Hannover Messe 2024 – key insights from PAC Analyst Arnold Vogt

After three and a half days of “speed dating” with many IT and industrial automation companies, let me share with you my personal highlights and insights from the fair.

A very positive overall impression of the fair – I really enjoyed Hannover Messe 2024. The halls that I mainly visited (Halls 14-17 and 5-11) were often very crowded. I got the impression that many people from all over the world took the time to come to the fair. Believe it or not, three and a half days was actually not enough to see everything I was interested in.

Visionary showcases – Companies should, of course, not be too blinded by spotlights, but Hannover Messe is a good place to pick up new inspiration. Let me give you three quick examples: first, you could talk to a human-sized 3D avatar at the Capgemini booth – a cool metaverse experience in the real world, combined with GenAI-based voice interaction. Second, Siemens presented a voice-controlled robot that allowed the German Chancellor to control an industrial robot via simple voice commands. Festo showcased light-weight BionicBees (35 grams) that fly around and transport small things in autonomous swarms within buildings.

GenAI-based industrial copilots have made limited progress – If you were expecting to see big advancements in this space at Hannover Messe 2024, I’m afraid I have bad news for you. GenAI was certainly the main hype topic at Hannover Messe 2024, and there was virtually no major booth without a GenAI demo. Most use cases were centered around information search (in manuals and more), recommendation engines for industrial operations (predictive maintenance and performance optimization), PLC/robot coding, and automatically generated designs for dashboards and HMIs. However, it was also evident at the fair that GenAI was not taking the industrial world by storm. Adoption is gradual, and most copilot offerings are still in an early product stage (beta phase). Hallucination is not necessarily the main problem, as we can overcome this with the help of RAG technology. However, concrete proof points for RoI and the availability of training data to improve model performance still hamper adoption in some cases. There is no need for panic, but you should keep a close eye on future developments. The SPS fair in November will be the next milestone where we expect to see more concrete results.

IT capabilities are increasingly relevant to optimizing OT – Applying IT to optimize the efficiency, sustainability, and flexibility of OT is the main value driver for the manufacturing industry today. Key topics in this context at Hannover Messe were data management, AI/analytics, and cybersecurity. Unsurprisingly, many IT vendors had a prominent presence at the fair again this year – not just the cloud hyperscalers (AWS, Google, and Microsoft) together with their partner ecosystems, but also relevant application providers (SAP, ServiceNow), leading IT service providers (Accenture, Capgemini, Fujitsu, Deloitte), and big infrastructure providers (Cisco, Dell, HPE). On the other hand, the booth of the biggest industrial automation vendor, Siemens, was also fully focused on digital solutions.

Industrial edge management, an IT area dominated by OT vendors – Leveraging container technology to manage applications at the industrial edge keeps making progress. There is a continued trend for leading vendors like Siemens (Industrial Edge Management), Phoenix Contact (PLCnext), and Bosch Rexroth (ctrlX) to keep enhancing their offerings and partner ecosystems. The biggest announcement in this space was the new strategic partnership between Phoenix Contact and Festo. In addition, more vendors from the industrial automation space, such as Schneider Electric, are entering this market with their own offerings. Another remarkable piece of news was the launch of Margo, a new initiative by the Linux Foundation, aimed at enabling edge interoperability for industrial automation ecosystems. The ambition is to overcome barriers to innovation in complex multi-vendor environments. The founding members are leading IT and OT vendors like ABB, Capgemini, Microsoft, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric, and Siemens. The first deliverables are scheduled to be available in 2024. We will check on the progress of this initiative later this year, at the SPS fair. Watch out for our blog post in November 2024.

Microsoft, KUKA, and Meta surprised us – After Microsoft scaled down its ambitions in the manufacturing industry in 2023 (no presence at the SPS fair, no progress on Microsoft's Industry Cloud for Manufacturing in years, and significant headcount reductions around Azure IoT), it was interesting to see the comeback of Microsoft offerings dedicated to the industrial world at Hannover Messe this year. This included new Manufacturing Data Solutions in Microsoft Fabric, Copilot Template for Factory Operations, and Microsoft's Industry Cloud for Manufacturing (still in preview but presented at a demo point). It was also good to see KUKA return to Hannover Messe with a small booth, and we were surprised to see Meta for the first time with a booth showcasing AR/VR-based work experiences for enterprise customers.

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