Renesas Electronics Expands Renesas Synergy™ Platform for IoT

Renesas Electronics Corporation (TSE: 6723), a premier supplier of advanced semiconductor solutions, today announced the expansion of its Renesas Synergy™ Platform designed to accelerate time to market, reduce total cost of ownership and remove many of the obstacles engineers face when designing devices for the Internet of Things (IoT). Expansion includes launch of the new S124 Group of Synergy Microcontrollers (MCUs) with ultra-low power operating characteristics and precise analog signal acquisition/generation capabilities ideal for sensor applications. In support of these new MCUs is an updated version of the Synergy Software Package (SSP) and the e² studio Integrated Solution Development Environment (ISDE) tool. The SSP and e² studio tool also incorporate further enhancements that address the entire Synergy Platform adding new capabilities for networking, industrial automation, power management and automated configuration to save even more precious time for embedded system developers.

“The Synergy Platform continues to grow in value to both developers and their end-customers,” said Mark Rootz, Marketing Director of Renesas’ Internet of Things BU. “This new S124 Synergy MCU Group is another example of platform growth that brings ARM® Cortex®-M0+ based MCUs to the lower end of the application spectrum while remaining completely scalable and compatible with the companion Cortex®-M4 based Synergy MCU groups above it that we launched last year. Software support for these new S124 MCUs is there by expansion of the SSP enabling customers to quickly and easily migrate between all Synergy MCU groups as their needs change and still be able to re-use existing application code. We continue to evolve all elements of the Synergy Platform and build value as demonstrated here with new MCUs, new software, plus ever-growing tool and partner support for the platform.”

Overall Synergy Platform expansion continues globally with the addition of five new Verified Software Add-on (VSA) products from Europe and Japan to be available on the Synergy Gallery in spring 2016. VSA software from third-parties are verified by Renesas to be SSP-compatible for developers to easily add specialty functions to their Synergy Platform-based projects with confidence. New global VSA partners address specialized functions in the areas of home and industrial automation including Echonet, CANopen, and BACnet, plus secure communications, and cloud services. These US-based VSA products are now fully available on the Synergy Gallery – Cypherbridge Systems SDKPac for Synergy secure IoT and web connectivity including SSL/TLS, Icon Labs for security services including firewall and secure boot, and Skkynet for secure real-time data connectivity, on premise or cloud-based (SaaS).

Renesas Electronics Expands Ground-Breaking IoT Platform with Renesas Synergy™ Software Package

Renesas Electronics, a premier supplier of advanced semiconductor solutions, today announced new developments for the Renesas Synergy™ Platform, including the commercial release of the Renesas Synergy Software Package (SSP) version 1.0.0, mass production availability of the S7G2 Renesas Synergy Microcontrollers (MCUs), and availability of the first Verified Software Add-on (VSA) software from VSA Program partners.

Cypherbridge Systems, Icon Labs, and Skkynet, all members of the VSA Program, are the first program members to offer production-ready software for the platform via the Renesas Synergy Gallery, the comprehensive online source for the Renesas Synergy Software.

ThunderCloud Alliance Aims at World Market

ThunderCloud Alliance Aims at World Market

Small and medium-sized companies cooperate in Industrial IoT and M2M venture

ThunderCloud Alliance (関西積乱雲プロジェクト) was launched on 2013 December to showcase each company’s products and the technologies for cloud computing and the IoT (Internet of Things).

Cogent Real-Time Systems is one of the key companies for the ThunderCloud Alliance, offering real-time data connectivity middleware to communicate between devices (M2M) and remote monitoring, along with six other companies in the Kansai area. There are a total of nine companies are participating in the ThounderCloud alliance project at present.

Each company is contributing from its own specialized field. TOA Musendenki Co., Ltd is in charge of communication and various sensor devices. BellChild Co., Ltd is responsible for cloud servers. Kobata Gauge Manufacturing provides various sensors. Haneron Corporation offers remote monitoring equipment. NiC is responsible for industrial networks. Nissin Systems Co., Ltd. is in charge of control systems and embedded software. Puerto Co., Ltd develops industrial protocols, and provides expertise in OPC UA. Japan Direx Corporation does real-time network intelligence analysis.

All members get together regularly each month to exchange information and share each companys’ technologies, new ideas, and market trends. They collaborate to develop, innovate, and test new systems.

Recently they have been working together to develop a system which collects information from various sensors and sends their data to the cloud by highly secure wired and wireless transmission technology.

“This organization welcomes any company that wants to collaborate on new technology. Each company can bring in their own special skills or knowledge with no pressure.” Mr. Kobata, President of Kobata Gauge Manufacturing, emphasizes.

“Specifically, we have been focusing our development on communication between various sensors and gateway devices, simultaneous data transmission, and highly secure systems,” said Mr. Fujita, President of BellChild. “As a result, we completed a secure micro cloud system named ‘iBRESS’ on June 15, 2015 which leverages IoT technology.”

“Currently, iBRESS is installed in the monitoring systems of small hydroelectric power generators using agricultural water, and it is also used by freshwater plants on remote islands,” he said. “We are beginning to see good results, and it has been getting a good reviews from users.”

“This project’s success demonstrates that when small and medium-sized enterprises collaborate together it enhances the security of cloud systems for remote monitoring,” said Mr. Emi, President of TOA Musendenki. “Now a number of major companies are paying attention to this secure technology for cloud-based remote monitoring products. In addition, ThunderCloud Alliance members are motivated to develop next-generation systems in the future.”

“We would also like to cooperate with sales departments among the participating companies to be able to aim at even the global market,” said Mr. Kobata, expressing his enthusiasm for the potential applications of the technology.

We will continue to monitor the activities of the ThunderCloud Alliance on an ongoing basis, and look forward to seeing this kind of collaborative movement among different companies in other areas and regions.

Published by Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (日刊工業新聞社) on January 5th

Nokia Announces Open Innovation Challenge Winners

On August 3, Nokia launched its third consecutive Open Innovation Challenge, offering the brightest innovators an opportunity to collaborate on game-changing ideas to shape the programmable world. Nokia received hundreds of submissions from all around the world and after intensive evaluation work, ideas were drilled down to 10. These 10 winners from Canada, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland and the U.S. were announced at Nokia’s celebration event, held at its headquarters in Finland on November 10.

The challenge, organized in partnership with Nokia Growth Partners (NGP), invited participants to submit innovative ideas, technologies, or business models for a chance to collaborate with Nokia around exciting and even disruptive ideas, and to leverage Nokia’s global market reach and connectivity expertise. The participants were also reviewed by NGP, which is actively investing in promising IoT companies.

Skkynet Cloud Systems, Inc. (skkynet.com) Based in Mississauga, Ontario, Skkynet is a global leader in real-time cloud information systems. The Skkynet Connected Systems platform includes its SkkyHub(TM) service, DataHub® and WebView(TM) and embedded toolkit software. The platform enables real-time data connectivity for industrial, embedded and financial systems, with no programming required.

 

Renesas New Platform Could Speed Embedded Development

Renesas Electronics this week rolled out the first components for a new platform that promises to simplify embedded product development.

Known as Synergy, the platform could be the most concerted effort yet by a supplier to integrate all the disparate pieces of hardware and software that make up an embedded system. Incorporating a real-time operating system (RTOS), TCP/IP stack and middleware along with each microcontroller (MCU), Synergy is said to be aimed at product developers whose expertise may not lie in the software arena. “It’s exactly targeted at those people who don’t have a lot of development resources in house,” Vin D’Agostino, vice president of the General Purpose Products Unit at Renesas, told Design News.

During the platform’s development, Renesas partnered with 11 software companies with expertise in wireless, middleware, security, embedded boards and cloud-based services. Partners included Express Logic Inc., Future Designs Inc., Skkynet Cloud Systems, Inc., IS2T, Icon Labs and GainSpan, among others. It also partnered with ten independent design houses that are now trained in Synergy.

Secure Remote Monitoring and Supervisory Control

New technologies such as Software as a Service, the Internet of Things and cloud computing for industrial process temperature bring new challenges, but there are solutions.

Interest in using cloud computing — also known as Software as a Service (SaaS) — to provide remote access to industrial systems continues to rise. Vendors and company personnel alike point to potential productivity improvements and cost savings as well as convenience. Operators and plant engineers may want to receive alarms and adjust heating controls while moving around the plant. Managers would like to see production data in real time — not just in end-of-shift or daily reports. Hardware vendors could benefit from getting live readings from their installed equipment for maintenance and troubleshooting operations.

Some industrial processors are attempting to provide this kind of window into their production systems. Yet, many question the wisdom of opening up a plant’s mission-critical control network to the possibility of malicious attack or even misguided errors. With a proper understanding of what is at stake, what is being proposed and how it can best be implemented, you can better decide whether remote access to your production data could benefit your company.

Security First for Industrial Networks

When talking about remote access to plant data, the first concern is security. Any approach that exposes the control system to unauthorized entry should be off the table. One popular approach is to secure the network against any potential intruders and open it only to trusted parties. Connections into the plant typically originate from smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers. These systems usually are running a human-machine interface (HMI), remote desktop application, database browser or other proprietary connector.

In most cases, the plant engineering staff or IT department can grant client access to the network via a virtual private network (VPN), so authorized users can get the data they need. However, a typical VPN connection provides link-layer integration between network participants. This means that once on a network, an outsider has access to all other systems on the network. Thus, the company must either fully trust each person who comes is granted access to the network, or the company must task the IT manager with securing and protecting the resources within the network.

It would be unwise to risk giving visitors full access to everything that a VPN exposes. Using a VPN this way is a little like having a visitor come into your plant. Suppose a service technician arrives at the gate saying he needs to check a piece of equipment. You could just tell the guard to check his credentials, and if he checks out, give him a hardhat, directions and send him in. That is the limited-security approach. A better way would be to provide a guide to ensure that the technician finds his destination, does his work and leaves with only the information he came to get. It takes more effort and planning, but if you are going to allow someone to enter the premises, such effort is necessary to ensure security.

Better than VPN

An even better approach is to only allow access to the data itself. Consider this: the user of the data — be it vendor, customer or even corporate manager — does not need access to the whole network. Instead, they just need the data. So, rather than allowing a client to log on via a VPN connection while the IT manager works to secure confidential areas of the network from the inside, wouldn’t it be better to provide access to the data outside of the network altogether?

To continue our analogy, this would be like the guard handing the service technician exactly the data he need he arrived at the gate. There is no need to open the gate and no need to let him into the plant. In fact, the service company, vendor or other authorized party could request the data be sent to their own location, so they do not even have to go to the plant in the first place. This approach to remote monitoring is far more secure.

Is such a scenario realistic? Yes, if you use the right technology in the right way. For example, WebSocket is a protocol that supports communication over TCP, similar to HTML. But unlike HTML, once a WebSocket connection is established, client and server can exchange data indefinitely. The protocol also supports SSL encryption, a well-tested security protocol. Thus, WebSocket technology can be used to open and maintain a secure data tunnel over TCP from a plant to a cloud server without opening any ports in any firewalls. Once the tunnel connection is established, data can flow bi-directionally.

Isolating the Industrial Process Data

Such a data-centric approach to remote monitoring and supervisory control has several benefits. One key advantage is that the process can run in complete isolation from the remote client. Low-level control — and, in fact, all systems within the plant — remain completely invisible to the remote clients. The only point of contact for the remote client is the selected data set being streamed from the plant, and that data resides in the cloud.

While nobody seriously imagines making low-level control changes over a cloud connection, a solution based on WebSocket technology could allow both read-only and read/write client connections for those applications where remote changes are deemed acceptable. Authorized personnel then would have the ability to effect change in plant processes for diagnostic or maintenance purposes via a secure connection. This approach would not require any open firewall ports, so the plant remains invisible to the Internet.

Regardless of the intended use of the data, a correctly provisioned WebSocket connection to the cloud provides the process isolation needed to provide access to data without jeopardizing your in-plant systems.

Any Data Protocols

Another advantage to this approach is that it can be protocol-agnostic. Ideally, the system would carry only the raw data over TCP in a simple format: name, value and timestamp for each change in value. The connector would convert the plant protocol, such as OPC or Modbus, to a simple data feed to the cloud. Requiring a minimum of bandwidth and system resources, the data would flow in real time to all registered clients.

Each client, in turn, can convert the data into whatever format is most convenient and appropriate for their application. Options include spreadsheets, databases, web pages or custom programs.

Better yet, this approach to remote monitoring is not necessarily limited to in-plant connections. Custom-developed WebSocket connectors small enough to fit on embedded devices such as temperature sensors or flowmeters could be placed at remote locations any distance from the plant. Then, by wired or cellular connections to the Internet, the devices would connect directly to the cloud via WebSocket tunnels, without going through the traditional SCADA system, if need be. Such high-performance connectivity would support secure, real-time M2M communications and meet essential requirements of the industrial Internet of Things (IoT).

Changes and Challenges

However you look at it, change is on the horizon for industrial process control systems. The current state of the art for networked control systems was made possible by dramatic technical breakthroughs in the 80s and 90s. Many industry experts say that we are now on the verge of similar breakthroughs in remote monitoring and supervisory control. Whether they call it cloud computing, Software as a Service (SaaS), Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), most will agree that the biggest challenge right now is security.

New technology provides new capabilities, and it also presents new demands that may challenge our way of thinking. Accessing data from a plant or remote sensor halfway across the world needs a different approach to security than our current models were designed for. Yet, there is no need to remain attached to the status quo if it does not truly meet the needs. These are engineering problems, and there are engineering solutions.

Bob McIlvride is the director of communications with Skkynet Cloud Systems Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Skkynet provides secure cloud-service remote monitoring services and can be reached at 888-628-2028 or visit the website at http://skkynet.com.