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Inquiring minds in the manufacturing industry want to know: how is it possible to use a process control network for distributed automation?
Manufacturing companies work with a networking standard called PROFINET. It’s a fieldbus system based on TCP/IP technology. In other words, it’s a network used for process control in industrial automation that optimizes manufacturing. It enables direct access to data from automation systems at the control and production level.
Because PROFINET uses Ethernet for end-to-end data transfer, it can only connect devices within a closed network. My company, Phoenix Contact, a global market leader and innovator in the field of electrical engineering, wanted to open the PROFINET network and communicate with standard controllers over the internet, which would enable distributed automation.
Taking PROFINET to the cloud
As the name suggests, Phoenix Contact’s PROFICLOUD solution extends PROFINET to the cloud. This simplifies communications among industrial machines and makes distributed automation a possibility. It doesn’t matter where the network devices are located.
It’s also possible for an organization to customize the PROFICLOUD solution with integrated data services. These might include weather, local time, tariffs or complex calculations.
Deployed on IBM Bluemix virtual servers
To enable distributed automation and other functionality for PROFINET, Phoenix Contact sought a cloud services provider that had a strong presence in Europe because of local data requirements. It also needed to have connection points worldwide.
Phoenix Contact already had a long-term relationship with IBM, which demonstrated the advantages of the IBM Bluemix environment over other platforms. With Bluemix, as Phoenix Contact’s customers grow, our company can scale up and get needed support from the IBM team at no additional cost.
One of Phoenix Contact’s waterworks customers uses PROFICLOUD to control and monitor decentralized pump stations. The customer programmed a device to incorporate weather data and to get information about river water levels in its country through an open database from the government.
Now the organization knows that in two days it will rain and the river level will rise. It can do a predictive check of the pumps to be sure they’re working. If they aren’t, it can send out the maintenance crew.
More control over automation
PROFICLOUD helps Phoenix Contact customers optimize and control their processes through distributed automation. One could think of PROFICLOUD as breathing new life into old machines. Just imagine a big building with a lot of machines and a lot of lights blinking.
One machine normally works without any people monitoring it, but one day there’s an error. No matter where the operator is in the building, he can immediately receive notification of the error on his smartwatch.
PROFICLOUD makes machines smarter by incorporating the possibilities and advantages that the internet offers.
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