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The Cloud for Smart Ocean Routes

Providing, collecting, evaluating and using data: In addition to the PFC100 and PFC200 IoT Controllers, WAGO is expanding its digital performance portfolio with the new WAGO Cloud. This pioneering technology enables even the rather conservative shipping sector to function more efficiently.

The trend towards digitization presents organizations in both ship construction and operation with a few challenges: Increasing cost pressures in more competitive international markets, increasing demands to meet more challenging environmental regulations and specialized safety aspects. These challenges all demand more flexibility in development, production, ship operations, and harbor logistics while maintaining lower costs. The solution? It won't be easy, but it is clever: Smart shipping provides many answers to digital questions about the future so that sector participants can stand up to competitive pressures – even in the future. Prerequisites include transparent information about processes and performance. Although a vast amount of data is collected in maritime processes, this data is usually spread across different, incompatible systems, where it remains – on board and unevaluated. By using cloud communication, new opportunities for networking arise for the shipping industry, especially for optimizing ship operations and safeguarding operating processes in harbors and the logistics chain. Shipping companies have been obligated to monitor a number of key figures since the “Measuring, Reporting, and Verification” regulation (MRV) went into effect in 2018. Cloud technology provides the foundation for introducing data analysis to comply with this regulation. The result? Improved predictions regarding optimal routes, fuel consumption and machine maintenance.

Shipping in the digital transition

By using pioneering cloud technology, ship operations and operating procedures in harbors should be optimized and secured.

Flexible Access to Process-Relevant Data

WAGO has dealt extensively with these requirements and can offer specific solutions for ship operators. The WAGO Cloud, which manages and monitors all WAGO PFC Controllers, as well as their applications and data regardless of time or location, has recently been included. A Web portal serves as a user interface for the cloud service hosted by Microsoft Azure. Through this gateway, users have access to functions like project, controller and user management, controller status monitoring, alarm functions and email messaging.

Texts, tables, diagrams, display elements and command buttons can be easily placed on a dashboard for seamless and intuitive operation. The OPC UA protocol is provided for direct communication between the automation and the higher-level control systems. The MQTT protocol is also included for communication with the cloud solutions, which offers potential for optimizing performance, for example, through fuel consumption monitoring or predictive maintenance applications. These allow users to detect faults and to initiate repairs before malfunctions can lead to serious damage or failures, which affect chartering rates, for example.

WAGO considers cybersecurity to be a mandatory criterion for digitization. The PFC100 and PFC200 IoT Controllers comply with the highest security requirements.

A Cloud Solution in Just a Few Steps

Both the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM 750 and 750 XTR connect to sensors, and the data can be transmitted to virtually any cloud using a PFC Controller – the newest PFC generation is IoT-ready out of the box and has all required maritime certifications, as well as approvals for the use in hazardous areas. IEC programming of one application with the corresponding library transforms the controllers into IoT devices in just a few simple steps. Following this, status information – such as Run/Stop, connection status, device information and variables defined in the IEC program – can be transmitted to the cloud and visualized.

The IoT controllers communicate with the selected cloud service via TLS-encrypted MQTT protocol. The cloud connection data is configured via Web-based Management (WBM). Libraries for e!COCKPIT are also included in the scope of delivery. The variables that will be transferred to the cloud can be defined using the IEC program. Sensitive data are securely transmitted from the controller to the cloud. Thus, the WAGO PFC100 and PFC200 Controllers form the platform that links elements from the real and digital worlds. They also offer a variety of interfaces, forming the perfect foundation for an IoT gateway. These modular and scalable controllers collect every field signal, communicate in all common industrial protocols and even enable cloud connection to sensors and actuators that themselves have no Internet interface.

Ships' locations can be tracked via the cloud to economically coordinate capacities, routes and deadlines. Value-added chains can be configured to extend continuously and be efficiently utilized beyond the boundaries of individual systems and facilities.

Securely Buffer Data at Sea

One requirement for having data available globally and around the clock using cloud technology is stable Internet access. What happens if this is interrupted on the high seas and valuable information gets lost? WAGO is ready with a storage solution designed specifically for shipping: Data transmitted from the controllers to the cloud are stored in the RAM working memory in an intermediate step and forwarded from there. If the network connection fails, the transmitted data build up in this working memory and are forwarded once Internet connectivity is reestablished. However, if there is an electrical failure, then the data buffered in the RAM are also lost. Therefore, WAGO offers a possibility for intermediate buffering. The information can be buffered on an SD card and sent to the cloud later once communication is reestablished.

Everything at a glance – the effect of digitization is clearly visible in ship control centers: Cloud communication provides new opportunities for networking in the shipping industry.

Secured from Hackers

The ability to view process data from anywhere in the world – it sounds practical, but is it secure? WAGO considers cybersecurity to be a mandatory criterion for digitization. The PFC100 and PFC200 IoT Controllers therefore comply with the highest security standards, as they encrypt data via SSL/TLS 1.2 security protocols directly in the controller – optionally, they also securely transmit data to higher-level systems via OpenVPN tunnel using public communication channels. The controllers are based on a Linux® platform with a real-time expansion, which, as an open-source operating system, offers long-term availability, scalability, updates and supports tools for data security and recovery, such as Rsync. This allows them to be used as secure gateways.

The Linux®-based, WAGO controllers are a solid long-term investment and serve as integrated security mechanisms to prevent cybercrime. Security is an important prerequisite for ship-to-land communication, and also for data recording, controlling, monitoring and networking in onboard subsystems. They also support essential security protocols and ensure continuous updates and refinements through the Linux® community. WAGO devices thus support IT security by design: All IT security mechanisms are integrated into the controller and cannot be disconnected by external access.

As a member of the WAGO Group, the software developer M&M from St. Georgen, Germany functions as an integrated partner, developing the necessary industrial and technical software solutions. M&M collaborates closely with Microsoft on digital topics, like the cloud and the Internet of things, to implement corresponding solutions, primarily using Microsoft Azure. WAGO Cloud, the cloud computing platform, is highly scalable and provides a detailed overview of computing power, data storage, transactions, availability and security standards. It offers a quickly growing number of services and tools to provide an optimal foundation for implementing solutions tailored to specific applications for users in the process automation sector.

However, customers are also not limited to Microsoft Azure. The WAGO Controllers can transmit the data to other platforms, like Amazon Web Services or IBM Cloud, according to what the user prefers or requires. Connections to third-party solutions are also feasible due to the standardized MQTT protocol.

Text:
Norman Südekum | WAGO
Dirk Volkening | WAGO

Photo: Thorsten Sienk | WAGO

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