Smart Factories and Fog/Edge Computing
What Does This Image Have to Do with Fog or Edge Computing?
Each pinpoint dot represents one of thousands of electronic systems, including robot and tool controllers, PLCs, industrial PCs, switches and the like in an actual Automotive Body Factory.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Today’s Factories are a challenge to manage for even the most experienced professionals. The logistics of keeping such a complex collection of machines and devices fully operational is difficult to comprehend let alone consider upgrades or changes in any way. In fact, many of these devices are running on ancient software that is no longer being supported. Oftentimes, a worker has to physically plug in a USB stick in order to upgrade some robots. If a device is in need of maintenance, recalibration, or on the verge of failure, the costs of not knowing can lead to quality control issues, defects, and even the shut-down of production.
Staying Ahead of the Game
So how are modern manufacturers able to keep up with the competition without abandoning investments they have already made? This is where careful planning and a commitment to their long-term success pay off for those who know they will fall behind if they keep to the status quo.
There is a lot of hype around Industrial Internet of Things as well as a lot of reticence. The hype often ignores the reality of factories as they are operating right now. The hype imagines green-field factories where everything is shiny and new, everything is compatible, and the devices not only hum together, they practically sing.
Making Industry 4.0 a Reality
Nebbiolo Technologies understands reality, where introducing any new piece of equipment or software in a factory requires careful planning, testing, certification, more testing, and then a slow roll out to trial. If all goes well, then one can continue the slow roll out for a full deployment. No one wants production to stop or break at any point, so the stakes can be high and costly. When this is done to replace an old industrial PC running on ancient software, it’s not quite the same as in the modern Information Technology (IT) world where software is automatically updated overnight from the cloud or with the click of a button. In the Operational Technology (OT) domain, care and patience are paramount. Nebbiolo Technologies Fog Software Platform is designed to simplify the challenges in the OT domain by progressively hosting legacy software in a secure, modern IT-style hardware and software environment. As each application is migrated, there is relief in knowing that the aging equipment is replaced by a more powerful and functional computing system, and software resides on a modern platform that enables much more flexibility in the way of diagnostics, upgrading, stability, security, and visibility.
Modern factories have serious concerns about security and protection from network intrusions. Manufacturers do not want to share their mission critical information over the cloud and they certainly don’t want to back-haul massive amounts of their real-time data to the cloud for processing and analysis. Modern factories have safety and response time requirements that cloud services cannot match. This is where Nebbiolo Technologies Fog Software Platform provides high-powered cloud-like services on the premises of the factory and transforms it into a Smart Factory. Being able to support zero-touch deployment of new equipment and applications will lead the way for manufacturers to have complete visibility into their devices, enable them to plan for routine maintenance, and ensure that all the equipment hums along as intended.
The Future is Now
For those smart manufacturers who are undaunted, they will look past the hype, plan for their evolution, and come out ahead with a more flexible, reliable, and cost-effective Smart Factory that provides reassurance that their investments are protected, and their customers are satisfied. Nebbiolo Technologies’ visionary products will support their progressive journey from today into the Future.
Flavio Bonomi, CTO Nebbiolo
Flavio Bonomi is a serial entrepreneur and technology visionary, who defined the new computing paradigm – “Fog computing” and the core technologies embodied in Nebbiolo’s products.