Talk about Connectivity+

Interview with
Ralf Klein, Managing Director HARTING Electronics GmbH
Interview with
Jon DeSouza, President & CEO, HARTING Americas

For HARTING, reliable connectivity is a given, but being good at making connectors is simply not enough. To illustrate this, HARTING has recently coined the term Connectivity+. Connectivity is the foundation, but for us that’s just the start. HARTING has always been a place for innovators, needle-movers, and technology visionaries. Today, more than ever, it is critical that we stake this claim as we move into the future.

We sat down to talk about “plus” in Connectivity+ with Ralf Klein, Managing Director of the HARTING Electronics Global Business Unit and Jon DeSouza, President & CEO of HARTING Americas to explain this concept and how it embodies HARTING’s long-term vision and strategy. HARTING has a long history in the industrial connector market with the invention of the Han® more than 65 years ago. Connectivity has been the core of the company ever since. So, what’s the purpose of Connectivity+?

Ralf Klein: In 1996, we created HARTING’s vision statement and put to paper the values HARTING had been living for decades. One key pillar of that vision states “We want to shape the future with technologies for people.” This statement carries two important messages. The first, “We want to shape the future with technologies,” means that as a pioneer we are always looking forward and developing technologies that we believe will help push society ahead. The second piece, “for people” means that we always remember who those technologies are for, and, in everything we do we strive to make the world a better place. The “plus” in Connectivity+ is emblematic of this vision, that we don’t just make connectors, we create technologies that push society further.

Jon DeSouza: HARTING has never been a company that just makes a connector. We always had long-term strategies for the best-in-class partnership and customer support. Our customers benefit from a global and local in-the-region, for-the-region strategy that ensures a strong supply chain, product availability through a wide distribution network, offers customized solutions, and makes co-creation rapid and easy through our innovation hubs. This allows us to meet our customers’ expectations of end-to-end connectivity solutions, i. e. Connectivity+. Now, more than ever, is the time for partnership with innovators. How are you rethinking connectivity? Is visionary thinking the key to creating solutions for the future challenges society is facing?

Ralf Klein: We are always looking for ways to improve technology with better connectivity solutions. This means not just coasting by on our existing portfolio but thinking about how a new type of connector can help improve an application. In this way we are thinking like a visionary.

The building blocks of visionary thinking are innovation and standardization. Innovation is the first step. Here we take a pervading problem and find a new way to solve it, perhaps through a new technology or a new method. Once the problem is solved, we need to make the technology available to the masses. This is where standardization comes in.

Jon DeSouza: The work we have done with Single Pair Ethernet is an example of this type of thinking. Ethernet has become the dominant protocol for Industrial communications. However, at the edge of the Industrial Network, the available 4 and 8 wire Ethernet was too costly and expensive. Other protocols were used then translated to Ethernet. This was a problem for our customers because they needed to be able to access all available data barrier-free.

Together with leading technology companies, we developed the “SPE Industrial Partner Network” dedicated to developing a complete SPE Ecosystem. HARTING developed the standardized mating face for the connector. Now we are working with companies across a diverse range of Industrial markets to ensure the technology supports their unique needs. You will hear from some of them in this edition of tec.News. A Leading visionary in the Automation sector is Rockwell, who will explain why SPE is so important. We will discuss Smart Farming, a market that is planning to adopt this technology in nextgen Agriculture equipment. Finally, we are working with a leading visionary in Robotics to make the future smarter, faster, and better. And just why are standards so important in this context?

Ralf Klein: International standards, like ISO/IEC, are important in a globalized world. By creating a uniform guideline, users can be assured the components they use all work together wherever they are purchased or manufactured. By participating in standards organizations’ working groups HARTING always has a finger on the pulse of the current needs and can help identify emerging trends early.

Jon DeSouza: HARTING has been involved in global standards groups for decades. One of our newest additions is the ODVA, where we have recently become a Principal Board Member. With these groups we are constantly rethinking and reapplying connectivity to improve technologies. In the Data Center industry, for example, we have already done work developing new standards in power connectivity through the Open Compute Project (OCP). We are also looking to develop new standards in light rail and high speed rail connectivity from locomotives to high speed passenger trains. Are there already concrete solutions that you summarize as examples under the term Connectivity+?

R. Klein: When we say we want to drive new key technologies, we are thinking about both the electromechanical connector, and its role in the overall integration process. We are always asking ourselves “does this solution address the specific trend or need”, and “if so, what is the best approach to make this ready for mass adoption”. Doing all this work is what we call “Connectivity+”.

Exemplifying this is the new Ethernet Physical Layer Single Pair Ethernet. With this we looked at the overall context of the technology, everything that was needed to enable mass adoption. Just a connector wouldn’t cut it. With partners we developed an amazing ecosystem and are working together to standardize this technology for the future.

Another example of this type of thinking is the M12 with Magnetics connector. With this we were able to bring the physical Ethernet interface entirely into the connector, reducing the number of components an engineer needed to consider in a PCB design and the number of components purchasing needed to procure. This additional functionality allowed our customers to simplify their PCB design and manufacturing process as well as reduce the PCB size.

Jon DeSouza: In the US, there are several products we’ve developed with a “living innovation” mindset. Almost every application and story we cover in this edition of tec.News fits comfortably under the Connectivity+ umbrella. Flip ahead and we will discuss such technologies as charging for electric vehicles, electrification of agriculture equipment, Single Pair Ethernet, and more. You will also hear from a few of the innovators from MIT and LAM Research. But aren't connectors the interfaces of an old industrial world? Today, everything is being shifted to the cloud - how does that fit in with connectivity?

Ralf Klein: Connectors are all around us and will be well into the future. People think of the cloud and make the mistake of thinking the cloud is wireless, but that’s not the case. Data is transferred over connecting interfaces, starting at a device on a machine, for example, or a modem in a house. Even if data is initially transmitted through WiFi, it eventually makes its way through some physical interface.

Furthermore, Connectivity+ is about using connectivity for people. In the future, automation will gain considerable momentum, and applications that were once science fiction will become reality. Robots or drones will deliver our packages, for example. This will in turn require reliable connections designed by visionary thinkers – so our HARTING connectors will be in demand.

As a technology leader with foresight, drive and passion, we are equipped for any upcoming challenges and will "... shape the future with technologies for people."

Jon DeSouza: In closing, I would like to invite you to read ahead. See our work for yourself. The projects, technologies, and partnerships we highlight in these pages are just some of the work we are doing every day to shape the future. HARTING has always been a pioneer, an innovator, and a leader. This is in our DNA. We are always ready to support our customers with their connectivity needs, whether it’s a time-tested, reliable connector that’s been around for decades or if you have a challenge that requires a whole new technology.