Conventional automation systems have always used controls running a Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) as they are primarily responsible for handling various time-critical and real-time applications. On the other hand, OEMs have deployed Industrial PCs with a general-purpose operating system (GPOS) for data acquisitions, SCADA systems, or DCS. This segregation helped factories manage updates, overcome security issues, and deploy and integrate with the factory IT and cloud platforms. Over the years, Linux made its way to the Operational Technology (OT) area, especially in machine and factory automation. The rise of Industry 4.0, Industrial IoT, and other digital transformation projects only fuelled the need for IT and OT convergence, leading automation vendors and OEMs to explore the use of standard hardware and Linux in their products. The IT and OT convergence intensified cyber-attacks on manufacturing facilities that used software and hardware with less sophisticated security capabilities, and they became soft targets for hackers. These factors further led to the integration of Linux in automation products and controls.
Power of open-source systems
Open-source technologies were well-known and widely used in the IT area of a factory or office environment. However, these were not well received in the OT areas, i.e., on the factory floor. However, factories soon realized that their existing setups lacked flexibility and interoperability. Digital transformation exposed these issues further, where factories looked at gathering field data by converging their IT infrastructure with OT to leverage various benefits from their transformation projects. Automation vendors, OEMs, and factories all realized the power of open-source systems, and the industry witnessed a rise in the adoption of open-source solutions. Open-source connectivity solutions too started gaining prominence with end-users/factories requesting and demanding OEMs and automation vendors to supply products with OPC UA / MQTT and OPC UA over TSN.
Rise of Real-Time Linux
Linux, a widely used and trusted open-source solution, has been around for decades, but its application in the manufacturing landscape has been limited. Various cost-effective solutions on the market explored the capabilities of Linux and Real-Time Linux and put them to great use for overcoming complex applications. The introduction of Raspberry Pi to the manufacturing industry was a turning point as it helped to learn and prototype easier. Today, many automation vendors offer Real-Time Linux (RT-PREEMPT) solutions for applications that need a deterministic and Real-Time response time.
Need of the hour for automation vendors and OEMs
Today, some big players and early movers in the automation market provide communities for Linux development and app stores in manufacturing. Many automation vendors and OEMs are exploring solutions for integrating Real-Time Linux or OPC UA, MQTT, or OPC UA over TSN. It might look easy to anyone to implement such solutions as these are open-source solutions with their entire source codes easily available. However, implementing these solutions needs expertise, resources, and time for any organization. In addition, apart from development, it needs a huge amount of robust testing to ensure the product works as desired. Usually, these factors act as deterrents for many organizations to adopt and implement open-source solutions as they might lack resources and the necessary expertise.
Way forward with Kalycito
Kalycito helps automation vendors and OEMs with on-time delivery of secure, reliable, and interoperable IIoT solutions. With our expertise, we provide complete implementation services for firmware development, Linux integrations, and OPC UA. We are trusted partners for various automation vendors and OEMs globally. We are pioneers in creating a global open ecosystem through our open-source OPC UA TSN space initiatives. Kalycito is a perfect partner providing end-to-end software solutions & services for various digital transformation projects using Industry 4.0 and IoT technologies.