SMT007 Magazine

SMT007-Feb2019

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62 SMT007 MAGAZINE I FEBRUARY 2019 could well be simply an extension of the ways computer software algorithms work, which would have to be the case if machines were ever to think for themselves. This allows many to claim "intelligence" in our current assembly machines and related software. Such claims are designed to set customer expectation that newer products are much cleverer than before, creating more value and performance, which in most cases, is a neat and accurate descrip- tion of new machines and robots we see com- ing into the market. Becoming smarter and more intelligent step by step is great, but how many steps are there left to take before we reach a truly artificially intelligent process that can think for itself? The continuous investment in AI is bankrolled from sales of continuously enhanced machines and software. With things moving so fast, when is the best time to invest in smart solutions when the next step may be just around the corner? If an investment is made into state-of-the-art smart software solutions today, would it be- come obsolete in the very near term? No, and the reason is that there is a growing distinct difference between the hardware and software elements of smart solutions. The dif- ference has so far been hidden, as most physi- cal tools that we purchase for use in assembly manufacturing consist of a package of both hardware and software. To evolve hardware requires a long lead time due to physical prod- uct development cycle constraints, whether mechanical or electronic. Meanwhile, evolv- ing software can be done orders of magnitude faster. We all have experience with devices, ranging from smartphones and PCs to the lat- est SMT placement or inspection machines, to find that there are frequent software updates that change and (usually) enhance the opera- tion of the hardware device. Don't think that the machine vendor missed the opportunity to add value at the start, or that there was any problem with the original machine or device software; those days are largely passed. As software is not a physical entity, it evolves more as a flow rather than large step by step iterations of hardware, so new values can be introduced as they become available. This fun- damentally changes the way we invest in soft- ware solutions. We see today that Microsoft has stopped releasing new versions of Windows, and instead, is providing incremental updates continuously to customers who see what they use as being Windows 10. If each change to Windows had a major release, we would prob- ably be running something like Windows 42 by now with each new release bringing with it costs and concerns. Instead, improvements are introduced gradually, with minimal impact on usage. Hardware has a limited rate of evolution seen as products evolving in discrete steps, whereas software is free to roam in a far more flexible way, delivering greater flexibility and greater opportunity for becoming smarter and faster. This all comes for an initial investment, or preferably these days, a subscription that al- lows us to pick and choose exactly what soft- ware we would like to use as time progresses. This is quite critical as the pace towards AI in software picks up momentum. The Origin of Digital Intelligence The chicken-and-egg discussion of whether hardware development leads to software or vice versa is more interesting now that we see software evolution as a flow compared to the stepped changes in hardware. However, soft- ware enhancement has begun to break away from the hardware where AI applications and smart operations are concerned. An interesting example, historical to many, is the evolution of the smart warehouse. Without software, the typical original warehouse model was to orga- nize locations by part number with some sort of bin allocated for each. These were arranged in alphabetical order so that human materials If an investment is made into state-of-the-art smart software solutions today, would it become obsolete in the very near term?

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