Next generation gateway solutions optimised for the IIoT

18 February 2019

Manufacturers are now gearing up to ride the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) wave. Although the progress has been slow, manufacturers at different stages of their IIoT transformation are already beginning to experience the benefits of digitisation, says Matthew Lee, product manager at Moxa.

Smart manufacturing and digital transformation coupled with edge intelligence is enabling manufacturers to achieve increased productivity, reduced downtime, and increased product quality. A key factor in the success of this transformation is the deployment of intelligent edge-computing solutions that can bridge the gap between the operation technology (OT) and the information technology (IT) worlds by providing the following benefits:

Reduced latency: Manufacturers are expected to be more responsive to customer needs with customised products and services on a global scale. In addition, time-sensitive applications need immediate processing of device data to be able to take timely corrective actions and enable quick decision making. Edge intelligence facilitates intelligence at the field site as opposed to sending all the device data from the edge to the cloud for processing, thereby enabling quick decisions.

Independent remote operations: The edge-computing platform enables remote locations to reduce downtime and operate independently when the central system is inaccessible. For example, if there is a network outage and connectivity to the cloud system is lost, field sites can use local computing power to process and analyse data. Processed data can then be sent to the cloud for long-term storage when the connection is restored.

Ensure data security: Sending sensitive operational data from the edge to the cloud puts the data and your edge devices at risk. Multiple levels of security need to be put in place in an edge device to ensure that the data is securely transferred to the cloud. Processing data at the edge helps prevent data breaches and enables faster responses.

Reduce data-transfer costs: Transferring large volumes of data from the edge of the network to a cloud server can be prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, the cost of transferring this data on a daily basis could lead to unsustainable communication costs in the long run.

Manufacturers are looking for optimised computing solutions for their industrial-automation applications to intelligently process large volumes of data received from the sensors and field monitors, and send only critical data or a summary of the data to the cloud. Compact-sized, ruggedised industrial Arm-based computers, designed for low power consumption, are at the heart of these solutions and make edge-side computing more reliable and cost effective.

Arm-based Linux solutions
Arm-based Linux IIoT Gateway solutions provide industrial-grade security, manageability, performance, and reliability while still maintaining extensibility. These platforms combine the hardware, OS, and software functions listed below to provide an optimized edge-computing solution for IIoT applications.

Longevity: Industrial products are usually in place for 10 to 15 years. Arm-based CPUs typically come with a minimum lifespan of 15 years and Arm’s commitment to long-term support and access to their future enhancements, make Arm-based solutions an ideal choice for industrial applications.

Low Power Consumption: Low-power processing is a requirement in many industries to ensure that the equipment does not overheat and pose a potential hazard. Fanless equipment are also preferred so as to mitigate the effects of dust in industrial environments. Arm Cortex-A processors are highly optimized for performance and power efficiency.

Scalability: Linux is eminently scalable and is able to run on a variety of platforms, and its basic functionality – command line tools, configuration, and code – are compatible with any Linux-based device. This flexibility allows for easier upgrades and compatibility between different systems.

Enhanced security: While manufacturers are reaping the benefits of digitalization, they are also faced with data security risks and software-integrity issues. A Trusted Platform Module (TPM) can be deployed to guarantee the physical security of edge devices. In addition, Arm’s TrustZone can be used to create an isolated secure world, which can enhance security and maintain the integrity of edge-computing solutions.

Most IIoT Gateway Solutions also come with edge-side preprocessing tools that have built-in interfaces to cloud services to help you accelerate development of your industrial IoT applications and create smarter field sites.

Ready-to-run solutions
Moxa’s UC series IIoT Edge Gateways are industrial-grade, wireless-ready Arm-based computing platforms that are designed to operate reliably in a wide temperature range of -40 to 85°C. These gateways are built around the Arm Cortex-A processor and come with Moxa Industrial Linux (MIL), a Debian-based distribution with 10-year support, to address the need for extended lifecycle of computing systems in sectors such as solar/wind power, water and wastewater, oil and gas, transportation, and factory automation.

Industrial-grade Linux: Moxa Industrial Linux (MIL) is a high-performance industrial-grade Linux distribution developed by Moxa to help accelerate your industrial projects. A 10-year long-term Linux support that includes security patches and bug fixes, to address the need for extended life cycle of computing systems in industrial automation applications, makes your industrial projects secure and sustainable. Moxa is working with industry leaders, such as Codethink, Hitachi, Plat’Home, Renesas, Siemens, and Toshiba, through the Civil Infrastructure Platform (CIP) project hosted by The Linux Foundation, to create an open-source platform for managing and monitoring IoT-enabled civil infrastructure and make it safe, secure, reliable, scalable, and sustainable.

Low power consumption: Build on the Arm Cortex-A processor, Moxa UC series gateways provide industrial-grade intelligence at the edge in power budgets under 10 W.

Secure platform: The UC series IIoT Edge Gateways are the only Arm-based computers that support TPM v2.0. Bringing TPM and Arm-based computers together gives system integrators and industrial engineers a powerful new tool in their security arsenal. By creating a specific cryptographic key for each individual device, which is hardcoded within the platform itself, the data stored on the computing system is secured and protected from being read by an unauthorized party. Moreover, the OS on the system can be locked from being overwritten to secure edge devices and data in distributed areas. You can use the Moxa Security Utility to conveniently build up the protection mechanism on the Moxa Industrial Linux platform to meet your cybersecurity requirements. This security utility is developed in accordance with Moxa’s product development guide for cybersecurity, which ensures compliance with the IEC62443-4-2 standard and recent ICS-CERT alerts, to provide an adjustable security protection level for systems and applications.

Support for multiple interfaces and protocols: The UC series IIoT Edge Gateways come with multiple interfaces such as serial, CAN, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and NB-IoT. The IIoT Edge Gateways are 4G LTE-ready and come with Verizon/AT&T certification and industrial-grade CE/FCC/UL certifications. An edge-side software, ThingsPro, accelerate configuration, DAQ, and device management. ThingsPro enables Modbus connectivity for data acquisition and processing and MQTT support for lightweight edge-to-core data transmission. RESTful APIs and Modbus APIs are provided for implementing all ThingsPro Gateway software functions in your IIoT applications.

Easy connectivity from the Edge to the Cloud: The UC series IIoT Edge Gateways are the first Azure IoT Edge certified Arm-based computers. Integrating Azure IoT Edge with Moxa’s IIoT gateways benefit customers, especially those operating on Linux platforms, in a number of ways. The benefits include secured remote connections to enable deployment in remote locations, connectivity to allow existing brownfield applications to share data with the cloud, and device management and product longevity to ensure customers can deploy, scale, and maintain their IIoT applications.

A wireless solution
It can be a challenge to find an IIoT gateway that easily connects geographically dispersed devices to the cloud, especially in outdoor or rugged environments. Not only does the IIoT gateway need to be easy to deploy, it must be easy to maintain over an expected operational life of at least five years.

The UC-8200 industrial computing platform is designed for embedded data acquisition applications. The computer comes with dual RS-232/422/485 serial ports, dual 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet ports, and one CAN port as well as dual Mini PCIe socket to support Wi-Fi/cellular modules. These versatile capabilities let users efficiently adapt the UC-8200 to a variety of complex communications solutions. 

The UC-8200 is built around an Arm Cortex-A7 dual-core processor that has been optimised for use in energy monitoring systems but is widely applicable to a variety of industrial solutions. With flexible interfacing options, it offers a reliable and secure gateway for data acquisition and processing at field sites as well as a useful communications platform for many other large-scale deployments. Wide temperature LTE-enabled models are available for extended temperature applications. 

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