Speaking at the “Industrie 4.0 meets the Industrial Internet Forum,” Prof. Dr. Martin Ruskowski, head of the Innovative Factory Systems department at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), explained how new structures are emerging in factory communication thanks to Industrie 4.0.
In a presentation at the Hannover Messe, he explained why he thinks Industrie 4.0 is presenting an opening on the systems. This opening can be observed on two different paths: the horizontal and the vertical integration. Horizontal integration is mainly about data for the production processes. This data is passed along with the product from production step to production step, for example, stored on an RFDI tag. “Horizontal integration is still a bit of a futuristic dream,” said Prof. Ruskowski. “However, German companies are very active pursuing vertical integration.” Vertical integration means the integration of machines across different layers of factory communications (from field bus communication to cloud systems).
This area of activity is where two “languages” – IT and OT collide, creating an opportunity for the use of so called edge devices. Such devices serve as the standard interface between both networks. The production machines transmit condition data, which the device collects to allow conclusions to be drawn about the status of the units. Edge devices enable a visualization of the production processes and may even be equipped with additional sensors or storage memory. Especially well-suited for brown field upgrades, edge devices can be used to retrofit existing production plants at a reasonable cost and they cause no interference with existing controls.
The edge devices improve product control and enable product “maturation,” said Ruskowski. In closing, he extended an invitation to visit the SmartFactoryKL stand to experience various edge devices in operation.