Industrial cloud communication gets standardised

Cloud computing has gained acceptance across the board in the last few years with an increasing variety of solutions from different providers. The problem: Different specifications and incompatible interfaces increase the effort and make the connection across cloud limits very complex. HARTING is therefore taking part in an initiative for a uniform standard for cross-cloud communication. The results will be presented at the HANNOVER MESSE 2019.

Two thirds of the German companies already use cloud computing. There has been a recent increase in the combination of different service models, according to the analysis in the "Cloud Monitor" of KPMG and Bitkom. The authors foresee in the near future that nearly all companies will not get around the topic of cloud computing.

Requirements for cloud services in mechanical and plant engineering

Along with the large cloud-providers, component, sensor and actuator manufacturers, platform providers as well as mechanical and plant engineers rely on cloud infrastructure or platform solutions. Increasingly mechanical and plant engineers use the digital service offerings provided by these platforms, such as condition monitoring or predictive maintenance.

Users see these digital services as beneficial, but not unproblematic. They intervene in your own IT infrastructure, have access right down to the field level, receive sensitive production data and can, where required, change the online machine parameters. The number of external companies that request access to your own facilities is increasing. For machine users, control and security-related protection against such services is therefore essential at all times.

Providers of cloud-based systems and services see themselves as up against the challenge of communication and data exchange becoming increasingly more complex. Due to the different cloud infrastructure and platform solutions, multi-cloud applications are being created with different proprietary application and transport protocols, as well as different security standards. The missing interoperability increases the effort and obstructs and prevents the implementation of new business models.

Initiative for standardisation of industrial cloud communication

HARTING supports the standardisation initiative DIN SPEC 92222 that currently consists of 31 companies, associations and research institutes. Consideration is being given to the communication of machines (or so-called edge devices) in the cloud of a production company as well as cross-company collaboration to other cloud systems. "The new standard intends to safeguard the interoperability and communication between the participating IT subsystems as well as physical devices. The standard is aimed pariculary at operators and manufacturers of machines and plants who offer and use cloud-based services and systems as well as at providers of remote services", says Christoph Legat, Software Professional at Expleo Group. The technology company is active in leading the standardisation initiative and is showing the demonstrator as an exemplary use of cloud connectivity at HARTING (hall 11/stand C15) at the HANNOVER MESSE.

DIN SPEC 92222 implements a reference model for the industrial "Cloud Federation". The goal: universal and standardised communication from the field device through to the multi-cloud-application on the basis of OPC UA. Participating companies include Bosch, IBM, Fujitsu, Kuka, Microsoft, the associations VDMA and Bitkom as well as Frauenhofer research institutes.

To achieve the goal of uniform and standardised communication, the number of technologies, norms and standards to be used should be kept to a minimum. Uniform interfaces for routing between clouds are defined as a prerequisite for multi-cloud infrastructure. They are collaborating on which transport protocols should be used for which use case. In concrete terms, it specifies, for example, the parameter setting and provision of necessary components (e.g. broker, relays or router). Furthermore, it creates specifications for uniform authentication and authorisation.

The HARTING trade fair stand with the HARTING HAII4YOU production plant: Data from the robots in the production cells are recorded to monitor their condition.

Presentation of results at the HANNOVER MESSE

The initiative will demonstrate its practical standard at several stands at the HANNOVER MESSE using working examples. The presented functionalities can be immediately used by the user. Two working examples with the Edge Computer MICA® are being introduced at HARTING's trade far stand.

  • Process monitoring using artificial intelligence: The Expleo Group is demonstrating the use of artificial intelligence to monitor machine processes. Based on the provided data, the SmartANIMO application from the Expleo Group can learn the behaviour of attached machines and use this knowledge to detect the smallest deviations in the process and evaluate its influence on the overall equipment effectiveness without manual interventions;
  • Condition monitoring of industrial robots: A second demonstrator is connected to the HARTING HAII4YOU production plant as part of the Cloud Federation. The goal is data acquisition from the robots installed in the production cells and subsequent condition monitoring within the SmartANIMO application from Expleo Group.

In both application examples, the HARTING MICA® forms the link to
the Cloud Federation-compliant transmission and provision of the required data to the production cloud and the subsequent evaluation in the Expleo supplier cloud. HARTING's Edge Computer MICA® is already being used today in many applications with cloud gateway functionalities. The Linux based container architecture and open source software, such as Node-Red, enable the connectivity to many cloud services such as Microsoft Azure, AWS or the Telekom Cloud through a simple wiring of information flows. Also here, the standardisation initiative will further simplify the integration of such gateway functionalities for the user.

Benefits for mechanical and plant engineering

The claim of the reference model for the industrial Cloud Federation is a practical concept. The results are suitable for developers (developer ready) with conformity rules and implementation regulations, such as how a predictive maintenance-application can be implemented. Aids and documents are scheduled to be introduced in Q2 2019.

There are five clear benefits for mechanical and plant engineering:

  • Control and security: Thanks to clear conformity rules, plant operators can maintain control over their data and their infrastructure;
  • Better maintainability: Thanks to uniform application and transport protocols, the maintenance costs of an application are reduced considerably;
  • Neutrality of solutions: Thanks to uniform standards, operators are not dependent on one particular platform. The integration effort of another cloud solution becomes considerably less;
  • Enabler for new business models: Communication from the field level into the cloud and access from the cloud to the machine is simplified and supports new service models such as pay-by-use concepts;
  • Quick availability: Thanks to the practical approach and the participation of many players, many applications are immediately available and more solutions will be available in the foreseeable future.