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Are you guarding against the physical threat of cyber attacks?



Industrial organisations across the world are increasingly adopting smart technology to innovate and modernise their operations as part of a shift towards Industry 4.0 and factory automation using the Internet of Things (IoT). As well as offering significant benefits like speeding up processes, reducing costs and helping meet customer demand, however, this trend can also increase exposure to cyber attacks.

One of the key issues with cyber attacks on industrial facilities is that their impact can be twofold. Take the infamous Stuxnet incident, where criminals used a malicious computer worm to halt Iran’s nuclear programme – the attack was carried out virtually, but its consequences were physical.

To help mitigate cyber-physical attacks like this, there has been growing pressure on industrial organisations to improve their security – not only to prevent attacks that affect operations, but also to block those that impact health and safety and could put the public at risk.

Cyber attacks can have a direct link to health and safety as they have the potential to put employees at risk. For instance, if malware was to infect an emergency shutdown system in a nuclear plant, the damage to staff and the public could be catastrophic.

In one of the most infamous attacks of 2014, cyber criminals manipulated and disrupted control systems at a German steel works to such a degree that a blast furnace could not shut down properly. While the attack was carried out through electronic spearphishing, it had a physical impact that undoubtedly impacted staff.

To help educate organisations on the risks that disruption like this can pose to health and safety, the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has updated OG86, its Operational Guidance for Industrial Automation and Control Systems in an effort to mitigate the risks. OG86 outlines the criteria HSE inspectors use when they audit organisations and takes into account that the increasing connection of operational machinery to the internet is making it easier for cyber criminals to carry out attacks that have implications for health and safety.

The countermeasures needed to address low levels of cyber-security risk are based on the National Cyber Security Centre’s basic Cyber Assessment Framework (CAF) profile. Closely aligned with the EU Network and Information Security (NIS) Directive, it explains how HSE inspectors will gain an understanding of the capabilities and maturity of an organisation’s cyber resilience and sets out requirements for organisations to provide effective policies, procedures and controls in their ability to protect against cyber incidents, detect potential incidents, and respond in an appropriate and timely manner

Bringing the NIS Directive into the scope of OG86 is one of the biggest changes to the updated document. By focusing on it, the HSE is encouraging organisations to think more strategically about cyber threats and how to implement a robust security posture. Complying with the guide will help them not only improve their cyber security and limit their exposure to attack, but also pass future HSE audits.

The guidance includes specific information on the workflow inspectors follow to gain an understanding of the capabilities an organisation has in place to protect its systems and networks. They are required to verify the adequacy of the cyber-security management system including competence management, together with the adequacy of countermeasures; for major accident workplaces and operators of essential services covered under the NIS Regulations.

An important first step for organisations preparing to meet the requirements of OG86 is to complete an assessment against the NIS CAF and determine the organisational structure they should have in place to develop an effective cyber-risk management process. This covers roles and responsibilities, board direction, procedural requirements, risk management process, asset management, vulnerability management, backup procedures and also the technical controls implemented to reduce the risk of cyber incidents and increase system resiliency and availability.

When the CAF is complete, organisational structures are in place and security gaps are understood, it’s important to understand what assets an organisation has on its network and use this information to identify both Major Accident and Loss of Essential Services assets. This helps to drive regulatory compliance and allows optimum exploitation of resources.

One of the key elements of OG86 is the importance it places on security network monitoring of critical assets and having countermeasures in place to detect and prevent common cyber attacks. Ensuring all assets are inventoried and not providing an unmonitored entry point for cyber criminals is essential.

Stefan Liversidge is a technical sales engineer with Nozomi Networks.

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Industrial organisations across the world are increasingly adopting smart technology to innovate and modernise their operations as part of a shift towards Industry 4.0 and factory automation using the Internet of Things (IoT). As well as offering significant benefits like speeding up processes, reducing costs and helping meet customer demand, however, this trend can also increase exposure to cyber attacks.

One of the key issues with cyber attacks on industrial facilities is that their impact can be twofold. Take the infamous Stuxnet incident, where criminals used a malicious computer worm to halt Iran’s nuclear programme – the attack was carried out virtually, but its consequences were physical.

To help mitigate cyber-physical attacks like this, there has been growing pressure on industrial organisations to improve their security – not only to prevent attacks that affect operations, but also to block those that impact health and safety and could put the public at risk.

Cyber attacks can have a direct link to health and safety as they have the potential to put employees at risk. For instance, if malware was to infect an emergency shutdown system in a nuclear plant, the damage to staff and the public could be catastrophic.

In one of the most infamous attacks of 2014, cyber criminals manipulated and disrupted control systems at a German steel works to such a degree that a blast furnace could not shut down properly. While the attack was carried out through electronic spearphishing, it had a physical impact that undoubtedly impacted staff.

To help educate organisations on the risks that disruption like this can pose to health and safety, the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has updated OG86, its Operational Guidance for Industrial Automation and Control Systems in an effort to mitigate the risks. OG86 outlines the criteria HSE inspectors use when they audit organisations and takes into account that the increasing connection of operational machinery to the internet is making it easier for cyber criminals to carry out attacks that have implications for health and safety.

The countermeasures needed to address low levels of cyber-security risk are based on the National Cyber Security Centre’s basic Cyber Assessment Framework (CAF) profile. Closely aligned with the EU Network and Information Security (NIS) Directive, it explains how HSE inspectors will gain an understanding of the capabilities and maturity of an organisation’s cyber resilience and sets out requirements for organisations to provide effective policies, procedures and controls in their ability to protect against cyber incidents, detect potential incidents, and respond in an appropriate and timely manner

Bringing the NIS Directive into the scope of OG86 is one of the biggest changes to the updated document. By focusing on it, the HSE is encouraging organisations to think more strategically about cyber threats and how to implement a robust security posture. Complying with the guide will help them not only improve their cyber security and limit their exposure to attack, but also pass future HSE audits.

The guidance includes specific information on the workflow inspectors follow to gain an understanding of the capabilities an organisation has in place to protect its systems and networks. They are required to verify the adequacy of the cyber-security management system including competence management, together with the adequacy of countermeasures; for major accident workplaces and operators of essential services covered under the NIS Regulations.

An important first step for organisations preparing to meet the requirements of OG86 is to complete an assessment against the NIS CAF and determine the organisational structure they should have in place to develop an effective cyber-risk management process. This covers roles and responsibilities, board direction, procedural requirements, risk management process, asset management, vulnerability management, backup procedures and also the technical controls implemented to reduce the risk of cyber incidents and increase system resiliency and availability.

When the CAF is complete, organisational structures are in place and security gaps are understood, it’s important to understand what assets an organisation has on its network and use this information to identify both Major Accident and Loss of Essential Services assets. This helps to drive regulatory compliance and allows optimum exploitation of resources.

One of the key elements of OG86 is the importance it places on security network monitoring of critical assets and having countermeasures in place to detect and prevent common cyber attacks. Ensuring all assets are inventoried and not providing an unmonitored entry point for cyber criminals is essential.

Stefan Liversidge is a technical sales engineer with Nozomi Networks.


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Publicado el 04/05/2020 en security, manufacturing, comment, cyber-security, manufacturing, industry 4.0, health and safety

Can you ‘lift and shift’ your business in response to challenges like Covid-19?



On March 16, less than a week after it declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced it was joining forces with the International Chamber of Commerce to mobilise the global business community.

“All businesses have a key role to play in minimising the likelihood of transmission and impact on society,” the two organisations said in a joint statement. “Early, bold and effective action will reduce short-term risks to employees and long-term costs to businesses and the economy.”

This collaboration will be welcome news to many business leaders, who are dedicated to protecting worker safety and ensuring business continuity, at a time of great uncertainty and against a constantly changing backdrop of new developments and emerging insights. To help them in their decision-making, the WHO and ICC will be issuing regular advisory updates to the ICC’s worldwide network of 45 million businesses and surveying its members in order to map the global business response to the pandemic.

In the manufacturing sector in particular, these measures tally closely with what executives say they need, according to a recent survey from the National Association of Manufacturers - trustworthy health information and reliable guidance on what other firms are doing. But more than three-quarters (78 per cent) of the survey’s 588 respondents still expect the uncertainty created by Covid-19 to have a negative financial impact on their business. More than half (53 per cent), meanwhile, anticipate a change in their operations in the coming months as a result.

To understand what those changes might – or should – look like, it’s worth reviewing the economic impact that manufacturing businesses have felt so far during this crisis.

Initially, the economic shocks were primarily supply-chain related. During January and February, factory closures and paralysed container ports in China caused exports to plummet, leaving manufacturers in other parts of the world facing long waits for vital parts and materials. While there are signs that productivity in China has started to rally, trade experts have warned that delays and shortages are likely to continue for some time.

According to an early March survey from the Institute for Supply Management, nearly 75 per cent of companies polled reported supply chain disruptions in some capacity due to the coronavirus outbreak. Almost six out of ten (57 per cent) noted longer lead times for tier-1 China-sourced components, with average lead times more than doubling compared to the end of 2019. Notably, 44 per cent said they do not have a plan in place to address supply chain disruption from China - perhaps making this a good place to start with operational changes, supported by new technologies.

In March, many manufacturers were forced to contend with their own shutdowns as the virus spread to other regions of the world. In Europe, several leading automotive OEMs have been forced to temporarily close their factories including Fiat Chrysler, Renault and Peugeot.

In part, that’s because vital components from China aren’t arriving on time, but it’s also because workers are being ordered to stay at home - in the hard-hit industrial hub of northern Italy, for example. This strongly suggests a need to make manufacturing a more ‘lift and shift’ affair, where possible, so that work can be diverted to teams working on sites in other regions. 

Finally, many manufacturers anticipate a profound demand shock further down the line, as consumers reign in their spending sharply, in response to the social distancing that involves extended periods at home and curtailed working hours. Economists are watching the situation in Europe and the United States with concern, for signs of a global recession. Either way, manufacturers may need to keep a close eye on demand patterns and tweak production schedules in the months ahead.

Despite these impacts, and a rather negative outlook, there is still much manufacturers can do to cope better in the current situation - as well as prepare for others that may arise in future.

After all, ‘expecting the unexpected’ is already a proven strategy for success in manufacturing, where carefully laid plans can quickly and easily be thrown off-course by an extreme weather event, a trade war, a labour dispute, a supplier bankruptcy or, indeed, a global pandemic.

Fortunately, modern technologies provide several ways for manufacturing companies to mount rapid, robust responses to the challenging situations that arise in a crisis.

With cloud technology, vital data is held in a centralised location, accessible to all authorised users, regardless of their individual location. In a time of crisis, that means that manufacturing-firm employees can work together to tackle issues that arise, such as supply-chain shocks when a supplier is unable to deliver. In this case, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) design and management platform can provide a secure solution for staff to collaborate on designs, and reallocate engineering resources to get projects completed and keep a record of what decisions were made, and why – all from a web browser. With a SaaS subscription model, new users can be added and be up and running in minutes, and the number of seats can be scaled up or down, according to requirements.

If manufacturing processes needed to be shifted from one site to another in response to a crisis, augmented and mixed reality (AR/MR) solutions are a valuable weapon in getting workers up to speed on unfamiliar tasks or processes. The latest applications allow experts to make a video of themselves performing a work task via an AR/MR headset, in which they explain what they are doing, step by step. Once the procedure has been captured in this way, it can be edited, enhanced and then shared with employees who need to learn that task. At Sysmex America, a manufacturer of clinical laboratory equipment, lab technicians are guided through daily set-up procedures for blood-sample analysis machines. This capability allowed the company to provide a remote service offering to approximately 66 per cent of its total customer base, resulting in maximised instrument uptime and service efficiency.

When business travel is discouraged or out of the question, and field staff might not be able to support products locally, technology increasingly provides a way to deliver trouble-shooting services remotely. Remote-assistance applications can allow two people in different locations - a remote expert and a factory-floor engineer, for example - to share a live, real-time view of the same environment, such as a malfunctioning machine. Each participant can mark up that view with simple annotations to highlight an issue or suggest the next check or adjustment that should be made. Japanese automotive giant Toyota, for example, uses Vuforia Chalk to ensure that regional staff and subcontractors install and maintain production lines correctly and safely.

In conclusion, while things may feel pretty volatile right now, it’s never too early for manufacturers to start thinking about what measures might be taken to alleviate immediate problems and be more prepared to prevent them in future.

As the authors of a recent article in the Harvard Business Review point out: “Covid-19 is not a one-off challenge. We should expect additional phases to the current epidemic and additional epidemics in the future.” They continue: “Preparing now for the next crisis (or the next phase of the current crisis) is likely to be much more effective than an ad hoc, reactive response when the crisis actually hits.”

Nick Leeder CEng MIET is vice-president, digital transformation solutions – field at PTC. During the current coronavirus crisis, PTC is offering its support to the manufacturing community worldwide by making its Vuforia Chalk remote-assistance platform freely available to any organisation that requires help in dealing with the challenge of closed-down offices and factories.

Leer más



On March 16, less than a week after it declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced it was joining forces with the International Chamber of Commerce to mobilise the global business community.

“All businesses have a key role to play in minimising the likelihood of transmission and impact on society,” the two organisations said in a joint statement. “Early, bold and effective action will reduce short-term risks to employees and long-term costs to businesses and the economy.”

This collaboration will be welcome news to many business leaders, who are dedicated to protecting worker safety and ensuring business continuity, at a time of great uncertainty and against a constantly changing backdrop of new developments and emerging insights. To help them in their decision-making, the WHO and ICC will be issuing regular advisory updates to the ICC’s worldwide network of 45 million businesses and surveying its members in order to map the global business response to the pandemic.

In the manufacturing sector in particular, these measures tally closely with what executives say they need, according to a recent survey from the National Association of Manufacturers - trustworthy health information and reliable guidance on what other firms are doing. But more than three-quarters (78 per cent) of the survey’s 588 respondents still expect the uncertainty created by Covid-19 to have a negative financial impact on their business. More than half (53 per cent), meanwhile, anticipate a change in their operations in the coming months as a result.

To understand what those changes might – or should – look like, it’s worth reviewing the economic impact that manufacturing businesses have felt so far during this crisis.

Initially, the economic shocks were primarily supply-chain related. During January and February, factory closures and paralysed container ports in China caused exports to plummet, leaving manufacturers in other parts of the world facing long waits for vital parts and materials. While there are signs that productivity in China has started to rally, trade experts have warned that delays and shortages are likely to continue for some time.

According to an early March survey from the Institute for Supply Management, nearly 75 per cent of companies polled reported supply chain disruptions in some capacity due to the coronavirus outbreak. Almost six out of ten (57 per cent) noted longer lead times for tier-1 China-sourced components, with average lead times more than doubling compared to the end of 2019. Notably, 44 per cent said they do not have a plan in place to address supply chain disruption from China - perhaps making this a good place to start with operational changes, supported by new technologies.

In March, many manufacturers were forced to contend with their own shutdowns as the virus spread to other regions of the world. In Europe, several leading automotive OEMs have been forced to temporarily close their factories including Fiat Chrysler, Renault and Peugeot.

In part, that’s because vital components from China aren’t arriving on time, but it’s also because workers are being ordered to stay at home - in the hard-hit industrial hub of northern Italy, for example. This strongly suggests a need to make manufacturing a more ‘lift and shift’ affair, where possible, so that work can be diverted to teams working on sites in other regions. 

Finally, many manufacturers anticipate a profound demand shock further down the line, as consumers reign in their spending sharply, in response to the social distancing that involves extended periods at home and curtailed working hours. Economists are watching the situation in Europe and the United States with concern, for signs of a global recession. Either way, manufacturers may need to keep a close eye on demand patterns and tweak production schedules in the months ahead.

Despite these impacts, and a rather negative outlook, there is still much manufacturers can do to cope better in the current situation - as well as prepare for others that may arise in future.

After all, ‘expecting the unexpected’ is already a proven strategy for success in manufacturing, where carefully laid plans can quickly and easily be thrown off-course by an extreme weather event, a trade war, a labour dispute, a supplier bankruptcy or, indeed, a global pandemic.

Fortunately, modern technologies provide several ways for manufacturing companies to mount rapid, robust responses to the challenging situations that arise in a crisis.

With cloud technology, vital data is held in a centralised location, accessible to all authorised users, regardless of their individual location. In a time of crisis, that means that manufacturing-firm employees can work together to tackle issues that arise, such as supply-chain shocks when a supplier is unable to deliver. In this case, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) design and management platform can provide a secure solution for staff to collaborate on designs, and reallocate engineering resources to get projects completed and keep a record of what decisions were made, and why – all from a web browser. With a SaaS subscription model, new users can be added and be up and running in minutes, and the number of seats can be scaled up or down, according to requirements.

If manufacturing processes needed to be shifted from one site to another in response to a crisis, augmented and mixed reality (AR/MR) solutions are a valuable weapon in getting workers up to speed on unfamiliar tasks or processes. The latest applications allow experts to make a video of themselves performing a work task via an AR/MR headset, in which they explain what they are doing, step by step. Once the procedure has been captured in this way, it can be edited, enhanced and then shared with employees who need to learn that task. At Sysmex America, a manufacturer of clinical laboratory equipment, lab technicians are guided through daily set-up procedures for blood-sample analysis machines. This capability allowed the company to provide a remote service offering to approximately 66 per cent of its total customer base, resulting in maximised instrument uptime and service efficiency.

When business travel is discouraged or out of the question, and field staff might not be able to support products locally, technology increasingly provides a way to deliver trouble-shooting services remotely. Remote-assistance applications can allow two people in different locations - a remote expert and a factory-floor engineer, for example - to share a live, real-time view of the same environment, such as a malfunctioning machine. Each participant can mark up that view with simple annotations to highlight an issue or suggest the next check or adjustment that should be made. Japanese automotive giant Toyota, for example, uses Vuforia Chalk to ensure that regional staff and subcontractors install and maintain production lines correctly and safely.

In conclusion, while things may feel pretty volatile right now, it’s never too early for manufacturers to start thinking about what measures might be taken to alleviate immediate problems and be more prepared to prevent them in future.

As the authors of a recent article in the Harvard Business Review point out: “Covid-19 is not a one-off challenge. We should expect additional phases to the current epidemic and additional epidemics in the future.” They continue: “Preparing now for the next crisis (or the next phase of the current crisis) is likely to be much more effective than an ad hoc, reactive response when the crisis actually hits.”

Nick Leeder CEng MIET is vice-president, digital transformation solutions – field at PTC. During the current coronavirus crisis, PTC is offering its support to the manufacturing community worldwide by making its Vuforia Chalk remote-assistance platform freely available to any organisation that requires help in dealing with the challenge of closed-down offices and factories.


Leer más

Publicado el 25/03/2020 en manufacturing, manufacturing industries, business continuity and recovery, coronavirus, manufacturing, industry 4.0, comment

How bringing a sense of play to work could benefit Industry 4.0



It may seem surprising, but many of the problems that users encounter when interacting with industrial equipment are the same as those players must tackle in games. What’s the most cost-effective way of managing resources through the different stages of production? It’s a strategy game! How can AGVs be faster and more efficient in moving items from point A to point B? It’s a racing game!

One area where the principles of gamification are being successfully applied is in the creation of highly interactive human-machine interfaces.

Traditionally, manufacturing processes centre on the machines and their requirements to optimise productivity, quality and profit. On the other hand, gamification processes centre on users and their interests. Games stimulate players’ attention with a combination of attractive design and highly interactive mechanisms and the user is constantly asked to input orders and react to environmental changes.

The principles of gamification are rooted in concepts from behavioural and motivational psychology and are proven to raise users’ attention spans and alleviate cognitive fatigue. When transferred to a factory setting, this may result in higher levels of job satisfaction, improved quality of work and increased safety. Also, according to the Industrial Psychiatry Journal, the more alert a user is, the less likely they are to make mistakes.

For these reasons, gamification can be useful when designing HMIs for the factory floor. As with games, HMIs can offer visual and audible feedback in response to the user’s input. The system can also reward the user with a series of points after a correct action, measure them against a set daily target, or suggest a following action after a task has been successfully completed.

Centigrade, a German design engineering company, is already offering tailored gamified software for HMIs that incorporates all of these techniques. At the Hannover Messe 2015 exhibition, Centrigrade unveiled its collaboration with SEW-EURODRIVE, a leader in industrial drive technology. The companies devised a gamified control system for autonomous guided vehicles responsible for transporting boxes in a factory. The user interface presented a bird’s eye view of the carrier boxes in the form of a real-time video stream. Augmented reality added status information for each box, inviting the user to line-up the boxes with drag-and-drop actions, not unlike in a video game.

This collaboration demonstrated that forward-thinking manufacturers already understand the potential of gamification in real-life applications.

Resource management is the basis of many strategy games, such as SimCity, where players must develop a city, planning roads and infrastructure, while sticking to a budget. A distinctive feature of these games is that one action from the user triggers a chain of events. For example, if the player starts building infrastructures but miscalculates the required funding, strikes will ensue.

The same principle can work on a production line where one action triggers a series of automatisms. If an operator orders the loading of a product into a carrier box, the input will translate this into a chain of commands: “Call a mobile vehicle”; “Load the item into the carrier box”; “Deliver the item to its target destination”; “Unload”; “Return the vehicle to the original position” and so on.

Gamification can be another way in which digitalised manufacturing uses data from the Internet of Things to optimise manufacturing processes. As with other Industry 4.0 technologies, by enlisting the support of a dedicated parts supplier it could be possible to revamp legacy equipment with smart sensors, add communication capabilities, or plug and play technologies and introduce new gamified interfaces to factories.

This applies whether they are is used to boost employee morale, reduce error rates and increase production efficiency, or ease the programming of autonomous vehicles in a factory.

Neil Ballinger is head of EMEA sales at automation parts supplier EU Automation.

Leer más



It may seem surprising, but many of the problems that users encounter when interacting with industrial equipment are the same as those players must tackle in games. What’s the most cost-effective way of managing resources through the different stages of production? It’s a strategy game! How can AGVs be faster and more efficient in moving items from point A to point B? It’s a racing game!

One area where the principles of gamification are being successfully applied is in the creation of highly interactive human-machine interfaces.

Traditionally, manufacturing processes centre on the machines and their requirements to optimise productivity, quality and profit. On the other hand, gamification processes centre on users and their interests. Games stimulate players’ attention with a combination of attractive design and highly interactive mechanisms and the user is constantly asked to input orders and react to environmental changes.

The principles of gamification are rooted in concepts from behavioural and motivational psychology and are proven to raise users’ attention spans and alleviate cognitive fatigue. When transferred to a factory setting, this may result in higher levels of job satisfaction, improved quality of work and increased safety. Also, according to the Industrial Psychiatry Journal, the more alert a user is, the less likely they are to make mistakes.

For these reasons, gamification can be useful when designing HMIs for the factory floor. As with games, HMIs can offer visual and audible feedback in response to the user’s input. The system can also reward the user with a series of points after a correct action, measure them against a set daily target, or suggest a following action after a task has been successfully completed.

Centigrade, a German design engineering company, is already offering tailored gamified software for HMIs that incorporates all of these techniques. At the Hannover Messe 2015 exhibition, Centrigrade unveiled its collaboration with SEW-EURODRIVE, a leader in industrial drive technology. The companies devised a gamified control system for autonomous guided vehicles responsible for transporting boxes in a factory. The user interface presented a bird’s eye view of the carrier boxes in the form of a real-time video stream. Augmented reality added status information for each box, inviting the user to line-up the boxes with drag-and-drop actions, not unlike in a video game.

This collaboration demonstrated that forward-thinking manufacturers already understand the potential of gamification in real-life applications.

Resource management is the basis of many strategy games, such as SimCity, where players must develop a city, planning roads and infrastructure, while sticking to a budget. A distinctive feature of these games is that one action from the user triggers a chain of events. For example, if the player starts building infrastructures but miscalculates the required funding, strikes will ensue.

The same principle can work on a production line where one action triggers a series of automatisms. If an operator orders the loading of a product into a carrier box, the input will translate this into a chain of commands: “Call a mobile vehicle”; “Load the item into the carrier box”; “Deliver the item to its target destination”; “Unload”; “Return the vehicle to the original position” and so on.

Gamification can be another way in which digitalised manufacturing uses data from the Internet of Things to optimise manufacturing processes. As with other Industry 4.0 technologies, by enlisting the support of a dedicated parts supplier it could be possible to revamp legacy equipment with smart sensors, add communication capabilities, or plug and play technologies and introduce new gamified interfaces to factories.

This applies whether they are is used to boost employee morale, reduce error rates and increase production efficiency, or ease the programming of autonomous vehicles in a factory.

Neil Ballinger is head of EMEA sales at automation parts supplier EU Automation.


Leer más

Publicado el 02/03/2020 en design and production, information and communications, comment, industry 4.0, gaming

Today’s factory and the road to the future



As the need for industrial robotic automation advances, sensing technology will continue to be the foundation for data collection that will help transform manufacturing floors into connected, cost effective, and reliable facilities.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is an ecosystem of devices, embedded with electronics, actuators, sensors, and connectivity. It brings “dumb” devices to a smart level where they can participate in the digital world. Sensors and associated interconnects are critical parts of any IIoT implementation.

As the IIoT smart factory experience evolves, it will run on data provided by sensors. This article explores some of the sensors, connectors, antennas and lighting solutions to meet those requirements.

Join this webinar to:

  • Learn which new types of connectivity are vital to IIoT
  • Understand why sensors are vital to the next generation of data-driven technology

Join us live on Thursday 5th March at 4pm CET / 3pm GMT or watch on demand - register your interest

This free webinar is available for IET members and non-members.

Should you have any specific query please email Alex Macleod at amacleod@theiet.org 

Preview Video

This short video 'The Future of How Things Are Made' gives you a feel for what this webinar will cover: 

 

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As the need for industrial robotic automation advances, sensing technology will continue to be the foundation for data collection that will help transform manufacturing floors into connected, cost effective, and reliable facilities.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is an ecosystem of devices, embedded with electronics, actuators, sensors, and connectivity. It brings “dumb” devices to a smart level where they can participate in the digital world. Sensors and associated interconnects are critical parts of any IIoT implementation.

As the IIoT smart factory experience evolves, it will run on data provided by sensors. This article explores some of the sensors, connectors, antennas and lighting solutions to meet those requirements.

Join this webinar to:

  • Learn which new types of connectivity are vital to IIoT
  • Understand why sensors are vital to the next generation of data-driven technology

Join us live on Thursday 5th March at 4pm CET / 3pm GMT or watch on demand - register your interest

This free webinar is available for IET members and non-members.

Should you have any specific query please email Alex Macleod at amacleod@theiet.org 

Preview Video

This short video 'The Future of How Things Are Made' gives you a feel for what this webinar will cover: 

 


Leer más

Publicado el 26/02/2020 en control and automation, manufacturing, manufacturing industries, robotics, iot, industry 4.0, webinar

IET Promoted - Manufacturing and Automation at Smart Factory Expo 2019



The IET's exhibition stand, located in the heart of the Smart Factory Expo alongside Siemens, Mazak, RS Components and Dell Technologies, enjoyed a constant stream of delegates, visitors and exhibitors. There was no shortage of talking points and hot topics to discuss. Find out what people had to say by watching these video shorts covering the adoption & implementation of digital technology, the trends of change in manufacturing job roles, and improving productivity. Thanks to everyone who agreed to take part.

In Conversation with Marcus Burton MBE on Manufacturing

Adopting digital technologies has been key to advancing UK manufacturing. We spoke to Marcus Burton MBE, the recent winner of the Mensworth Gold Medal at the IET’s Achievement Awards, to get his perspective on both the challenges and opportunities the future of manufacturing holds.

Where to start when adopting digital technologies within your manufacturing business?

Manufacturers are increasingly turning to digital technologies to improve their productivity. We spoke to committee executives of IET's Design & Manufacturing sector Jeremy Hadall (chair) and John Patsavellas, plus other leading industry experts, to get their advice on where manufacturers, who are keen to explore the opportunities, should start their journey.

How will manufacturing engineering job roles change in the future?

How will manufacturing engineering job roles change in the future? Which skills will manufacturing engineers need to see their careers rise, shine and thrive? We spoke to Jeremy Hadall, Dr Graham Herries and other leading industry experts to get their take on what the future may hold.

Which technologies will benefit our manufacturing business the most?

The rise in adoption of a vast range of digital technologies within manufacturing industry is enabling owners, managers and engineers alike to improve productivity, products and profits. But which technologies are providing the biggest boost? We spoke to leading industry experts to get their take on the tech.

Passionate about manufacturing, the IET is delighted to champion the sector, and the many men & women working in it to engineer a better world. Find out what the IET has to offer manufacturing champions by visiting this page on our website.

Leer más



The IET's exhibition stand, located in the heart of the Smart Factory Expo alongside Siemens, Mazak, RS Components and Dell Technologies, enjoyed a constant stream of delegates, visitors and exhibitors. There was no shortage of talking points and hot topics to discuss. Find out what people had to say by watching these video shorts covering the adoption & implementation of digital technology, the trends of change in manufacturing job roles, and improving productivity. Thanks to everyone who agreed to take part.

In Conversation with Marcus Burton MBE on Manufacturing

Adopting digital technologies has been key to advancing UK manufacturing. We spoke to Marcus Burton MBE, the recent winner of the Mensworth Gold Medal at the IET’s Achievement Awards, to get his perspective on both the challenges and opportunities the future of manufacturing holds.

Where to start when adopting digital technologies within your manufacturing business?

Manufacturers are increasingly turning to digital technologies to improve their productivity. We spoke to committee executives of IET's Design & Manufacturing sector Jeremy Hadall (chair) and John Patsavellas, plus other leading industry experts, to get their advice on where manufacturers, who are keen to explore the opportunities, should start their journey.

How will manufacturing engineering job roles change in the future?

How will manufacturing engineering job roles change in the future? Which skills will manufacturing engineers need to see their careers rise, shine and thrive? We spoke to Jeremy Hadall, Dr Graham Herries and other leading industry experts to get their take on what the future may hold.

Which technologies will benefit our manufacturing business the most?

The rise in adoption of a vast range of digital technologies within manufacturing industry is enabling owners, managers and engineers alike to improve productivity, products and profits. But which technologies are providing the biggest boost? We spoke to leading industry experts to get their take on the tech.

Passionate about manufacturing, the IET is delighted to champion the sector, and the many men & women working in it to engineer a better world. Find out what the IET has to offer manufacturing champions by visiting this page on our website.


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Publicado el 17/02/2020 en manufacturing, robotics, control and automation, manufacturing industries, iiot, industry 4.0, digital manufacturing

Whatever happened to the Fourth Industrial Revolution?



It’s nearly ten years since Industry 4.0, also known as I4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, was first hailed as the next significant transformation in manufacturing. The digital revolution would be all-consuming, we were told, covering robotics, advanced manufacturing processes such as 3D printing and the digitisation of the factory and the supply chain.

Where are we now, as we approach the year 2020, and what does the future hold for the revolution?

Since I4.0 arrived on the scene, companies have experimented and piloted digital technologies such as AI, machine-learning and Internet of Things devices. There are many examples of these new technologies being put to good use: digital twins and digital representations of the physical manufacturing processes are being used to refine and improve existing processes, as well as to design radically different manufacturing approaches. Work by my company PA Consulting at a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer has achieved efficiency improvements of between 10 and 20 per cent by using machine learning and AI through digital representations of the physical processes.

However, very few companies, especially in the UK, have translated these into practical solutions in their factories. A recent survey by PA of smart supply chains and manufacturing found that although 99 per cent of manufacturing companies have started the digitisation journey, some 70 per cent say their plans are only at a basic or developing stage. Why have so many tested the technologies but not adopted them more widely to revolutionise their industry?

The answer seems to be that although many companies have piloted and tested different I4.0 technologies, they have not built a clear vision of how they want to use them to transform manufacturing across their business. We see pockets of success and capability, but not a transformed business. What sets the more successful companies apart is that they are systematically looking at how they roll out the technologies across their operations. As an example, a life sciences company we worked with has recently agreed a clear I4.0 vision for its supply chain and manufacturing and this is being used to focus and accelerate delivery of initiatives across the business.

Legacy IT is also becoming a consistent challenge for manufacturers whose ageing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems cannot cope with the cloud-based digital technologies that are powering I4.0. A good example is an aerospace company which has identified that legacy ERP and manufacturing execution (MES) systems and restrictions on cloud computing are hindering rollout of I4.0 technologies. ERP vendors are waking up to this, but it has taken nearly five years for them to update their solutions and implementation is still too slow to support the agility and flexibility required. That means there is more to be done to ensure manufacturers can exploit data and systems and integrate new solutions with legacy systems so they can use their data to derive insights.

The other major challenge that organisations have faced is the availability of the people and talent needed to develop the new technologies and support the capability development of the existing workforce. The best performers have data scientists working alongside engineers and production operators to digitise the manufacturing process, but a fundamental shift in velocity will be required to train enough experts to seize the opportunities that are now opening up.

What do the next ten years hold for I4.0? We believe that many of the bedrock capabilities and technologies have been tested in organisations and that the next decade will be all about translating the promise into a fundamental transformation of manufacturing and its supply chains.

Addressing the barriers to adoption is within the grasp of manufacturing organisations, but a clear vision is needed of where they want to be in five years’ time. That means deciding whether the focus will be on driving existing performance, building connectivity across the supply chain or transforming to more agile and responsive manufacturing that is in total sync with customer needs. It will require IT departments to actively embrace cloud and digital technologies to support supply chain and manufacturing business to transform, as well as needing HR to establish effective partnerships with operations to address the talent gap.

While I4.0 progress has been slow over the last ten years, there is an argument that being late to the game may not be a bad thing. It means companies can piggyback off the testing and investment made by others, but they will need to act fast, bring the technology into the mainstream and make manufacturing an exciting and attractive career option.

Tim Lawrence is head of manufacturing at PA Consulting.

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It’s nearly ten years since Industry 4.0, also known as I4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, was first hailed as the next significant transformation in manufacturing. The digital revolution would be all-consuming, we were told, covering robotics, advanced manufacturing processes such as 3D printing and the digitisation of the factory and the supply chain.

Where are we now, as we approach the year 2020, and what does the future hold for the revolution?

Since I4.0 arrived on the scene, companies have experimented and piloted digital technologies such as AI, machine-learning and Internet of Things devices. There are many examples of these new technologies being put to good use: digital twins and digital representations of the physical manufacturing processes are being used to refine and improve existing processes, as well as to design radically different manufacturing approaches. Work by my company PA Consulting at a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer has achieved efficiency improvements of between 10 and 20 per cent by using machine learning and AI through digital representations of the physical processes.

However, very few companies, especially in the UK, have translated these into practical solutions in their factories. A recent survey by PA of smart supply chains and manufacturing found that although 99 per cent of manufacturing companies have started the digitisation journey, some 70 per cent say their plans are only at a basic or developing stage. Why have so many tested the technologies but not adopted them more widely to revolutionise their industry?

The answer seems to be that although many companies have piloted and tested different I4.0 technologies, they have not built a clear vision of how they want to use them to transform manufacturing across their business. We see pockets of success and capability, but not a transformed business. What sets the more successful companies apart is that they are systematically looking at how they roll out the technologies across their operations. As an example, a life sciences company we worked with has recently agreed a clear I4.0 vision for its supply chain and manufacturing and this is being used to focus and accelerate delivery of initiatives across the business.

Legacy IT is also becoming a consistent challenge for manufacturers whose ageing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems cannot cope with the cloud-based digital technologies that are powering I4.0. A good example is an aerospace company which has identified that legacy ERP and manufacturing execution (MES) systems and restrictions on cloud computing are hindering rollout of I4.0 technologies. ERP vendors are waking up to this, but it has taken nearly five years for them to update their solutions and implementation is still too slow to support the agility and flexibility required. That means there is more to be done to ensure manufacturers can exploit data and systems and integrate new solutions with legacy systems so they can use their data to derive insights.

The other major challenge that organisations have faced is the availability of the people and talent needed to develop the new technologies and support the capability development of the existing workforce. The best performers have data scientists working alongside engineers and production operators to digitise the manufacturing process, but a fundamental shift in velocity will be required to train enough experts to seize the opportunities that are now opening up.

What do the next ten years hold for I4.0? We believe that many of the bedrock capabilities and technologies have been tested in organisations and that the next decade will be all about translating the promise into a fundamental transformation of manufacturing and its supply chains.

Addressing the barriers to adoption is within the grasp of manufacturing organisations, but a clear vision is needed of where they want to be in five years’ time. That means deciding whether the focus will be on driving existing performance, building connectivity across the supply chain or transforming to more agile and responsive manufacturing that is in total sync with customer needs. It will require IT departments to actively embrace cloud and digital technologies to support supply chain and manufacturing business to transform, as well as needing HR to establish effective partnerships with operations to address the talent gap.

While I4.0 progress has been slow over the last ten years, there is an argument that being late to the game may not be a bad thing. It means companies can piggyback off the testing and investment made by others, but they will need to act fast, bring the technology into the mainstream and make manufacturing an exciting and attractive career option.

Tim Lawrence is head of manufacturing at PA Consulting.


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Publicado el 31/10/2019 en manufacturing, control and automation, manufacturing industries, industry 4.0, manufacturing, comment, volume 14 issue 11 12

Entrepreneurs welcome at Barclays’ latest Eagle Lab at Plexal, East London



One of 24 such spaces that the bank has opened across the UK, Barclays’ Eagle Labs aim to work as incubators for new ideas, bringing together a community of likeminded entrepreneurs and providing them with access to a collaborative environment, peer networks and growth opportunities.

The focus is to help accelerate UK scale-ups and enable access to new and emerging ‘Industry 4.0’ technologies such as AI, blockchain, 3D printing, advanced manufacturing, robotics and the Internet of Things.

This latest iteration - the Eagle Lab at Plexal– is based at the Plexal innovation centre, located at the Here East campus in East London. Launched in 2017, Plexal is designed as a mini-city, with its own indoor park, high street, indoor street food and a prototyping workshop. The various startup and scaleup members of Plexal’s workspace benefit from a comprehensive programme of events and in-house professional services.

Plexal was also appointed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to deliver the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement (LORCA), a three-year innovation programme aimed at scaling the cyber-security solutions needed most by industry.

Eagle Lab at Plexal includes a workshop space, co-working desks, a maker space and a dedicated Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality zone. Entrepreneurs using the space are supported by an Ecosystem Manager and a dedicated Lab Engineer who provide the technical expertise, mentoring and connections required for Industry 4.0 businesses to flourish.

Many of Plexal’s existing members, such as Valkyrie Industries (developing a universal technology of haptic touch for virtual simulations) and Massless (creators of the Massless Pen for more intuitive input in 2D and 3D interfaces), will take desk space in the Eagle Lab. All Plexal members will enjoy free access to the Lab, as well as guidance from the team. Barclays’ local business banking teams and specialist ‘high-growth’ managers are also available to provide banking support to companies and entrepreneurs.

Jon Hope, director Barclays Eagle Labs, said: “Plexal is an ideal location for our dedicated Industry 4.0 Eagle Lab and this new facility will further our investment in London’s entrepreneurs. The fourth industrial revolution is changing how and where we all work and the skills we need. Eagle Labs is committed to supporting develop skills in entrepreneurship, innovation and in new and emerging technologies such as AI, data exchange, connected devices, advanced manufacturing and much more.

“As a partner, Plexal is as passionate as we are about helping London’s entrepreneurs to maintain their position at the forefront of technology.”

Andrew Roughan, managing director at Plexal, said: “It’s essential that everyone in society has the skills needed for Industry 4.0, so we’re excited and proud to be hosting Barclays’ flagship Eagle Labs right at the heart of our innovation centre. It’s hugely beneficial for our members to have access to the equipment in the lab, along with the expertise of the Barclays’ team. This is the start of an exciting journey, as we witness how our community of creatives, designers, engineers, coders and makers comes together to find new and innovative solutions.”

The opening of Eagle Lab at Plexal follows the creation in 2018 of a new business unit at Barclays called Barclays Ventures. Barclays Ventures has an independent mandate to deliver new customer experiences at pace and scale – ultimately driving growth for communities, businesses and Barclays – and is responsible for growing the Eagle Lab network.

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One of 24 such spaces that the bank has opened across the UK, Barclays’ Eagle Labs aim to work as incubators for new ideas, bringing together a community of likeminded entrepreneurs and providing them with access to a collaborative environment, peer networks and growth opportunities.

The focus is to help accelerate UK scale-ups and enable access to new and emerging ‘Industry 4.0’ technologies such as AI, blockchain, 3D printing, advanced manufacturing, robotics and the Internet of Things.

This latest iteration - the Eagle Lab at Plexal– is based at the Plexal innovation centre, located at the Here East campus in East London. Launched in 2017, Plexal is designed as a mini-city, with its own indoor park, high street, indoor street food and a prototyping workshop. The various startup and scaleup members of Plexal’s workspace benefit from a comprehensive programme of events and in-house professional services.

Plexal was also appointed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to deliver the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement (LORCA), a three-year innovation programme aimed at scaling the cyber-security solutions needed most by industry.

Eagle Lab at Plexal includes a workshop space, co-working desks, a maker space and a dedicated Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality zone. Entrepreneurs using the space are supported by an Ecosystem Manager and a dedicated Lab Engineer who provide the technical expertise, mentoring and connections required for Industry 4.0 businesses to flourish.

Many of Plexal’s existing members, such as Valkyrie Industries (developing a universal technology of haptic touch for virtual simulations) and Massless (creators of the Massless Pen for more intuitive input in 2D and 3D interfaces), will take desk space in the Eagle Lab. All Plexal members will enjoy free access to the Lab, as well as guidance from the team. Barclays’ local business banking teams and specialist ‘high-growth’ managers are also available to provide banking support to companies and entrepreneurs.

Jon Hope, director Barclays Eagle Labs, said: “Plexal is an ideal location for our dedicated Industry 4.0 Eagle Lab and this new facility will further our investment in London’s entrepreneurs. The fourth industrial revolution is changing how and where we all work and the skills we need. Eagle Labs is committed to supporting develop skills in entrepreneurship, innovation and in new and emerging technologies such as AI, data exchange, connected devices, advanced manufacturing and much more.

“As a partner, Plexal is as passionate as we are about helping London’s entrepreneurs to maintain their position at the forefront of technology.”

Andrew Roughan, managing director at Plexal, said: “It’s essential that everyone in society has the skills needed for Industry 4.0, so we’re excited and proud to be hosting Barclays’ flagship Eagle Labs right at the heart of our innovation centre. It’s hugely beneficial for our members to have access to the equipment in the lab, along with the expertise of the Barclays’ team. This is the start of an exciting journey, as we witness how our community of creatives, designers, engineers, coders and makers comes together to find new and innovative solutions.”

The opening of Eagle Lab at Plexal follows the creation in 2018 of a new business unit at Barclays called Barclays Ventures. Barclays Ventures has an independent mandate to deliver new customer experiences at pace and scale – ultimately driving growth for communities, businesses and Barclays – and is responsible for growing the Eagle Lab network.


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Publicado el 25/09/2019 en entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs, innovation, research and innovation, industry 4.0, artificial intelligence, business, blockchain, 3d printing

Raspberry Pi 4 unveiled; interview with founder Eben Upton



Eben Upton, Raspberry Pi founder and co-creator of the miniature Linux-based device, said the new computer is the first Raspberry Pi to deliver on the kind of desktop experience that consumers expect without any of the performance-related “compromises” experienced with the earlier generations.

For the first time, the machine will be available with up to 4GB of Ram and a range of pricier bundle packages will also include a mouse, keyboard, SD card, power supply, cables and case.

raspberry pi 4

Image credit: raspberry pi

New features also include gigabit ethernet, a step up from the 100mbit ports of previous generations that proved to be a sore point for enthusiasts, and USB 3.0 ports, rather than 2.0.

Originally launched in 2012, the Pi is a single-board computer running off an Arm chip that is designed to be low-cost, user customisable and was created with education and developing countries in mind.

With its enhanced specs allowing for greater media capabilities, the Raspberry Pi 4 is also being aimed at more traditional consumer markets as a cheap media centre or Linux desktop environment.

E&T spoke to Upton (pictured) to discuss all things Pi and why he is more excited about the Raspberry Pi 4 than previous generations.

EBEN upton raspberry pi

Image credit: raspberry pi

On the Raspberry Pi 4

“I can’t decide if this is the most exciting thing we’ve done since Raspberry Pi 2 or the most exciting thing we’ve done ever. It is the realisation of the dream; it’s a PC and this is the first time that there really are no compromises.

“If you think about who’s buying Raspberry Pis, you’ve got people buying it for industrial use, you’ve got hobbyists and makers and then you have a pool of people who are buying it as a genuine consumer-end product.

“We’ve sold about 26 or 27 million lifetime so far, six million last year. Probably half of those went to industry. It’s now an ultra-HD (4K) platform, whereas previous generations were restricted to 1080P video playback.

“We’ve put quite a lot of effort this time into the UX, into polishing everything a little bit and making the user interface look modern and flat.

“We’ve moved down a process node [on the Arm processor] so we were on 40nm and we’re now on 28nm. The energy savings that you get from that then pay for the extra performance that you get out of it.

“It is now USB-C for power, not because we want to have more power on the board, but because we want to have more power left over to pass down to outbound USB [like keyboards and mice]. There isn’t really the ability to consume more thermally, it’s hard to consume more on the board.

On manufacturing and how automation makes Wales cheaper than China

“We’ve seen manufacturing costs decrease. If you think about what goes into a Raspberry Pi, you have components, you have manufacturing costs and taking those components and making a working product. And then you have margin.

“What’s happened is that margins have stayed largely the same and we’ve squeezed manufacturing costs through automation and expanded the fraction of the end price devoted to components. Particularly putting Wi-FiI on was a significant extra slug of cash per unit [Wi-Fi was first added in 2016 with the Raspberry Pi 3].

“You’ve got three things that are driving an increase in performance: you’ve got Moore’s law; you’ve got the general cheapening of electronics; you have automation, which reduces the manufacturing cost element, and then you have economies of scale, effectively purchasing power.

raspberry pi

Image credit: raspberry pi

“It was a very different world when we were building 10,000 versus now when we build six million units a year. We tend to pass those through to consumers: when we get cost savings in any of those areas, we tend to put more value into the product, rather than making a bigger profit. It’s one of the things that’s meant that we’ve stayed competitive over time.

“It’s a lower cost to make [Raspberry Pi’s] in the UK than in China. We did it in 2012, we built it in China. I think at low volume it is cheaper because you use more people and people are cheaper in China.

“As you get to more scaling, particularly with a fairly low-touch product like this, where you can put a lot of automation into the manufacturing, you’ll find that the excellence in automation design that we have in this country burns through any labour advantage over China.

“Even in 2012, we were at landed cost parity. We started building in the UK within six months of launch. At that point, the factory gate cost was a little higher in the UK, but once you’ve landed, China and the UK were the same.

“With increasing automation we’ve opened a massive gap between what this cost to make in China and what this cost to make in Wales. We’re not moving stuff to the UK because we’re nice guys; we build in the UK because we’re cheap. That's a core part of the value and the way we can deliver the product at price.

“We used to have manual inspection and tests for the first generation. This doesn't exist any more. Right now, somebody takes the PI, breaks it out of a panel, puts it in a little carrier, it gets whisked off into completely automated machinery.

“About one in a thousand gets scrapped. That's still a lot of units if you're making six million; you end up with a couple of pallets a year of scrap.

On developing countries and why it’s so hard to sell computers in Brazil

“We’ve spent quite a long time trying to get Raspberry Pis into the Brazil market and that’s because it’s so tax heavy. It's very difficult: Brazil really wants you to manufacture your products in Brazil.

“We tried manufacturing products in Brazil and couldn’t figure out how to sell them, so we just exported them to the US. We built around 1,000 in Brazil and they just sat there in the factory while we tried to figure out what the tax situation for them was. Even though we built them in Brazil, it was almost impossible to figure out.

“Then you have places like sub-Saharan Africa. One thing about this product is that it has analogue television output, so you can run this desktop on a composite telly from 1960. The thing is, Africa itself is rammed full of old televisions.

“The interesting thing about TVs in the developing world is that people buy them before they buy refrigerators. Televisions are useful if you have intermittent electricity, you can use it sometimes. If you have seriously intermittent electricity, refrigeration is of no use.

“I've been roundly mocked for keeping composite in the feature set, but it's specifically for this Africa problem.

“You've also got two HDMI connectors and you've got four USB ports, so you can plug two monitors, two mice, two keyboards in and you have a multi-user session. That obviously halves your hardware cost.”

On getting Windows to run on a Raspberry Pi

“So, there are two Windows Arm versions. There’s this thing called Windows 10 IOT which does run on Raspberry Pis but it’s not the familiar desktop environment. It’s great, but we don’t describe that as ‘We run Windows’ because we’re just setting people up for disappointment.

“There is then the Windows Arm version that runs on always-on ultrabook PCs. Some people have managed to get some versions of that running on earlier versions of Raspberry Pis.

“We would love to work with Microsoft to have Windows on Raspberry Pi, there is a value proposition for it which is primarily around Office, but we're not there yet.

“The Raspberry Pi 4 has enough performance to run Windows extremely well. There would be some substantial pieces of software engineering to make it work, but there are no conceptual barriers. It has enough performance. I mean, it’s more powerful than any Windows PC from a decade ago.”

On the Raspberry Pi 5 and hopes for the future

“What’s interesting is that with Raspberry Pi 3 we had some of everything, so we had wired networking, wireless networking, USB, processing, graphics and general purpose interfacing.

“It takes about three years [to develop each generation of the Pi]. The quickest we’ve ever done was about 18 months, on the Pi 3. The longest we've ever done was these 3 years for the Pi 4.

“[The Raspberry Pi 4] is just the same, but more. Where we had USB 2.0, we now have USB 3.0. Where we had 100 megabit ethernet, we have gigabit ethernet. Where we had a gigabyte of Ram, we now have up to four. Where we had an A53 processor we now have an A72.

“But there’s nothing on there which is qualitatively different; it’s all just quantitative. That’s probably not an unreasonable description of where we might find ourselves.

“There’s 16nm and 7nm as the obvious next stopping points [for future processors]. We don’t have any plans at the moment, but there are places left to go. This platform should be good for another few years.

“28 is a great process, the nice thing about arriving so late is that it’s a very stable process. We might stay on it for five to seven years while we wait for 16 to get a bit cheaper or for 7 to stop being so unstable.”

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Eben Upton, Raspberry Pi founder and co-creator of the miniature Linux-based device, said the new computer is the first Raspberry Pi to deliver on the kind of desktop experience that consumers expect without any of the performance-related “compromises” experienced with the earlier generations.

For the first time, the machine will be available with up to 4GB of Ram and a range of pricier bundle packages will also include a mouse, keyboard, SD card, power supply, cables and case.

raspberry pi 4

Image credit: raspberry pi

New features also include gigabit ethernet, a step up from the 100mbit ports of previous generations that proved to be a sore point for enthusiasts, and USB 3.0 ports, rather than 2.0.

Originally launched in 2012, the Pi is a single-board computer running off an Arm chip that is designed to be low-cost, user customisable and was created with education and developing countries in mind.

With its enhanced specs allowing for greater media capabilities, the Raspberry Pi 4 is also being aimed at more traditional consumer markets as a cheap media centre or Linux desktop environment.

E&T spoke to Upton (pictured) to discuss all things Pi and why he is more excited about the Raspberry Pi 4 than previous generations.

EBEN upton raspberry pi

Image credit: raspberry pi

On the Raspberry Pi 4

“I can’t decide if this is the most exciting thing we’ve done since Raspberry Pi 2 or the most exciting thing we’ve done ever. It is the realisation of the dream; it’s a PC and this is the first time that there really are no compromises.

“If you think about who’s buying Raspberry Pis, you’ve got people buying it for industrial use, you’ve got hobbyists and makers and then you have a pool of people who are buying it as a genuine consumer-end product.

“We’ve sold about 26 or 27 million lifetime so far, six million last year. Probably half of those went to industry. It’s now an ultra-HD (4K) platform, whereas previous generations were restricted to 1080P video playback.

“We’ve put quite a lot of effort this time into the UX, into polishing everything a little bit and making the user interface look modern and flat.

“We’ve moved down a process node [on the Arm processor] so we were on 40nm and we’re now on 28nm. The energy savings that you get from that then pay for the extra performance that you get out of it.

“It is now USB-C for power, not because we want to have more power on the board, but because we want to have more power left over to pass down to outbound USB [like keyboards and mice]. There isn’t really the ability to consume more thermally, it’s hard to consume more on the board.

On manufacturing and how automation makes Wales cheaper than China

“We’ve seen manufacturing costs decrease. If you think about what goes into a Raspberry Pi, you have components, you have manufacturing costs and taking those components and making a working product. And then you have margin.

“What’s happened is that margins have stayed largely the same and we’ve squeezed manufacturing costs through automation and expanded the fraction of the end price devoted to components. Particularly putting Wi-FiI on was a significant extra slug of cash per unit [Wi-Fi was first added in 2016 with the Raspberry Pi 3].

“You’ve got three things that are driving an increase in performance: you’ve got Moore’s law; you’ve got the general cheapening of electronics; you have automation, which reduces the manufacturing cost element, and then you have economies of scale, effectively purchasing power.

raspberry pi

Image credit: raspberry pi

“It was a very different world when we were building 10,000 versus now when we build six million units a year. We tend to pass those through to consumers: when we get cost savings in any of those areas, we tend to put more value into the product, rather than making a bigger profit. It’s one of the things that’s meant that we’ve stayed competitive over time.

“It’s a lower cost to make [Raspberry Pi’s] in the UK than in China. We did it in 2012, we built it in China. I think at low volume it is cheaper because you use more people and people are cheaper in China.

“As you get to more scaling, particularly with a fairly low-touch product like this, where you can put a lot of automation into the manufacturing, you’ll find that the excellence in automation design that we have in this country burns through any labour advantage over China.

“Even in 2012, we were at landed cost parity. We started building in the UK within six months of launch. At that point, the factory gate cost was a little higher in the UK, but once you’ve landed, China and the UK were the same.

“With increasing automation we’ve opened a massive gap between what this cost to make in China and what this cost to make in Wales. We’re not moving stuff to the UK because we’re nice guys; we build in the UK because we’re cheap. That's a core part of the value and the way we can deliver the product at price.

“We used to have manual inspection and tests for the first generation. This doesn't exist any more. Right now, somebody takes the PI, breaks it out of a panel, puts it in a little carrier, it gets whisked off into completely automated machinery.

“About one in a thousand gets scrapped. That's still a lot of units if you're making six million; you end up with a couple of pallets a year of scrap.

On developing countries and why it’s so hard to sell computers in Brazil

“We’ve spent quite a long time trying to get Raspberry Pis into the Brazil market and that’s because it’s so tax heavy. It's very difficult: Brazil really wants you to manufacture your products in Brazil.

“We tried manufacturing products in Brazil and couldn’t figure out how to sell them, so we just exported them to the US. We built around 1,000 in Brazil and they just sat there in the factory while we tried to figure out what the tax situation for them was. Even though we built them in Brazil, it was almost impossible to figure out.

“Then you have places like sub-Saharan Africa. One thing about this product is that it has analogue television output, so you can run this desktop on a composite telly from 1960. The thing is, Africa itself is rammed full of old televisions.

“The interesting thing about TVs in the developing world is that people buy them before they buy refrigerators. Televisions are useful if you have intermittent electricity, you can use it sometimes. If you have seriously intermittent electricity, refrigeration is of no use.

“I've been roundly mocked for keeping composite in the feature set, but it's specifically for this Africa problem.

“You've also got two HDMI connectors and you've got four USB ports, so you can plug two monitors, two mice, two keyboards in and you have a multi-user session. That obviously halves your hardware cost.”

On getting Windows to run on a Raspberry Pi

“So, there are two Windows Arm versions. There’s this thing called Windows 10 IOT which does run on Raspberry Pis but it’s not the familiar desktop environment. It’s great, but we don’t describe that as ‘We run Windows’ because we’re just setting people up for disappointment.

“There is then the Windows Arm version that runs on always-on ultrabook PCs. Some people have managed to get some versions of that running on earlier versions of Raspberry Pis.

“We would love to work with Microsoft to have Windows on Raspberry Pi, there is a value proposition for it which is primarily around Office, but we're not there yet.

“The Raspberry Pi 4 has enough performance to run Windows extremely well. There would be some substantial pieces of software engineering to make it work, but there are no conceptual barriers. It has enough performance. I mean, it’s more powerful than any Windows PC from a decade ago.”

On the Raspberry Pi 5 and hopes for the future

“What’s interesting is that with Raspberry Pi 3 we had some of everything, so we had wired networking, wireless networking, USB, processing, graphics and general purpose interfacing.

“It takes about three years [to develop each generation of the Pi]. The quickest we’ve ever done was about 18 months, on the Pi 3. The longest we've ever done was these 3 years for the Pi 4.

“[The Raspberry Pi 4] is just the same, but more. Where we had USB 2.0, we now have USB 3.0. Where we had 100 megabit ethernet, we have gigabit ethernet. Where we had a gigabyte of Ram, we now have up to four. Where we had an A53 processor we now have an A72.

“But there’s nothing on there which is qualitatively different; it’s all just quantitative. That’s probably not an unreasonable description of where we might find ourselves.

“There’s 16nm and 7nm as the obvious next stopping points [for future processors]. We don’t have any plans at the moment, but there are places left to go. This platform should be good for another few years.

“28 is a great process, the nice thing about arriving so late is that it’s a very stable process. We might stay on it for five to seven years while we wait for 16 to get a bit cheaper or for 7 to stop being so unstable.”


Leer más

Publicado el 24/06/2019 en information and communications, computer hardware, computers, raspberry pi, gadgets, developing countries, manufacturing, consumer technology, industry 4.0, computing

Smart glove with ultra-thin flexible film developed for Industry 4.0



According to members of the team who created the film, it can establish a direct connection between the virtual and real working worlds, where man and machine could work hand-in-hand.

The research team led by Professor Stefan Seelecke achieved this through the use of smart silicone films, with another goal of the research work being to assist the wearer of the glove by transmitting tactile signals, such as pulses or vibrations, that are produced by the polymer film.

The researchers took an ultra-lightweight, highly flexible film made from an elastic polymer and have turned it into an adaptable “sensory organ” for a variety of technical applications.

By lining a glove with the polymer film, manufacturers can create a man-machine interface without the need for heavy sensors or cameras. This can be done by the ultra-thin plastic film that is not felt by the wearer and does not restrict them when carrying out their work.

“The film we use is known as a dielectric elastomer and the glove essentially functions as a flexible sensor,” explained Professor Seelecke, who heads research teams at the Intelligent Material Systems Lab at the university and at ZeMA (Centre for Mechatronics and Automation Technology) in Saarbrücken.

An electrically conducting material is printed onto both sides of the silicone film. When a voltage is applied to the film, the resulting electrostatic attractive forces cause the film to compress. This extends the film laterally and thus increasing its surface area, which in turn alters the electrical capacitance of the film.

This property effectively transforms the film into a sensor. “We can assign a precise electrical capacitance value to any particular position of the film,” said Steffen Hau, a PhD engineer working in Seelecke’s team.

The engineers therefore know at any moment just how a finger is stretching, pulling or compressing the film. Using algorithms, the team was able to compute these motion sequences in a control unit and then process the results with a computer.

Doctoral student Sebastian Gratz-Kelly from Professor Stefan Seelecke's research group demonstrates the prototype glove

PhD student Sebastian Gratz-Kelly from Professor Stefan Seelecke's research group demonstrates the prototype glove; Oliver Dietze

Image credit: Oliver Dietze

Furthering the development process, the researchers aim to enable the glove to communicate directly with the wearer by means of tactile signals, such as pulses or vibrations, that would be sensed by the wearer’s fingers.

“The computer could then send, for instance, a pulsed signal to the operator’s fingertips to tell them, ‘You’ve taken the wrong component’, or a vibrating signal to confirm, ‘That is the right component”,” Hau explained .

The thin silicone can also be made to pulse or vibrate on demand or to take up any required shape. The researchers can control their silicone film and can continuously vary the frequency of its motion as required, from high-frequency vibrations down to a slow pulsing or flexing motion.

In the future, this responsive film could be used to prevent assembly operators or technicians picking up the wrong component for sorting bins.

The team plans to showcase the protype glove at the technical trade fair Hannover Messe from the 1-5 April 2019 at the Saarland Research and Innovation Stand.

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According to members of the team who created the film, it can establish a direct connection between the virtual and real working worlds, where man and machine could work hand-in-hand.

The research team led by Professor Stefan Seelecke achieved this through the use of smart silicone films, with another goal of the research work being to assist the wearer of the glove by transmitting tactile signals, such as pulses or vibrations, that are produced by the polymer film.

The researchers took an ultra-lightweight, highly flexible film made from an elastic polymer and have turned it into an adaptable “sensory organ” for a variety of technical applications.

By lining a glove with the polymer film, manufacturers can create a man-machine interface without the need for heavy sensors or cameras. This can be done by the ultra-thin plastic film that is not felt by the wearer and does not restrict them when carrying out their work.

“The film we use is known as a dielectric elastomer and the glove essentially functions as a flexible sensor,” explained Professor Seelecke, who heads research teams at the Intelligent Material Systems Lab at the university and at ZeMA (Centre for Mechatronics and Automation Technology) in Saarbrücken.

An electrically conducting material is printed onto both sides of the silicone film. When a voltage is applied to the film, the resulting electrostatic attractive forces cause the film to compress. This extends the film laterally and thus increasing its surface area, which in turn alters the electrical capacitance of the film.

This property effectively transforms the film into a sensor. “We can assign a precise electrical capacitance value to any particular position of the film,” said Steffen Hau, a PhD engineer working in Seelecke’s team.

The engineers therefore know at any moment just how a finger is stretching, pulling or compressing the film. Using algorithms, the team was able to compute these motion sequences in a control unit and then process the results with a computer.

Doctoral student Sebastian Gratz-Kelly from Professor Stefan Seelecke's research group demonstrates the prototype glove

PhD student Sebastian Gratz-Kelly from Professor Stefan Seelecke's research group demonstrates the prototype glove; Oliver Dietze

Image credit: Oliver Dietze

Furthering the development process, the researchers aim to enable the glove to communicate directly with the wearer by means of tactile signals, such as pulses or vibrations, that would be sensed by the wearer’s fingers.

“The computer could then send, for instance, a pulsed signal to the operator’s fingertips to tell them, ‘You’ve taken the wrong component’, or a vibrating signal to confirm, ‘That is the right component”,” Hau explained .

The thin silicone can also be made to pulse or vibrate on demand or to take up any required shape. The researchers can control their silicone film and can continuously vary the frequency of its motion as required, from high-frequency vibrations down to a slow pulsing or flexing motion.

In the future, this responsive film could be used to prevent assembly operators or technicians picking up the wrong component for sorting bins.

The team plans to showcase the protype glove at the technical trade fair Hannover Messe from the 1-5 April 2019 at the Saarland Research and Innovation Stand.


Leer más

Publicado el 20/03/2019 en germany, research and innovation, industrial, manufacturing, smart materials, industry 4.0

Edge Data Center for innovative IoT solutions



Fast, Simple, Effective: Edge Data Center for innovative IoT solutions

Companies that employ machine-to-machine communication to streamline manufacturing require real-time capabilities.

IT resources deployed in close geographical proximity ensure that latency is low, and data readily available. 

The Rittal Edge Data Centre provides an effective answer to this need. It is a turn-key, pre-configured solution based on standardised infrastructure. It can be implemented rapidly and cost-efficiently – paving the way for Industry 4.0 applications.

The sensors and actuators deployed in smart production systems continuously relay information on the status of processes and infrastructure. This forms the basis for innovative services – such as alerts, predictive maintenance, and machine self-optimisation – delivered by the company’s IT department in real time.  To make this possible, and to rapidly respond to events and anomalies, low latency between production and IT infrastructure is critical.

Fast, simple, effective

A remote cloud data centre is unable to support these scenarios. The solution is edge computing, i.e. computing resources at the perimeter of a given network. With this in mind, Rittal has introduced a new edge data centre: an end-to-end product with standardised, preconfigured IT infrastructure.

The Rittal Edge Data Centre comprises two Rittal TS IT racks, plus corresponding modules for climate control, power distribution, UPS, fire suppression, monitoring and secure access. These units are available in various output classes, and can be easily combined for rapid deployment. Moreover, to safeguard critical components from heat, dust and dirt in industrial environments, the Rittal Edge Data Center can be implemented in a self-contained high-availability room.

As Clive Partridge, Rittal’s Technical Manager for IT Infrastructure, observes: “The Edge Data Center allows organisations to quickly and simply establish IT environments equipped for the challenges of what’s been termed “the fourth industrial revolution”.  Combined with the as-a-service offering that we jointly provide with iNNOVO Cloud, the Rittal Edge Data Center is a complete, one-stop solution for enterprises of all sizes.”

To streamline edge data centre planning, Rittal offers a special web-based configurator (www.rittal.de/configuration-system) which means compact and small enclosures can now be quickly and easily configured online. Customers can choose the right accessories, without reference to a catalogue, then position and prepare the enclosure for mechanical processing.

Self-managed or managed services

Customers who would prefer not to operate the edge data centre themselves can opt for Rittal’s data-centre-as-a-service (DCaaS) offering. They are then free to focus on their core tasks while harnessing the benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) for their business. Hand-in-hand with its IT-as-a-service (ITaaS) platform provider iNNOVO Cloud, Rittal also offers private-cloud data centres in shipping containers, plus ITaaS. The containers are fully equipped with all key active components, such as servers, network connectivity and storage for immediate use.

The Rittal Edge Data Center can be extended two racks at a time. Moreover, the modular approach provides customers with diverse options, allowing it to accommodate a variety of scenarios – for example, installation in an IT security room, or in a container, to be located wherever it is required.

Further information at www.rittal.co.uk and www.friedhelm-loh-group.com or on twitter @rittal_ltd.     

Leer más



Fast, Simple, Effective: Edge Data Center for innovative IoT solutions

Companies that employ machine-to-machine communication to streamline manufacturing require real-time capabilities.

IT resources deployed in close geographical proximity ensure that latency is low, and data readily available. 

The Rittal Edge Data Centre provides an effective answer to this need. It is a turn-key, pre-configured solution based on standardised infrastructure. It can be implemented rapidly and cost-efficiently – paving the way for Industry 4.0 applications.

The sensors and actuators deployed in smart production systems continuously relay information on the status of processes and infrastructure. This forms the basis for innovative services – such as alerts, predictive maintenance, and machine self-optimisation – delivered by the company’s IT department in real time.  To make this possible, and to rapidly respond to events and anomalies, low latency between production and IT infrastructure is critical.

Fast, simple, effective

A remote cloud data centre is unable to support these scenarios. The solution is edge computing, i.e. computing resources at the perimeter of a given network. With this in mind, Rittal has introduced a new edge data centre: an end-to-end product with standardised, preconfigured IT infrastructure.

The Rittal Edge Data Centre comprises two Rittal TS IT racks, plus corresponding modules for climate control, power distribution, UPS, fire suppression, monitoring and secure access. These units are available in various output classes, and can be easily combined for rapid deployment. Moreover, to safeguard critical components from heat, dust and dirt in industrial environments, the Rittal Edge Data Center can be implemented in a self-contained high-availability room.

As Clive Partridge, Rittal’s Technical Manager for IT Infrastructure, observes: “The Edge Data Center allows organisations to quickly and simply establish IT environments equipped for the challenges of what’s been termed “the fourth industrial revolution”.  Combined with the as-a-service offering that we jointly provide with iNNOVO Cloud, the Rittal Edge Data Center is a complete, one-stop solution for enterprises of all sizes.”

To streamline edge data centre planning, Rittal offers a special web-based configurator (www.rittal.de/configuration-system) which means compact and small enclosures can now be quickly and easily configured online. Customers can choose the right accessories, without reference to a catalogue, then position and prepare the enclosure for mechanical processing.

Self-managed or managed services

Customers who would prefer not to operate the edge data centre themselves can opt for Rittal’s data-centre-as-a-service (DCaaS) offering. They are then free to focus on their core tasks while harnessing the benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) for their business. Hand-in-hand with its IT-as-a-service (ITaaS) platform provider iNNOVO Cloud, Rittal also offers private-cloud data centres in shipping containers, plus ITaaS. The containers are fully equipped with all key active components, such as servers, network connectivity and storage for immediate use.

The Rittal Edge Data Center can be extended two racks at a time. Moreover, the modular approach provides customers with diverse options, allowing it to accommodate a variety of scenarios – for example, installation in an IT security room, or in a container, to be located wherever it is required.

Further information at www.rittal.co.uk and www.friedhelm-loh-group.com or on twitter @rittal_ltd.     


Leer más

Publicado el 21/03/2018 en data centre, iot, industry 4.0, it, manufacturing, power

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