The Future of Factory Automation With Manufacturing X

Big Data, Cyber Security and AI for Industry 4.0

Interview with Florian Hermle

In an increasingly digitalized world, automation faces major changes. Data exchange in Manufacturing X, supported by technologies such as IO-Link, is becoming increasingly important. But with progress comes challenges, especially in the area of cybersecurity.

Florian Hermle, Managing Director and Head of Technology, Marketing and Sales at Balluff, talks about the future of automation, the importance of data exchange in Manufacturing X, and the role of IO-Link, sensors, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) for Industry 4.0.

Interview powered by: Think WIOT and Balluff

Big Data, Cyber Security and AI for Industry 4.0

Interview with Florian Hermle.

Florian Hermle, Managing Director and Head of Technology Marketing and Sales at Balluf

The next industrial revolution will be dominated by the intelligent use of data and the efficient provision of relevant information. In the past, it was important to collect data, but today, the focus is on extracting valuable insights from that data. Sensors play a key role in this process, not only in providing process signals, but also in generating additional information. This additional data opens up completely new opportunities for customers and enables companies to offer innovative solutions.

An example of this is the combination of position sensors with temperature sensors, which provide valuable additional information at no extra cost. By pre-processing data in products, the amount of data transmitted is reduced, making machine control more efficient. Convenience for the customer is created by the integration of software into products, which allows users to effectively use the relevant data.

With regard to future innovations at Balluff, we can't talk specifically about upcoming game-changers, but there are promising approaches that are ready for industrialization thanks to modern sensor technology.

Measuring and capturing objects in particular, which is at the heart of Balluff, will open up many new possibilities and potentials through the continuous development of sensor technology. While the actual game-changers are often only recognizable years later, Balluff is working on a variety of interesting topics that will undoubtedly cause a stir in the industry.

For us, the integration of software into our products is of paramount importance. We will continue to invest in this direction in order to be able to react flexibly to changing requirements and adapt to international regulations. Our strategy is to act hardware agnostic and to provide policy makers with information in order to provide a realistic perspective. Some ongoing negotiations on regulations could have a strong impact on the entire industry by committing resources that we need for other innovations.

As a company, it is our job to provide politicians and decision-makers with an understanding of the implications of these regulations, and to include them in the discourse. We are actively engaged at a local, national and European level to voice our concerns and ensure that our industry is not disproportionately burdened, while at the same time promoting sound regulation that supports innovation and competitiveness. Our participation in associations and professional circles is an important step in communicating and promoting these concerns.

The measuring and capturing of objects is the core of Balluf

The measuring and capturing of objects – the core of Balluff – will open up many new possibilities and potentials for industrialization through the continuous development of sensor technology.

Data Exchange in Manufacturing X

As a founding member of the IO-Link, Balluff has been involved in the development of this groundbreaking networking protocol from the very beginning. 25 years ago, a leading industrial company came up with the idea of creating an open standard protocol that should be accessible to all industries.

Contrary to initial concerns, IO-Link proved to be a game-changer on the market. Not only does it enable seamless data transmission, but also the simple cabling and architecture, which leads to a faster and error-free machine set-up.

Over the past 25 years, IO-Link has significantly influenced Balluff's business and has become a core focus. Despite initial challenges, we are proud that IO-Link is now accepted as a standard worldwide and continues to offer us innovative growth opportunities.

Installation technology plays a crucial role in the efficient data acquisition of actuator signals. At the same time, the networking and integration of intelligent sensors into the system is steadily growing. This is particularly relevant given the increasing importance of condition monitoring and predictive maintenance in the industry.

In this context, IO-Link is the ideal concept to meet these requirements. IO-Link not only enables flexible and efficient communication between sensors and control systems, but also offers a future-proof solution for Industry 4.0 applications.

Cybersecurity is a key aspect that companies cannot value highly enough. In recent years, Balluff has Balluff uses state-of-the-art encryption methods in its products and works together with experts, because cybersecurity is an issue that cannot be tackled alone. Data Exchange in Manufacturing X made significant investments in infrastructure as well as in internal processes and procedures to address this issue.

Through a steep learning curve and observations in the immediate vicinity, the impact of cyber attacks on other companies became clear. Despite having remained unaffected so far, they are aware that achieving one hundred percent protection is not feasible. The main vulnerability often lies with people, which is why there is an emphasis on intensive informing, educating, and training.

We use state-of-theart encryption methods in our products and cooperate with experts, as cybersecurity is an issue that we cannot tackle alone. We recognize that a close collaboration between the IT and OT is essential to further strengthen our security standards. That is why we promote exchanges between different departments in order to develop a holistic security concept. Cross-departmental cooperation is crucial, as security concerns not only individual departments, but the entire company.

Balluff uses state-of-the-art encryption methods in its products

Balluff uses state-of-the-art encryption methods in its products and works together with experts, because cybersecurity is an issue that cannot be tackled alone.

Machine Control and AI for Industry 4.0

Florian Hermle, CEO of Balluff

Balluff offers solutions that enable separate connectivity for data transmission without granting direct access to the machine control.

It is also important to note that many facilities are not online around the clock, which ensures a high level of security for our customers. Many customers prefer this offline positioning of their systems, which provides additional security. However, there is the potential for systems to be online, which comes with certain risks. Connectivity between different production sites and suppliers inevitably leads to the exchange of data.

Balluff offers solutions that enable separate connectivity for data transmission without granting direct access to the machine control. These security features ensure that the data is online while the system itself remains offline, providing our customers with a high level of security.

The introduction of tools like ChatGPT undoubtedly has the potential to optimize processes and facilitate complex tasks. However, it is important to be aware that such systems learn from the input data, and therefore sensitive company information should not be transmitted unfiltered. Nevertheless, these tools provide valuable support for simple programming tasks and can provide innovative solutions.

Artificial intelligence uses a wide range of technologies, including neural networks and large language models, which are revolutionizing image processing and big data management. However, it is crucial that we carefully consider the potentials and risks of AI and actively address ethical and security concerns. Ultimately, I see artificial intelligence as an opportunity that allows us to drive innovative advancements forward, as long as we keep our human values and ethical responsibility in mind.

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