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Tools to Manage the Growing Complexity of Industry 4.0

By Special Guest
Kathy Tufto, Senior Product Manager, Embedded Systems Division, Mentor
April 03, 2018

Industries and businesses around the world are realizing the many advantages to implementing an Industrie 4.0, or Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) system. The benefits of an IIoT system manifest in a number of different ways. For some it’s about gaining deeper insights into data and machine analytics. For others, Industrie 4.0 has unlocked new revenue streams by optimizing existing manufacturing methods. Further, there are companies and businesses of all sizes who have completely changed their business model or strategy to accommodate what this new technology promises to bring.

Adapting to Industrie 4.0 means everything must be connected. And while progress has been made, growing complexities due to competing platforms, communication protocols, and cloud vendor backends have created new challenges – not just how to build, but how to manage a system once it’s operational. Increasingly, there are more connectivity challenges north and south and across the entire IIoT infrastructure. Not only must these devices connect to each other in a secure fashion, but they must also collect, aggregate, process, and send data up and down a secure IIoT infrastructure.

Tools to maintain and operate today’s IIoT
Often overlooked in the conversation of IIoT challenges and complexities are the tools needed to maintain and operate an IIoT system. A couple of tool categories instrumental in managing IIoT architectures include: secure updates and enabling remote data diagnostics and system health monitoring.

Secure updates
Once device capabilities are fully implemented across the IIoT topology, one must consider more complex operations such as secure device updates and maintenance. These activities include application updates, OS updates/patches, firmware rollbacks, and fleet rollouts. Tools for secure updates involve a combination of development and testing tools for embedded devices that work in conjunction with the cloud backend updating tools. 

If you are using Linux as your runtime platform, there are certain features you can use to your advantage. Active open source communities are constantly refining the Linux kernel when it comes to OS updates and patches. As an IIoT system developer, you want to deliver relevant patches, security defect fixes, and application updates to your devices which require powerful development and debugging tools. To ensure security, you will need tools that can sign and encrypt code to be downloaded, authenticated, validated, and installed on the embedded device. Standard infrastructure within the Linux kernel, such as the Linux Update agent, enables secure software updates to be sent to individual devices throughout the IIoT infrastructure.

Enabling remote data diagnostics and system health monitoring
To fulfill the promise of the IIoT, managers and users should be able to monitor installed devices for potential issues (system health monitoring) and diagnose or predict issues so that they can be addressed during scheduled maintenance visits. System health monitoring examples include observing CPU/memory/network usage or monitoring watchdog daemons and other system-level functions. When system degradation or failure occurs, a host of system diagnostic functions can be remotely executed on the edge or end node to provide useful information to users.

Businesses that invest in IIoT are realizing the benefits, and are now implementing more expansive IIoT architectures. IIoT developers need to be aware of the many tools available, not only for building a modern-day IIoT infrastructure, but also in maintaining and maximizing its many intricate and diverse capabilities. 

About the author: Kathy Tufto is the senior product manager at Mentor’s Embedded Systems Division responsible for Mentor Embedded Linux, Android Services, and Mentor Embedded Sourcery CodeBench. Before arriving at Mentor, Kathy worked at The MathWorks as a senior training engineer and senior course developer. Kathy holds an EE degree from Boston University.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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