing on the moon would happen within the decade, and we believed we could be leaders in developing the technologies to make it possible,” Verie said.
Russia had succeeded in photographing the far side of the moon in the late 1950s, and was ahead in the space race before Apollo 11.
“We were trying to keep up with Russia, but we couldn’t,” Verie said. “We were behind. And the Russians really owned the activity on the moon.”
Many of the ICs Verie designed decades ago are still in space today. Voyager II, for instance, has not retired from flight. Using technology from the 1970s, the spacecraft continues to explore planets and has reached more than 13 billion miles from Earth. Its photographs have answered some of the mysteries of the universe – like whether there is life on Mars – all on about the same amount of electricity that it takes to power three lightbulbs, Verie said.
“Voyager was kind of our program equivalent to going to the moon because it did something that no one else had ever done and still has never done – it achieved more than 40 years of space exploration,” Verie said.
Solving the technical challenges of space flight
Voyager, Apollo, Mariner – these space missions may never have been possible without the invention of the IC. Eleven years before man’s historic first step on the moon, engineer Jack Kilby handcrafted the first IC in a lab at our company. Though it wasn’t immediately recognized, the IC would help solve technological challenges of space flight because it allowed engineers to put multiple electronic circuits on a small, flat piece of semiconductor material, saving weight and power.
“The less weight you have and the less power you use and the less volume you take, the more experiments you can put on the spacecraft,” Verie said.
The IC had to undergo tremendous advancement between Sept. 12, 1958, when Jack first unveiled the technology, and July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong took that first small step.
“The problems were not circuits or components as much as the technology to do it right in a zero-gravity environment,” Verie said.
“It took only 11 years after coming up with a brand new idea as innovative as the first integrated circuit to using it in the most critical mission in the history of aerospace, and that was Apollo 11. And it happened at TI,” said Chief Technology Officer Ahmad Bahai.
Driving the cost down
In 1959, the Air Force funded a project at TI to research manufacturing processes for the IC. The resulting pilot project helped drive down the cost of the IC from $1,000 apiece to $450*, and manufacturing advancements over the next few years drove the cost per chip down much further, to $25.
In 1962, engineers at our company designed the first IC equipment ever to fly on a rocket into space**. It was used to create a counter to study the radiation trapped in the earth’s magnetic field***.
In 1964, our engineers built the command detector/ decoder for the Ranger 7. The space probe successfully delivered the first close-distance imagery of the lunar surface, allowing scientists and engineers to determine the safest landing area for the Apollo astronauts***.
Today, ICs remain the cornerstone of modern electronics, and their capacity, power efficiency, size and speed has increased exponentially. In fact, the IC enables whatever smart device you may be holding right now and many other things you touch every day. A modern IC may have billions of transistors on a surface smaller than a dime.
“Your smartphone has 240,000 times more memory and is 100,000 times faster than the components on the Voyager spacecraft,” Verie said. “Imagine that.”
As for the future of technology, Verie thinks it’s beyond our imagining.
“If you stand where we came from when Jack Kilby invented the first integrated circuit in a TI lab in 1958, we’ve come a long way. I wouldn’t rule much of anything out.”
To learn more about the journey of the IC from invention to today, check out our blog post on Sept. 12, 2019 – a day we at TI call Jack Kilby Day.
* Engineering the World by Caleb Pirtle III, pg. 85-86
** Engineering the World by Caleb Pirtle III, pg. 39
*** Engineering the World by Caleb Pirtle III, pg. 39
**** Engineering the World by Caleb Pirtle III, pg. 39
The statistics are alarming: In the United States alone, household leaks waste about 900 billion gallons of water each year. To put that number in perspective, that’s enough water to supply about 11 million homes annually.1 And other countries – from Europe to Asia – face similar challenges. Compounding this problem are anticipated water shortages.2
But help is here. Ultrasonic technology gives water meters installed in smart buildings and smart cities the ability to detect and localize leaks as small as one drop every few seconds. Cities from Austin to Antwerp are installing high-tech smart water meters that give customers the information they need to find leaks and conserve water while helping utilities identify infrastructure leaks in aging pipes and broken water mains.
“The water we have today is the only water we will ever have,” says Holly Holt-Torres, water conservation manager for the City of Dallas Water Utilities. “We have to conserve it. Technology will allow us to do that at an increasingly higher level.”
But this ultrasonic technology has applications that extend beyond water meters. The same technology can be used in meters that measure natural gas flow and even detect the mixture of gas flowing through pipes. It can even help medical professionals regulate oxygen delivery in surgical equipment.
Learn more about our ultrasonic sensing MSP430™ microcontrollers.
Going with the flow
Ultrasonic waves, of course, are not new. Bats, for example, use ultrasonic ranging to avoid obstacles and catch insects at night. And in more high-tech applications, it is used in material discernment, collision avoidance in automobiles, and industrial and medical imaging.
Now it’s being used in water meters and other flow meters. Meters traditionally have relied on an electromechanical system with a turning spindle or gear that uses a magnetic element to generate pulses. But – as is the case with thermostats, motors and lots of other everyday devices – electromechanical systems in flow meters are rapidly transitioning to electronic systems.
In these systems, a pair of immersive ultrasonic transducers measures the velocity of acoustic waves in the fluid. The velocity of acoustic wave propagation is a function of the viscosity, flow rate and direction of the fluid flowing through the pipe. Ultrasonic waves travel at different speeds depending on the stiffness of the media they’re traveling through.
The accuracy of the measurement depends on the quality of the transducer, precision analog circuitry and signal processing algorithms. Acoustic or ultrasonic transducers are piezo materials that convert electric signals to mechanical vibrations at a relatively high frequency of hundreds of kilohertz. Typically, a pair of ultrasonic transducers in the range of 1-2 MHz must be well-matched and calibrated in order to measure flow accurately. They make up a significant part of the flow meter’s cost. The sensor system must operate at very low power to ensure a 15-20 year battery life.
Our company’s advanced flow metering chip, the MSP430FR6043, includes a unique analog front end and algorithm, which significantly improves accuracy while reducing overall cost and power consumption. Our flow metering architecture leverages high-performance analog design, advanced algorithms and embedded processing to mitigate the need for an expensive pair of ultrasonic transducers. Analog front end and signal processing algorithms compensate for transducer mismatch.
Making every drop count
A typical ultrasonic flow meter transmits an ultrasonic wave and measures the differential delay at the receiver to estimate the rate of the flow. Delay measurements are usually handled by a time-to-digital-converter circuit that monitors the zero crossing of the received waveform. The challenge with the typical approach is that it is not sensitive enough to detect flow levels with high accuracy.
Our architecture deploys a smart analog front end featuring a high-performance analog-to-digital converter to improve signal-to-noise quality and overcome calibration inaccuracies. This approach has several benefits:
- It can achieve higher accuracy by reducing interference and improving signal-to-noise ratio.
- The architecture can measure a wide dynamic range of flow, from a fire hose to a small leak.
- By using a lower voltage driver, it significantly saves on power and cost. The average current for one measurement per second is less than 3 microamps. This translates to a battery life of more than 15 years.
- It can detect turbulence, bubbles and other flow anomalies, which is important for flow analysis and servicing the pipelines.
- The technology is robust to amplitude variations in the two directions of the flow, which may occur in water and gas at higher flow rates.
Many other TI technologies are critical for a high-performance flow meter. A low-power microcontroller with integrated ultrasonic analog front end, a high-performance clock reference, a low-quiescent current power management and ultra-accurate impedance matching of transmit driver and receive amplifier paths are examples of additional differentiating technologies in these flow meters.
Together, these technologies can help conserve one of our most precious resources.
Learn more about our ultrasonic sensing solution library for ultra-low-power flow metering devices.
Read our Corporate Citizenship Report to learn how our company is committed to conserving water and other resources.
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The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas touches the lives of one in five North Texans, and our company was recently recognized for playing a key role for ongoing support of the important work accomplished by the organization. The 2018-19 United Way campaign - which was led by our company's chairman, president and CEO, Rich Templeton, and his wife, Mary - raised more than $61.5 million.
“Philanthropy is alive and well in North Texas,” said Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton president and CEO of the organization. “Together, we have put opportunity in the hands of over 1 million North Texans. TI has been a pivotal and monumental supporter of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas since its inception almost 100 years ago. … TI’s annual contributions to United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and to our impact work are unparalleled.”
The United Way's annual campaign raises money to fund programs in education, income and health. Nearly 3,000 employees volunteered for more than 75 United Way projects. Our company’s employee engagement manager, Terri Grosh, received the individual volunteer award for inspiring thousands of TI employees to give their time and skills in our communities.
Find solutions that give you the power to electrify.
More than 250 public electric vehicle (EV) charging stations are scattered across Dallas,1 in small clusters of two or three at grocery stores, hotels and shopping centers. It’s a patchwork infrastructure of park-and-plug spots in major cities around the United States.
But we’ll need many, many more as the number of EV drivers in the U.S. and around the world grows over the next decade.
One forecast estimates 40 million chargers will be needed across the U.S., Europe and China — a capital investment of $50 billion — to accommodate 120 million EVs on the road by 2030.2 The U.S. alone, which is home to fewer than 56,000 public and private EV charging outlets today, will need 13 million by then.3
If years for the reign of the internal combustion engine are numbered, we should see more EVs on the road today. But the global market can’t flip the switch quickly. Vehicle charging must become more convenient – with more than just a handful of stations in public parking lots – and carmakers must create production lines for a new kind of car.
“Combustion vehicles won't go away anytime soon," said Nagarajan Sridhar, a marketing manager at our company who works on high-voltage power solutions. “The charging infrastructure EV drivers will need must still be built out. Charging infrastructure solution manufacturers and carmakers must jointly work toward proliferating infrastructure solutions to make EVs pervasive.”
Until then, carmakers that want to survive the looming paradigm shift are already making gradual changes to vehicle engine design. The transition to EVs — an automotive revolution, really — won't happen overnight, but technology is moving it to the fast lane in stages:
Stage 1: Build better gas-powered cars
Governments worldwide are preparing for the shift to EVs. Automakers who sell in China will be mandated to make at least 7% of their sales electric by 2025.4 Norway adds stiff taxes to the price tags of gas-powered vehicles.5 The U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards are requiring carmakers to increase the number of miles consumers can drive their vehicles per gallon of gas and decrease emissions.
“What's driving the move to electric is the overall need to reduce emissions like carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are released by fossil-fuel combustion," said Karl-Heinz Steinmetz, a general manager at our company who specializes in hybrid, electric and powertrain systems. “But improving the efficiency of combustion engines is not sufficient for consumer autos to reach government-backed emissions reduction targets. You need a step change, and clearly that step is electric."
Carmakers are upgrading combustion-fueled powertrains as an interim measure—finding miles-per-gallon improvements through measures such as engine efficiency upgrades and vehicle weight reduction. They’re also deploying more accurate sensors, engine component controllers and exhaust-treatment systems that optimize the combustion engine process to reduce fuel burn and emissions.
Stage 2: Electric-gas hybrids bridge two power sources
As the technology for fully electric powertrains and other vehicle systems matures, mild hybrid vehicles offer consumers a chance to drive cars that use more electricity to offset gas consumption. Belt-driven cooling and fuel pumps and other mechanical systems are being replaced with systems powered by electricity.
“The hybrid car market is growing because it makes the combustion engine more efficient while avoiding the current limitations of all-electric vehicles,” Karl-Heinz said. “Consumers won't get stuck if they go farther than their battery alone can take them.”
For owners who want to travel longer distances without needing to recharge as often, hybrids offer driving ranges of up to 640 miles compared to the current range of about 335 miles for all-electric cars.6
“This approach is a relatively easy way for carmakers to adapt their combustion engines by electrifying only some systems," Karl-Heinz said. “It lets them continue to produce combustion vehicles while still meeting tightening government rules on emissions."
Stage 3: Innovation makes all-electric vehicles the standard
To meet driver expectations on range, charging time and performance, engineers are harnessing the power of silicon carbide – a wide-bandgap semiconductor material that addresses the high voltage and high efficiency needs of EVs – and using innovative isolated gate drivers that monitor and manage power for fast charging and long battery life.
With these improvements, Nagarajan expects to see exponential growth in consumer demand for EVs begin sometime around 2022. At that point, electric power and management technologies will offer improved driving performance, system efficiency and power density.
Over time, vehicle electrification will open new avenues for innovation not available to combustion-based platforms. Future generations of EVs capable of delivering lots of power will create opportunities for new features and applications – such as powering your home at night while parked in your garage.
“When things really start kicking with EVs in the next few years, you're going to have lots of new possibilities," Nagarajan said. “You're going to start seeing the evolution of the smartphone on wheels."
Hope Bovenzi peered around the classroom at the University of California, Los Angeles, as the guest speaker’s question hung unanswered in the air: “Who has been in an autonomous car?”
Not a single hand went up. Surprised, the outspoken general manager at our company grabbed the teaching moment. “What level of autonomy are you talking about?" she asked. “If you've been in a new car in the past couple of years, you have been in some sort of autonomous car.”
Hope, who had been working on a master’s degree in business administration after working hours, is quick to point out the various levels of vehicle autonomy. It starts with driver assistance – think of adaptive cruise control – and recently graduated to conditional automation that uses advanced sensors to monitor the car’s environment so it can autonomously steer or accelerate, for example.
In the race toward autonomy, carmakers are dreaming about possibilities for the car-turned-computer. But many questions remain: When will cars drive themselves? What will it be like to ride as a passenger? How will they talk to traffic systems? Hope is among the innovators and problem-solvers paving the road for answers, and helping carmakers determine how technology can make their dreams reality. In particular, she’s helping determine how the car will connect to the world around it.
“We used to build computers within cars, and now we build the car around a computer,” she said. “And it’s our job to dream of the future.”
Ever the big-picture thinker, Hope takes a holistic approach to the task at hand – whether she’s helping our customers advance their automotive systems, serving as our company’s point person for the Women’s Initiative in the San Francisco Bay Area or recruiting prospective TIers at area colleges. “You wonder how she gets any sleep,” said Mike Claassen, an engineer at our company. “But she’s very good at getting like-minded people invested to move big things forward.
“At our company, she’s taking over the charter of how the cockpit will evolve.”
Hope, at age 4, exploring a replica of an early space shuttle cockpit.
Solving for the cockpit
Four-year-old Hope poked around the replica cockpit of a Space Transportation System (STS) shuttle – a U.S. pioneer space vehicle – during one of her many trips to Johnson Space Center in Houston. Her father, Jim Bovenzi, worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and made sure that science and electronics were childhood staples. He later worked as an engineer at our company from 1982 – 1986.
“My dad would build computers over and over, pulling out the parts and laying them all out on our kitchen table,” Hope said. “I couldn’t help but watch him. I didn’t realize until much later how much that influenced me.”
Computers still fascinate her. She describes her job as defining the personal electronics of the automotive world – the interface between human and machine. Much like the STS shuttle, Hope is in uncharted territory.
“Hope is focused on innovation yet to be defined within the automotive industry,” Mike said. “There are a lot of visions about what should or could be done. She brings a strong awareness of what our company’s products can help our customers achieve outside the automotive market – such as industrial communication and high-speed wireless communication – and helps carmakers answer a key question: Can this be realized in vehicles?”
Cars will continue to become more self-aware as vehicle autonomy evolves and pairs with systems that connect to the Internet over long distances. Think of a car as a device that talks to everything around it – including other cars, infrastructure and even lampposts that can signal an open parking space. This is called vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication.
“Once we get to level 3 autonomy, when our eyes are off the road more often, V2X communication will become much more important,” Hope said. “Your car will have a predictive feature with intelligent reactions like slowing down in response to construction you can’t see up ahead.”
All the vast new information collected by the car could overwhelm the driver. Part of Hope’s job is to help carmakers decide how and where it should be displayed.
“The cockpit screen will span the entire dashboard, which could stream the camera view from your side mirror, or the rear camera view as you drive forward,” Hope said. “But should the driver have that information? Who knows? We’ll have to weigh these decisions as we optimize future systems to be interactive and not distractive to the driver.”
That means we’ll need something very different and revolutionary in the cockpit.
“Hope is up for the task,” Mike said. “She’s always looking for the next big challenge.”
A start-up for STEM equality
When she’s not challenging herself at work, Hope is busy recruiting leaders in Silicon Valley for High Tech High Heels, a non-profit organization founded by TIers that’s focused on closing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.
After six months of boots-on-the-ground coffee chats and networking, Hope built a leadership team of five women to kick off the organization’s newest chapter. It’s a cause that’s near and dear to her heart, since her journey to an engineering career included multiple STEM touch points, including encouragement from teachers and her father.
“You need a holistic approach to get girls into STEM, because they start to lose confidence in math and science as early as fourth grade,” Hope said. “You can’t change the environment or the mindset with just one touch point. And there’s a business case for it – if your company is lacking diversity, you’re missing out on great ideas.”
Hope’s big-picture mentality and drive have made her successful in the workplace and beyond, but she’s remained grounded, approachable and authentic, said Hannes Estl, an engineer and general manager at our company.
“Hope is a powerhouse,” he said. “She’s actively driving the direction we’re going in telematics, and helping our customers push the limits of what’s possible.”
To learn more about how TIers like Hope contribute to our communities, read our Corporate Citizenship Report.
Thank you to Bill Berg for allowing us to photograph his car.
When a system fails on the factory floor, each second of downtime equals dollars down the drain – about $22,0001 per minute for some automobile manufacturers.
With those stakes, advances in smart factory technology that enable efficiency, advanced machine-to-machine connectivity and high-speed communication – down to the microsecond – can't come fast enough.
- A beverage factory that uses the same assembly line to fill bottles with different drinks.
- An auto manufacturer with a modular production cell that can build different types of cars on the same line with near-zero downtime.
- Alerts that tell technicians about potential part and system failures before they happen.
- Machines that can sense objects and avoid collisions work collaboratively with humans.
“The factory of the future will be highly efficient and highly connected," said Thomas Leyrer, a system architect at our company. “Some of the latest innovations drastically improve communication while addressing increasing bandwidth requirements.”
Here are three trends adding intelligence to Industry 4.0:
1. Advanced industrial communication enables predictive maintenance
If the smart factory has a calling card, it's the level to which it has pushed machine-to-machine connectivity and communication – enabling a host of other capabilities.
While gigabit Ethernet time-sensitive networks (TSN) increase connectivity and the speed of data pinging between manufacturing devices, technologies like IO-Link and Sitara™ AM6x processors can harness that data from the factory floor and decipher it in real-time. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) related applications allow technicians to anticipate part and system failures before they happen and improve subsequent generations of product development.
“If a certain type of machine is deployed in 50 different locations, for instance, technicians can now compare their performance and control for variables like humidity, power supply and other environmental data,” Thomas said. “When one parameter for an individual machine goes out of limit, it triggers an alert signal to do predictive maintenance—remotely in the case of a software upgrade and onsite in the case of part repairs or replacements.”
2. Machine vision and human-machine interaction increase quality
Cobots – or collaborative robots designed to work alongside humans – represent one of the fastest-growing market segments in robotics, projected to reach nearly $9 billion by 20252. “These sophisticated machines can detect the proximity, speed and location of people or objects in defined zones through TI mmWave radar, giving robotic arms “vision” to safely help workers load machines or pick components out of bins, for example.
Machine vision can also enable greater product quality by testing tolerance, dimensions and other material attributes. “Now you can integrate quality assurance, which is typically done at end of the production cycle, as an integral part of the production process," Thomas said. “When you put machine vision into a TSN, it increases efficiency with identifying badly produced products early."
3. Edge analytics promotes efficiency
On the factory floor, some critical movements can’t wait for machine learning in the cloud. Instead, they demand insights and decisions closer to action – such as a robotic arm that needs to maneuver around workers to do its job. Edge analytics puts intelligence and decision-making capability right into the robot arm.
“Edge analytics can improve overall efficiency in real-time, allowing technicians to measure and analyze the power consumption of each individual device and adjust it when it’s not operating,” Thomas said. “Edge devices also give users access to data that enables continuous monitoring of the efficiency and functionality of production cells remotely.”
Most modern factories are already benefiting from smart technology and IIoT to some degree. In the factory of the future, smart technology will add flexibility and modularity to even the most efficient single production line.
“With predictive maintenance alone, you can increase up-time from 80% to 95%," Thomas said. "That's a big deal."