Open solutions for automation 4.0

The open IoT system by Phoenix Contact enables the creation of the appropriate solution for any cloud-based application, be it dedicated to data analysis or gathering
or to a complete automation concept. On long distances too

by Sara Morri

Industry 4.0 implies much more than the mere use of new technologies in factories and management processes. It represents a great change: the complete integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes will change products and industrial processes completely. Digitization will help in overcoming the previous department boundaries within organizations, introducing new forms of work and, above all, c reating integrated digital industries. In order to reach the aim of an interconnected and flexible production it is necessary to adopt more versatile and communication-oriented automation solutions. All users of the automation system must abandon their static connections to allow a dynamic exchange of data between plants within and outside the company boundaries, allowing the development of products able to compete in the long term on international markets. For this reason, Phoenix Contact developed the open control platform based on PLCnext Technology.

Use of different tested software tools and programming languages
The solution allows programming the control system using such software tools as Visual Studio, Eclipse, Matlab Simulink and PC Worx, as well as the use of different programming languages within the same project. Thanks to PLCnext Technology it is possible to combine, for instance, functions compliant with IEC 61131-3 and C/C++, C# or Matlab Simulink routines, making the implementation of software applications simple and flexible. To program according to IEC 61131-3, the new PC Worx Engineer software has an adaptive design platform which provides the user with an innovative user experience. Besides programming, this software allows configuration, diagnostics and visualisation of the entire system in a single program. The design platform offers more than a customized, simple and intuitive interface; it also provides functions which are oriented towards the future. Users may purchase the single modules needed for their project to add to the basic, free version. The possibility of inserting reusable automation modules and the support of the Safety and Security functions by PC Worx Engineer cut down on development times. And there’s more: it is necessary for production to occur in a coordinated way even on long distances. Phoenix Contact responds to these requirements by means of communication solutions capable of simplifying distributed automation, such as Proficloud, the cloud system for local networks.

Communication and management of machinery and plants in different parts of the world
Proficloud by Phoenix Contact is an open IoT system which allows to create the ideal solution for every cloud-based application, be it dedicated to gathering or analysing data or to a complete automation concept.
The system encourages communication and management of machines and plants found in different parts of the world. The combination between the local network standard and the Proficloud services provides new opportunities to automation applications, which will also be able to integrate proprietary applications or internet services in the local network itself. The Proficloud system is made up of a coupler, a controller, the Proficloud licence and relative services. Installation is fast and easy: users create their automation network in their customary development environment. The coupler is installed in the local site, connecting via the Internet the local network with the Proficloud. In the decentralized sites, enabled controllers are installed which connect online with the Proficloud. Decentralized devices are recognized by the local network as local users, with no need for further configurations or programming, and the TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption protocol guarantees data security.

Integrating proprietary applications or Internet services in the Proficloud network
Proficloud offers the possibility of integrating proprietary applications or Internet services within the network, for instance, by allowing access to weather data available on the Internet. Another example is provided by Proficloud’s “Cloud Service Calc” tool (to carry our calculations) which allows relocating complex calculations to the cloud, thereby reducing programming tasks and making previously impossible calculations partly feasible. Besides, the new Software Development Kit (SDK) allows users to program cloud services according to their requirements, developing the so-called Application Containers which may be inserted and used within Profcloud whenever necessary. Following import of the software from the development environment to the Proficloud, Application Containers ensure that it can work reliably.

Cyber Security and industrial world: from secure remote assistance to firewalls
The software kit is therefore the ideal solution to create alarm notification, monitoring or weather services, and for the management of Containers in the Proficloud or in the local IT infrastructure. In a highly interconnected world, Industrial Cyber Security is essential to protect processes, products and data. When choosing solutions to adopt to guarantee their correct implementation, it is essential to consider not just the risks, but even the daily operative conditions: solutions which are well-tested and perform well in the IT domain might not turn out to be so suitable for OT (Operation Technologies) applications. Aware of this difficulty, Phoenix Contact developed all of its Cyber Security solutions purposely for use in industrial contexts, be it secure remote assistance or such hardware solutions as firewalls/routers of the FL mGuard family, also available with the CIFS Integrity Monitoring or OPC Inspector functions.