23 Jul 2024

AUTOMATION FOR MANUFACTURING

Testbed will link existing sensors to the cloud

Four members of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) – SAP, ifm electronic, TE Connectivity and the OPC Foundation – have been given the go-ahead for a research testbed that will link sensors in existing installations to the cloud.

The aim of the Smart Manufacturing Connectivity for Brownfield Sensors Testbed is to make sensor data available to IT systems in near real time, allowing advanced analytics to be performed on the data. This will be of particular interest to operators of existing manufacturing plants, because it will allow them to boost their efficiencies by cutting energy consumption.

Unlike new installations, where the appropriate connections can be designed in from the outset, new approaches are needed for “brownfield” installations to allow easy integration at both the OT (operational technology) and IT levels, to help cut downtime and costs.

The new testbed will:

•  Introduce retrofit hardware (called the Y-Gateway) that uses existing physical connections.

•  Extract sensor data from the automation system without affecting its operation.

•  Deliver the sensor data to an SAP IT platform using secure OT/IT communications based on OPC UA.

•  And define and implement a common device model based on an open standard to allow the easy integration of IO-Link sensors with IT, for configuring the sensors remotely.

“Testbeds are a major focus and activity of the IIC and its members”, explains IIC executive director, Dr Richard Soley. “Our testbeds are where new technologies, applications, products, services and processes can be initiated, thought through and rigorously tested to ascertain their usefulness and viability before coming to market.”