Numerous industrial devices and machine tools communicate with the control modules via Modbus. Retrofit-capable networking with the Industrial IoT is possible via this. With an innovative product, the local data can be read out and sent to a cloud platform via the latest mobile technologies for IoT – device network Narrowband IoT and LTE-M. And the communication even works in both directions, i.e. also from the cloud towards the device. (Remote Monitoring & Remote Control)
The challenge: Networking compressors with Modbus interface
ALMiG Kompressoren GmbH is one of the leading system suppliers in compressed air technology and serves customers all over the world. They appreciate the extensive product range consisting of different compressors with maximum running smoothness, optimum energy efficiency and a particularly careful use of resources. ALMiG units offer efficient solutions for a wide range of applications – from small craft businesses to medium-sized companies and large-scale industry.
For small and medium-sized companies in particular, the purchase of the units is an investment with a long-term character. The compressed air systems are used for many years. Therefore, cost-effective solutions for monitoring, control and maintenance are necessary. To make the best use of the equipment, customers demand transparent and timely access to consumption data.
Smart and networked devices allow monitoring and control not only on the shop floor. Through remote access and visualization in a cloud application, operators can check and influence their devices at any time and from any location. For this purpose, ALMiG uses the retrofit-enabled Modbus Cloud Connect application package from the Cologne-based IoT product and solution provider Grandcentrix.
The solution: A gateway with Modbus interface sends the data to the cloud
Modbus Cloud Connect connects devices to the Internet in a simple way via the Modbus interface. It allows machine data to be read out and transferred to visualization services and service processes. The solution works with all machines that meet four requirements:
- The machine supports the Modbus RTU protocol (other protocols possible on demand).
- The assignment of the Modbus registers is known.
- It uses the RS485 interface for two-wire cables.
- It can be operated as a Modbus slave.
The Grandcentrix system for these Modbus devices consists of four coordinated components:
- Hardware: The on-site installation is a hardware module for the DIN rail that serves as a gateway to the Industrial IoT. The data transmission to the cloud is done via mobile radio. The module is supplied with power via standard power supplies (5-24 volts) and operates as a Modbus RTU master. It can be connected to up to 32 Modbus slaves (bus participants) via the RS485 interface. Optionally, configurations with up to 247 Modbus servers are also possible. To establish the connection to the Internet, the hardware module has a pre-installed mobile radio SIM that sends and receives data via public mobile radio networks. A cost-effective flat rate rounds off the offer.
- Connectivity: Data is transmitted via the Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) mobile network of Grandcentrix parent company Vodafone. This is a so-called LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network), which is specifically intended for IoT connections. Unlike devices for other mobile networks, NB-IoT devices operate with minimal energy consumption. As a result, battery devices have runtimes of several years. In addition, the network also allows undisturbed reception behind thick walls and in basements.
- Data service: The solution allows the flexible use of different backends. If a customer uses its own data platform, bidirectional connection via MQTT or HTTP is possible. If a company does not yet use a data platform, it can select a suitable solution from the range of services offered by Grandcentrix or its partners. As soon as the data platform is working, users can forward their data from the backend to further applications, such as dashboards for visualization. To facilitate device management, a self-service portal (backend & frontend) is already included. In addition to the configuration of Modbus RTU devices and BUS systems, this also includes an online live monitor and flexible data connection via cloud adapters provided.
- Support: Initial support for commissioning (device onboarding) with a personal contact person makes it easier to get started. In addition to the self-service portal as a low-code application, permanent support with a service desk and ticket system is also available for operating the solution.
The system is not only intended for new devices but can also be subsequently integrated into existing devices and systems. It is also possible to connect additional sensors via Modbus RTU. This means that measured values that older systems do not offer can also be integrated into the cloud solution. Since there is an additional range of system providers besides the Grandcentrix solutions, other protocols such as BACnet, CANopen or Modbus TCP can be converted to Modbus RTU.
The result: A solution package for upgrading and retrofitting industrial equipment
Modbus Cloud Connect is an easy-to-configure solution package for connecting compressors. It is delivered together with new units or integrated into old units at a later date. By storing it in a cloud platform, it allows data to be easily forwarded to existing service processes and new visualization services.
Communication takes place via the Narrowband IoT and LTE-M mobile technologies that are widespread in Germany and around the world. The system is thus autonomous and independent of the existing infrastructure on the shopfloor. The simple connection radically simplifies otherwise complex onboarding scenarios.
Access to retrofit networking is also an important aspect. Even older compressors can be retrofitted very easily with Modbus Cloud Connect. In principle, this works for all devices with a Modbus interface. This applies to a large number of industrial devices and machines. Modbus Cloud Connect is therefore basically suitable for every industrial sector, only the register assignment and parameterization must be configured specifically.