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Just a few weeks after the go-live of the Smart Automation market overview in mid-April, Bosch Rexroth launched a dedicated subpage. Expert discussions are being held from Industrie-Digitalisierung with all providers in order to work out the special features of their platform strategies. The market overview has obviously come at the right time. It creates the necessary transparency for the new market of open, Linux-based app platforms for manufacturers, customers and interested parties.

The Smart Automation market overview currently includes 13 app platforms from 12 providers:

Bosch Rexroth with ctrlX AUTOMATION, Contact Software with Elements for IoT, FLECS Technologies with FLECS, German Edge Cloud with ONCITE DPS, KEBA AG with Kemro X, Lenze with Lenze NUPANO, Phoenix Contact with PLCnext Technology, SALZ Automation with SALZ Controller, Siemens with Industrial Operations X, TTTech Industrial Automation AG with Nerve, WAGO with WAGO OS and WAGO ctrlX OS, and Weidmüller with easyConnect and u-OS.

It is exciting to observe the development of this market. A study by Gartner in 2022 came to the conclusion that by 2025, 60 percent of all new manufacturing solutions, previously the domain of monolithic manufacturing execution systems (MES) and proprietary PLC software, will consist of composable software. (See the background articles on composable software).

The Friedhelm Loh Group also made an announcement at the Hanover Fair in 2022: With the ONCITE Digital Production System (DPS) of the subsidiary German Edge Cloud (GEC), founded in 2021, the new Rittal plant in Haiger was currently being set up as a smart factory.

Two other providers from the overview were also founded in 2021: FLECS Technologies and SALZ Automation. Coincidence? Not really. Among other things, the start-ups were a response to the availability of a Linux, which made it possible for the first time to securely control machines and other devices used in production in near-real time.

Three years later, it can no longer be overlooked that the new platforms for container apps, which can communicate with each other and with any devices via API, are forming their own market in the industrial country of Germany and throughout the German-speaking world. This is likely to be the heart of the digital transformation in the coming years. Providers also come from the standard IT sector, such as Contact Software and Siemens. However, the majority are industrial companies with electronics or automation products, or start-ups founded specifically for an app platform.

What a difference between the old monolithic systems, where the customer often needed more than a year of patience if they wanted to implement any new functionality. Now, agile development and methods such as DevOps are in demand, where the development and provision of software apps is automated and runs in parallel, largely eliminating the downtime of linked environments for updates, changes and additions.

The Smart Automation market overview is just as lively. Because it is available online, nothing stands in the way of quickly adapting information from individual providers. There are regular updates every six months before Hanover Fair and SPS in Nuremberg, currently probably the most important and largest trade fairs in the field of automation.

An important element of the market overview will be provider pages, which platform manufacturers can use to highlight the special features of their offerings compared to the market and explain them in detail, including videos and whitepapers. Bosch Rexroth was the first provider to launch such a page. Two more are currently in the works.

Just how lively the market overview is became apparent immediately after the go-live: three providers who had not even been requested registered: FLECS Technologies, SALZ Automation and TTTech Industrial Automation. Within a few days, the list grew from 9 to 12 providers.

Some companies have so far shied away from participating because they are not yet far enough along with their corresponding development. Some may not know that this market overview exists. If anyone wants to take part, it is very easy to register yourself and your Smart Automation platform. They then get access to the online questionnaire and are accepted as a platform provider free of charge.

If not everything is deceptive, this market of open, Linux-based app platforms heralds the next stage of automation in the industry. It could be the great opportunity for the industry in German-speaking countries to maintain and expand its position in the global market. No comparable solutions are known from either the USA or China.