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Tech Review:
Digital Platforms in Reboot

Background

Traditional approach to industrial platforms is based on hierarchy in ISA-95 model from beginning of 2000s. It describes the differences between automation systems and enterprise systems and gives models for data flows and objects. This model is widely accepted and factories have acquired their digital platforms according to this model. During their use the platforms in factories usually evolve into a mess of tailored legacy systems where platforms are replaced one at a time by a more modern one.

There is an ongoing discussion how Industrial IoT (IIoT) platforms are changing the ISA-95 (and if they are changing them at all) and how the flattening of hierarchical levels can be achieved by the Industrial IoT platforms. It remains to be seen how it ends when these systems become more prominent.  There is a big push towards IIoT systems from ITC giants and there are plenty of Industrial IoT platforms available from several Global ICT (e.g Microsoft, Amazon, Siemens, GE…) companies and on top of that there are lots of platforms from smaller ICT providers. Light cooperation between the competitors can be found. For example Siemens MindSphere is using IBM Watson for analytics.

New approaches

There are some notable endeavors, which try to solve the interoperability problems of platforms and especially those that occur between organizations. Industrial Data Space is a German-led initiative, which is building a data ecosystem and a market place. Data sovereignty is a central aspect of the Industrial Data Space. It can be defined as a natural person’s or corporate entity’s capability of being entirely self-determined with regard to its data. This leads trust and interoperability being the main selling points for IDS. To achieve this all parties and technical components are to be certified by a trusted certification body.

Another modern approach is FIWARE, which offers curated framework of open source platform components for everybody to use. FIWARE has its background in European Horizon2020 -project and has already gained 500 million Euro investments from private and public sources during its run. FIWARE’s approach for interoperability is in the context level and it is handled by the only mandatory component in FIWARE, a context broker. There are several FIWARE components available for several needs ranging from handling of identities to interfaces for robotics and all of these components have been audited by the FIWARE. To consolidate the work done in different associations, FIWARE, Industrie 4.0, Industrial Internet Consortium and Industrial Data Space Association are working on aligning their work to support one another.

Platform strategy in Reboot

From Reboot point of view the platform issue is crucial as proof-of-concepts are to be integrated into current factories and that means working together with existing platforms. As we go forward the scaling up of Reboot proof-of-concepts from one factory to another requires tailoring to get them running.

Platforms of Reboot companies have been identified and there are some shared platforms like SAP and Azure, which are present in several factories. SAP is quite tailored and different modules are in use making plug-and-play deployments more challenging. As a cloud platform Azure on the other hand is an exiting platform making deployment of PoCs easier on non-data level. On factory floor the more lower in ISA-95 hierarchy are we going the more the factory has control what is deployed and used there for example use of PLCs. The ability to control and monitor devices and data allows PoCs to be deployed there but if PoCs need to interact with higher levels in hierarchy (e.g. ERP) it may be a challenge to get right interfaces open.

– Erkki Siira, VTT (erkki.siira@vtt.fi)

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