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‘Revolutionary’ edge automation platform adapts to its use

11 March, 2020

The US communications, monitoring and controls manufacturer, Red Lion, has announced a “revolutionary” edge automation platform that, it says, brings a new degree of versatility to edge computing, while its simple point-and-click operation will boost productivity and efficiency.

The modular platform, called FlexEdge, is aimed at industrial users who need to connect systems and process data at the edge. It offers a choice of wireless or wired communications and can connect with any industrial communication system, regardless of the protocol or manufacturer.

The platform will allow quick, easy customisation to a variety of applications without compromising reliability. It has certifications for use in hazardous area, water and wastewater, oil and gas, maritime and factory automation applications.

Unlike fixed-function devices that require users to learn many products – or systems with fixed chassis designs that take up unnecessary space – the platform can adapt as application needs change. It is available with functions such as: protocol conversion; virtual HMIs; Web servers with bootstrap, JavaScript and CSS; data, security and event logging; and cloud connections.

Users can connect new or existing devices, providing future-proof scalability “at levels never before seen in edge computing”, according to Red Lion. The same platform can be used for any edge requirement, avoiding the need for users to select the right combination of products for each application.

Red Lion says that FlexEdge will solve most automation engineering challenges, while cutting the number of deployed devices, thus reducing the complexity of applications.

For network engineers, it will act as a robust gateway that can be deployed in wired or cellular configurations to connect networks securely. The platform offers multiple isolated serial ports, Ethernet, optional Wi-Fi and cellular communications, optional field-installable I/O, and robust enclosures.

Red Lion’s FlexEdge automation platform can be customised rapidly to a variety of applications without compromising reliability

“In today’s market, we see innovation accelerating at breakneck pace,” says Red Lion’s data acquisition and IIoT product manager, Colin Geis. “That’s terrific, but it makes it hard for customers to cost-effectively plan for the future. Too often they have no choice but to make costly capital investments, scrap existing equipment, or both.

“The FlexEdge architecture answers their challenges,” he adds. “It adapts as quickly as needs change. No matter where a company is in their digital transformation journey, FlexEdge starts where they are, and helps future proof optimisation plans.”

Red Lion quotes Craig Resnick, group vice-president at ARC Advisory Group, as saying that the new platform will enable users “to collect the required data necessary from both IT and OT to better optimise decision-making and further maximise their investment in digital transformation. This scalable solution is designed to provide off-the-shelf plug-and-play connectivity to a wide range of networks, assets, generations of equipment, and protocols.

“Red Lion’s FlexEdge platform meets this demanding criterion,” he adds, “providing manufacturers and processors with a solution designed to not only fulfil their current and future edge platform requirements, but also one that can be deployed by a new and changing workforce, helping companies make faster, more informed and intelligent decisions and achieve higher levels of operational effectiveness. Having the local computing power and IT/OT connectivity that the FlexEdge platform provides often results in reduced unscheduled downtime; increases productivity, profitability and KPIs; and delivers the intelligent information necessary so decisions can be made based on a single version of the truth.”

“Furthermore,” says Resnick, “with the ability to have end-to-end visibility of the supply chain, users can gain a competitive advantage with increased flexibility and operational agility, productivity, plant efficiency, asset uptime and quality. They can also add profits to the bottom line by reducing operational risks and safety concerns, overhead costs, and changeover times and deploying predictive preventative maintenance programs.”

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