Operators need to be able to rely on the functionality of their system. Because of that, it is a necessity that an industrial computer platform has networked remote management capabilities, so that all the relevant parameters, the ‘big data’ these platforms must manage, are available remotely and around the clock. OEMs and operators profit in many ways from remote monitoring and management. First, they no longer have to be present on-site for software updates. Secondly, parallel management of systems is possible – particularly in large installations where immense savings can be achieved in terms of maintenance and resources. The third advantage relates to installation safety allowing system access via the network so that externally-accessible interfaces such as USB ports or CF card slots are no longer required. This eliminates the risk of misuse such as malware uploading or data theft threats from these ports.
Hardware Remote Management with Intel® AMT
Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) is an important foundation for hardware remote management. Part of Intel® vPro technology suite, Intel® AMT provides the essential basic functions with which OEMs can alter BIOS or firmware parameters remotely, install firmware updates or adjust energy modes. Also, Intel® AMT enables system and software settings to be retrieved, even if a system is shut down. If required, remote system boots can be carried out to allow remote software updates.
Developing Monitoring and Control Applications with KEAPI
So that developers can take advantage of hardware remote management functionalities, corresponding software tools and matching remote services are essential. Selecting the right software is also crucial as it ultimately determines how system parameters are defined and how they are monitored. For a wide range of systems and boards, Kontron provides the option of adding its Kontron Embedded Application Programming Interface(KEAPI) and corresponding remote services. The KEAPI is a standardized, Kontron-wide software library giving OEMs the capability to simplify the development of tailored monitoring and control applications for their systems.
For example, monitoring of processor and housing temperatures is possible along with direct access to the I²C bus or the watchdog. Even failsafe BIOS updates via the cloud are possible with KEAPI, and an additional security layer protects against unauthorized access. So the basic functions for system monitoring and remote maintenance services that make the Kontron KBox ‘wartungsfrei’ are included in the overall system package. In order to achieve ‘wartungsfrei’ systems, developers should ensure that application software updates do not suddenly bring the system to a halt. Clean lines of code and extensive testing are mandatory requirements to ensure maintenance-free systems.
Maintenance 4.0 Concepts: Profit-Increasing, Long Lasting and Value-Added Services at Lower Development Costs
When IPC monitoring is installed, OEMs can also use these functions for status monitoring of the whole application including intelligent I/O. In collaboration with Salesforce.com, Kontron has demonstrated how a Maintenance 4.0 concept can operate. The demonstration simulates system errors on a computer controlling an industrial plant, which are routed via the cloud to an employee’s mobile device. Additionally, the complete case management, including ticketing and evaluation of the service cases, is carried out directly in the application. OEMs and automation suppliers can implement this proof of concept and offer their own cloud-based maintenance services for their applications. All this can be done without expert knowledge of computer hardware or software technologies enabling OEMs and operators to fully concentrate on development at application level. They can, therefore, provide their customers with profit-increasing, long lasting and value-added services at lower development costs.
At a glance: Advantages of hardware remote control
Worldwide, any time access to all relevant parameters
No obligation to be present on-site for software updates
Parallel management of systems is possible
Secure installation – externally-accessible interfaces are no longer required
Possibility to monitor the whole application including intelligent I/O
Can you think of even more advantages of hardware remote control? Please feel free to make suggestions and/or comments.