At Hannover Messe, Vodafone and Phoenix Contact Sign M2M Agreement

20 April 2010

Communications provider Vodafone and Phoenix Contact signed a collaboration contract to offer complete solutions for industrial data communication in the mobile network. The two companies say they are convinced that a high percentage of control systems in the future will be connected via telecommunication networks.

Each day, millions of text messages are sent and received by private individuals over mobile telephone networks. There’s no reason why machines couldn’t do the same—text each other, or send text messages to maintenance personnel.

At least, that’s the reasoning from executives at Vodafone and Phoenix Contact.
Indeed, the day is not far off when a machine may send a text message to the repairman on duty: “Fix me, I’m broke.”

Or, the controller on a machine needs a firmware upgrade, and gets it instantly via a data transfer through the mobile telephone service provider.

Phoenix Contact says it is in a good position to take advantage of these new methods, because it has had extensive experience with industrial communications over the years.

“Back in the 1980s, Phoenix Contact was one of the pioneers of fieldbus technology,” said Christoph Leifer, Head of the Interface Business Area, Phoenix Contact Electronics located in Bad Pyrmont, Germany.

“At the end of the 1990s, we drove the development of wireless transmission technologies based on different wireless technologies. With Internet technologies finding their way more and more into industrial applications, we also became a driver in the Profinet market. In fact, we have our own subsidiary that exclusively deals with secure data transmission using Internet technologies.”

The company has continued to develop its range of industrial modems.

“What significance do we place on the future of industrial telecommunication technology?” he asked.

“I would like to clarify this using an example. Let me ask this question: Who has a mobile phone along with them? Who has two mobile phones with them? As you can see in the area of person-to person telecommunication, we have already achieved more than 100% coverage.

“If I were to ask you the same question relating to a plant, a production facility, a machine or a power station, then you would see that there is still untapped potential in this area.

“Let’s think about the megatrend involving distributed power generation—whether it be wind turbines, solar systems or combined heat and power stations, or  cogeneration power stations.

“Let’s think about the megatrend of energy efficiency and frugally and sensibly using the resources that are available to us.

“Let’s think about the global competition, which is forcing us to continually download optimised firmware and software to a plant or system, as well as the need to always know just what is presently being produced, at which machine and with what quality—and when does the next maintenance window open?

“We are absolutely certain that 100 percent of the PLCs, DCS systems and PC-based control systems will, in the future, be integrated in telecontrol, remote maintenance and diagnostic concepts. A high percentage of these applications will be networked via telecommunication networks.

Vodafone Industrial Connect Tariff

Representing Düsseldorf-based Vodafone Deutschland was Holger Bühl Sales Manager Germany M2M.

“The area of ‘machine-to-machine’ communication, in short ‘M2M,’ is one of the most important growth markets for Vodafone Deutschland,” he said.

“Besides the pure infrastructure for radio-based data transfer, we offer our customers complete solutions for the automated exchange of information between machines, automats or vehicles. In this field, we increasingly work with partners and bundle our know how in a market-specific way. We are pleased about the cooperation with Phoenix Contact, signed today, that will help us to cover a much broader range in this segment.”

He said that the collaboration would begin in Germany with the ”Vodafone Industrial Connect Tariff,“ for industrial applications.

He explained the industrial application by contrasting it with commercial applications.

“If a private customer goes to a shop, he asks for mobile phones, voice tariffs, SMS tariffs and DSL use at home. He is attended accordingly.

“With the industrial customer, we rather deal with subjects such as fault message systems, telecontrol and remote maintenance with complex requirements, partly with very high data rates and above all a service that meets the specific demands of the industry.

“This is where we step in together with Phoenix Contact: The ‘Industrial Connect Packages’ are complete solutions specifically tailored towards the requirements of the industrial target group, and consist of the necessary hardware, connectivity, safety, and the corresponding support addressed to the requirements of industry.

Three application examples

Mr. Leifer said the two companies “have pooled their know-how and skill sets” to offer complete solution packages,  including industrial modems and SIM cards for industrial applications as well as services. He said the deliverables would include complete preconfigured solutions, and gave three examples of the service.

“The simplest case involves an alarm system, explained using a solar power system as an example,” he said.

“The system is connected to an inverter, which normally also has an alarm output. The customer wants to receive a fault message directly on his mobile phone as soon as the inverter develops a fault. Our solution is an SMS industrial package, comprising the hardware, the SMS relay, and an SMS SIM card. Texts can be entered, and, when a fault occurs, are sent to a mobile phone specified by the customer by the fault message output of the inverter.

“My second example involves a maintenance package for the mechanical engineering sector.

“An industrial customer has a problem with his machine. The machine manufacturer wants to help the customer by providing remote diagnostics, resolve the problem and download a new firmware – or download current production data using this dial-up connection. In this case, our solution package is an industrial modem with an antenna for the control cabinet as well as the Vodafone IndustrialConnect tariff. Every machine and plant has its own data call number.

“My third example is a point-to-point package.

“In the water-wastewater sector, data records are typically routed to remote pumping stations via the Vodafone telephone network, so that two participants with a serial interface can be connected to the preconfigured devices. Before the equipment is shipped, we already allocate the customer IP addresses, in conjunction with a data tariff tailored to their requirements.”

Mr. Leifer that the companies would offer seven solution packages for various industrial applications, all of them turnkey solutions.

“The devices are preconfigured, the SIM cards are released. All that remains to be done to start data transmission is to connect the modems. The services are provided at application-specific tariffs, and our service hotline offers personal support,” he said.

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