As the worldwide smartphone user population climbed over one billion this week, adoption of such wireless devices in the industrial environment is inching ever-closer to its own explosive growth period.
According to the Frost and Sullivan report, "Analysis of Wireless Devices in European Industrial Automation Market," by 2016, the $218 million market may expand to as much as $539.5 million in Europe alone. This nearly 150% increase in the market size will result in wireless tools landing in the hands of workers at 50% of the region's industrial centers.
However, Frost and Sullivan Research Analyst, Anna Mazurek, argues that the real boom time for the industry may still be a few years off.
As she explained, "The market needs another four to five years of pilot applications and technology trials to address all the pending concerns about the technology performance and convince end users on the advantage of deploying industrial wireless devices."
The report suggests that widespread adoption in the industrial setting has been slowed by technologies that are still rapidly changing and by the prevailing perception that wireless tools are non-critical, offering only services already covered by wired connections.
This latter notion, Mazurek insists, grossly underestimates the potential gains the technology presents.
"End users need to realize that wireless technology not only replaces wires but has the potential to reshape and optimize production process," she noted. "Vendor efforts to promote technology have fallen short, particularly among the more reluctant potential wireless adopters."
By 2016, the report suggests declining customer price sensitivity and potential product substitution, along with maturing technology and device proliferation, many of these issues will be resolved and the real industrial wireless revolution will unfold.
Drivers for Growth
Driving this growth is the desire for greater asset allocation and machine health monitoring, as well as the need for real-time data for enhanced flexibility and mobility -- which wireless tools are best positioned to deliver.
"Wireless devices reduce maintenance costs, boost productivity and improve quality of production," Mazurek highlighted. "At the same time, initial implementation does not require vast restricting or expensive machinery replacement."
"This combination of plant optimization, quick return on investment and easy installation is highlighting the benefits of industrial wireless automation," she said.
As the current market settles, Frost and Sullivan expects the increasing competition among players in the field to stimulate further technical developments and help drive down the cost of technologies.
The proliferation of advanced wireless devices this will induce -- pushing worldwide adoption to two billion in jut another couple of years, some experts say -- demand for medium-range wireless devices in the industrial sector can be expected to follow suit in advanced manufacturing facilities around the world.