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Open source configuration management tool for IIoT & Industrial Networking

IIoT Landscape

Today, everyone speaks about Industry 4.0 and Industrial IoT and how these buzz words are going to disrupt the automation landscape. Are these merely buzz words are they are really capable of disruption?

A closer look reveal that computing systems got split between desktop computers and automation computing devices early in the evolution. This split had ensured that these systems evolved in their own directions for nearly 40 years now.

However, the more recent phenomenon like the internet and smart phones have created a need for these systems to converge. This is mainly driven by the possibility to have seamless connectivity in personal and work life of every human being in this planet. As more and more people come onboard and start interacting with the rest of the world through their mobile phone and a bunch of apps delivered from the cloud, possibilities for newer and more innovative use cases are emerging.

This new found need is clearly visible, when we look at the traditional desktop computers and the fact that they are losing their importance in our day to day life. While this is quite visible in the desktop computing space, the same is happening in the automation industry. The traditional automation computing systems like the PLCs, are facing obsolescence in the face of newer more connected devices that are internet and cloud ready. It should be noted that the smart phone – the first IoT device cannot replace these newer IoT ready industrial devices. This paves the way for Industrial IoT as a separate domain.

The next 10 years is going to see a number of disruptions in this space completely changing the way our world functions.

IoT Vs IIoT – The main differences

IoT IIoT
  • Consumer buys the things
  • It’s about larger groups of systems
  • People are willing to compromise privacy vs convenience
  • Data security is absolutely important
  • Connectivity cannot be guaranteed
  • Connectivity can be guaranteed for mission critical applications
  • Important but not critical

 

 

  • Mission critical
    • 24x7
    • Deterministic
    • Data integrity
    • Security
  • Devices are new and generally infrastructure is not of significant relevance
  • Infrastructure may have to be retrofitted as some of them will be more than 100 years old but still functional
  • Open standards are extremely successful, interoperability is not a challenge anymore and they disrupt the market
  • Few companies hold monopoly and interoperability is a major challenge. However, this will change in the next 10 years

IIoT Hardware vs Software

A traditional automation vendor normally provides the software bundled along with the device. Most of these software will not interoperate with devices from other manufacturers. In the new world, the device will be bundled with the software. In most cases, this software will be delivered as a service. The service provider will have more obligation to interoperate.

IIoT Early adopters and relevance of Eclipse IDE

Most of the early adopters of IIoT are going to be system integrators and large machine builders who also have their own embedded devices as part of their automation network. Most of these embedded device development teams will already be using eclipse as their primary development tool. It should be noted that eclipse is a free software with a business-friendly license and is also one of the most preferred IDE for developing applications in Java – the primary language of the IoT world. Eclipse offers a mature plugin framework that can be used to easily customize the IDE for the newer needs of IIoT.

Some of the newer need of IIoT may include:

  • Configuration parametrization over a large network

  • Programming the IIoT device using traditional IEC languages

  • Configuration and firmware download management

IIoT Parameterization Challenge

Once the focus shifts from the hardware to software and you have multiples of the hardware distributed over a large geography/network, the configuration of these in software is going to be a challenge. How to manage the variations of hardware at each node and how to build a consolidated view at the central location are some of the items you may have to be worried about. How to manage the firmware in each distributed node, how to download the configuration changes to each node will all have to be managed.

openCONFIGURATOR Plugin - IIoT configuration tool

If you are looking out for a solution to manage configuration of your devices in a IIoT network, you may be interested in having a look at openCONFIGURATOR project. openCONFIGRUATOR is a BSD licensed configuration manager plugin for Eclipse IDE. It is based on POWERLINK standards which in itself is an open source standard for Industrial communication and is nearly compatible with CANOpen standards.