There are three major trends that will shape the coming generation of control technology. These trends are largely independent and not likely to go away. They are increasing compute capability, decreasing cost, embedded networking and package independence. These are all increasing in capability simultaneously which makes possible a universe of new products that weren’t even conceivable before. Nest thermostats, for example.
It’s going to be a bumpy decade for a lot of people.
Increasing compute capability by itself opens a lot applications that were previously too complex, which can be read too expensive, to approach in the past. In the motor world, for example, the switched reluctance motor, which required a dedicated PC processor to run 25 years ago can now be run with a $2 Cortex core. The incredible flexibility to be able to command different speed torque curves from the same hardware makes SR a very intriguing option for many applications. The low construction cost and “cold” rotor also mean that thermal problems might not be so significant if properly managed. Our current generation of embedded motor controllers would easily permit a thermal calculation to run in the background in combination with temperature sensors in the winding. This combination would result in a bullet proof solution for many traction applications with high starting torque and high running speed.
Decreasing cost means a lot of low end applications will become targets for embedded silicon. Even if it’s just for the ability to connect because of embedded networking. The Internet of Things or the Industrial Internet of Things is a concept, but how it shows up in the real world is yet to be seen. The connected home is just the beginning. How the Grid delivers electricity and how Amazon delivers your order are among a million new possibilities that will start new businesses all over the globe.
Decreasing cost and embedded networking also mean that it becomes possible to deploy ‘swarms’ of devices that operate together. This is a fundamental shift that humans do not have a good grasp of, yet, offers some incredible potential in many areas. Clearing a mind field of dangerous explosives is one of them, which was the beginning of a significant tech startup Clear Path Robotics. (hence the name)
And there is so much more to come.
Filed Under: Mechatronic Tips