Achieving the Benefits of Remote Connectivity Faster and More Reliably

While the productivity and cost advantages of cloud-based building and factory automation systems are relatively easy to identify and quantify, the road to achieving those benefits includes hazard warning signs alerting you to the complexity of the task ahead.

The success of cloud-based building and factory automation projects depends on highly intelligent servers, reliable remote communication networks and engineering expertise.  Industrial companies today operate from multiple buildings or locations. Their systems control any number of functions, production lines or batch processes with a mix of newer and legacy equipment over communication networks and the industrial internet of things (IIoT).

When the advantages and complexities of cloud-based building and factory automation systems are presented to senior executives, among the first questions asked are:  “How much?” and “How long?”  The answers vary, but they hinge on the choice of cloud-based systems including the remote connectivity server solution and the team responsible for the project.

Solutions to the Challenges

The saying, “time is money,” applies when asking questions about the cost and turnaround time to implement cloud-based systems. It pays to consult a proven vendor team with ready-to-go technologies and equipment. For example, MSA FieldServer™, is partnering with a lighting control manufacturer, which is an IIoT company focused on building energy management solutions, including smart controls and intelligent lighting.

The lighting control company chose the MSA FieldServer ProtoAir IIoT Gateway as a versatile, reliable product that can add a Building Management System (BMS) to  its solution suite. They have a robust platform designed to enable a virtually unlimited number of IoT applications, including connected lighting IoT capabilities. The company’s lighting solution controls lights, saves energy, and enables additional IoT applications within industrial settings.

The FieldServer product line, with over 300,000 installed units at thousands of industrial and commercial facilities, provides multi-protocol gateways that offer numerous advantages, including ease of set-up that accommodates configuration changes or customization. The BTL certified FieldServer product suite also provides the industry’s widest choice of multi-protocol support that can be installed with confidence

MSA’s FieldServer team provides expert support and service for the 140+ protocols available with FieldServer, including BACnet, LonWorks, KNX, M-Bus, EtherNet/IP, and more.  With integrated remote access, FieldServer reduces truck-rolls to site(s), offering secure visibility and remote access into building and factory field devices through FieldServer IIoT gateways.

MSA FieldServer’s BACnet Router is a complete building management BACnet internetworking tool. Users can connect to BACnet devices and bridge all their device data needs. It comes with one or two serial ports for MS/TP, and there’s a Wi-Fi option too.

As versatile as it is intelligent, the MSA FieldServer product suite is compatible with a wide range of factory automation communication protocols, including Modbus, EtherNet/IP & DNP 3.0. From an architectural perspective, FieldServer is an advanced connectivity solution to programmable logic controllers (PLC’s), including those from Emerson and Rockwell.

Building and plant system analytics data, diagnostics and updates can be implemented quickly and reliably via the SMC Cloud or the third-party cloud of the customer’s choice.  For example, if unusually high temperatures require extra building or factory floor cooling, thermostat changes can be uploaded automatically via secure VPN lines to manage the HVAC system. If unforeseen product demand requires weekend overtime, the building security, lighting control and HVAC systems can be adjusted remotely via mobile applications on phones or tablets.

In the fast-paced IIoT world, firmware updates are frequently necessary for building and factory floor systems that operate facility infrastructure and factory. Again, the FieldServer is there to make updates to building equipment and factory equipment via VPN and the SMC Cloud.

In a world of on-demand expectations, FieldServer is delivering building and factory analytical data 24-x-7 around the globe.  Such data supports equipment preventative maintenance programs and systems that alert building and plant managers to points of required standard equipment maintenance or alert them to unexpected conditions that require back-up equipment to be turned on temporarily while maintenance crews go to work.

Conclusions

The MSA FieldServer suite of gateway products and the SMC Cloud with mobile applications access are providing the remote connectivity solutions needed to help companies fully automate their operations like never before.  They’re reducing costs, boosting profits and many times gaining a competitive advantage based on IIoT technologies. MSA’s highly proven FieldServer, SMC Cloud and mobile interface, along with its talented engineers and solution partners are there to help you transition your business to the cloud–on-time and on-budget.

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Richard Theron
Richard Theron is the product Line manager for Fieldserver and cloud at Sierra Monitor, where he works intimately with companies in the building automation, industrial automation, energy management and life safety markets to help them cloud-enable their equipment.

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