Lessons from the Automotive Industry’s Journey with Edge Devices

The automotive industry leads the world in the use of factory automation and is an early adopter of innovative technologies. None more so than the use of digital transformation for Industry 4.0, data workflows and cybersecurity. In this blog article, we take a look at the lessons from the automotive industry’s journey with edge devices and manufacturing automation we can learn, and ask what can other manufacturing sectors learn from these advancements?

Here, manufacturer Hirschmann considers the wider benefits of edge devices for seamlessly and securely connecting information systems.

In traditional network environments, data traffic moves through automotive plants from machine to machine to coordinate efforts. More integrated systems allow data to flow from machine to operational systems to enable remote monitoring and control. Analysis of the data provides engineers with an insight to the performance of their machines and processes. This in turn leads to process improvements, lower downtime, and enhanced productivity. Some systems analyse data centrally at distant or remote data centres, but this is changing.

Edge Devices & Manufacturing Automation

As data volumes increase, this centralised approach increases bandwidth utilisation across the network and creates heavy traffic loads as the packets move from system to system. This can create bandwidth limitations, latency issues and unpredictable network disruptions that impact productivity.

To overcome these performance challenges, industrial edge computing is moving to the factory floor. By decentralising and distributing computing infrastructure, industrial edge computers allow the processing of data at the point of generation instead of travelling to a centralised location first. This gives faster access to real-time business insights and predictions that enable informed decision-making.

Industrial edge computing occurs between in-field and IoT devices and the cloud or centralised data centre to handle real-time data processing and analysis. This low-latency communication with smart devices reduces back-and-forth traffic flow and increases the speed at which teams can react to issues and opportunities. The system only sends data to a larger, centralised data centre when needed.

Securing Industrial Edge Computing

Industrial edge devices can also help plants enhance their cybersecurity stance by minimising the need for taking live operational data from the centralised servers that are often targets for cyberattacks.

Moreover, the industrial edge is also a good place to deploy a combination of traditional cybersecurity tools. Previously, network infrastructure devices mirrored traffic to threat detection software at the expense of duplicated network volume. Advanced cybersecurity appliances, like Hirschmann Eagle 40 firewalls, can play host to threat detection software. By deploying them as sensors within a network and distributing the load, they provide greater visibility of the entire network.

Edge computing can run containerised versions of other network management tools to provide better access to devices and equipment. For example, Belden’s OpEdge-8D Gateway integrates secure remote access for the protection of both users and data at the edge.

Docker containers or virtual machines also improve network security by localising network supervision and avoiding data transmission across the network. This not only protects information, but also reduces network loads and allows decision-making to move closer to where it matters.

Contact us for more on how BPX and partner Hirschmann can guide you into industrial edge devices on the manufacturing plant floor.

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