Machine Safety: We haven’t finished assessing cloud computing; here comes the fog

Cloud computing has been discussed by all the big guys (Microsoft, Apple, Cisco Systems, IBM, Google, Facebook, HP, Sony, etc.) for several years. Some suppliers have already developed hardware products that only store data in “the cloud.” And, machine safety experts have begun assessing how, or even if, “the cloud” can play any role in providing machine safety.

07/08/2014


Machine safety experts have begun assessing how cloud computing can play any role in providing machine safety. What about fog computing? Courtesy: Control Engineering Machine Safety Blog, J.B. TitusMicrosoft, Apple, Cisco Systems, IBM, Google, Facebook, HP, Sony, and other "big guys" have been talking about cloud computing for several years. Some suppliers have already developed hardware products that only store data in “the cloud.” And, machine safety experts have begun assessing how, or even if, the cloud can play any role in providing machine safety. So, what is this noise about “the Fog”?

Cloud computing advantages, risk

Cloud computing and data storage have distinctively significant advantages as the world grows more data centric. One major advantage of the cloud is to push one company’s data and software into some other company’s data center. This advantage certainly addresses a data center’s efficiencies and capacity issues cost effectively. However, a company’s costs could sky rocket if a cloud based data center is disrupted. I suspect that these and other issues are still in the process of being worked on as well as the development of any safeguarding designs as required by IEC 61508-1 for any potential machine safety-related functions. It’s my opinion that, as a minimum, any role performed by the cloud in supporting machine safety applications will require compliance to IEC 61508-1 and perhaps other safety standards also.

What is “the Fog”?

On May 18, The Wall Street Journal published an article; "Forget 'the Cloud;' Computing’s Future Lies in 'the Fog,'" written by Christopher Mims. Mr. Mims’ article does a good job of describing the fog based in part around a limiting factor of “the Cloud” being 3G and 4G networks. This discussion boils down to a term called bandwidth, which is a significant limitation for “big data.” Essentially, a computing fog is cloud computing close to the ground. Mims describes the fog as follows: “Stop focusing on the cloud, and start figuring out how to store and process the torrent of data being generated by the Internet of Things (also known as the Industrial Internet) on the things themselves, or on devices that sit between our things and the Internet.” He goes on to describe more details, yet this is a convenient spot to address machine safety. We have today a rapidly growing presence of smart devices inside the walls of manufacturing. Such devices as; cableless operator panels, tablets, smart phones, lap top computers, wireless sensors… and many more.

Cloud, fog, and safety

Some of these devices already have safety devices and/or safety functions. All of these smart devices can be considered members of the Internet of things. They have computing capability, and they are targets of inclusion (my words) in the fog. It makes sense for the fog (as with the cloud to be compliant with relevant safety design standards for use in machine safety-related functions?

Now, big thinkers as we are, consider the cloud and the fog as community versus autonomous. My investigation into these developments reveals that the fog is actually an extension of the cloud, a place where time-sensitive data storage, computing and networking can occur without burdening the processing of big data in the data centers within the cloud. Therefore, it makes sense that machine safety-related functions should evolve over time as part of these new developments. This could present challenges and opportunities.

How do you think cloud or fog-based resources can augment machine safety? Do you have questions about machine safety for future blog posts? Add your comments or thoughts to the discussion by submitting your ideas, experiences, and challenges in the comments section below.

Related articles:

Machine Safety: enhanced safety networks, the Internet of things, and autonomous safety

Forget “the Cloud;” Computing’s Future Lies in “the Fog,” written by Christopher Mims, The Wall Street Journal

Fog Computing and Its Role in the Internet of Things, written by Flavio Bonomi, Rodolfo Milito, Jiang Zhu and Sateesh Addepalli, Cisco Systems Inc.

Machine Safety: Industry 4.0 and how it could impact machine safety

See an additional Control Engineering article about fog computing, linked below.

Contact: www.jbtitus.com for “Solutions for Machine Safety.”



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
2016 Product of the Year; Diagnose bearing failures; Asset performance management; Testing dust collector performance measures
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me