Crowd Funding Industrial Automation Raspberry Pi

Crowd Funding Industrial Automation Raspberry Pi

I received a Website submission pointing me to an Indiegogo campaign for an industrial automation interface for Raspberry Pi.

It is named Monarco HAT: Industrial interface for Raspberry Pi for Monitoring, archiving and control. It offers analog and digital I/O, RS-485 and 1-Wire in compact form.

REX Controls from Plzeň/Pilsen, Czech Republic is the developer.

Is there a place for “toys” in industrial automation?

The heading is from the Indiegogo page. First off, are you familiar with crowdsourcing funds? There is an offer–usually first run of product. It is an investment, so, you may lose your money like any investment. I’ve participated in one before. I’m considering investing in this one. Exploring Raspberry Pi has been on my list, but there have just been too many other things going on. This may be a way.

Raspberry Pi (and Arduino for that matter, and there are others) look enticing for Internet of Things applications. If you need edge devices and don’t need the power that, say, a Dell IoT device gives, this could be just the device you need. They are actually pretty powerful little devices in their own right.

Here is a teaser from the site:

  • Have you ever tried to find a versatile device to collect data from sensors and devices and process it locally? Or store it on a database server?
  • Have you ever struggled with simply too many communication protocol gateways or data bridges?
  • Have you ever wished to have a compact programmable device fitting both in your mini-project and your restricted budget?
  • Have you ever thought about using the Raspberry Pi minicomputer in an industrial environment?

Well we have. All the questions above are based on our very own experience. As a group of control engineers at REX Controls we have tackled such challenges many times. We have come to a conclusion that although the Raspberry Pi minicomputer is a toy (a fun toy and a real game-changer in many fields, but still a toy from the industrial automation point of view), it definitely has a place in the world of PLCs, PACs, IPCs, especially in the era of IoT and Industry 4.0.

With this campaign, we would like to validate our opinion and we’d be thrilled if you joined us on our way and supported our new hardware product.

Monarco Raspberry Pi for Industry

They must be dressed properly

Our journey with Raspberry Pi started the day it was introduced to the market. As a company focused on advanced automation and control solutions, we strongly believe in the power of fine-tuned control algorithms and the importance of minimizing their computational demands. So wouldn’t it be nice to demonstrate what we can squeeze out of the Raspberry Pi? Yes it would!

We started using the Raspberry Pi as a demonstration platform and as an experimental gadget for students of automation and control system theory. Later on also as a programmable controller for several hobby and DIY projects. Slowly but inevitably we started to think about using it also in industrial applications. We have been so excited about its potential however we have faced several problems:

  • 5 VDC power supply is not very common in industrial automation, not mentioning the microUSB power supply connector.
  • There was no enclosure nor DIN-rail mount for the Raspberry Pi available.
  • There were no add-on boards with analog inputs and outputs to interface with standard industrial sensors and devices.
Industrial IoT HMI for Raspberry PI and Linux

Industrial IoT HMI for Raspberry PI and Linux

Tatsoft FactoryStudio HMIRaspberry PI is an intriguing small, inexpensive computing platform. I’ve seen a number of really cool projects on various tech blogs and video podcasts. I figure there must be a number of engineers figuring out how to implement these devices to reduce cost and complexity.

Use of Linux in industrial automation has never reached any sort of critical mass. I started following it somewhere around 1999 and even started to write about Linux in automation for a Linux magazine about that time. But Microsoft Windows won (remember the 1999 ARC Forum in Orlando when the Sun guys promoting Java as an OS packed up and headed out?), and Linux has been sort of peripheral.

I keep expecting something to happen. We have moved to the cloud in a big way for many applications including HMI/SCADA. Maybe we’ll see more in the near future.

HMI for IoT and Raspberry PI and Linux

Betting on that is Tatsoft. It has released its FactoryStudio Industrial IoT (IIoT) HMI for Raspberry PI and Linux.

FactoryStudio delivers real-time information with a set of fully-integrated modules in a unified and intuitive engineering user interface. With FactoryStudio, projects can scale from local embedded devices and mobile applications up to very large, distributed, high performance fault-tolerant systems. It provides an Application Development Platform to allow easy creation of solutions for the device level itself, with Graphical real-time displays, communication protocols to PLC’s, data logging, alarm engine, local SQL storage and C#/VB.NET scripting. Those embedded applications can easily communicate with remote FactoryStudio applications on the cloud, or on premises, accessing and consolidating distributed information.

The FactoryStudio platform can also work as the presentation layer and data gateway to historian systems, such as OSIsoft PI, Prediktor APIS, and ERP systems such as SAP, or directly connect with the SQL enterprise databases.

“The development tools are the same whether you are deploying projects to Microsoft Windows computers running .NET Framework, Linux operating system with the Mono Framework and Raspberry PI devices. For Raspberry PI, we also included easy access to onboard I/O in addition to all other HMI features.” explains Marcos (Marc) Taccolini, Tatsoft LLC CTO.

This release complements the FactoryStudio multi-platform solutions that already have runtimes for Windows Compact Framework and iOS devices. According Dave Hellyer, Sr VP Marketing, “Tatsoft believes that we can use the intersection of people, data and intelligent machines to have a far-reaching impact on the productivity, efficiency and operations of industries around the world.”

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