Lots of people asking about the cloud and what is in it for them. Why should they use it, etc? Turck Banner managing director Tony Coghlan explains the fundamentals as they relate to manufacturing sites.
There are very few of us who aren't already using the cloud in some form. If you own a smart phone, use email, stream music, videos or TV, then the chances are that data is stored in the cloud. You probably don't care where it's stored, as long as it is available when you need it.
Originally the cloud simply meant a network of servers where software applications, information and services are stored and accessed. By this definition most companies have a cloud! However the term is increasingly thought of by how it is accessed, what is available to use on it and by where it is physically located in relation to you, ie if it can be accessed from anywhere that has an internet connection using a variety of different devices. There are many software applications on it that you may or may not own. It is not physically located within your premises (house or place of work).
There are a large number of public cloud providers, the biggest being very well known names like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google cloud. These provide a broad range of services which are available to anyone from individuals to multinational companies. Private clouds can only be accessed by a single organisation, can be located either on or off premises and are typically used by large organisations which only host software used by that organisation. There are also specialist cloud providers who sit somewhere between the public and private, providing elements from both.
There are four service models available, of which Software as a Service (SaaS) is the most commonly available to individuals. Software from the most basic to highly sophisticated, requiring specialised computing, can be used by anyone, giving users access to software that would otherwise be too expensive.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) gives users access to servers, hardware and storage. These facilities are maintained by the provider, eliminating the cost and resources that the user would normally need to implement.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the next step up from IaaS, as it also provides operating systems, web servers, databases and other application software. The service provider maintains not only the hardware but also the integration of all the software, ensuring that users have access to the latest upgrades and patches.
Network as a Service (NaaS) provides the networking facilities including Firewalls and VPNs. The user benefits from scalability and maintenance.
What is accessible under these services will vary from one provider to another, and not all models are available from all providers. Choosing which one to use is one of the questions that trouble most users. The other most asked question is “What's in it for me?”
There are many benefits to cloud computing and each user may have different priorities. While these are the benefits that I think apply to the majority of users, it is not an exhaustive list.
Turck Banner is different from the majority of the other providers in that it is predominantly a hardware provider. It is an ‘IIoT enabler’, by which we mean that we provide everything for the factory or production environment, from the sensors collecting the data, through the network layer equipment, to the cloud used to host and distribute the useable information. This gives customers the following advantages:
Everything from one supplier: Security in the knowledge that everything will work together.
Unique software features: Pre-programmed dashboards are available free of charge. They are designed to display the useable information needed to make decisions and can see the status of the monitored machines.
Hidden sensor information: Sensors often collect more information than required for their primary function. For example, a proximity sensor or photoelectric sensor may detect the presence of a part and may also record their current operating temperature, level of dirt/contamination on the lens, operation hours, input voltage etc. This hidden information, which is invaluable for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance, can be accessed with a simple tick box in our dashboards.
Multiprotocol: Do not get locked into a single protocol. Network gateways and edge devices that are multiprotocol allow the user to easily switch between local PLC, ERP, in-house cloud and external cloud providers.
Risk free, low cost introduction: Snap Signal by Banner taps into the existing sensors on a machine to extract their status without interfering with the existing control system. This eliminates the concerns normally associated with any modifications to the control system that production could be affected or stopped. Snap Signal forms its own multiprotocol network which interfaces with the cloud or local systems.
Starter kits: Complete kits with everything needed for Condition monitoring or OEE are available for users to take the first easy step to IIoT.
Free trial: With every starter kit or cloud enabled device, a free trial of the Turck or Banner cloud is available to enable you to access immediate actionable data. After the free trial it is easy to remain with the Turck Banner cloud or switch to any other provider.
Low cost: The Turck and Banner clouds are provided as part of our whole product range. As it is not our sole source of income we are able to provide it at a low cost.
Easy expansion: The open protocol and multiprotocol concept of Turck Banner make it easy to expand within their cloud or to switch to another provider if wider software selection becomes a priority.
Returning to the question “What's in the cloud for me?”, probably the better questions are “Can I improve my production?” or “Can I reduce my costs?” The majority of manufacturing sites can benefit from condition monitoring, gathering data for OEE and providing production status/statistics/warnings at your desk or on your phone. The cloud may well be a part of this and it is easier to start the journey than you may think.
The cloud is just another tool, like a torque wrench. If the features it offers are a benefit to you then use it, if not use a spanner.