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elliTek's Roadmap to Industry 4.0 Starts with Empowerment

elliTek's Mission is Empowering the Individual

The iphones of Industrial IoT. To elliTek, that means empowerment! To provide high-level products that focus on the balance of powerful functionality yet done with simplicity. Our driving force is to make sure the experience in using our products, from the integrator level to the end-user level, is a good experience.

The world’s first Edge-Based Internet of Things Appliance platform IIoTA™ makes the collection and visualization of both real-time and historical data a snap, even for non-programmers.

In addition, the IIoTA™ overcomes latency and cybersecurity issues and exceeds QA non-conformity by visually presenting real-time, product-specific SOP data instantly at the associates’ work area.

First, a review of traditional Industrial IoT requirements is needed to lay the groundwork since some readers might not be familiar with elliTek’s IIoTA™ Enterprise Gateway Appliance.

The traditional MES (Manufacturing Execution System) consists of an Enterprise or IT (Information Technology) System and a Plant Floor or OT (Operation Technology) System.

The Data or Database Server traditionally exists within the Enterprise or IT level. This is where the Worktables and Stored Procedures typically reside. Workflow management and general reports are conventionally handled on the Enterprise Level as well.

Also, on the Enterprise Level is where manufacturers generally host web-based reports, enterprise PCs’, visualization, and reporting server.

The Plant Floor or OT Level is where the machines such as PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers), robots, CNC’s (Computer Numerical Controllers), and in some cases industrial PCs reside.

The two levels, Enterprise/IT and Plant Floor/OT are traditionally tied together with a PC based software referred to as Middleware. In addition, this is all looped together with at least one common network.

Traditional MES System showing the IT Level and the OT Level
A Traditional Manufacturing Execution System (MES)

Initially, the question is “Who owns what?”

The Database Server on the Enterprise side is usually owned by IT.

The Database Administrators, DBAs, handle the visualization and reporting.

Usually, Manufacturing Engineering or Production Engineering own or are expected to own the machines on the plant floor.

The Network Administrators own the network.

The question then is "Who owns the Middleware PC?"

It’s half IT and half Engineering from a software and hardware standpoint. Consequently, it has always presented a philosophical issue.

It was from this issue that, back in 2014 elliTek saw this question and developed the Data Commander™ MES Gateway Appliance. The Data Commander™ was a hardware-based appliance that offered secure network separation through an integrated hardware-based firewall.

This separation made sure that IT was happy that nothing on the plant floor could harm their systems on the Enterprise side, and it made sure production wouldn’t shut down because of things that might happen on the Enterprise side.

In addition, the Data Commander™ could be owned by either IT or Engineering, since it wasn’t half-and-half.

That was back then.

How do we keep with our mission to simplify and keep making things better?

The issue was getting a lot of people together -- the IT folks on the Enterprise side, the Database Admins, the Engineers, the Network Admins, etc. There were also a lot of latency issues.

What elliTek did was take the database server, the process control portion, the visualization, and put them all together to create the IIoTA™ Edge-Based Data Server Appliance. IIoTA™ stands for Industrial Internet of Things Appliance.

The IIoTA™ allows users to pull data down from the Enterprise side to this edge-based appliance. The integrated hardware-based firewall and all the features that made the Data Commander™ the 2018 Hardware and Software Innovation of the Year are still there in the IIoTA™.

This means that the IIoTA™ can do what we refer to as “IT Ride-thru.” The IIoTA™ also knocks out latency issues from heavily populated internal networks, LANs, but also ISP-based issues going from plant to plant remote data centers or cloud-based storage.

The IIoTA™ is still the same form factor as the Data Commander™. For this reason, hooks can be put into the external (either cloud-based or hosted) database servers which allow the DBAs to still get to the reporting and all the things they need to do.

The IIoTA™ is connecting the plant floor to the IT side, but through two separate systems, the Enterprise LAN and the Plant Floor LAN. The separation of the two systems is still there.

What is an edge-based server?

  • A data server placed at the point of operation versus a remote or cloud-based data center.

What are the main advantages?

  • Reduced delays resulting from network traffic, instability, or disconnection.

  • Decentralized data processing, so the mashups can be done down at the edge.

Why is this important?

  • Single Ownership!

Folks have asked: “Why can’t you put a PC down there?”

Well, it can be done, but a PC doesn’t always hold up in an industrial environment. The mean time between failures (MTBF) on a standard desktop-style PC is typically six to eight months.

Secondly, it’s a Windows-based environment. If you’re an IT Security person, that brings up all kinds of concerns, because now you must own that part of it from a security standpoint to make sure the PC is still secure. No one can argue that cybersecurity is a growing concern.

An appliance-based, hardware-based system on the line is a much lower security risk than a PC-based solution. The IIoTA™ appliance is also industrially hardened. Thirdly, the IIoTA™ is about the size of an Xbox.

The IIoTA™ is compact, industrial hardened, and a much lower security risk than a PC based solution
The IIoTA™ edge-based appliance is secure, industrial hardened, and compact.

To review, the major advantages of the IIoTA™ - Industrial Internet of Things Appliance:

  • “IT Ride-thru” / Zero Latency because the data is local

  • Data can be captured locally

  • Meet traceability requirements

Edge-Based advantages:

  • Fast and repeatable responses with the machine network

  • Enterprise network failure ride-thru

  • Controlled upload cycles

The IIoTA™ can still get hooks into the Enterprise side, so store and forward can still be utilized. That means that historical data that needs to last longer than a few months can get to the Enterprise side, cloud, or wherever it needs to be.

Security benefits:

  • Appliance vs. PC-based solution – Virus Adverse

Hopefully, this gives you some background as to how and why elliTek developed this data management solution in an appliance-based, edge-based platform.

Schedule a free online demo, email

The next blog post will review a use case in which the customer saw immediate benefits after implementing the IIoTA™ and the tools used to visually present real-time, product-specific SOP data instantly at the associates’ work area.

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