First European testbed for the Industrial Internet Consortium

Imagine a handheld industrial tool that knows where it is and what needs to be done. Does this sound like a very futuristic scenario? I am delighted to introduce you to today to our Industrial Internet Consortium’s (IIC) Track & Trace Testbed, the first IIC Testbed led out of Europe. In a collaborative effort, four international companies (Bosch, Tech Mahindra, Cisco, and National Instruments) are working on the future of manufacturing. Their goal? They want to ensure that handheld industrial power tools automatically do what needs to be done – and to achieve the highest quality and efficiency standards in connected manufacturing. But, first things first:

What is an IIC testbed?

The IIC, founded less than a year ago, is a different sort of consortium than most in the Internet of Things (IoT) space. Rather than focusing on standards, the IIC’s members mount testbeds — demonstration projects — to test out new ideas that can lead to disruptive new products and services, that is, transformational business outcomes. We’re only looking to change the world!

An IIC testbed is an innovation project set up on a controlled experimentation platform, on which solutions can be deployed and tested in an environment that resembles real-world conditions. Testbeds explore untested technologies or existing technologies working together in an untested manner. In addition, they generate requirements and priorities for standards organizations, and culminate in new (potentially disruptive) products and services.

Why is track & trace a good use case?

The production of many industrial and consumer goods requires exacting work. Machinery, vehicles, and aircraft necessitate the highest standards of quality. In many cases, screws must be tightened with precisely the right amount of force, for example. The question of how connected tools will better guarantee accuracy for such tasks in the future is at the heart of this innovation project. Where is every tool on the factory floor? Where are the people that are using those tools? Do they have the right training to use the tools they’re using? A more efficient factory will track and trace tools and people, not only to ensure safety and security, but to find more efficient workflows on the factory floor.

Overall, the track & trace testbed explores applications such as asset management, quality control, and work management, which are increasing overall manufacturing efficiency and cost savings.

  • Safety-critical work processes are closely monitored and analyzed. Anomalies are automatically detected through the central processing, analysis, and visualization of production process data in near real time. Role-specific alerts can be triggered automatically.
  • The power tool fleet manager has an exact overview of the power tool fleet status and utilization thanks to central access to process data. Organizational processes can be triggered automatically.
  • Quality controls are automated and shifted to earlier stages of the production process. For example, hundreds of thousands of torque recordings are made available in their entirety for quality monitoring.
  • Indoor geofencing alarms ensure that power tools are used according to regulations. Not all tools are allowed for all production and maintenance steps, e.g. in aircraft maintenance. As soon as power tools know their location, they can switch off when used in error.

Testbed collaborators

The four industrial partners are each lending their different areas of expertise to the project:

  • Bosch as a project leader is in charge of the solution design, supplies the Nexo cordless nutrunner made by Bosch Rexroth as well as the Bosch IoT Suite
  • Tech Mahindra is in charge of the application development
  • Cisco is taking care of indoor localization technology
  • National Instruments contributes the configurable on-board logic as well as the interconnection of industrial tools in phase two

Tests are underway in Berlin (at Bosch Software Innovations) and Bangalore, India (at Tech Mahindra).

Track & trace – use case in aircraft construction and maintenance

In aircraft construction, for example, there are precise regulations that specify the kind of screw and the amount of force that must be used to join specific parts. When it comes to passenger aircraft, there are thousands of such screws that must be tightened and precisely documented. Joints on the wings naturally require a different amount of force than those on an aircraft window. The tools in this project are wifi-enabled and can identify their precise location on the shop floor. The position of the aircraft in the hangar is also fixed. With fixed coordinates and wifi connectivity, we know, for example, that a particular tool is located at the vertical stabilizer. Instructions that specify the force it should use to tighten screws can automatically be sent to the tool.

There is no other solution like this out there; I am convinced that it harbors major potential for industry as a whole.

What are the expected results of the testbed?

  • Open standards and interfaces mastering heterogeneity: All of the various power tools used by a manufacturer for drilling, tightening, measurement, soldering, or riveting on the shop floor or in maintenance areas are seamlessly integrated, independent of type and brand. A set of open, public interfaces (e.g., RESTful) encourages tool vendors to integrate their tools, providing operators with a homogeneous management solution for their heterogeneous tool landscape.
  • Indoor localization: Localization accuracy is significantly fine-tuned to less than 30cm, ideally 5cm (to date, accuracy is at around 100cm), even in difficult factory environments where Wi-Fi may not work (e.g., inside aircraft).
  • Factory integration at multiple levels: Tools, workstations, manufacturing execution systems (MES), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and production lifecycle management (PLM).
  • Ecosystem of collaborating partners who agree on solution architecture: Building hardware, software, localization, open interfaces, backend integrations, and security into the solution architecture to integrate with all related solution elements.

If you want to learn more about IIC’s testbeds, please visit our website.

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About the author

Richard Mark Soley

Richard Mark Soley

Dr. Richard Mark Soley is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of OMG®, Executive Director of the Cloud Standards Customer Council, and Executive Director of the Industrial Internet Consortium, and is responsible for the direction of all of OMG's consortium activities. He has both industrial and startup experience going back 35 years, and SB, SM and PhD degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mr. Soley is a guest author for the Bosch ConnectedWorld Blog.