IXrouter: Living on the Edge
Discover IXON's IoT edge device
In this article, I’ll explain the buzzword edge computing, the benefits for industrial machine manufacturers and which iot edge features are embedded in the IXrouter.
Edge computing is a growing trend in machine manufacturing
Gartner tapped edge computing as one of the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2019. This technology method takes vast data sets (big data) — collected from industrial equipment within the factory or machine — and transforms it into compact, insightful and actionable data. Edge computing is certainly not new, but it’s growing in popularity and value — especially for manufacturers.
Edge computing is fully embedded in IXON’s edge gateway (IXrouter). The IXrouter connects your machines to the IXON Cloud and is equipped with smart features for faster and more reliable insights into your machine.
What is edge computing?
In short, it’s the processing of data in places physically closer than a data centre - namely at the edge of the machine - to allow for faster data transfers. It’s not a replacement or competitor of cloud computing, but a supplement.
It’s when you combine cloud and edge that you’ll really experience the added value.
The benefits of edge computing in manufacturing
Perhaps no industry stands to benefit more from IoT devices than the machine manufacturing sector. By incorporating data storage and computing into industrial equipment, machine builders can gather data that will allow for better predictive maintenance, allowing them to reduce costs 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.
Edge computing can also provide great advantages to industries operating where bandwidth is low or non-existent. Offshore oil rigs, for instance, can utilize edge computing architecture to gather, monitor, and process data on a variety of environmental factors without having to depend upon a distant data centre infrastructure (source: vXchnge).
We summarized the 3 main benefits of edge computing:
1) Low latency
One great driver for edge computing is the speed of light. If Computer A needs to ask Computer B halfway across the globe permission to do anything, the user perceives this delay as latency.
Instead, with edge computing, the thinking is done by the edge device. After calculation and processing, the device sends the data to the cloud. Ensuring low latency by saving time setting up connections and data transmissions.
2) Minimising the amount of data
The collected big data from the machines is pre-processed at the edge. This means that the rough data from your industrial devices is minimised to just the essentials. Collect only the data you need for monitoring or analysing in the cloud. Values such as average, minimum or maximum are calculated locally by the edge device and sent to the cloud. Meaning fewer data storage and less bandwidth usage.
The goal of an edge device is to offload the work from the data centre/cloud, provide backup capability in case of network failure, offer complex data processing closer to data acquisition and many other reasons.
3) Maintaining continuity
IoT devices usually require a constant internet connection for continuous and reliable data logging, sometimes along with low latency needs. Edge helps manage the massive amounts of data produced by industrial devices by locally storing the data until a connection can be re-established, so you won’t lose any of your valuable machine data.
IXON Cloud & IXrouter: combining Cloud and Edge
Cloud systems, however, are just the beginning. The real magic happens when they are combined with edge computing
IXON’s product is exactly that: cloud and edge combined. IXON Cloud is the only Industrial IoT platform designed for machine builders, system integrators and building automation. The cloud platform is created to help you improve service, innovate (machines) faster and maximise your sales using new business model opportunities.
Using IXON's fully integrated iot edge gateway (IXrouter) you can access your industrial devices in minutes through the IXON Cloud platform. Use the plug & Play setup to connect your PLC, HMI, robot/cobot or any other industrial device easily to the IXON Cloud platform.
Besides industrial remote access, IXON Cloud has built-in big data features for collecting, storing, visualising and alarming to make the best of your machines. To ensure low latency, high reliability of the data, secure transmitting and actionable data, the IXrouter (industrial VPN router) is equipped with high-end technology on the edge.
6 IoT edge technologies built into the IXrouter
1. Data aggregation for logging
Cloud Logging is a service with which you can pull your data from your PLC, send it securely to the cloud using a lightweight MQTT connection, and access it through advanced and easy to use dashboards.
Edge Aggregation allows the IXrouter to log data at high speed and locally aggregate this data into one data sample, after which it is sent to the cloud for secure storage. This allows you to log accurately, while sending less data to the cloud.
2. Buffer / local storage
If there is no internet connection available for the IXrouter, your data is not lost. The IXrouter can locally store data for weeks at a time if there is no internet connection available. The data is safely stored on an 8GB flash drive and it won’t crash when loads of data is stored.
Once the IXrouter has established an internet connection again, it'll send the data automatically to the IXON Cloud.
Tip! With the 4G/Wi-Fi model of the IXrouter you can configure three types of internet connection, so you always have a fallback and working internet connection in any environment.
Cloud Notify is a revolutionary method to easily receive notifications from your machine(s) in a robust and safe way. Whether your machine has a malfunction, is short on supply or has finished a job, you and other interested parties can remotely get informed to act instantly without worrying about missing out on important machine events.
Alarms are based on the machine’s data. You can configure which conditions and to whom alarms should be sent out. The IXrouter continuously monitors these configured alarm states and when a variable meets one of the alarm criteria, it sends a signal to the IXON Cloud - which immediately sends out the notifications.
4. Configuration push
Network settings, data sources, data variables, alarms and notifications can be configured remotely – in the IXON Cloud – in just a fraction of your time without hassling with connectivity issues, time consuming on-site configurations or difficult integrations.
Once the new configuration is ready, you push the new settings securely to the IXrouter directly from the IXON Cloud. Just click on the “Push changes” button, wait for a small moment and the IXrouter instantly takes care of the new configuration. Easy as pie.
5. Remote firmware updates
Our in-house R&D team is continuously working to create new features, optimise the platform and IXrouter to improve performance, fix issues and sharpen security. Therefore new firmware releases for the IXrouter are published regularly.
To make the updating process easier for you, you can update the firmware from the IXON Cloud platform. Just push on “Firmware upgrade” and the new firmware will be pushed to the device. Don't worry, the IXrouter will automatically boot up and reconnect. A firmware upgrade may take 2-5 minutes.
6. Accurate timestamps
Let’s say you have a big machine line with multiple PLCs, HMIs, a robot, etcetera. Imagine you have to manually set the clock for each of these devices or parts. Not only is this a lot of work, but there’s also a high probability of inaccuracies in time between the devices. In addition, it’s likely that the clocks won’t stay accurate as time goes on. They may drift as much as a second per day. Any meaningful time synchronisation will be impossible if these clocks are allowed to run on their own.
The NTP protocol makes sure that all devices occasionally sync their time with one NTP server, which is built into the IXrouter. Every device that is connected to the IXrouter will have one NTP server as a source for time. This ensures that they all have the exact same time.
Discover the power of combined cloud and edge
Digital transformation isn’t just desirable, it’s essential. Those that don’t embrace this change will be left behind while others benefit.