Smart Factories FEATURE NEWS

Mobility and MIOTY: As Cars Become Smarter, Car Factories Become Smarter Too

By Cynthia S. Artin October 11, 2018

Capgemini, one of the world’s largest consulting and technology services firms, reported earlier this year that the automotive sector could benefit from up to $160 billion in annual productivity gains by 2023 by adopting smart factory technologies.

According to their report, published in April 2018, a top-ten automotive company could enjoy 50 percent growth in operational profits annually within five years of a full smart factory implementation.

They also found that manufacturers can break even within one year of completing a smart upgrade implementation.

The Capgemini report, Automotive Smart Factories: How Auto Manufacturers Can Benefit from the Digital Industrial Revolution, was published by its Digital Transformation Institute.

“The auto industry has grasped the significant potential of smart factories and has a head start over other sectors in terms of adoption,” the report says. “Nearly half (49 percent) of automotive organizations have invested $250 million or more in smart factory initiatives over the last five years.”

While there are many “moving parts” to a smart auto factory implementation, one critical element according to start-up Behr Technologies Inc. (Behr), is the requirement for a fully private, secure and resilient network that is also affordable to install and maintain.

Earlier this month, Behr and Counsel Group Frankfurt (CGF) announced a partnership to offer automakers Industrial IoT (IIoT) offerings for smart factories with BTI's LPWAN communications solution, MIOTY.

The partnership’s first customer is a multinational auto manufacturer with a worldwide production capacity of around 9,000 daily units.

And while that customer has not been named, CGF has worked with the iconic Bavarian Motor Works (BMW), a clear leader in factory automation and “Industry 4.0” with their digitalisation initiatives BMW reports are impacting the entire BMW Group production value chain.

“From press shop to body shop to paint shop, from assembly to logistics – every stage of production can benefit from the use of digital processes,” BMW says on their website, leveraging “the opportunities of digitalisation in many areas. Complex processes can be made even more efficient by using IT-supported technologies in production,” according Oliver Zipse, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Production.

BMW’s categories of digitization include smart data analytics, smart logistics, innovative automation and additive manufacturing.

The Capgemini report said, “BMW is investing $1 billion in expanding one of its most flexible and automated plants in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The factory, which is BMW’s largest production facility, started deploying collaborative robots as early as 2013. BMW plans to further invest a $600 million at the site between 2018 and 2021.”

CGF provided on-site IT support for BMW since 2012, working hand in hand with BMW's IT departments in its factories In Germany, Mexico and the USA. Their team in Greenville, provides IT strategy and operational support to additional automotive manufacturing plants, industrial facilities and office environments in the US as well.

The announcement with Behr, made at the Southern Automotive Conference in Atlanta last week brings “together CGF’s extensive experience providing IT solutions to automotive manufacturers and our innovative LPWAN technology, we will accelerate digital transformation in this market,” said Albert Behr, CEO of BTI. “With unprecedented network capacity and reliability, MIOTY enables a whole new level of visibility on the factory floor by breaking down data silos and pushing massive sensor data to the cloud.”

Behr explains that their MIOTY platform, less than a year old, but years in the making through R&D and community engagement in the LoRa WAN space, “adds an extra layer of communication infrastructure to enable an entirely new spectrum of IoT use cases in smart factories. These use cases were previously unattainable due to the cost and power constraints of conventional solutions.”

The announcement previewed a few use cases including:

  • Factory-wide environmental sensors that measure air quality, temperature, and humidity to monitor and control optimal ambient conditions for multiple processes like painting and fluid filling. 
  • Wearables and external sensors that transmit workers’ health status and working conditions to detect potential signs of dehydration, fatigue, or other health-related issues that require corrective measures.
  • Embedded sensors that continuously track health and operational parameters of assets and equipment to enable condition-based monitoring and predictive maintenance.
  • Sub-meters capturing energy consumption data at different factory areas to identify power waste sources and improve energy efficiency.

The first deployment includes MIOTY-enabled sensors allowing the auto manufacturer to measure dust particles at paint shops and temperature at filling stations to help avoid paint defects and excessive fluid injection.

In addition, data on atmospheric humidity and temperature across the shop floor is communicated through a MIOTY-based private network to alert managers of critical situations when workers require hydration breaks.

“At CGF, we provide our clients with IT solutions that are effective and perfectly aligned with with their strategic focus,” says Wilhelm Treiber CEO of Counsel Group Frankfurt.“MIOTY technology is a game changer for the Industrial IoT market. By working together with BTI, we can push the frontiers of digtilization in the automotive industry by delivering a turnkey, last-mile communication solution to our customers.”

Behr is based in Toronto, Canada’s “Silicon Valley.”

Behr is the worldwide licensee of MIOTY, a new commercial standard in LPWAN technology for Industrial IoT. Behr is focused on commercializing, licensing, and supporting MIOTY through partnerships with industry-leading technology providers, and the development of new MIOTY-based products and applications for the IIoT marketplace.

BTI’s first commercial product using this ETSI standard was the MIOTY 1.0 Starter Kit with Microsoft Azure, which was launched in April at Hannover Messe, Germany.

Behr announced earlier this year their BTI MIOTY™ low-power, wide-area [LPWA] network communications solution is the first and only technology to comply with the just-released ETSI telegram splitting ultra-narrow band (TS-UNB) technical specification for low throughput networks (TS 103 357). In delivering a real-world solution based on these specifications, BTI MIOTY powers the IIoT by facilitating the “last mile” of communications with wireless data sources.

“The lack of standards has been a primary barrier to worldwide IIoT scalability,” said Michael Schlicht, head of the communication systems division at Fraunhofer IIS. “We worked closely with globally-recognized standards body ETSI to introduce this revolutionary MIOTY communication technology to the market.”

BTI MIOTY offers carrier-grade scaling and performance, no network fees, and high interference immunity. Running on commodity gateways and transceivers, a single BTI MIOTY gateway can scale to handle up to 100,000 sensor nodes and 1.5 million messages per day.

Leveraging license-free sub-gigahertz spectrum, the sensors in a BTI MIOTY network can operate within a radius of five to 15 kilometres of the gateway (depending on the geographical density), even in inhospitable and previously impenetrable environments such as mines and refineries.

“The release of this standard is a game-changer for the IIoT market, especially since the technical specifications surpass that of any other solution in use today by an order of magnitude,” said Behr, at the time of the announcement.

The benefits of LPWA networks compared to cellular solutions for the IIoT include longer transceiver battery life and lower cost of operations using unlicensed sub-gigahertz frequencies.

The core technology underlying the ETSI specification and BTI MIOTY is known as telegram splitting. This patented communication method was developed by Fraunhofer and licensed to BTI for global commercialization.

To enable a single base station to communicate simultaneously with thousands of distributed or mobile IIoT devices, the technology splits the data packets to be transported in the data stream into small subpackets at the sensor level.

These subpackets are then transmitted over fluctuating frequency and time.

A sophisticated algorithm in the base station permanently scans the spectrum for MIOTY subpackets and reassembles them into a complete message. Thanks to built-in redundancy, up to 50 percent of the subpackets may be lost in transmission, without reducing the information content. The radio standard thus achieves a unique robustness against interference with a great network capacity and high power efficiency due to the very short “on air” times.

BTI MIOTY operates on unlicensed spectrum.  868 Mhz in Europe and 915 Mhz in North America, and as necessary on other approved frequencies by region.

Founded nearly twenty years ago, the CGF has a long-standing partnership with BMW and is experienced in providing on-site IT solutions for manufacturing and other IT environments.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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Contributing Writer

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