Edge Computing for Industrial IoT
Published on : Monday 30-11--0001
Today, everyone is talking about connectivity, data analytics and cloud platforms to be Industrial IoT ready. However, data from the field is the most vital aspect before one thinks about analytics. It is very important to gather process data from various machines and controllers, in order to make it available to upper layers for analytics. Edge computing enables factories to gather data and acts as the final physical hardware point in the factory premise before it moves into the IT space from the OT space.
Edge Computing – is it necessary?
A factory is generally equipped with several machines with hundreds of controllers, thousands of sensors and actuators. Even if in some cases it is possible to send data from individual controller to the upper layers such as MES/ERP/cloud, it is difficult for them to gather data individually. One can look at an organisational structure for comparison – directors have only a handful of people, who directly report to them, they in turn might have hundreds reporting to them. The directors do not have reporting of everyone in the organisation. This is possible, yet not feasible. This is similar to any factory, where it is possible to get data from individual stations and sensors, but not feasible. It is of utmost importance to have a central point, which collects data from individual machine and passes it to the upper layers. Edge computing is an ideal solution for factories in order to collate data, provide trends and convert it into valuable and interpretable information before sending it for analytics.
Challenges in gathering data
However, data gathering also comes with its own challenges, especially when we talk about collecting data from legacy systems and brownfield installation. In greenfield installations it is relatively easier as the controllers have latest technologies and users define their needs before the factories are setup. On the other hand, in brownfield installations, controllers could have either legacy fieldbuses or no connectivity options. These serve as the greatest challenge for gathering data from the field.
Edge architecture for Industrial IoT
With Orange box, B&R Industrial Automation enables its users to make brownfield installations Industrial IoT ready, helping them take a giant leap towards smart factory effectiveness. Users can thus benefit from an improved Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE), easier machine operation and maintenance. Orange box is an easy way to implement shop floor process data acquisition combining energy and condition monitoring. This enables factory operators to leverage the benefits of latest technologies even for legacy systems and brownfield installations.
Moving the computing power to the edge is an outlook of many machine and factory builders. To effectively deploy these architectures, they can rely on solutions by B&R and choose from various options based on their computation needs – edge connect, embedded edge and edge computing. Real time control, security, internet connectivity, data aggregation, data historian, business intelligence, machine learning, long-term storage are some of the needs of factories with respect to data collation, analytics and become Industrial IoT ready. B&R satisfies all these needs with minimum hardware & software in a cost effective method.
Edge connect, enables users with real time control, security, internet connectivity and data aggregation. Any control system from B&R can act as an embedded edge, which allows factories to achieve real time control, security, internet connectivity, data aggregation and historian. For higher computational power, users can use an Automation PC (APC) from B&R, which acts as an edge controller. Factories are able to move a step further to add features to the control system such as business intelligence and machine learning.
Coupled with cloud services, users can achieve long-term storage. Thanks to scalability and Automation Studio, a single tool for programming from B&R, users do not need to reprogram their systems with any hardware change.
Open connectivity aiding edge architectures
Everyone is aware that open connectivity facilitates a seamless data exchange from the field to the cloud and for machine-to-machine communication. However, based on the needs of the user there could be different variants of Ethernet which are open source at the same time based on standard Ethernet and complying with the IEEE 802.3 which can be deployed in the factories and plants. The process layer, MES and ERP needs Ethernet based communication which is not real time but offers a high level of security. The network which is active at this layer should have appropriate connectivity options to the cloud without having the need for hardware modifications. Similarly the network in the field connecting the sensors, actuators, motions components and other field devices needs to be real time and deterministic. As the need is for an end to end connectivity the network too has to be based on standard Ethernet. Safety is a crucial aspect in Industry 4.0 and to have a safe horizontal and vertical communication all vendors needs to comply with safety which is able to exchange information on these different Ethernet based networks.
Using available open source solutions is the answer to the current market situation and breaking the shackles of proprietary solutions. This is also a crux of the Industry 4.0 approach. OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA), which is handled by the OPC Foundation, is a completely open source, vendor and platform independent solution based on standard Ethernet. Its simplicity is enhanced by the use of PLCopen function blocks for programming. This provides a non-real time communication from the various machines to the upper layers as well as facilitates a machine to machine communication without hassles using the existing systems and controllers. OPC UA also offers connectivity not only till ERP/MES but also upto the cloud as many cloud providers already have OPC UA drivers readily available for usage. B&R trusts in open source technologies, offering complete connectivity based on OPC UA, POWERLINK and openSAFETY coupled with edge architecture to make not only new but also existing plants and factories smart and IIoT ready.
With all solutions right from machines, factories coupled with open connectivity, B&R serves as an ideal partner for satisfying your needs or edge computing and making your factories Industrial IoT ready.
Orange_Box_image_01: B&R's Orange Box enables machine operators to collect and analyse data from previously isolated machines and lines and get them fit for the smart factory.
Edge_Computing_en_fullres: With edge architecture, B&R offers Industrial IoT solutions for all situations.