Looking around a typical factory you will find various assortments of equipment from different places and different times, all organized in close proximity. While these systems have performed their individual functions in an isolated capacity to date, factory operators are now driven to connect much of this equipment – regardless of form, fit, or function – to the cloud in order to capitalize on the productivity benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Connecting this wide range of diverse equipment presents many deployment challenges, however, as the mix of new and legacy systems in industrial plants often presents a connectivity challenge in the form of a number of different communications protocols. The “connected factory” increases in value exponentially with every device so a failure to increase connectivity and advance applications creates a competitive disadvantage, but simply replacing legacy systems to achieve a standard means of communications is also an unrealistic Capital Expenditure (CAPEX).
To solve this challenge, Digi International, Eurotech, and Wind River Systems, all Associate Members of the Intel® Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Alliance, have developed highly flexible software solutions to integrate legacy industrial systems into the connected factory. From modular components to factory-ready industrial systems, Intel and the 250+ members of the Intel® IoT Solutions Alliance provide the connectivity, manageability, and security developers need to create smart, connected systems. Close collaboration with Intel and each other enables Alliance Members to innovate with the latest technologies, helping developers drive legacy industrial components into the IoT.
Driving Intelligence and Application Evolution at the Edge
As mentioned, creating a system of systems in an already functioning plant is first and foremost an interoperability challenge not only because of inherent differences between systems, but also due to the large presence of legacy equipment (See Figure 1). In order to integrate both new and legacy systems in the larger context of the IoT, intelligent gateways capable of managing multiple, disparate communications methods are required so that different protocols can be converted to IP for cloud data exchange, which enables a complete data picture of plant operations.
Recognizing the need to federate data locked in edge systems, Wind River Systems’ Intelligent Device Platform 2.0 (IDP 2.0) provides a scalable, sustainable, and secure development environment for building IoT gateways that includes ready-to-use components designed for Machine-to-Machine (M2M) application development. Equipped with an array of connectivity options for both wired and wireless networks such as IoT protocol MQTT, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and other short-range wireless protocols, IDP 2.0 also facilitates remote management through OMA DM and TR-069 (See Figure 2). To promote functionality across application domains in both full-featured and resource-constrained devices, the gateway platform also enables development in Java, Lua, and OSGi environments to provide flexible, portable, and scalable applications in evolving industrial settings.
Figure 1. Effective Inter of Things implementations combine both legacy and new equipment into a “system of systems” that yields Intelligent analytics.
Figure 2. The Wind River Systems Intelligent Device Platform 2.0 (IDP 2.0) facilitates edge connectivity through a suite of communications and management protocols.
Also confronting the challenges of scalable application development, the Eurotech Everywhere Software Framework (ESF) provides a middleware solution that enables developers to build applications on a hardware-abstracted platform that can adapt to changing market demands. Combining a Java Virtual Machine (VM), Java Native Interface (JNI), and the OSGi framework, the Eurotech ESF approaches device drivers like services, as opposed to resources, which allows them to be implemented using simple APIs so that low-level Operating System (OS) code or configuration files do not need to be modified (See Figure 3). In addition to full integration with the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (IDE), this abstraction affords developers the opportunity to write sophisticated applications using standardized open software that can be easily ported to and from third-party devices. Once written, applications can be easily connected with the Eurotech M2M platform using Eurotech’s end-to-end Everywhere Device Cloud (EDC).
Connecting Directly to the Cloud
Normally when we speak of legacy equipment, the assumption is that the device is fixed and neither its hardware or software can be modified, hence the need for an intermediate gateway for cloud connectivity. However, in instances where software can be upgraded and for those devices a connectivity solution from Associate Member Digi International gives legacy hardware a means of accessing the cloud. Provided that the hardware is equipped with the necessary connectivity components, Etherios Cloud Connector integrates a software element on top of a networking stack that enables devices (with the exception of those using SMS-based communications methods) to connect to the cloud. Available in an extremely small footprint, the Etherios Cloud Connector enables cloud access for multiple device types – from traditional embedded systems to those operating in Android and Kinetis environments – precluding the need for a gateway solution. For embedded developers, Etherios Cloud Connector offers a simple set of ANSI-C-based source code and configuration tools that support any operating platform for two-way cloud-to-device messaging and control (See Figure 4). Outfitted with device management and troubleshooting tools, as well as remote file system management functionality, Cloud Connector provides a secure means of connecting to the cloud that can be downloaded free of charge. In addition to upgrading legacy equipment, Cloud Connector is applicable for new device development.
Figure 4. The Digi International Cloud Connector is a small footprint solution that enables any device operating platform to establish two-way communications with the cloud.
In with the Old
Though a complete retrofit of industrial facilities is not an option in most cases, connecting factory assets to the IoT is a business imperative. Utilizing software solutions from members of the Intel IoT Solutions Alliance enables developers, system integrators, and executives alike to realize the connectivity improvement and application enhancement necessary for the productivity gains of the connected factory by bringing legacy systems into the IoT age without breaking the bank.
To learn more about industrial connectivity solutions from Alliance Members, visit Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance.
OpenSystems Media*, by special arrangement with the Intel® Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Alliance
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