IIoT/Industry4.0/4IR – they cover a large area and don’t always mean the same thing. So how do we define any of these terms? Basically, they are about improving manufacturing efficiency, largely through the intelligent use of data. There is a lot of jargon that goes with this, and Lloyd Townsend of WIKA did a good job of unravelling much of it at the last branch technology evening.
Cheryl Hird thanks Lloyd Townsend after the presentation.
Since it is there, it is tempting to use the cloud for everything, as no investment in hardware is required. However, the drawback is that it can take a relatively significant time to get feedback on the data and hence the emergence of edge computing, where time-critical information is processed right at the application.
Where does the data come from? First of all, a 4-20 mA signal can be used. However, it can only be used once it is in digital form by the control system. Microprocessor-based instruments usually contain much more information than just the process variable, and this can also be used. If the field devices are connected to a bus, whole groups of data can be aggregated, and sent to the cloud in a batch, using a variety of communication protocols. As this data is not usually time-critical, security and accuracy of data is more important than speed. There are a variety of LPWANs (low power WANs) which can do this, one of the more recent being MIOTY. The essence of this is that that the data is broken down into packets, and forward error correction applied. This minimises requests for repeat packets, and, because the data is scattered in small packets, it is difficult for potential hackers to trace.
What about digital twins? As Lloyd explained, system designers generally have a good idea of the desired operation of any system. A virtual – or digital – twin is created, which reacts in the same way the physical system is supposed to, somewhere in the cloud. This can be compared with its real-life counterpart in the cloud, to check whether the desired outcome has been achieved.
Lloyd covered a huge amount in a short period of time, all of it very well presented. The branch thanks WIKA for hosting the evening.
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