Two Hilscher employees standing behind a glass panel discussing a project.

Hilscher

Empowering Communication

Blog: Mit netFIELD Ihre Digitalisierungsprojekte in Schwung bringen

How are digitization projects in the field of Industrial IoT successfully implemented? With the netFIELD operating system and the netFIELD.io cloud platform, individual sensor-to-cloud solutions can be developed. The editorial team spoke to Daniel Stasiak, Team Lead Systems and Operations at Hilscher, about the netFIELD platform concept and how workshops are used to help users successfully implement projects in the field of IIoT.

Industry 4.0 and the digitization of factories represents a change in the organization and control options of the entire value chain and, in particular, of production. According to Daniel Stasiak, this is breathing new life into the market. Many users have questions about the best way forward: How should managers approach a digitization project and how do they get the data they need to solve a particular problem? How does someone make a system that has been running for years even more efficient, since a whole new build is simply not an option?

Many prototypes and pilot projects ultimately fail due to their implementation into serial production. There are different reasons for this. The scaling costs for digitization projects must be kept in mind. Development work in particular is often costly.

For D. Stasiak’s, the approach is an important aspect to consider in how to successfully implement digitization projects. In his opinion, the best approach can be worked out quite well in workshops. Participants learn about IoT concepts in a practical way using Hilscher’s netFIELD operating system and the netFIELD.io cloud platform. These include data collection, inter-container messaging, cloud communication, and deployment mechanisms. Under the guidance of the experts from Hilscher, workshop participants get the opportunity to put the skills they’ve learned into practice using the netFIELD Compact X8M gateway and the netFIELD.io platform. D. Stasiak emphasizes the high scalability of the Hilscher solution: “From start-ups to highly specialized engineering offices to international corporations, everyone can benefit from it.”

A netFIELD Device IO-Link Wireless Master in an industrial environment.
Hilscher – empowering communication

It’s important for such project to use a top-down approach. With our years of experience, we generate a lot of aha moments in all directions, both for managers and developers. The top-down perspective is also very helpful for developers. The benefit for companies is an important motivational factor.

Daniel Stasiak

Team Lead Systems and Operations

Hilscher Gesellschaft für Systemautomation

Top-down approach for digitization projects

The Hilscher expert describes this anecdotally using figurative altitudes: “The business objective of a digitization project is first elaborated at an altitude of 9,000 m,” he explains. “What’s the goal? Lowering costs, a faster time-to-market or increased efficiency. We then dive down as deep as we want at this altitude.” First, it’s about expectations, the business model and the intended benefit for end customers. At this stage, it’s important to understand the use cases and determine the planned time-to-market time line.

What’s the next step? “At the 6,000 m altitude, the IoT solution that best fits the business is evaluated,” explains the expert. Specifically, it’s about business integration with the netFIELD.io platform. “And at 3,000 m, the concrete solution is crystallized.” This happens on the second day of the workshop.

Implementation is very fast, as the 360° workshop shows: “Our mission is: from the sensor to the cloud in 15 minutes,” says D. Stasiak. “And in most cases even faster.” The plug-and-play components from the Hilscher range are the basis for rapid implementation: “The out-of-the-box systems enable rapid solutions from A to Z.”

 

 

Toolbox for flexible IoT solutions

Sensor data can be collected from IP67 IO-Link master devices from Hilscher, for example. “These IO-Link edge devices feature our multiprotocol netX 90 SoC for easy connection of fieldbus and Industrial Ethernet signals, an ARM processor and a Linux-based OS,” he adds.

“With the Hilscher toolbox, sensor data is moved to the cloud via MQTT,” he continues. “We enable seamless communication from the sensor to the cloud, and in both directions.” He adds: “The workshop participants can take their own data on their edge devices and then deploy their own applications worldwide.” This Linux hardware is typically based on Raspberry Pi 4.

Last but not least, device management is a central aspect to consider for the success or failure of Industry 4.0 projects. “The netFIELD OS enables local device management,” explains D. Stasiak. “Our operating system based on Linux-Yocto is industry-proven and meets high security requirements.” Remote device management is implemented with netFIELD.io.

According to the Hilscher expert, the entire administration for Docker, network, bridges, firewalls and additional features is easy to manage due to the powerful UI: “You don’t have to be a Linux expert. It enables fast time-to-market. The software already has 20 years of development work in it.” The goal is to enable the software to be installed on any hardware platform based on X86 or ARM.

A technical graphic explaining the different levels of communication within the netFIELD platform.
Identifying numerous opportunities

API interfaces can also be used with netFIELD,” explains Daniel Stasiak. “This is important for developers who want to integrate their own solutions on Docker. The entire application can be rolled out and installed directly based on Docker.” Another advantage: since Docker can be managed not only locally but also from the cloud with netFIELD, any edge device in the world can be managed. According to the expert, all that’s required is “to move the changes to the variables.” That means it’s possible to roll out ad hoc using the variables. “The user simply connects and changes the variables on-the-fly as required,” adds the IoT specialist. He gives the example of drives in use that can be moved to the next higher quality via a redeploy of the variables. This also applies to larger scales: deploying can also be carried out from factory 1 to factory 2. The Hilscher solution is multi-tenant capable.

Another example is a production tracking system based on netFIELD.io, which Hilscher developed for its own production. “This means that our own production can be monitored via the netFIELD.io cloud until our chips and assemblies are delivered,” confirms D. Stasiak.

The workshops are the best way to identify the wide range of possibilities offered by the solution. D. Stasiak sees it as his responsibility to find the best possible solution for the customer.

The text was first published in the Digital Factory Journal. The interview was conducted by Ronald Heinze, Editor-in-Chief of VDE Verlag.

Visit the website of VDE Verlag.

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