Apple in Automation

01 November, 2019 11:00PM ยท 3 minute read

Living in Australia and not being a journalist or renowned Apple blogger, I have never expected to attend an Apple presentation let alone be invited to one, let alone be invited to one that was specifically tailored to my line of work. A few months ago I attended a day-conference-like event hosted by Schneider Electric.

Apple opened with the requisite back-story of Apples goal, to create the best possible user experience through cohesive hardware and software development, and gave a comparison of their mobile devices, showing the largest to smallest from the iPad Pro 12.9" down to the iPod Touch: their focus being on how mobility solutions could be of great benefit in the automation space.

The often mentioned supportability over time was quelled somewhat with a list of the past five iOS versions and the age of hardware that each supported, with the value increasing from 4 years to 5 years for the past four releases.

A company that manufactured moving parts (being careful not to breach an NDA here) was provided as an example of an integrated manufacturing line application for an iOS app that leveraged the latest iOS APIs for barcode scanning, inventory control and full integration with SAP for inventory tracking at all stages of assembly.

In addition they mentioned Machine Learning using CoreML, which I knew plenty about because I’ve played with it (briefly) and have been follow Apple elsewhere for many years, but there were plenty of Automation engineers in the room that hadn’t. A few more examples of companies that had written apps that did on-device ML/pattern recognition of physical components to drive home that no other devices from competitors could do that, on-device.

Finally there was discussion about an Enterprise three-day Cupertino workshop that Apple would hold with your company to brainstorm ways in which applications could be developed to best suit your specific business needs.

In the Q&A segment there was a question about Intrinsically Safe requirements preventing Apple devices from being used in Oil & Gas plants, chemical plants and explosive facilities to name a few. The presenter suggested that there were several IS-rated protective/isolating cases for iPads and iPhones that are in use by many companies in those situations. Lacking details on the day I enquired afterwards and was provided Xciel as a suggestion from Apple.

They make an iPad Mini Zone 1 case at an ‘affordable’ $2,890 USD with an extra $100 USD for a correct iPad Mini 5 fitting. Ever so slightly cheaper for their iPhone Xr case at $2,500 USD. For those in the industry an IS-rated smart device is upwards of that price as an integrated unit so if you care about Intrinsically Safe equipment, you probably won’t mind spending upwards of three grand to protect yourself and your people from those risks.

My overall impression of the event was pretty positive, with both local and US Apple representatives at the event. It was well structured, well presented and overall was a nice reminder that Apple haven’t forgotten about the Automation Systems space - which is really great to hear. My thanks to Schneider Electric and Apple for inviting me to the event.