In a future ‘Smart Factory’ there will be an almost perfect production logic. Intelligent products are clearly identifiable, locatable at any time and know their history, their current status, as well as alternative routes to their target state. But are the physical world and the virtual world really already merged and became so-called cyber-physical systems (CPS)? And which solutions will pave the way for the imminent digital revolution? Let me try to find some answers by looking at Kontrons ‘Smart Factory’ product portfolio.
For Kontron, smart factories are no vision of the distant future, but are in fact already realized in many parts. For several years and in collaboration with technology partners, Kontron is working on CPS solutions based on a unified embedded platform which allows a connection to the Internet of Things and virtual clouds. For Kontron, the real key to the realization of modern smart factories is not only to provision data but also to guarantee a safety storage and transmission. Therefore, the development of safety levels and standards for embedded systems, networks and clouds has top priority.
Connect Machines and People in Real Time
In the field of industrial IoT or Industry 4.0, Kontron’s embedded systems already support the intelligent automation of existing machines. By using data which has been collected worldwide in all production sites, manufacturers can monitor their equipment not only proactive but also do remote diagnostics and preventative maintenance. This allows minimizing unplanned production shutdowns and associated revenue losses. Together with a large cloud provider Kontron has also developed a solution which sends warnings about machine failures and errors in real-time to the mobile phones of extern staff. Due to the fast availability of important information, the responsible employees are able to act without delay. Usage models which connect production facilities in real time with people outside the factory environment have in fact an enormous potential for the development of new business fields.
Product Portfolio for Future Business Models
Already today, the different components of a computer-based production can be realized on a unified technological base with Kontron’s Intel® -based COM Express® modules and SMARC™ modules. COM Express® modules with a performance from high-end 1.7GHz quad-core Intel® Core™ i7 processor to cost-optimized Intel® Celeron or Intel® Atom ™ processor cover a very wide range of applications. SMARC™ modules are suitable for low-power SoCs such as Intel® Atom™, Quark™ or ARM processors. Based on the different modules, the company launched the scalable, maintenance-free KBox-family as “Industrial Computing Platform” for automation. These systems are specifically designed for industrial control and visualization tasks and can be extended through an exchange of the CPU module to the next processor generation, thus the product lifecycle costs can be significantly reduced. For the access and control of hardware resources in embedded applications, Kontron offers the cross-platform middleware called Kontron® EAPI™(Embedded Application Programming Interface). Application developers will benefit from a library of API functions and device developers can react quickly and easily to the rapid technological change because the standardization simplifies the so often complex I/O accesses. And the middleware is not just applicable for a single board but across platforms, regardless of the processor, operating system and form factor.
For a secure connection to the IoT, Kontron developed the KBox A-20x product family on a SMARC™ module basis with Intel® IoT gateway support and the Kontron Embedded Application Programming Interface (KEAPI). This “Industrial Computing Platform” enables the implementation of standardized, intelligent IoT Gateways. OEMs can integrate their distributed systems seamlessly over wireless networks such as LTE, GSM or WLAN. Various industrial interfaces support the IoT integration of both new and existing applications. Kontron believes that new IoT business models will emerge, which – in comparison to the classical fields of application for M2M communication – are much more advanced. Basically, it is not just about gathering more and more data in real-time. It’s about connecting people with people and people with devices and beyond about developing an entirely new, dynamic production logistics for future business models.
What about you? Do you already work in a Smart Factory or have vision for your own workplace?