Building the Self-Aware Digital Factory

June 22, 2017

By: Jeff DeAngelis
Managing Director of Business Management, Maxim Integrated


If you take a leisurely drive around a 10-mile radius from Google's campus in Mountain View, CA, you’ll find an Apple while searching for a Googleplex. What’s more, you can send a shout-out by Yahooing across the wetlands at Facebook and be LinkedIn to both Cisco and Intel.

Silicon Valley has long possessed a mystique as a cradle of innovation. When you think about it, it's pretty amazing to examine how the Valley has impacted all of our lives and changed the way we interact and live. 

Who would have expected that the happy hour napkins from Walker’s Wagon Wheel would become the canvases to solve the problem du jour faced by the Fairchildren known as the traitorous eight? And that these napkins would turn into the patent drawings for new product ideas and the business plans that would spawn many other Silicon Valley companies? The marvels that would come out of a few select Silicon Valley garages would shape the world we know today. At the foundation of all of this innovation are a simple single-gate silicon device from Mr. Shockley and Mr. Noyce, along with the wizardry of a Jobs and Woz.

So as we gaze over the Silicon Valley horizon, it's a reasonable assumption that "the next big thing" is already being crafted and incubated in some random building dotting a suburb along El Camino Real, affectionately known as The Royal Road. Of course, when you look around the world, there are many of these communities of innovation dotting varied landscapes. However, it is rare to have such a high density of diverse technical talent concentrated in one area. When you ponder the creations we already have, and the ideas in development, it stands to reason that the one constant denominator to spark "the next big thing" will focus on further enhancing our quality of life. My argument is that this is always a good measuring stick to determine whether a technology or new service will be effective in influencing or making an impact in our daily lives.

Smart Sensors Making an Impact

We are quickly becoming a very data rich society, as our products boast greater intelligence and connectivity. This brings us to a few areas to watch. A proliferation of smart sensors is helping us manage our lifestyles and improve the quality of goods and services in the manufacturing world. Given the volume of information being collected every day, there’s a critical need to secure and process this data to make informed decisions that influence our actions or modify our behaviors. This need is spawning new levels of artificial intelligence (AI), which are giving machines more self-awareness, as discussed in the article "Living Machines: Design Paradigms for Self-Aware Machines" by Bert Brautigam. This probably brings to mind various parallels, such as Hal from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, or I Robot. The power of the self-aware machine is that it can figure out its limits and constraints, and make temporary adjustments to keep itself working until it can be serviced, or work with other machines in its cell to compensate for its restricted performance. Such capabilities will usher in improved productivity and a greater level of fail-safe performance to ensure that critical systems remain up and running.

If we extract this performance need back to its silicon heritage, then it becomes clear that a whole new class of products are needed to improve performance flexibility. This new class of silicon products will have the ability to self-adjust its parameters to provide a flexible I/O solution. The way I see it, creating silicon solutions that can make configuration choices on-the-fly is the next big thing! Maxim continues to empower design innovation by developing silicon solutions that achieve this flexible I/O characteristic. One example is Maxim’s newest IO-Link master solution, the MAX14819, and its industrial IoT (IIoT) demonstration platform, the Pocket IO. The IO-Link standard is being adopted and integrated quickly into automotive and factory automation environments. As this happens, we're seeing new levels of adaptive manufacturing, which in turn call for silicon solutions with self-configuration capabilities. Before long, as this technological progress continues, the self-aware digital factory will become a reality. 

MAX14819 block
Fully compliant with the latest IO-Link and binary input standards and test specifications, the MAX14819 dual IO-Link master transceiver is integrated with framers and L+ supply controllers.