• 3 min read

Azure IoT Suite connected factory now available

Many customers tell us that they want to start with the digital transformation of their assets, for example production lines, as well as their business processes. However, many times they just don’t know where to start or what exactly Industrie 4.0 is all about.

Getting Started with Industrie 4.0

Many customers tell us that they want to start with the digital transformation of their assets, for example production lines, as well as their business processes. However, many times they just don’t know where to start or what exactly Industrie 4.0 is all about. At Microsoft, we are committed to enabling businesses of all sizes to realize their full potential and today we are proud to announce our connected factory preconfigured solution and six-step framework to quickly enable you to get started on your Industrie 4.0 journey.

Azure IoT Suite preconfigured solutions are engineered to help businesses get started quickly and move from proof-of-concept to broader deployment. The connected factory preconfigured solution leverages Azure services including Azure IoT Hub and the new Azure Time Series Insights. Furthermore, it leverages the OPC Foundation’s cross-platform OPC UA Net Standard Library reference stack for OPC UA connectivity as well as OPC DA and other OPC Classic protocols via the use of the included wrapper, as well as a rich web portal with OPC UA server management capabilities, alarms processing and telemetry visualizations. The web portal and the Azure Time-Series Insights can be used to quickly see trends in OPC UA telemetry data and see Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and several key performance indicators (KPIs) like number of units produced and energy consumption.

This solution builds on the industry-leading cloud connectivity for OPC UA that we have first announced at Hannover Messe a year ago. Since then, all components of this connectivity have been released cross-platform and open-source on GitHub in collaboration with the OPC Foundation making Microsoft the largest open-source contributor to the OPC Foundation. Furthermore, the entire connected factory preconfigured solution is also published open-source on GitHub.

Azure IoT Suite is the best solution for Industrie 4.0

As we demonstrated at Hannover Messe 2016, we believe that the Azure IoT Suite is the best choice for businesses to cloud-enable industrial equipment — including already deployed machines, without disrupting their operation — to allow for data and device management, insights, machine learning capabilities and even the ability to manage equipment remotely.

To demonstrate this functionality, we have gone to great lengths to build real OPC UA servers into the solution, grouped into assembly lines where each OPC UA server is responsible for a “station” within the assembly line. Each assembly line is producing simulated products. We even built a simple Manufacturing Execution System (MES) with an OPC UA interface, which controls each assembly line. The connected factory preconfigured solution includes 8 such assembly lines and they are running in a Linux Virtual Machine on Azure. Our Azure IoT Gateway SDK is also used in each simulated factory location.

Secure by design, secure by default

As verified by the BSI Study, OPC UA is secure by default. Microsoft is going one step further and is making sure that the OPC UA components used in the connected factory solution are secure by default, to give you a secure base to build your own solution on top. Secure by default means that all security features are turned on and already configured. This means that you don’t need to do this step manually and sees how an end-to-end solution can be secured.

Easy to extend with real factories

We have made it as simple as possible to extend the connected factory preconfigured solution with real factories. For this, we have partnered with several industry leaders in the OPC UA ecosystem who have built turnkey gateway solutions that have the Azure connectivity used by this solution already built in and are close to zero-config. These partners include Softing, Unified Automation, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Please visit our device catalog for a complete list of gateways compatible with this solution. With these gateways, you can easily connect your on-premises industrial assets to this solution.

However, we have gone even further and additionally provided open-source Docker containers as well as pre-built Docker container images available on Docker Hub for the Azure connectivity components (OPC Proxy and OPC Publisher), both integrated in the Azure IoT Gateway SDK and available on GitHub to make a PoC with real equipment achievable in hours, enabling you to quickly draw insights from your equipment and to plan commercialization steps based on these PoCs.

The future is now

Get started on the journey to cloud-enable industrial equipment with Azure IoT Suite connected factory preconfigured solution and see the solution in action at Hannover Messe 2017. To learn more about how IoT can help transform your business, visit www.InternetofYourThings.com.

Learn more about Microsoft IoT

Microsoft is simplifying IoT so every business can digitally transform through IoT solutions that are more accessible and easier to implement. Microsoft has the most comprehensive IoT portfolio with a wide range of IoT offerings to meet organizations where they are on their IoT journey, including everything businesses need to get started — ranging from operating systems for their devices, cloud services to control them, advanced analytics to gain insights, and business applications to enable intelligent action. To see how Microsoft IoT can transform your business, visit www.InternetofYourThings.com.​