This article discusses what Industrial PC (IPC) is and is not. This discussion is important for identifying where and how to focus and achieve synergies with overlapping technologies. Having found the focus, we will be able to analyse our strengths and weakness of getting involved in this specific industry sector, adjust our strategy to maximize our business opportunities, and to mitigate any known threats to our efforts.
What IPC is and not
The diagram takes a centre-of-gravity approach to define sectors of the PC industry. There would be many sectors not shown in the diagram- they are either not important to this discussion or are overlooked for the time being. For example, where should we place PC used in schools as an industry sector? Many schools treat their PC as consumer PCs. For those few who may want business grade PCs in schools, where should we place them in the diagram? Education and research can go into the professional group. Machine and Environment at the last level in the diagram refer to the target uses of the PC. Display means the PC provides real time information for operators who are part of a closed loop with the PC. An example is the PC driving the dashboard in the cockpit of an airplane, train or road vehicle.
Characteristics of IPC
- Most if not all IPCs require a similar set of features: the PC is for specific purpose applications and not for general purposes; the PC runs in a real time mode and not a batch mode; and the PC is not used for concurrent applications and most computing resources are desired to be engaged in parallel for the specific purpose application. In case a single task consists of concurrent sub-tasks, a deeper analysis of timing requirements will be needed. An example is a power plant simulator whereby many thousands of simultaneous power generation processes have to be computed in parallel. This discussion will preclude large IPC systems and will focus on the small end of the scale. As such, additional features of IPC are low power, small size, and rugged. As the PC industry is the fastest moving industry in the world, the technology base for IPC must be more stable and have a longer life cycle than the average PC. For example, an IPC model must be available from the production and supply chain for 7 years; unlike 1 year or 3 years for consumer PCs or business PCs respectively.
Trends of IPC Industry
- Unlike the main PC industry (business and consumer) which is dominated by Wintel at the technology end, a couple of brands at the supply end, and by Apple as a one stop shop, the IPC industry is highly fragmented for a good reason. Germany is leading in terms of PLC technology whereas Taiwan is leading in terms of PC technology. PLC (programmable logic controller) is receding from the core to the edge over time and PC technology is expanding from the core to the edge. The transition is an evolution process identical to the migration of analogue cameras to IPVS. The increasing volume of local data that can be collected in real time or over the Internet at any time is an additional accelerating factor on the user side. These trends are exposing huge technology opportunities to the Compucon channel of business partners and user base.