Automation, Proficloud and the Internet of Things

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(Written by Rudi Erasmus)

Internet of things (IoT) is the latest buzzword and everyone seeks the holy grail of being able to connect from mechanical or digital machines, with unique identifiers, to transfer data over networks without requiring human-to-human or human-to-machine interaction.

Enter the Industrial Internet of things

Industrial applications require better determinism and robustness, and thus current IoT solutions are in many cases not appropriate. The application of the IoT to the manufacturing industry is called the IIoT (or Industrial Internet or Industry 4.0). The IIoT will revolutionize manufacturing by enabling the acquisition and accessibility of far greater amounts of data, at far greater speeds, and far more efficiently than before.

The Profinet communications protocol, which continues to gain importance in automation technology, is being (further) developed by the members of the Profibus & Profinet International (PI) user organization. Its technology is based on Ethernet TCP/IP. The demand for quick data exchange over Ethernet networks and allows real-time communication.

Profinet allows the implementation of a variety of solutions, from mechanical engineering and production engineering to process and building automation to the entire spectrum of drive technology. The data transfer standard even allows implementation of motion-control applications, which require isochronous operation.

Proficloud from Phoenix Contact








The Proficloud technology from Phoenix Contact now connects the Profinet networks of automation technology with the Internet. A combination of forward-looking standards gives rise to innovative solutions that cut costs and enhance competitiveness. Proficloud is expanding the communication standard to include the unlimited capabilities of the World Wide Web

Phoenix Contact’s Proficloud technology, which for instance, when accessing your remote applications is implemented significantly easier than conventional systems.

The Proficloud Eco system

A standard Proficloud application consists of at least one Proficloud coupler, one Proficloud device, and one Profinet controller. The Profinet controller can be obtained from any controller manufacturer as long as the device meets Profinet specifications. The Proficloud coupler connects the local Profinet network with the Proficloud via two Ethernet interfaces. While one of the interfaces is used for linking to the local Profinet system, connection to the Internet is established via the second Ethernet interface. Subsequently, the coupler automatically initiates a connection with the Proficloud and is ready for operation after a short period of time. The same applies to Proficloud devices, which are also easily linked to the Internet and automatically connect to the Proficloud.

So how does the Proficloud securely connect to the www?

The Proficloud device sends its process data to the Proficloud as soon as a connection to the internet and thus to the cloud has been made. This connection can only be set up by the Proficloud coupler or the Proficloud device. The limitation to “outbound connection” ensures that nobody from the Internet can initiate undesired communication with the Proficloud devices.

When the connection to the Proficloud through the Internet has been made, a Profinet instance of every coupled Proficloud device is generated in the Proficloud coupler. All Proficloud devices receive their own IP and MAC addresses, which are mapped in the local Profinet network. The user can then program any Proficloud device as though it were a local Profinet device. Proficloud devices can be either physical I/O devices or virtual Proficloud modules. For the physical Proficloud I/O devices, derivatives of the AXC 1050 Axiocontrol compact controller are used. The virtual Proficloud device can represent any sort of Internet service, which is then connected to the Profinet system. An example would be weather or recipe data, energy prices, or virtual data loggers.

In summary

Cloud technology opens up a number of approaches that allow process data to be securely forwarded through the Internet to other systems and applications. For instance, the operating company can monitor the state of all their systems installed all over the world. The evaluation of the data collected provides early indications of possible failures. Maintenance can thus be executed according to need, which significantly decreases costs for the end user. The simple, secure data transmission means that the Proficloud technology users need not worry about the configuration and security of their IT networks.

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