By Tim Skutt
I spent a couple days this week at AUVSI XPONENTIAL – “the industry’s largest congregation of unmanned systems professionals”. I’ve attended this event for the past five years and this year was a definite turning point for the industry, and I think it’s a commentary on where IoT is in general.
A former colleague I ran into at the show put it this way – “I was at the show two years ago, and as you walked around the exhibit hall, all the videos showed unmanned aircraft flying or unmanned ground vehicles driving around. This year, you almost never see a video of a vehicle. Instead, you see videos of what the unmanned system is making happen.” Put another way, the context is changing from a focus on the unmanned vehicle to the capability it enables.
This was reflected in a number of the conversations I had with people who stopped by the Wind River booth. In past years, those conversations were almost exclusively about our operating systems and how they can help solve the problems of building the software controls that support unmanned system functions. We still had some of those conversations, but it was surprising how many conversations centered around the capability – the business problem – and how our solutions could solve the business problems and enable the capability.
We had conversations about pipeline inspections and the transition from manned to automated inspections. We had conversations about surveying and how to create FAA certified systems that can autonomously survey and then transfer that information securely to servers that offer survey information to customers. We even had a conversation about connected smart lighting solutions – something that was quite a surprise to be talking about at an unmanned vehicle conference – but it turns out it was very relevant.
I spoke at a session entitled “A Revolution in Command and Control for Unmanned Vehicles” that highlights how we are moving to a software defined world and how we can leverage cloud capability much closer to the edge of our IoT systems – a concept sometimes called the “Tactical Cloud”. Later during the conference, I sat in on a session about cloud analytics from a major player in that domain and was again surprised to see that the attendance at these sessions was noticeably higher than a number of the other “traditional” unmanned systems sessions.
All this seems to point to a transition in the unmanned system domain that we’re seeing in many other domains as well – the transition from devices to commercial grade IoT deployments that enable business capabilities. This is where Wind River really shines. We’re well known for our robust solutions that enable devices in commercial grade environments, especially where those devices must not fail such as aviation, telecommunications, and automotive. We have the commercial grade solutions for gateways and network equipment that connect devices. We have the commercial grade solutions that tie devices into services for information aggregation (IoT) as well as device management. And we have the development and deployment tools that support commercial grade IoT development operations (DevOps), including tool solutions that enable pre-deployment testing of baselines and updates at scale (i.e., hundreds or thousands or more devices of different types) so our customers can have confidence in service continuity when they deploy and update their systems.
Interestingly, in many of the conversations at XPONENTIAL it was a surprise to our customers that Wind River has the solutions that support their needs for end-to-end infrastructure. The fact that we have solutions and expertise in highly connected, secure IoT systems such as smart lighting and automotive was unexpected to many of the people I talked with. It quickly inspired a much deeper conversation about how Wind River can provide the end-to-end infrastructure and the supporting development and deployment tools to enable a desired capability with confidence and robustness.
As industries such as unmanned systems transition from exploration to commercial business operations, Wind River is uniquely positioned to be the catalyst for success. Our foundational device platforms that span the spectrum from deeply embedded, safety and security critical sensors, actuators, and controllers, to our platforms that support gateways and networks are complemented by our device connectivity and management solutions and our development and deployment tools to create the commercial grade end-to-end infrastructure needed for successful, long-term business capabilities.