How can collaboration between PTC, AWS Cloud, and TT PSC experts support your Industry 4.0 journey?
Remote predictive maintenance and IoT (Internet of Things) asset management have never been easier.
A factory is a complex system of interconnected vessels within which many departments, machines, systems and experts should work as a single organism. Such an ideal, unified organization is difficult to accomplish, but thanks to technology and the idea of Industry 4.0, this desired harmony becomes a reality.
You may never have heard of the ThingWorx AWS Connector. Nonetheless, if you’re a manufacturer, there’s a pretty good chance you already know that PTC, a pioneer in the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), provides a product called Thingworx. Perhaps your organization is already using it, but you don’t know the technical details and have no idea of what the purpose of the “ThingWorx AWS Connector” is. The Connector is a special extension of ThingWorx that enables a connection to AWS cloud, allowing you to take advantage of what’s best about both worlds. These benefits are discussed later in the article. But before we get into the details of ThingWorx AWS Connector, let’s focus a bit on the idea of Industry 4.0.
All eyes on industry digital transformation
Progressive globalization and commoditization have forced industrial companies to implement new service-oriented and revenue-enhancing business models and to turn their attention to innovative technologies and digital solutions. We are currently experiencing the fourth industrial revolution, known as Industry 4.0, which is currently one of the fastest growing markets for IoT. In the pursuit of digital transformation, many organizations have implemented smart IoT solutions. The race toward digital transformation is about more than just bragging about smart innovations and gadgets. It is often one of the best solutions to deal with major industry bottlenecks, such as frequent downtime and complete shutdowns of production lines.
Companies that fail to define their IIoT strategy risk losing competitiveness and falling behind. If you’re one such company, don’t worry, because thanks to the incredible progress of IIoT and the growth driven by Industry 4.0, now is the perfect time to start your digital transformation. Today, we have access to countless innovative, state-of-the-art technologies and resources.
Power of predictive maintenance
Since ThingWorx is an IoT platform, it allows you to create an IoT-based solution, such as small temperature sensors from which you can extract data. You can then generate business reports with relevant insights.
Let’s imagine you have several sock manufacturing machines, and you want to monitor their operation and efficiency. These machines can generate certain data parameters, such as temperature, spindle speed, voltage frequency and many others. These values can indicate certain machine performance metrics, such as the efficiency of the machine or its possible malfunctions. You can also use this data to plan certain preventive maintenance solutions for your machines. For example, you can set a requirement that if the frequency deviates or the voltage fluctuates significantly, you will receive an alert notifying you of a potential power supply failure in the machine meaning that your technical staff will need to replace the power supply inside the machine, or you need to call an external specialist quickly.
ThingWorx can allow your system to anticipate unwanted incidents, so you can perform any essential repairs before a malfunction shuts the machine down or results in a complete line downtime. With the Connector extension, you can easily transfer all the data from your IoT devices to AWS cloud and use its full computing power.
ThingWorx in AWS cloud – what is it?
ThingWorx, as part of Industry 4.0 and a rich catalog of tools to support the idea, is a comprehensive IoT product that enables the rapid creation and development of IoT solutions. ThingWorx can enhance the development of your IoT solutions. For example, it can reduce time-to-market and software development costs.
Combining the power of ThingWorx with AWS cloud can result in real benefits. Customers using ThingWorx in the cloud can transfer their IoT data to other tools provided by AWS cloud for processing and analysis. Having ThingWorx running in the cloud (Connector) also translates into the ability to pre-process IoT data before it even enters ThingWorx. This feature is particularly useful for fast real-time data that might otherwise overwhelm ThingWorx if transferred directly to it.
So how does ThingWorx compare to other IoT solutions and why was Connector created?
With ThingWorx, you can feed the data into an AI [Artificial Intelligence] & ML [Machine Learning] engine. Inside ThingWorx, you will find it all – it might require more setup, but it is made to be very easy and intuitive.
Many tailor-made solutions are designed for specific PLC [Programmable Logic Controller] machines that read specific data but often support specific models and/or hardware versions. ThingWorx, working with another piece of software called Kepware, allows you to read data from virtually any industrial machine on the market. It makes the data interesting, presents what you want, and processes it in any way you want.
Implementing a solution that integrates with other business systems is a very smart idea. You receive data easily from your factory, from a production line that you know inside out. And the data you receive proves that the production line performs well and makes real business sense. For that, ThingWorx offers a whole host of tools allowing you to integrate with a variety of business systems such as SAP ERP.
There are similar solutions on the market, such as IoT Core from Amazon Cloud. IoT Core is like ThingWorx to some extent, but it is not as comprehensive. This means that it offers the tools to design something of this kind, but again you need a system integrator or a software house to design and implement a tailor-made solution.
AWS cloud on its own provides tools that allow you to create devices and run software on them that can send data to Amazon’s cloud. What you do with that data is not so straightforward. There is no specific way to create a user interface (UI), or at least it’s not that simple. You need cloud expertise to understand how to link different elements together to get your intended outcome.
Amazon cloud does not offer specific tools that enable easy connection to ERP. While AWS does provide the tools to build something like ThingWorx, it is a very complex system. You need to be a cloud architect or at least have a good understanding of Amazon cloud. And even if you get to that point, you still won’t be able to connect to ERP easily. Many people who want to use ThingWorx, want to do so because it is not just another IoT platform.
While IoT Core from Amazon cloud may not be directly compared to ThingWorx, it also has its own advantages and benefits compared to ThingWorx. For example, there is an abundance of devices that come with AWS cloud connectivity support already built in. AWS IoT Core also supports MQTT and HTTP protocols allowing virtually any kind of device to communicate with the cloud. In addition, AWS IoT core supports remote jobs for deploying software update and Firmware update remotely.
With all said above and full knowledge of our customers’ needs, TT PSC, in cooperation with AWS and PTC, designed a solution enabling ThingWorx to integrate with IoT Core in Amazon cloud (Thingworx AWS Connector). Customers who require to combine feature-rich ThingWorx with fast and highly scalable features of Amazon cloud can now easily use ThingWorx in Amazon cloud environment using ThingWorx AWS Connector.
Unleash the full power of Industry Cloud and ThingWorx
Using Amazon Cloud has many advantages. For example, it is inherently a secure environment, as it is a public cloud with tons of software engineers taking care of it. It’s also much cheaper to expand in case your computing requirements grow.
According to a Gartner report, PTC and its ThingWorx is a leader in the field of dedicated IoT platforms. Amazon Web Services, meanwhile, is among the leaders in the cloud solutions category. ThingWorx AWS Connector takes advantage of all the good features of both worlds – PTC’s ThingWorx and Amazon cloud. Combining the two creates a powerful solution. It provides capabilities such as very high security, various protocols, and many modern devices that can be easily used out-of-the-box.
ThingWorx itself is a heavy-duty IIoT product, developed over many years – enabling connectivity to many business systems. It also has many different data visualization tools, such as graphs and charts purposely designed for industrial companies. Running ThingWorx in the cloud gives your IIoT solutions access to Amazon’s feature-rich cloud environment. Being able to access AWS cloud services combined with ThingWorx allows you to do whatever you need to do with your IIoT data.
Amazon Cloud offers you access to many things, such as free RTOS, a real-time operating system for IoT devices providing easy integration with AWS IoT Core. There are also lots of other tools inside AWS cloud, such as Lambda functions that can be easily used to manipulate and preprocess data.
Let’s examine a scenario in which an existing ThingWorx based IIoT solution has no access to the cloud. Let’s assume that in this solution there are only 100 PLCs sending real-time data every minute to ThingWorx. Now Imagine we would like to attach 1000 more PLCs and decrease the data rate from 1 minute to 100 milliseconds for each PLC. It is impossible to process that much data without using the power of cloud. In fact, there are simply some limitations. For many reasons It is difficult for ThingWorx on its own without any extensions to handle this much data load. For one, the platform can’t handle a data stream more than once per second. That would be like trying to drive a car at 300 kilometers per hour with a vehicle designed to be no faster than 150 km/h.
Amazon Cloud, on the other hand, can do this with technologies such as Greengrass. It can handle tons of such data. We have created an extension for ThingWorx called “SiteWise Extension,” which allows ThingWorx to connect to the SiteWise service in Amazon cloud. This AWS solution allows industrial customers to upload massive amounts of data in real-time with the ability to pre-process it on-site or upload it directly to the cloud. The extension we’ve developed for ThingWorx enables you to use this data in pre-processed form, so you don’t need to worry about how fast your data reaches ThingWorx. If you need access to this data, you have direct access to it.
SiteWise already pre-processes the data and the data is “waiting” for you. It is extremely fast. Let’s suppose you have 300 PLC devices that send voltage data every 100 milliseconds and for some reason you need to monitor them. The chance that you will want to have a dashboard showing the average voltage value for the last 30 minutes with a resolution of 1 minute is relatively high. This is a huge amount of data. If you want to show it on a chart in ThingWorks and then put a monitor on the wall where the engineering team can see that data all the time, you couldn’t do it that easily with ThingWorx alone.
How to do it? Design your system based on Amazon Cloud and use all the tools the cloud provides you with
You can simply use our AWS cloud connector and SiteWise extension for ThingWorx. First, you set up your industrial devices inside SiteWise on your Amazon Cloud account. Then you can start sending PLC data to SiteWise. Using the SiteWise extension developed by TT PSC, simply design a mashup and inquire the average values for the past 30 minutes.
The good news is that you don’t even need to store any data in ThingWorx to achieve this. Installing the SiteWise extension in ThingWorx exposes a service that can be easily called inside your ThingWorx mashup to retrieve any kind of aggregated data from SiteWise without any data storage requirements in ThingWorx.
If your data is slower than one packet per second or one data point per second, you can directly upload it from SiteWise to ThingWorx in real-time.
Although ThingWorx AWS Cloud Connector is an open-source solution, we know how to implement it for more advanced scenarios, so please do contact us if you require further information.
When you want more than just the basics
As more and more industrial companies are undergoing or have already undergone a digital transformation process, they are eager to create their own solutions. At first, it seems logical, faster and cheaper, but most of these companies step back from the process, and only a few manage to finish it successfully. In fact, in manufacturing companies, only a small percentage of the IoT projects they initiate are successful. Working with ThingWorx is a bit like working with the software. Some organizations have skilled employees and very well-developed IT teams.
For more complex solutions, you will require a professional development team. Although you can do basic implementations yourself, you may need to consult us for anything more than a simple application. So, ThingWorx allows you to start simple, but on the other hand, it can become very tricky. Focus your know-how and resources on what you do best, and we’ll take care of the rest. For IIoT, ThingWorx is the best IoT platform.
Let’s focus on a typical scenario
Recently we had a customer who was looking for a way to send data from their smart office desks for monitoring purposes. The system was to send data, such as the height of the desk, the time when the user set it up, and some additional sensory data.
The customer was in the dark about this. They only knew what they wanted to achieve but had no idea how to design the physical hardware and logical layer, such as servers and connectivity to the cloud. In addition, the customer also had some budget constraints and wanted a quick prototype as soon as possible. To accommodate this, we recommended the use of our ThingWorx cloud connector, which allowed them to have a prototype in a matter of weeks to evaluate their idea. We also proposed to the customer to use Free RTOS from Amazon Cloud to develop their hardware for controlling their smart desks, which also eased the task of developing the required embedded software.
With our know-how, anyone can design device firmware based on free RTOS that will do exactly what is expected and provides out-of-the-box connectivity with Amazon cloud infrastructure.
You can clone the source code for ThingWorx AWS Connector from our GitHub page. There we have provided a Cloud Formation script which allows you to install ThingWorx AWS Connector on your Amazon Cloud account easily, however not everything that requires customization is a piece of cake. For example, we can customize the solution allowing you to run remote tasks on resource constraint IoT devices such as sensors or other smart devices. You can send tasks directly to a machine, update its firmware or send commands to it directly, all from within ThingWorx.
Implementation Methodology (basic package)
So, in case you have a requirement to receive data faster than once a second into your existingThingWorx setup or looking for a solution that affords you the ease of use that comes with ThingWorx, combined with the scalability and security of Amazon Cloud, then ThingWorx AWS Connector is one of the best solutions for you. In addition, since we have created this solution in close cooperation with PTC and AWS, we well positioned to provide the support for more complex projects.