We live in an increasingly interconnected and perimeter-less world of cloud services combined with software-defined networks and 5G telecommunications. Add to that a multitude of low-cost always-on connected devices and sensors, and we have a situation that demands advanced knowledge of network flows between these assets and a security posture to protect them.
It’s the perfect setup for a company long known for its telecom, network virtualization, and cybersecurity hardware prowess to make its mark by adding “smarts” to the edge computing space.
The company is Lanner Electronics, and it is using its forte in connectivity and security to build the fundamental enabling technologies for intelligent edge computing platforms: hardware platforms that offer customizable services in domains such as factory management, digital production lines, predictive maintenance, and adaptive retail inventory management. Platforms that are flexible, agile, and cost-effective while also capable of being provisioned end-to-end for a scalable experience. Platforms that go beyond traditional Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) hardware capabilities.
Lanner’s approach to the intelligent edge involves several modern technologies such as digitalization, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and Big Data processing coming together to take legacy infrastructure into the next generation of automated factories, intelligent retail solutions, and smart manufacturing. More importantly, the sophisticated processing capabilities, either on-premiseor in the cloud, lead to improved analytics, better insights, more automation, and even autonomy.
Lanner Electronics Inc. is a world-leading provider of design, engineering, and manufacturing services for advanced network appliances and rugged applied computing platforms for system integrators, service providers, and application developers.
Lanner Electronics was founded in 1986 and launched as an independent company in 1993. It started life as an ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) for industrial PC chassis and single-board computers. Received very positively in the market for its products’ reliability, ruggedness, and innovation, the company expanded into the Americas market in 1996 with a subsidiary in the US and later in 2010 in the Canadian market.
Over the years, Lanner has been a market leader in embedded networking hardware, such as network and storage appliances, security appliances, modular expansion cards, and telecom HTCA hardware platforms. In recent years, with the surge in demand for connected smart equipment for industrial, home, and business use, its Americas subsidiaries (Lanner Americas) have pushed the envelope in designing and manufacturing Internet of Things solutions and platforms, enabling intelligence at the edge. These devices and appliances are used in state-of-the-art applications such as Intelligent Transportation, Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Autonomous Mobility, and Industry 4.0, among others.
Today Lanner’s vision for the smart world of tomorrow is focused on SMART solutions – Intelligent Edge Computing (IEC) solutions that are Secure, Managed, AI-Enabled, Ruggedized, and Tailored. The company believes this next generation of IEC will power Lanner’s growth in the future, including SMART Infrastructure, SMART Transportation, SMART Industry, SMART Mobility, and SMART Retail.
In conversation with the person driving this vision: Terence Chou, CEO, and GM of Lanner Americas
Q. What is Industry 4.0, and what is the motivation for it?
Well, Industry 4.0 is a term of art to suggest it is the next generation of the industrial revolution. As you know, the steam engine and its mechanical successors in other areas, such as printing presses, are widely considered to be the first-time industry went beyond human labor for specific tasks. If that can be regarded as Industry 1.0, then the automation of production lines that gave a step-function boost to productivity in the factory can be considered version 2.0. This was followed in recent decades by the automation of everyday tasks—the traditional view of robotics and computer-controlled machinery, which was generation 3.0.
We are now ushering in an era where automation goes beyond repetitive tasks and extends to decision-making through machine learning and artificial intelligence, combined with “making sense” of data gathered for advanced actions. Algorithms take decisions with minimal or no human intervention and perform actions before we’d even know they needed to be taken. Instead of scheduled or condition-based maintenance and security, the focus can be on proactive and preventive measures, reducing downtime and increasing overall output. This is what is commonly referred to as Industry 4.0 and we at Lanner are at the forefront of this.
If connectivity was about gathering, integrating, and aggregating data, AI lets us take the next logical step of analyzing this data into actionable insights and executing those actions. Lanner’s hardware, long reputed for its innovation in networking and telecom connectivity, is now augmented by advanced chips from our silicon partners such as Intel, NVIDIA, and Hailo to enable Industry 4.0 for our customers in the industrial space.
Q. What is Lanner’s vision for the future of this space?
Lanner has already been shipping advanced appliances for this space — not just for smart manufacturing on the factory floor but for infrastructure for business, transportation, and even cities. Lanner Edge AI computing shipping today can support wireless connectivity, including LTE and WiFi, with storage expansion slots, TPM 2.0 hardware-based security, and an AI compiler for standard AI frameworks, allowing customers to easily port their AI models to the Lanner platforms for time-to-market deployment. As more decision-making moves to the edge, closer to where devices are gathering data and where actions must be executed, edge devices that Lanner supplies must become more powerful, more advanced, and more intelligent. We believe it will not be long before it would be rare to find IoT and IIoT implementations that do not have an AI involvement of some kind. This is where Lanner has been investing its resources to enable Intelligent Edge Computing (IEC) as one of the foundational technology blocks for the future.
After initial success with our foray into this field, this year, we are expanding into our company’s second-generation offerings, led by Lanner Americas, dubbed IEC 2.0. These are solutions that enable the seamless convergence of AI and IIoT for our customers and, when combined with 5G, allow AI to penetrate deeper into the overall architecture. This is our vision for SMART infrastructure in various industries.
Q. As the person heading this effort, what do smart infrastructure and IEC mean to you? Is it just additional computing power at the edge?
More computing power at the edge is just the beginning. For Lanner, “SMART” is not just intelligent – our focus is on ensuring that the solution we provide –both appliances and software-- is Secure by design, from the inside out. It is Managed – either centrally on-premise or in the cloud, but fully observable and controllable as industrial equipment should be. It is AI-driven using the latest hardware and software so that the scattered flood of data from IIoT sensors is converted to cogent insights through analysis. It is Rugged, having designed-in physical robustness and reliability that industrial-grade standards expect, as has been Lanner’s signature throughout its history. And most importantly, it is Tailored for different verticals and applications, providing the foundation for innovation in various industries to be what the future demands. So, its intelligence is far more than just additional computing power in edge devices.
This “Edge AI” is AI performed at the edge, close to the physical devices. It can be deployed in an edge-to-edge configuration in applications such as a smart factory or V2X communication or an edge-to-cloud configuration in areas such as video analytics and physical security.
Q. As the person leading the Americas region, how do you see the business growth in this part of the world, and what opportunities are driving it?
Lanner has had a footprint in both USA and Canada for over a decade, including a manufacturing and hub facility in Silicon Valley, California, which handles system integration, production, RMA service, warehousing as well as quality control.
With recent pandemic disruptions, geopolitical concerns, as well as a trend in the US towards re-shoring specific critical manufacturing steps of the supply chain, we see a growing demand for more local options in the Americas. So, our plan calls for increasing our investments in this geography to better serve our customers here. This also fits into Lanner’s longer-term vision of “producing near the customer” to give them the maximum nimbleness to address their end markets. Lanner leadership also sees this investment in the Americas as a significant step towards reducing the environmental footprint by reducing emissions from marine transportation over large distances and a way for our own business to become not just more reliable but also more elastic to demand changes, all while being socially responsible. It also benefits our software and ecosystem partners based in North America, as we can work closely with them to achieve tighter integration and coordinated sales processes that benefit our mutual customers. And, of course, it lays the foundation for our growth for the next 5-10 years as we target a revenue milestone of $500 million and beyond based on such strategic investments in both technology and services.
Q. What is your final message to CIO Bulletin readers and your current and future customers and partners?
The industrial segment had traditionally been slow to embrace new technologies in the past, but the adoption of technologies like IoT, artificial intelligence, deep learning, machine vision, robotic automation, and leading-edge connectivity options like 5G and WiFi6 has made possible productivity, safety, and reliability gains were never before seen in the infrastructure market. Sensors that “talk to each other”. Algorithms that “make decisions on their own”. Robots that “think for themselves”. Vehicles that “drive themselves”. Factories and machinery that “run and maintain themselves”. Things that not long ago were the realm of science fiction are not just conceptual but a reality today, and the march of technological progress shows no signs of slowing down. For our customers, the opportunities and benefits of adopting these technologies far outstrip the risks of not embracing them. As one of the industry’s top hardware manufacturers, Lanner is well-positioned to help its customers succeed.
Leader in Advanced Next-Gen Network Edge Revolution
Terence Chou is the CEO and GM of Lanner Americas -- an organization which brings together Lanner USA and Lanner Canada -- as well as the Head of the Intelligent Edge Computing business unit globally. Mr. Chou is a long-time Lanner veteran, having worked at Lanner Headquarters in Taipei and different Lanner business units in various technology, business, and operational roles and is now spearheading its vision for a SMART future.