(Photo credit: Schneider Electric)

Innovators are set to thrive in a climate where rising to technology challenges will be necessary to overcome continued economic uncertainty.

 
Europe, China, the Far East – and, to a lesser extent, the USA – are taking a bullish approach to swift technology developments in connected industry, vehicle electrification and embedded security. While continuing to be at an economic and political disadvantage in terms of volume electronics manufacturing, the UK nonetheless has an advantage in the knowledge economy, with deep expertise in these and other emerging areas. Those in the electronics industry can look forward to being part of the advances to be made in these technology races, with a more conducive environment, such as innovation catapults and other government-led incentive schemes, encouraging the sector to flourish.

Hot Topics

  • Private sector and academia step in to accelerate 5G deployment
  • Cyber attacks prompt shift to embedded security
  • Vehicle electrification presents huge opportunities as well as challenges for sector
 

Internet of Things: Closing the gap to 5G

Massive multiple input-multiple output (MIMO) trials are underway at BT’s Adastral Park in preparation for the deployment of 5G


The industry norm for moving from one mobile communication generation to the next is about 10 years. With work having started only recently on 5G, the expectation for full deployment is 2025, about five years too late for the predicted requirement to meet the volume of connected devices in the Internet of Things (IoT).
To close this gap, private sector companies are working with academia and telecom providers to overcome the significant technical hurdles of spectral efficiency and propagation in the mmWave bandwidth range. Bristol University and BT are prominent in this eld; current research is very much innovation-led, rather than commercial, but this situation will change as the need for low latency, high bandwidth radio communications become imperative.
We’re past the point of questioning whether IoT will deliver value. businesses now need to make informed decisions to position themselves to maximise IoT’s value in their organization.
Dr. Prith BanerjeeSchneider Electric
“The work we’re doing at Adastral Park has the potential to significantly boost available data rates in future 5G mobile networks, enhancing broadband and going some way towards fulfilling the needs of the IoT,” said Professor Tim Whitley, managing director of Research and Innovation at BT.

Connected industry

A significant multiplier of the number of devices connected to the IoT is the proliferation of industrial equipment with embedded sensors and controllers, which need to communicate across shared networks within Industry 4.0 (digital industry).
Things have moved on since 2016 and Industry 4.0 has become a reality very swiftly. High-speed, sub-miniature connectors with Power-over-Ethernet and robust, vibration-resistant properties for connecting machines and sensors are coming onto the market from suppliers including Staubli, Harting, TTI, Panasonic and Mouser Electronics. These connectors have been designed speci cally for industrial connectivity requirements, including the combination of multiple cable types in one connector, for example coaxial cable, Cat 5 Ethernet and even pneumatic pipework all being routed through a single connector.
Such innovations will continue to be necessary as the number of devices being connected across the industrial landscape increases. That increase is happening now, as the period from 2016 to 2017 saw the concept of Industry 4.0 transform from an idea with a few use cases into a generally accepted way forward. Large trade fairs focused on the topic were partially responsible for this transformation and the marketing push for the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (4IR) will continue throughout 2018, with further acceleration in adoption.

Cyber attacks: a new norm

Cyber security has gained more significance in the UK during 2017, with the NHS a high-pro le victim of ransomware, and a wider, rising unease about the vulnerability of the automatic systems on which people are becoming increasingly reliant.
This has resulted in a shifting away from the often cumbersome software-based approach to security that has characterised the industry since viruses were the main threat.
Embedded security, which is designed into electronic systems from the start, is now the preference. Connected industry and autonomous vehicles are benefiting from the most concentrated research activities.

Secure, connected autonomous vehicles

Connected industry is demanding a fresh approach to multi-functional, robust connectors


Broadening the scope of its strength in the development of automotive engineering, the UK is also pioneering Connected Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) security.
Energy and powertrain giant Ricardo plc recognised the gap in securing future transport and is keen to collaborate with specialist companies to deliver the right technology for its customers. This year it set up a partnership with Roke Manor Research to design cyber secure systems for vehicles and infrastructure alike.
We need a new approach to CAV technology design and implementation, as the combination of infotainment, navigation, vehicle-to-vehicle systems and fully autonomous driving all provide potential opportunities for malicious hacking attacks, said David Cole, managing director of Roke Manor Research. The key is to design security into the product right from the start, rather than bolting it on later.

NEW STANDARD FOR A NEW ERA

The Radio Equipment Directive (RED) – 2014/15/EU  came into force on 13 June 2017 and replaces the earlier R&TTE (Radio & Telecommunication Terminal Equipment) directive. RED covers all equipment that uses the radio frequency spectrum, including RFID equipment. It affects all manufacturers of products that have any kind of wireless connectivity, whether these are wearable novelty devices or industrial systems. RED is just one of a number of standards that need to be complied with for certain electronic devices, including EMC and electrical safety. In its revised form, the standards landscape is one that covers all aspects of EMC, spectrum protection and electrical safety for an environment that is increasingly connected at all levels. For CE Marking, conformance now needs to be demonstrated against three components:

  • 2014/30/EU  Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC)
  • 2014/35/EU  Low Voltage Directive (LVD)
  • 2014/53/EU  Radio Equipment directive (RED)

This covers more equipment than would previously have been covered before RED. According to standards testing expert, TÜV SÜD, the Internet of Things is seeing all kinds of equipment that would previously not have been considered a communications device requiring compliance to RED.

Securing billions of devices

Embedding security is preferred to software solutions (Credit: Schneider Electric)


On the premise that it impossible to load software onto every connected sensor and data acquisition device connected to the industrial IoT and maintain it, a similarly new approach is needed to effectively protect connected industry from cyber attacks.
Embedded security in System-on-Chip (SoC) devices provides the primary means of securing the IIoT. Companies such as Wind River Security are pioneering the more modern approach, rather than relying on software from multiple sources.
Another approach to securing the IoT is to focus on the kind of code the devices use, which is often open-source Linux, rather than commercial software. Security company Flexera proposes the use of Software Composition Analysis tools to recognise open source code blocks and their security posture at the time it is compiled on the device.

Vehicle electrification

With the announcements in 2017 by the French and UK Governments that, by 2040, there will be no sales of new cars with purely petrol or diesel engines, the race is on for the automotive industry and infrastructure providers to support electrified powertrains. These will most likely take the form of plug-in hybrids, fully electric or alternatively fuelled vehicles.
The challenges and opportunities that this provides for the electronics industry are enormous, as the developments also go hand-in-hand with autonomy, connectivity and smart infrastructure.
The UK Government is determined that the country will be at the forefront of these developments and is backing this up with centrally funded projects, including the Transport Catapult, to facilitate developments.
In July 2017, the Transport Systems Catapult published research that predicted a CAV market worth over £50 billion by the end of the decade. To ensure the UK has a share of this, the Government has sunk over £50 million into four projects for the development and testing of CAVs. The consortia are led by Millbrook, the Transport Research Laboratory, MIRA and Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG).
Private companies and local governments are also examining the potential for smart infrastructure, with o -peak charging, energy storage and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) connectivity. Organisations such as CENEX, the UK centre for low carbon and fuel cell technologies, are focusing expertise from both the private and public sector on energy efficiency and vehicle/infrastructure projects.
Energy supplier Wester Power Distribution’s Electric Nation initiative aims to develop systems for managing vehicle charging, while minimising impact on the grid. This includes V2G systems, in which the vehicle becomes a source of power to the home and even the grid itself.

Vehicle electrification poses new challenges in connectivity and vehicle to grid deployments.

Innovation otherwise

Meeting needs across the supply chain: Schneider’s industrial software platform (Credit: Schneider Electric)


Elsewhere in the electronics industry, there is no relaxation in innovation levels. Intel stated in 2015 that advancement in miniaturization had slowed down and that the famous Moore’s Law, predicting the doubling of circuit densities every 18-24 months, was no longer applicable. Now the electronic giant’s current CEO, Brian Krzanich, has declared Moore’s law to be alive and well.
Researchers from Cambridge University and University College London are looking at the fundamentals of electronics differently, researching how to use spin rather than charge as the property of choice for circuitry of the future. Coupled with the development of crystal nanostructures and zero resistance materials, there is a long way to go before the electronics industry starts to stagnate.

Jonathan Newell is an experienced broadcast and technical journalist specialising in UK engineering and manufacturing. Before moving into journalism, he gained over a decade of experience in computer manufacturing.He edits Environmental Engineering magazine.