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Industry 4.0 and enabling technologies
The Ministry of Economic Development, with the National Industry 4.0 Plan, has identified the following Enabling Technologies of Industry 4.0: Internet of Things, Cloud, Big Data and Analytics, Simulation, Cybersecurity, Augmented Reality, Additive Manufacturing, Robotics and Advanced Automation, Horizontal and Vertical Integration.
Internet of Things (IoT)
This category includes the set of components, devices (sensors, microprocessors, etc.) and software platforms that can be incorporated into physical objects and machinery, to make them able to communicate over the Internet.
The miniaturization of measurement and communication technologies (wired or wireless) makes it possible to integrate devices (called embedded systems) specialized in the collection of information, in communication with the outside world and in some cases also able to take autonomous decisions (smart objects). Today’s technologies also allow you to add functionality to objects that are born without such devices.
In fact, every physical object has the potential to become intelligent and to generate or receive data on its state and the state of the physical environment that surrounds it. To this must be added the availability of increasingly widespread and performing wireless networks (eg, lte, wifi, zigbee, bluetooth) capable of transporting the data collected to the Internet world and enabling services.
Industrial IoT and companies
As reported by the Research of the Internet of Things Observatory of the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano, the Italian Internet of Things (IoT) market in 2018 grew by 35%, in line with other Western countries, reaching the value of 5 billion euro1.
From the research of the observatory it clearly emerges that the analysis of the collected data increasingly represents a strategic activity that can lead to new business opportunities for companies and allow the offer to be integrated with new value-added services.
Services represent a strong driving force for the IoT sector, with 36% of the market: alongside ‘simple’ and consolidated services, such as cloud data management, some more advanced applications emerge, such as, for example, predictive maintenance of machinery inside factories.
Industrial IoT in 2018 was adopted by 76% of large companies. In 62% of cases (2018 data) IIOT applications are linked to factory management (Smart Factory), in particular for real-time control of production and preventive or predictive maintenance, followed by those in support of logistics, focused on traceability of goods inside the warehouse and along the supply chain, and from the Smart Lifecycle, for the optimization of the process of developing new models and updating products.
The IIoT makes available a large amount of data that can be crucial in monitoring the process and in the maintenance of equipment. The availability of data, associated with the appropriate tools to process them (mainly control interfaces and Cloud for archiving), allows companies to archive data in an agile way and to improve the speed of the decision-making process.
Having structured data available, in fact, allows you to make informed decisions in the shortest time, confirming the importance of the issue of business agility.
Our IoT system for monitoring and optimizing energy consumption
The market interest in IIOT-related issues has led us to undertake a research and development path in this area, which began in 2017 and continues today, which aims to offer itself to its customers as a valid technological partner. and provider of advanced services and products, as well as a consultant regarding possible investments to be made in the sector.
The last in terms of time is the development of an application IIoT on the cloud, which allows to monitor the energy consumption of a plant industrial.
To do this, we set up a scale model of an intelligent factory in the CAD workshop and programmed the control to reproduce a classic industrial process of loading semi-finished products into the warehouse, processing and storage of finished products.
The model was then equipped with special sensors for reading data on the power consumption of the main system components: conveyor belts, cutter and oven.
The peculiarity of the developed architecture consists in the fact that, within the same system, both traditional sensors (including wired ones), which interact exclusively with the PLC, and smart sensors which are capable of communicating directly with devices using standard communication protocols, can coexist. (in our case an SBC, Single Board Computer, of the Raspberry Pi family and the MQTT protocol).
At predetermined intervals, the PLC sends the data collected by traditional sensors to the SBC, while the IOT sensors communicate directly with the Raspberry.
The SBC acts as a communication channel between the process and the Cloud: at each reading it aggregates the data that comes from the different ones components (plc and IOT sensors) and then send them to the Cloud.
On the Cloud, the data are collected, analyzed and transferred to an application, accessible via the web, from a PC or smart device. The app was developed ad hoc by our ICT division, in order to show the trend of the average power consumed, both per cycle and over time.
The main advantage of this architecture consists in the fact that with the simple addition of the SBC and the purchase of Cloud services it is possible to transform a pre-existing and functioning system into a Smart Factory, enjoying all the advantages that this entails: improvement of the efficiency of the plant, longer duration of machinery, increase in quality … as well as the possibility of accessing subsidized state financing.
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