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Edge boxes and industrial PCs – driving efficiency and productivity at the edge

Home Engineering Electronic - Instrumentation & Control Edge boxes and industrial PCs – driving efficiency and productivity at the...

By Sbo Chilli, product manager: EcoStruxure – IDHMI & IDMST at Schneider Electric

THE ability to manage data effectively and flexibly is paramount and runs in tandem with improved visualisation, smart manufacturing, digitisation, IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and edge computing. To this end, IIoT-enabled devices, gateways, edge boxes, and industrial PCs, (running at the edge) are meeting the above requirements whilst improving productivity and performance.

Indeed, it is providing the next phase in digital transformation and experience. Moreover, these devices form part of an end-to-end cybersecurity lifecycle which safeguards operations and assets.

Today, several software options can support asset performance within the IIoT. Running at the edge, on Edge Box and iPCs, it connects OT from the field to IT and cloud applications, for data management and optimisation.

The good news is there are IIoT starter packs readily available to ease the deployment of a complete IIoT application for smart factories, supported by services and project teams.
Advanced IIoT edge software or application-oriented software like Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Maintenance Manager or EcoStruxure Pumping Performance Advisor software architectures are tested and validated to work with edge boxes and iPCs. In turn, it meets the needs of deeper applications at the edge, providing analytics for automation systems’ AI capability.

Real-world application

Associated software can be selected from the device’s online configurator and delivered as a best-in-class pre-installed bundle to improve business. From a single, configured order, the edge box and iPC hardware, pre-installed with the latest software version and activation license, can be dispatched quickly.

A dedicated support team is the single point of contact for the complete bundle to resolve any issues.

An extensive testing and validation process and easy integration of hardware, software, and operating systems make complete commissioning faster, saving time, money, and resources.

Optimised asset performance

Edge boxes and industrial PCs are creating a new digital experience at the edge. It combines asset performance with predictive maintenance, IIoT edge-to-cloud connection, smart factory features, and digitisation to address the increasing demand for data management, analytics, and dashboards at the edge. It can run on two main IIoT architectures:

  1. Traditional – based on HMI (human machine interface) and SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition), for visualisation and connections to drivers through software like OPC UA (Unified Architecture), MQTT standard and so forth to connect to IT or even cloud applications.
  2. Node-RED tool for essential data wiring of the connected products to the apps, analytics, and services at the IT and cloud levels at the edge.

For more capabilities, these IIoT architectures can also be built with dedicated edge software to offer more advanced connectivity (OT & IT), data modelling and processing, store and forward possibilities, as well as system monitoring.

Edge box and industrial PCs such as Schneider Electric’s Harmony offerings run natively on any Windows, cloud applications, protocols, and connected products. This mitigates the need for manual data collection and computing, improving agility and performance.

Lastly, edge boxes and industrial PCs are ready for end-to-end cybersecurity systems to protect data and assets. It is validated according to the ISA/IEC-62443 international cybersecurity standard for industrial automation and control and designed according to prescribed recommendations.

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