Explore an open IoT operating system

An open Internet of Things operating system (IoT OS) aims to help manufacturers. Siemens, at its recently opened Asia-Pacific Digital Experience Center, explained the purpose and benefits of its MindSphere IoT OS to Control Engineering China.

By Aileen Jin October 13, 2017

How can a cloud-based operating system help manufacturing? MindSphere, the cloud-based, Internet of Things operating system from Siemens, is being demonstrated in China at the first Siemens Asia-Pacific "Digital Experience Center," in Beijing, showing how a digital enterprise software operates within Industrie 4.0. What is MindSphere, what are its advantages, and what value will it create for enterprises? Li Li, the digital service director of the digital factory group at Siemens (China) Co. Ltd., recently explained MindSphere to Control Engineering China (CE China).

CE China: What is MindSphere?

Li: Siemens defined MindSphere as its IoT operating system to provide uniform interfaces to realize broad equipment connectivity downward and offer a strong development and operating environment to all types of application software upward. It is easy for users to get the application program interfaces and services from MindSphere, just like app acquisition from the app stores for smart phones. Siemens hopes to focus on MindSphere to build an open-ended ecological system. Developers can join the related ecological system and collaborate with others to develop the application software, with proficiency in a certain field, in a specific vertical marketplace, with application expertise. The value chain includes equipment manufacturers, end users, data acquisition developers, system integrators, application developers, and channel partners.

CE China: How is the software used?

Li: As for all enterprises, the first step of digital strategy implementation is data collection. Regardless of the cloud software, MindSphere gets data from Siemens products, and helps other customers and those joining MindSphere to connect industrial equipment by:

1. Connect: Get the user account in MindSphere and integrate the connecting terminal into the equipment.

2. Configure: Make use of asset configuration functions to configure the data acquisition and connections in MindSphere.

3. Use operation services: A fleet manager can check equipment health in MindSphere, then take advantage of a visual analyzer to view details. When Siemens MindConnect Nano is applied, one power line and two network cables will be inserted for operation within half an hour.

CE China: What are the advantages of MindSphere?

Li: Many IoT operating systems from Internet companies are similar. Compared to other cloud platforms, MindSphere has the following advantages:

1. From bottom to top: For digitization, Siemens develops from bottom to top, starting with the mechanical floor. A broad spectrum of production lines for automation and electrification can be applied regardless of the programmable logic controller (PLC) used in the factory: vehicle-mounted sensor and gas turbine, building, or medical equipment. This is a major advantage.

2. Vertical market understanding: A typical original equipment manufacturer (OEM) doesn’t get a lot of integrated IT and automation data. Integrating production data about gears and bearings in the application of mechanical equipment and automation may be more practical. In that case, an OEM would be more familiar with the data and more easily able to analyze its meaning. Using its understanding of various vertical markets, Siemens can provide a transparent and easy-to-use visual analysis environment for customers and help transfer data into the high-value IoT analysis model.

3. Openness: MindSphere can support Siemens equipment and many third-party devices, with a compatible application programming interface (API) on a data acquisition terminal. MindSphere also provides a friendly development environment and open API so third parties can develop applications for MindSphere.

Siemens extends its scope for MindSphere beyond the industrial field to the whole Internet of Things. As Li said, "MindSphere has developed into an Internet of Things platform serving the whole Siemens enterprise," supporting digitalization efforts across industries. "It will not be strange if you see a MindSphere traffic cloud, building cloud, or urban infrastructure cloud in the future," Li said.

Aileen Jin is editor-in-chief of Control Engineering China; edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

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www.controleng.com KEYWORDS: IIoT, cloud



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ONLINE extra

Online extra: Learn more on Siemens MindSphere as discussed at Pack Expo Las Vegas 2017, in September. 

IoT operating system shown at Pack Expo Las Vegas 2017

The Siemens MindSphere Internet of Things (IoT) operating system (OS) was demonstrated at the Siemens Pack Expo Las Vegas 2017 booth in September. Ajay S. Rana, Siemens industry business development manager, packaging, explained that Siemens aims to integrate and digitize the value chain to help customers stay competitive.

Some machine builders will be left behind if they don’t create a digital twin (photo), a virtual machine, first, Rana said, which helps speed design, implementation, upgrades, and changes at a lower cost. Easy access to software updates can help. Siemens MindSphere can be a public or private cloud, at present, and an on-premise version is planned, he said. An ecosystem is building with available apps, some of which allow machine builders to close the loop for higher level systems Rana said.

A dozen partners (as of the Pack Expo demo) cover consulting, application development, system integration, technology, IaaS (infrastructure as a service), information approval system, and connectivity functions. Apps shown at the demo (see photo) were Fleet Manager, KeepSecure!, Product Intelligence for MindSphere, Manage MyMachines, Energy Analytics, Drive System Analyzer, BLIDS (lightning information service), and Control Performance Analytics.

Once an app is selected, the software guides the user through three steps: 1) Connect 2) Configure and 3) Run the service.

These principles and functions, applied to the Siemens drives factory in Amberg, Germany, improved one measure of quality from 90% to 98.6%, Rana said.

Rana offered a prior Control Engineering article on a related topic: "Motion control in packaging: 10 tips for improvement; 1 for good measure." 

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

Author Bio: Aileen Jin is editor-in-chief of Control Engineering China.