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Modular M2M router ‘will revolutionise remote access’

18 October, 2013

A Belgian industrial communications specialist called eWon has developed what is claims is the first flexible, modular machine-to-machine (M2M) VPN router. It predicts that the Flexy router will revolutionise remote access to remote industrial sites and machines.

The router, which will make its debut at the SPS/IPC/Drives show in Germany in November, is based on standard base units (below), which can be extended by up to four modular expansion cards. It offers an almost unlimited number of connection permutations: from single serial gateways (MPI or Profibus to Ethernet), to sophisticated LAN WiFi routers with 3G modem redundancy.

eWon has developed the router in response to the challenge of connecting remote sites in an environment where communications technologies are changing constantly, and to the need for universal communications with field devices such as PLCs, HMIs, IP cameras, energy meters and sensors, irrespective of the protocol they use.

It is intended to help industry to cope with the rapid development of communications technologies. A few years ago, the current technology was 2G (GPRS), but now it is 3G or even 4G (LTE). WiFi wireless technology is also now widespread throughout industry.

“When a manufacturer approves and deploys a solution, it demands a continuity period of at least ten years,” explains eWon’s founder and CEO, Serge Bassem. “The concept of flexibility is not new in industry. It is already widespread for PLCs, but this is a first for the router itself.”

The eWON Flexy router provides flexibility on several levels. First, the WAN expansion cards offer flexibility in the choice of connection to the Internet – LAN, RTC, WiFi, CDMA, 2G or 3G.

In addition, there is a wide range of cards to connect to site-based equipment. These include a switch card with four Ethernet ports, a serial card with RS-232/422/485 serial ports, and an MPI/Profibus card.

The eWon Flexy system includes a series of expansion cards providing different communications functions

Finally, eWon Flexy also offers apps that enable the user to add services – such as data-logging, notification of alarms, Web HMI and Basic or Java programming – to the company’s existing Talk2M system that resolves issues of security, configuration and implementation.

”This flexibility highlights our great strength – compatibility,” says Bassem. “eWon works with many partners, each of which is developing its own type of PLC. This is why the connectivity of our routers to these APIs uses standard, open protocols, which already make connecting easier. Now, with Flexy, it will be easier than ever before.”

In 2001, eWon broke new ground by launching the first industrial Internet router. “In 2001, the industrial world commonly used modem technology to connect to remote machines and sites,” Bassem explains. “Speaking about the use of the Internet in industrial applications was a challenge at that time.”

However, while the Internet solved many problems involving the high cost of communications, reliability of communications and bandwidth, it also introduced greater complexity in terms of implementation, as well as new security challenges.

“In 2006, eWon launched Talk2M, the very first completely cloud-based connectivity service,” Bassem continues. “Due to this solution, which satisfies the requirements for security and ease of installation, we blew away the last remaining obstacles to the large-scale adoption of the Internet for remote access in industry, particularly in the world of automation.”

Talk2M works with existing firewalls that protect company networks from outside attacks. It provides a secure communication route via the Internet between the user and a remote machine, without altering the computer network at either end. Technicians making the remote connection can access only their “own” machines, and are thus unable to enter the customer’s local network.

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