Ubuntu Core enables TechnoSec’s IIoT solution to help DE.OL transition to a smart factory

TechnoSec is an Italian IIoT start-up with deep end-to-end expertise in M2M technologies, internet-connected devices and real-time architectures. It is focused on a vision to develop a security-focused, cloud-native IoT Platform-as-a-Service suited to a range of Industry 4.0 scenarios including smart factories, energy management, intelligent transportation systems, smart city, e-health, and more.

 

A large number of industrial systems do not currently have predictive maintenance in place, and the TechnoSec team has identified a distinct market opportunity for a capable predictive analytics IIoT solution. TechnoSec is striving to create custom platforms that can monitor almost anything across distributed architectures via modern and efficient software and reactive web and mobile apps.

 

Using IIoT for predictive analytics in the smart factory

One of the first industrial customers to buy into TechnoSec’s smart factory and predictive maintenance vision has been DE.OL. Srl — an Italian company that designs and manufactures hydraulic cylinders and precision mechanical components such as valve assemblies. DE.OL’s ISO-certified production plant and process uses Computerised Numerical Control (CNC) machinery to create mechanical and hydraulic components. DE.OL’s production line also includes various robotic and machine tools for welding, turning, milling and high pressure testing.

                       

DE.OL’s core business depends on the efficiency of these machine tools. Its machinery is put under high stress on a daily basis, and it is essential that each piece is monitored closely to avoid potential failures, production problems and costly downtime.

                       

Prior to working with TechnoSec and Ubuntu, DE.OL had no Industry 4.0 solutions in place whatsoever. It relied on a standard preventative maintenance approach for its production assets. A high percentage of industrial machinery over five years old is simply not designed with IIoT connectivity in mind. Although many machines have sensors to help manage the processing steps, they often don’t have any sensors to monitor critical subsystems. This makes predictive analytics and maintenance hard to achieve.

 

Frustrated by these circumstances DE.OL went in search of a smart, IIoT-ready solution that offered more efficiency and optimisation, but without having to replace legacy machinery.

 

Having found TechnoSec through a pitching competition held by a national Italian business ecosystem for innovative tech startups, the two companies worked together to IIoT-enable and customise a specific machine tool called the “Turning centre”. Auxiliary sensors were installed on the electro-hydraulic subsystem of the machine, and TechnoSec interfaced them with a Dell Edge Gateway 5000 running on Ubuntu Core to gather and send data to its cloud platform for further analysis.

 

As Cesare De Palma, CEO at DE.OL. explains: “We have always believed that innovation can improve our work, and our goal is to become a full smart factory. The TechnoSec solution we discovered convinced us that this is real possibility. With the Ubuntu Core based solution that we now have in place we can now monitor the health of machines from anywhere that is connected to the internet. The maintenance department can manage activities through Predictive Maintenance (PdM). Maintainers can analyse trends and aggregate data to study the symptoms of a failure before they happen, and they can also use a Telegram chatbot to check any anomalies and data in real-time.”

 

The solution has very quickly proven its value. In the last month the solution enabled DE.OL to avert an oil pump breakdown which would have cost the company approximately €12,000 in repair bills and downtime.

 

Why Ubuntu?          

TechnoSec’s search for a suitable edge-side OS began almost two years prior to the commencement of the DE.OL project. The team had previously worked with Yocto but had found deployment using this platform very resource intensive. For its IIoT platform development, TechnoSec knew it needed a more efficient and modern approach that could support continuous delivery and the use of containers. Security, given its huge importance in IoT machines, and flexible software deployment were other big priorities.

 

Having considered and rejected Core OS and Rancher OS, TechnoSec began working with Dell and was encouraged to trial their Edge Gateway using Ubuntu Core. TechnoSec very quickly concluded that this was the best solution for its needs.

 

Marco Pennelli, CEO of TechnoSec explains: “In the industrial sector, devices such as programmable controllers (PLCs) are rarely updated. By enabling the delivery of client software as snaps, Ubuntu Core offers very convenient and efficient mechanisms to maintain robust kernel security. Automatic transactional over-the-air updates and full rollback features, which mean that if an update is broken the snap will roll back to the previously-working revision, make Ubuntu Core extremely reliable and make it much easier to manage devices in the field. The Dell Edge Gateway with Ubuntu Core is a truly stable and powerful platform that allows enormous flexibility in terms of how our developers can manage the software.”

           

TechnoSec was able to very quickly configure the Dell Edge Gateway 5000. The flexibility to activate or deactivate a certain release of their software client-side on Ubuntu Core was enormously valuable, especially during the first deployment phase. As was the presence of strong and stable Ubuntu community, as Marco Pennelli explains: “As a small start-up team designing something new, having community support is very important. That access to a large community of developers who can help us to improve the software, fix bugs and problems, and generally share knowledge, enabled us to dramatically increase our time to deployment. It is exponential, in the past with the classic development model on embedded systems, we were limited to a small number of customers in parallel, we now have full days for the installations. Having Ubuntu Core really speeds everything up.”

 

What next?

Cesare De Palma, CEO at DE.OL. concludes: “Based on our experience so far we are very keen to extend the project with TechnoSec to all our machines by inserting new gateways and sensors. Furthermore, we want to reorganize the current IT infrastructure by adopting new servers with Ubuntu and OpenStack. Working with TechnoSec, Canonical and Dell has truly inspired us. We are already imagining our next step — to make ‘connected’ products for the hydraulic industry that will see us switch from a product-centric to a services-driven business model.”

 

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