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Smart manufacturing is not just about gathering large data sets through connected devices. At the heart of smart manufacturing is the ability to use that data effectively to improve and make automated decisions, predictions and actions in real-time to optimize industrial output. This requires enormous processing power and it should therefore not be a surprise that smart manufacturing will increase the requirements not just for cloud computing, where the demand for longer-term analytics continue to rise, but also for more processing and storage capabilities at the edge, a trend referred to as edge computing.
While edge is not a new concept in computing, over recent years it has become the key ingredient in the smart manufacturing formula to accelerate digital transformation. Edge computing helps manufacturers turn vast data sets, generated by machines, into insightful and actionable data. It does so by utilizing resources connected to a network, such as temperature sensors, alarms or motor drives. This enables big data analytics to take place at the source of the data.
Edge refers to the OT (Operational Technology) computing infrastructure that resides closest to the sources of data, such as a robotic arm or a conveyor system. These are considered at the ‘edge’ as they tend to exist furthest from the heart of the IT (Information Technology) computing infrastructure, which is typically available in the cloud.
An industrial IoT gateway hosting an open software platform such as IOTech’s Edge Xpert provides a way to connect these devices, facilitate local decision making/actuation and bring the device data to the Internet Protocol (IP) domain for further edge processing or backhaul to the cloud.
These edge platforms need to be able to support standards such as OPC UA, Modbus, CAN bus and other industrial protocols and may also support many wireless protocols such as cellular, WiFi or Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) such as Bluetooth, Zigbee or LoRa.
An edge platform provides the following key functions:
Key manufacturing uses cases addressed by the next generation of Industrial IoT and edge computing solutions include:
Perhaps no industry stands to benefit more from the Industrial IoT than the manufacturing sector. By utilizing edge computing platforms incorporating data storage and computing into industrial equipment, manufacturers can gather data that will allow for better predictive maintenance and energy efficiency, allowing them to reduce costs and energy consumption while maintaining better reliability and productive uptime. Smart manufacturing techniques informed by ongoing data collection and analysis will also help companies to customize production runs to better meet consumer demands.
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Tel: +44 (0)191 814 2220
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