Encoder Integration In IIoT: Must Sensor Data Be Sent Into The Cloud?

Kubler 11/1/2017

Encoder Integration In IIoTIntelligent sensor networks are the backbone of the IIoT. Focus is set on networking at all levels. But which components will be directly affected? Kubler is convinced that encoders will play a key role and illustrates already today how theory turns into practice. Basing on the Sendix EtherNet/IP encoder with OPC UA interface, Kubler presents a possible concept, which realizes the integration and therefore the information exchange in the IIoT environment. 
Important insights are asserting themselves for the implementation of the IIoT for a selforganizing production. On the one hand, the companies are depending on the provision by the sensors and components manufacturers of corresponding data, which exceed classical process data. For example, an encoder must not only provide speed and position, it must also be able to communicate its identity, is configuration, whether it detects errors and its environmental conditions (e. g. operating temperature).

On the other hand, it is hardly possible to switch a complete production to IIoT in one single step. Therefore, a long-term planning with a defined and coordinated approach is crucial. The sensors manufacturer Kubler used theses insights to put its product development/evolution on the right track. Kubler is preparing for tomorrow already today. This is indeed not an easy task. It requires founded technical competence and high application and practical knowledge.

Today's decisions are the foundation of tomorrow

What does "ready for IIoT" mean for an encoder in the context of a long-term and progressive implementation? From a technical point of view, it is possible already today to equip sensors with a web server or with the OPC UA interface. But, considering the current practical requirements, this kind of implementation is rather exceptional. It is also a question of costs. The fact that sensors of any kind require more and more software to realize numerous and useful functionalities is undisputed - keyword is Smart Sensors. Experience also shows that software is developing in a faster and more dynamic way (from machine to machine and from machine to the cloud).

This interface has moreover the distinctive feature of transporting and semantically describing machine data. It therefore meets an important requirement for IIoT communication. It does not simply allow remote diagnosis thanks to a simple communication than in the past. What does this mean in concrete terms for the developer of an automation system? Basically, a developer should, whenever possible, prefer a sensor including a field bus interface or, better still, an Industrial Ethernet interface.

By now, this is no longer an important cost issue, as for example CANopen encoders are at a cost level similar to that of standard SSI encoders. When selecting the encoder, it must be checked whether it is able to provide also further data, for example data required for predictive maintenance concepts, and thus make sure the plant remains futureproof. This allows laying an important cornerstone for the progressive implementation of the IIoT.

There is no doubt, and this is due to the nature of the issue, that we do not need today everything that has been planned for the IIoT. This is why it is particularly important that the sensors already mounted in the course of the implementation or in the period leading to the smart factory can receive software updates. If not, this would have serious consequences such as extremely high new procurement costs and dismounting and re-mounting costs for new sensors, and also slow down industrial progress.

This is why Kubler implemented a boot loader function in its Sendix encoders. This allows loading software updates easily via the customer interface and realizing new functions. All of that with a minimum of work for the customer. 
Which information does the encoder provide? Which added value does this data offer?

Kubler's Sendix encoders provide, besides the classical information such as position and speed, also further information such as, for example, the internal temperature monitoring, thanks to an integrated diagnostic function. Already today the BiSS protocol allows implementing an electronic data sheet that does not simply identify the encoder, but also provides for example the corresponding data of the coupled electrical motor.

The platform of the latest Kubler encoder generation plans on the one hand the possibility to connect further sensors and to transmit prepared and packed data to the control, for example via the single-cable interface, which substantially reduces wiring work. On the other hand, it plans also to store further data relevant for comprehensive diagnostic concepts, such as for example condition monitoring. You will find further information in the info box. 
Encoders with OPC UA interface - pathbreaking for the future

Whoever has progressed in his implementation of the IIoT to such an extent that he considers direct, automation controlindependent communication to a cloud solution or to another higher-level system, will find with the Sendix Industrial Ethernet encoder with integrated OPC UA interface the right, future-oriented solution. 
OPC-UA: an important interface within the framework of the IIoT

In particular for cross-system communication 
with cloud solutions, it also allows configuring the encoder via the Internet and therefore eliminating quickly and efficiently errors in the event of a failure. All Kubler Industrial Ethernet encoders with the Profinet, EtherCAT or EtherNet/IP interface offer the possibility to integrate the OPC UA interface. Both protocols are then provided via the same encoder connection. This furthers flexibility, as a simple switch will allow transmitting the data simultaneously to the control and to the web server or into the cloud.

Condition monitoring data such as the temperature, error messages, operating times, voltage supply, are transmitted directly into the cloud. This allows simpler and faster realization of predictive maintenance approaches in new SCADA concepts. 

Sensors selection is and remains a decisive factor if the goal set is the IIoT vision of the future. Sensors already equipped with smart interfaces, able to provide an electronic data sheet and to be constantly adapted with software updates in the course of the implementation of the IIoT are the right and efficient sensors solution for today and tomorrow.