Two representatives of industrial computer solutions specialist, Backplane, recently spoke to IndustrySearch about the trends and challenges shaping the computer hardware and technology sector in Australia.
The representatives – panel PC specialist, Faytech, and industrial computer manufacturer, Avalue Technology – are experts in the field and offered some fascinating insights.
IndustrySearch: What are the trends (technology, competition, etc) that have shaped Computer Hardware & Technology in recent years?
Faytech: Apple had significant influence on the PC market in the last years – and it also changed the industrial PC market. Industrial customers ask now for the look and feel like using an iPad – even when they have to steer big industrial machines like a laser cutter, cable assembly machines or overviewing the security of a hydro plant.
The second big trend is that industrial customers are increasingly switching to PC-based solutions instead of microcontroller based systems. We see this as the most interesting trend within the PC-market. Standardised embedded and x86-architecture is used more often in industrial machines. Additionally, we are seeing customers use touch panels to manage and interface with machines instead of buttons.
Avalue Technology: There have been major breakthroughs in technology, requiring quality in manufacturing and innovation in product design. New products are being more market focused than before, thus creating specific hardware and software dedicated to a variety of vertical markets.
The trend is likely to head toward products with a smaller footprint, the use of expansion technology allowing more flexibility to an ever changing industry. Development of market specific applications as well as cloud services, stringent privacy & security will be the standard for any application.
IndustrySearch: How have you as a supplier responded to these trends?
Faytech: We offer for our customers capacitive (multi-)touch solutions, realised in projects stylish, flat All-In-One devices and follow the trend to ARM-based solutions with an own mainboard-design.
Avalue Technology: Avalue has inaugurated its Electronic & Manufacturing Service (EMS) in order to deliver quality manufacturing solutions and design win products. Tremendous success is being achieved in medical sector with the examples of bedside terminals and Medical software development, as well as digital signage.
We have developed several space critical, intelligent and versatile modules to fit industry requirements for footprint, power saving and flexibility; Qseven, Intelligent Expansion Module is one example.
Requirements for remote access and monitoring are also being satisfied with our ACECS (Cloud service) allowing convenient management solutions for embedded applications, enabling users to remotely control configurations, monitoring and automatic alerts, system maintenance backup and recovery. As well as system security and system recovery functions.
IndustrySearch: How do you see this changing in the next 12-24 months, and what will drive the change?
Faytech: Capacitive multi touch solutions will become mass market in the next two years and will lead to more attractive prices. The PC technology (embedded and X86) will further reduce energy consumption and that will lead to fanless but powerful devices which can be easily integrated in all kinds of machines.
Avalue Technology: The market is changing very fast, and is likely to be driven by new applications, higher requirements in performance and low power for most hardware, as well as design and system integration.
IndustrySearch: What are the major challenges facing Computer Hardware & Technology right now?
Faytech: With smartphones and tablets evolving the consumer market changed dramatically in the last years. The industrial sector has to adapt these changes and offer long available products with similar functionalities and attractively priced.
Avalue Technology: Major challenges include moving faster than the trend; striving to be ahead of major innovations; and finding time to market as well as develop market specific applications.
IndustrySearch: Can you give examples as to how your company has adapted to these challenges?
Faytech: We check for powerful solutions in the consumer market and see how they can be made available in the long term for industrial customers. Our custom-designed mainboard was developed together with the industrial division of ASUS is a good example for such a solution. We combined Intel´s ATOM-CPU with a powerful mobile AMD graphic chipset and agreed on long term support.
We offer more customisation to meet the users' requirements and will manufacture small quantities. For example, we offer a variety of touch screen technologies, IP65 rated products and optional integrated scanners, RFID and printers. We offer tailored solutions to the customer which they do not get easily somewhere else in the market.
Avalue Technology: We join major exhibitions; participate in several award winning competitions to be able to keep abreast with future industry requirements. We keep close ties with customers allowing us to receive important feedback and valuable comments.
IndustrySearch: What initiatives would you like to see from government to better support Computer Hardware & Technology?
Faytech: To support more OpenSource-technology. To make technology and know-how available to as many people as possible supports people in realizing their own designs and products. That leads to new inventions, trends and offer small companies to be innovative.
Avalue Technology: It may be different from one country to another, however we all hope that governments support technology programs, facilitate international cooperation, promote computer hardware & technology related activities.
IndustrySearch: What's the next 'big thing' we can expect from the Computer Hardware & Technology sector?
Faytech: The technology is now available to make very small computers, panels and PCBs can be made flexible. The next big thing is that the PC will be there but the users will not recognise anymore. Like the Google glass, like sport shoes with sensors integrated, like intelligent watches, etc. The miniaturisation will allow incredible new possibilities – not just one "big thing" but several ones.