BY ROB POWELL, COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR, LANTEK
There has been a considerable amount of publicity about the advantages of cloud computing and rightly so. It removes the need to have skilled people to set up and run complex in-house computer networks; it also takes away the need to invest in expensive equipment and continually reinvest to keep it up to date.
Cloud computing also makes it easier to update software products. Like the updates to your laptop and phone, it all happens automatically. In the past, engineers had to load up new versions themselves, which inevitably led to a surge in support queries and downtime for the customer as misunderstandings and errors in the update process made it impossible to work.
Now, there is a move toward a hybrid approach that uses Edge technology, where some of the processes take place locally yet processed data is still sent to the cloud. One of the drivers for this change is the new possibilities created by communication protocols such as UMATI for machinery.
UMATI, a common communication protocol for transferring data, is being developed and rolled out for CNC machines to work with software that manages and implements processes such as MES.
UMATI and other IoT systems can also connect any machine or piece of equipment in the factory via IIoT devices, which is where Edge technology becomes important. The main difference about this data is the volume being generated as it is automatically coming from IIoT devices on the machine rather than from human input. Trying to send all this to the cloud along with all the other data from MES, accounting, stock control etc., will result in unacceptable lag in response times and overloaded bandwidth.
The objective of Edge technology is to process the data from these IIoT devices locally and then to send the aggregated results in batches up to the cloud. There, it is combined with other cloud data already being processed to produce useful information to optimize the operation of the factory.
The potential of being able to extract vast amounts of data from sensors has massive implications in the factory for improving efficiency, reliability, customer service, delivery, and quality performance – and hence profitability.
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