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Supporting Multiple IoT Platforms

by Tom McKinney | Apr 04, 2017

IoT Connectivity

 

Why it's a Challenge?

Many machine builders build complex systems that can be enhanced with remote monitoring and service contracts.  One challenge these vendors face is supporting multiple IoT platforms. 

For example, a manufacturer integrating a complex machine into their factory may want to stream data from that machine to their internal historian system, for example, OSIsoft.  That same manufacturer may be leveraging an MES system from Bosch.  The machine vendor may have chosen to offer a remote monitoring and service feature build on top of Azure.  There are now three systems that want data from this machine.  Aside from the complexity of remote data, there is the added burden of maintaining three systems for a single solution.

 

Three Ways to solve the IoT Platform Challenge

1. It is possible to send all of the data to a single server or cloud platform and redistribute that data to the three applications.  While this could be acceptable, many companies want their production metrics to stay within the four walls of their factory.  In this case sharing a cloud data platform could be unacceptable. 

 

2. Another way to solve this problem may be to take advantage of a subscriber-publisher protocol like OPC-UA.  In this case, if all of the applications can support an OPC-UA interface the issue is partially resolved.  However, data security could be an issue and create complexities in the system. 

For example, the manufacturer may want to make sure the MES and historian data are secure and not accessible by the machine builder’s service platform.  The machine vendor may want to have a secure connection with the machine that is independent of the manufacturer.  These requirements complicate the OPC-UA deployment and add cost to the overall solution.  

 

3. Alternatively, if the machine builder chooses a flexible IoT platform, like an edge gateway solution from HMS, they have the ability to send data to several different higher level SW applications using multiple unique communications protocols.  In this case, the PI connectors can be used with OSIsoft.  OPC-UA can be used  with the Bosch Industry 4.0 MES solution, and the vendor may choose to use JSON over a TLS connection to transfer service data from the machine.

The machine vendor may also choose to integrate remote access allowing their service technicians to access the machine over a secure VPN connection. With such a solution, the machine builder has reduced their remote data complexity while providing value-added services for their customers

 

The manufacturing world is complex with thousands of vendors creating valuable, and many times custom solutions for their customers.  The success of a machine builder is tied to their ability to integrate into as many manufacturing systems as possible.

In the past, flexible integration included supporting multiple different fieldbus protocols.  For example, vendors that didn’t support PROFIBUS required additional hardware to connect to factories based on the Siemens protocol. 

Today flexibility in upstream connectivity is becoming a critical feature for success.  Vendors that can offer connectivity to multiple applications and cloud services will be able to differentiate themselves in the marketplace resulting in more sales.



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