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DATA: The Digital Currency of the Future

Data is the currency of the future. But how can companies access the immense amounts of data from their machines in order to modernize production? With StationConnector, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA have developed software that reads out the data and makes them available to any application. The IPA computer scientists have started their own company called ‘Data Coffee’ to launch the software onto the market.

Not only the sheer volume, but also the variety of data is increasing exponentially in manufacturing companies. Used correctly, they can be of great use in planning and optimizing business processes. However, a machine park is usually inhomogeneous, it includes devices from different generations and manufacturers with formats and protocols that are not coordinated with one another – this is often the case, especially in medium-sized companies. Due to the different controls and interfaces, it is problematic and time-consuming to access and evaluate machine data.

Link Between Control Technology and IT

This is exactly where the StationConnector software comes in by offering a uniform interface across all systems. In this way, it can transfer data easily and application-specifically between industrial protocols, controls and any IT systems. Station Connector makes parameters such as power consumption, rotational speed, temperature and angular position available to any application in a uniform manner – regardless of the readout speed required. “Machine learning requires a high data rate, while monitoring gets by with a low rate. With StationConnector we are establishing a kind of independent software level between the systems and the systems or databases that will later use this data,” says Marcus Defranceski, scientist at the Fraunhofer IPA in Stuttgart. The computer scientist developed the data interpreter together with his colleagues Fabian Böttinger and Fabian Schulz.

The big plus: StationConnector offers companies maximum flexibility, they can now manage their machine data independently and adapt them as required. Often companies do not yet know how they want to modernize their production and in what form they need the data. “With our software, production companies don’t have to commit themselves too early and too quickly.” How you want to modernize your production and in what form you need the data. “With our software, production companies don’t have to commit themselves too early and too quickly.” how you want to modernize your production and in what form you need the data. “With our software, production companies don’t have to commit themselves too early and too quickly.”

If the data is then available in the correct format, the system efficiency can, for example, be evaluated, production capacity increased or data-based business models established. The customer defines the possible uses. “The available data creates a new transparency that allows better production control and reveals potential in process optimization,” says the computer scientist.

Knowledge of IT is not required to operate the software, the configuration is self-explanatory. The machines can continue to run during the installation. There are no restrictions on the selection of the required information and variables; the customer decides which data he wants to process. An automated readout can be set up in order to detect production losses in good time and to be able to react quickly to failures.

StationConnector interprets a wide variety of protocols that can be modularly expanded. The software runs on the local individual PC as well as on production servers and in the cloud. The read out data can be graphically displayed on most mobile devices and desktop computers in order to give a first visual impression.

Data Coffee spin-off launched

The software has proven itself in practical use, it is already in use in production companies. Interested companies have been able to license the software since February of this year. Marcus Defranceski and his two colleagues from Fraunhofer IPA have started their own company with Data Coffee. Initially, StationConnector will be further optimized for manufacturing companies, and next year the software will also be available to system manufacturers to make it easier for them to find their own new digital business models.

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