News is emerging from North Korea that the Hermit Kingdom has launched its own Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform to modernize its factories.
As reported by NK News, a Seoul-based monitor of North Korean activity, the new technology was recently showcased on state television.
The broadcasts from North Korea revealed the launch of Star Group device, which appears to be a flash tablet that reportedly assists workers remotely operate equipment throughout the country.
This follows news that China, long North Korea’s only major international backer, is poised to become a global leader in IIoT.
North Korea’s domestically produced device runs on the 20-year-old Windows CE operating system. In what might evoke images of sci-fi cyborgs, the device is equipped with a “Human Machine Interface” for providing real time monitoring and control of factory devices in remote locations.
One expert on the reclusive dictatorship says it could be significant that the device incorporates Microsoft’s Windows CE. Win CE is a simplified operating system designed for limited functionality in such technology as ATMs and factory robots. Last updated in 2013, Microsoft says it will remain supported through 2023 at this point.
“When someone says they are running Win CE, what that says to me is, we’re talking about a computing device meant to control an industrial process,” said North Korea-analyst Eric Johnson who adds that this could hint at a new factory automation initiative. “It’s not a very computerized society, so using a computer to do, control or automate anything is a step forward.”
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However, like any news coming from North Korea, it is impossible to get a clear picture of accuracy and scope surrounding the Star Group device. The single-party state has been under sanctions for years for its clandestine nuclear weapons programme, with foreign media and observers unable to report freely from North Korea.
One North Korea observer suggests that introducing such an IIoT device that boosts factory productivity could be a double-edged sword.
“If unmanned technology and automation are persistently pursued, workers providing simple labor will lose their jobs,” said Korea University professor Nam Seong-wook. He adds that such productivity gains could “lead to an unemployment problem in the North.”
The Star Group device, which was recently showcased at an exhibition in Pyongyang, follows closely on the heels of North Korean launch of a video-on-demand system similar to Netflix.