Development of a smart low-cost gateway for simplified connection of brownfield plants to cloud infrastructures

Photo of a control cabinet © Manuel Belke  


As digitization progresses, the extraction of machine data and the subsequent transfer of this data to the cloud is a crucial component in order to summarize it with key performance indicators (KPI) and thus be able to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of production. A number of cloud solutions already exist on the market that provide the aforementioned functions. The Clouver Cloud from ProCom GmbH is an example of a cloud solution tailored to the field of CNC machines. Many of the machines in operation today date from a time before Industry 4.0 and therefore do not have interfaces for a direct connection to the cloud. An additional problem factor is the heterogeneity of the existing fieldbus protocols, message formats and physical interfaces. When connecting these plants, this results in recurring development work that is only valid for certain machine types.



The acronym "Skywatch" refers to the connection between the communication and processing of data in the cloud (clouds, which are located in the “sky”) and the tapping of data at the machine ("Watch"). The goal of the project is to develop a gateway for existing industrial machines, which is characterized by a simple configuration of applications, interfaces, protocols and message formats, allowing a quick adaptation to different machines. For this purpose, a multi-level architecture model is to be developed so that a separation of physical interfaces, communication protocols, message formats and data preparation is possible. The decoupling ensures that the configuration of the gateway can take place via the cloud, thereby eliminating the need for individual software development for specific plants.



In the first step, a requirements analysis is carried out and then the solution concept is concretized by selecting technology components. Here, attention is paid to the fact that the gateway should be cost-effective by relying on existing hardware solutions. An intelligent architecture with elements of artificial intelligence ensures that the system is easily configurable and can be integrated into a wide variety of systems without great effort.In the second step, a software framework is developed to decouple the device interfaces by developing drivers for a wide variety of interfaces that can be selected by configuration. In order to be able to connect a wide variety of equipment, the system supports different message formats and can process the extracted data before it is sent to the cloud.In the third step, connectivity with the cloud, including the necessary encryption and data security, is developed and implemented.In the final step, the software framework will be extended to include the ability to maintain the software. In order to be able to adapt the system to new requirements, an update management system will be developed so that new software can be installed without having to replace the hardware.