Introduction to the Factory-Relay
What is it? What is it used for? How does it work?
What is the Factory-Relay?
The Factory-Relay is industrial Software for connecting OT (Operations Technology) resources such as industrial machines and devices to IT (Information Technology) services.
For example, connect a motion sensor to a SCADA, HMI or even CRM and ERP systems.
And the Factory-Relay can do much more:
- It can provide a user-friendly dashboard of the sensor data
- It can send the sensor data to cloud services like Azure's IoT Hub
- It can send data even if the sensor is hard-to-reach in the deep edge, buried behind multiple firewalls to services in other networks even across the globe
- It can be easily extended with Plugins
- It is secure!
All these functionalities are controller and managed locally on the Factory-Relay – therefore no cloud access or subscription is required.
Let us drill into these use-cases:
User Friendly Dashboard
Imagine you want to see the sensor data in a nice user-friendly Dashboard on an iPAD.
The Factory-Relay includes a "Natural Machine Interface" (NMI). The NMI is based on HTML5 and runs in any modern browser. It is even optimized for Phones, Tablets, and special devices such as the HoloLens, Smart TVs and even the Tesla in-car browser.
Here examples of NMI screens
The NMI is automatically created from "Things" (Devices, Machines, Sensors, Services etc.) and allows for instant access. It is protected by a user login that the administrator can manage directly from the NMI on the Factory-Relay
Connection to Cloud Services
Imagine you want to monitor the sensor data over a long period of time and detect pattern using Machine Learning and AI in the Cloud.
Many Cloud Services like Azure IoT Hub have one shortcoming: They expect you, the factory manager, to provide the data of your machines to the cloud service.
With the Factory-Relay you can now do just that.
Our Cloud Connector plugins allow to easily configure the dataflow from connected devices to cloud services.
What if the factory floor (OT) is not directly connected to the internet?
This is very common in larger companies where IT departments have isolated the access of the OT to the internet. In most of these IT controlled environments, there are two firewalls between the OT and the Cloud.
The Factory-Relay can help the OT and the IT to securely relay the information relevant to the cloud service through the two firewalls and therefore allows you to connect hard-to-reach sensors at the deep edge. The Factory-Relay will comply to all policies set by the IT and only sends approved and selected data to the cloud.
The core communication of the Factory-Relay is based on HTTP and WebSockets. It can create a mesh of multiple Factory-Relays to optimize for any network infrastructure encountered.
Looking for an off-the-shelf gateway solutions?
Have a look at the xGATEWAY from Deviceworx with the Factory-Relay pre-installed, .
Send Data to other Service and facilities across the globe
Imaging the following scenario: Your sensor is in east-Europe, but your SCADA is in you headquarters in the USA and you want to send the data from the sensor into the SCADA.
In the past you had to create a VPN between the factory facility and the headquarters. This is very complicated to setup and maintain. Especially if you only want to connect very few devices that might not be secure in the sense of the IT, you will have a hard time getting permission to create a VPN.
The Factory-Relay can send data to other locations via a cloud service called "Cloud-Relay". This free service can be used to connect two facilities together.
What about OEMs?
This same technique can be used by OEMs to connect their machines at customers locations to a centralized management service. OEMs can now offer new Services to customers such as:
- Predictive and Preventive Maintenance Services
- Machine KPI monitoring Reports
- Machine Utilization and Performance Dashboards
If you are interested in our OEM product, please contact us at info@C-Labs.com
Easy extend the Factory-Relay with plugins
Imagine you have your own propriatary sensor and want to connect to it with the Factory-Relay
The Factory-Relay can be extended with any number of plugins such as:
- NMI Extensions - New controls or dashboards (i.e. Charts, Modern Controls or Dashboards)
- Protocols – Connectors to industrial protocols (i.e. Modbus or OPC UA Client)
- Connectors – to cloud- and other services (i.e Azure IoT Hub, email sender or OPC UA Server)
- Digital-Things – Digital representations of physical things (i.e robots, sensors or machines)
- Services – edge processing and computing services (i.e. Rules, Data Compressors or Historian Storage)
You can find these controls in our Plugin-Store
Can I develop my own plugins?
Yes, you can!
The Factory-Relay is built on the "C-DEngine", an IoT software stack created by C-Labs. C-Labs was acquired by the legendary German machine company, "TRUMPF" in 2017, and spun off in 2020 to launch the open source version of the C-DEngine.
Beside the source-code of C-DEngine, you can find many sample plugins and a tutorial on GitHub.
If you need training, support, or consulting, please contact us at info@C-Labs.com
The Factory-Relay is Secure!
Your data is your IP! It needs to be protected from manipulation and access
The Factory-Relay has multiple layers of security built-in:
- Protocol security (HTTPS/TLS/SSL and WebSocketsSecure/WSS)
- Encrypted Payload - protect the content of your message
- Rotating Connection Token - Tokens are not reused
- Encrypted Session Token – each leg in the mesh uses different token
If you want to learn more about our security techniques and principles, you can download our security whitepaper
If you need more information you can download our Whitepaper on the C-DEngine here or contact us at info@C-Labs.com