Manufacturing IO Toolkit: vf-OS drivers & APIs
The combination of the Internet of Things, Cyber-Physical Systems and the Internet of Systems make Industry 4.0 possible, and the Smart Factory, a reality. Yet, one of the main open challenges is the interconnection of factory assets, understood as technical resources, such as industrial machines or software applications that provide value to the company. Indeed, many factories, particularly European SMEs, implement legacy systems in the form of corporate software (e.g. ERPs, CRMs, CAD) and industrial systems (e.g. PLCs) that are not trivial to interconnect, especially when collaboration with other companies is required. To simplify this interconnection, vf-OS provides the IO Toolkit, a development tool that facilitates the development of drivers that interconnect and mediate the communication with any factory asset.
As a project, vf-OS envisages to attract talent from solution developers and to provide accessible manufacturing smart applications to European SMEs. The IO Toolkit is the development framework provided by vf-OS to the Manufacturing and Service Providers, such as machine vendors, that need to generate new device drivers and API Connectors with the purpose of widening the market reach of their shop-floor devices and business line. Any new developed device driver or API connector (generically called IO component) can be published to the vf-OS Marketplace and, from that point on, be available to all the community.
The IO Toolkit provides a software generator to create a working copy of a component that interconnects the vf-OS Platform to an asset using a specific technology. The IO Toolkit generator is based on a templating platform with off-the-shelf templates to interconnect to assets using cutting edge technologies. The template implements both industrial Machine to Machine (M2M) communication protocols (e.g. OPC UA, MQTT, Modbus) and open data solutions to interface with legacy software (e.g. ODBC, OData, STEP). The output of the generator is a containerized component that runs as a microservice in the context of the vf-OS technical architecture. The component can connect to an asset or group of assets providing very flexible deployment alternatives. The IO toolkit catalogue of templates empowers developers on the development of new Device drivers and API connectors on the vf-OS Platform. The IO Toolkit provides a convenient development documentation, along with a standard versioning scheme for the Toolkit and the produced components. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the IO Toolkit will provide a testing framework to check the compliance of the IO component development.