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Fabio Coelho de Souza Silva of Novus Automation provides insights into the major features of cloud computing in industrial settings.
Cloud computing technologies, widely known as “cloud”, are already a consolidated reality in the market. It is undeniable that this technology is here to stay and change the way the IT sector gets related to companies and organisations. To cut a long story short, cloud computing is related to an infinitely available and flexible computing capacity. This way, hardware and network infrastructure is seen by users as a service where they pay only for what is effectively used. Flexibility and scalability are keywords of this concept, which allow computing resources, maintenance costs and application scalability optimised, among other benefits.
And how important is cloud computing in the context of Industry 4.0, Internet of Things (IoT) and process supervision? Well, this technology has a fundamental role by making possible and easy the implementation and scalability of systems for data analysis and storage. That is what makes it possible to remotely access information and control devices, making easier to share data and enhancing collaboration between departments of a company.
Many people still keep prejudices that keep them from embracing this technology in business world, despite using it on a daily basis in their private life. The objective of this article is to clarify some things and point out what is myth and what is fact regarding this technology. Hopefully, this will help your decision of adopting cloud supervision systems to be based on solid and clear criteria.
Is my data secure outside my company?
Speaking of cloud supervision systems usually means that data of your process will travel and will be stored outside of your company IT infrastructure. But is this a problem?
Most cloud-based services follow a series of international security standards and good practices, with certifications that assure platform performance and security. Following international standards for protecting your data makes it, for the most part, more secure on the cloud than it is in your local network and storage system, as a local network can be more easily breached.
Another point of concern is the protocols used for transmitting this data. As many industrial communication protocols have a security layer and many cloud systems do not allow insecure communication, this should not be a major concern.
Local applications are more likely to have problems caused by vulnerabilities in the user systems. If a computer gets infected, a malware can compromise tool security policies to steal or modify private information. This does not happen in cloud applications, since all command processing is done in the data centre.
Is the cloud supervision system information I see on my computer screen real time?
When communication media like 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi are used to bring data from devices to our system, either local or cloud-based, we need to be aware that the temperature information displayed on the computer screen is usually not up to date with the current value measured by the sensor. For instance, the temperature value was acquired, and it takes seconds, sometimes minutes, to travel through the communication media chosen and finally be displayed on the user screen. So, when talking about online supervision systems, we need to consider parameters like communication media, network latency and service availability to understand why online information are not as “online” as we might think.
Novus data loggers, like the FieldLogger and LogBox Connect family, send data to the cloud with a timestamp to record the exact moment that data was read from the sensor. This way, users will know the time instant of the data displayed, which eliminates errors due to communication delays or failures.
Is the data saved in my data logger memory identical to the data in my Cloud system?
Data in a supervisory system can be presented in two ways:
The first way is with the data linked to the moment it reaches the cloud system, when the temperature value is read by the device and then sends to the supervisory system, for example. When receiving this data, the cloud system associates the receiving moment with the temperature information, being recorded this way.
The second way is when the device sends, along with the temperature value, the time at with that value was read from the sensor – that is, the timestamp related with the temperature data from the origin in the measurement device.
As previously mentioned, the Novus data loggers that send data to Novus cloud always send them already linked with a time or a timestamp. In this way, the existing data in the Novus cloud database is identical to the data that is in the device memory.
How much does it cost to have a supervisory system in the cloud?
In the cloud, instead of the hiring traditional methods used for local systems, the payment for the resources access is made on demand. Such models are known as SaaS (software as a service) IaaS (infrastructure as a service) and PaaS (platform as a service).
Currently, there are several types of cloud supervisory systems in the market: some for more dedicated applications and others with widest terms of functionality. Most of the time, they require specific implementations to leave the system as the client wants and that can generate additional costs. As the number of users or functions is changed, the value of the subscription paid to the service provider is automatically changed, adapting the supply to the demand for processing, connection and storage. Unlike local systems, where this equilibrium is due to a prediction that managers must make for the future, in the cloud the company never spends more or less than the ideal.
Novus offers Novus Cloud as a cloud monitoring tool. This service permits cloud monitoring of up to 100 devices in a single account, as well as providing access to dashboards with preconfigured widgets to view data on registered devices and the possibility to creating custom dashboards when using on-screen widgets and showing the information that most interests users.
Using NXperience software, it is possible to download existing data in Novus Cloud to create reports and export data to several formats, among other features. This package has no cost to the client. It is possible for the client to purchase packages with more customisable dashboards, SMS packages and scripts to send notifications, for example.
Why would I change my local supervisory system by a cloud system?
Most of the time, maintaining a cloud supervisory system is safer and cheaper, and has infinite scalability. Yet, it is a solution that needs constant Wi-Fi connection and, most of the time, industrial converters protocols drivers to send the data to the cloud. Local solutions will have faster responses to critical processes, which can be crucial for companies that work with sensitive data or with short answers times.
With this overview, we can say that is always important to evaluate the situation. The important thing to know is that, today, a cloud system cannot be simply rejected by concepts that we had in the past, such as security problems and high implementation costs.
Ocean Controls is the Australian Distributor for Novus Automation.