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Making industrial SMEs more competitive with smart and resilient IoT systems

Published on 14.3.2024
Tampere University
Photo: Jonne Renvall
The FAST-Lab at Tampere University has developed an open-source Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform, which helps to improve the competitiveness of Finnish industrial small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The platform was developed as a part of the international CHARM project focused on creating electronic components and systems for industrial IoT solutions that can withstand harsh environments.

The CHARM project (Challenging environments tolerant Smart systems for IoT and AI) was an applied research initiative that lasted almost four years and ended in February 2024. The project was coordinated by VALMET Technologies Oy, with the FAST-Lab (Future Automation Systems and Technologies Laboratory) playing a key role in the development of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform.

The initiative addressed the challenges posed by severe thermal, mechanical, and chemical stress that occur during manufacturing processes and in end-user environments. Digitalization and continuous innovation are considered crucial for maintaining the competitiveness of European manufacturing industries.

Open-source IIoT platform tailored for Finnish SMEs

A significant outcome of the CHARM Project is the development of an open-source FIWARE platform tailored for Finnish SMEs. FIWARE’s open, standards-based architecture facilitates the creation and deployment of smart applications and services.

Professor Jose L. Martinez Lastra, leader of the FAST-Lab, highlights the benefits of FIWARE, including easy integration, reduced development costs, accelerated time-to-market, and enhanced scalability and interoperability across sectors.

The FIWARE platform facilitates the integration of innovative solutions, including sensors for multiple gas detection and paper mill rolls, across diverse industries such as mining and paper manufacturing.

“The platform’s flexibility offers a versatile solution for SMEs by optimising resource use and production processes as well as enhancing manufacturing efficiency and competitiveness in multiple industries,” he says.

Seamless communication between technologies

The FIWARE IIoT platform integrates the Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture (OPC UA), a machine-to-machine communication protocol and its component to adapt to OPC legacy systems, the OPC UA Wrapper. Additionally, it incorporates the Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) messaging protocol, optimising communication with devices with limited processing power and bandwidth, alongside with databases such as PostgreSQL for storing IoT data.

“The open-source implementation ensures seamless communication between new and existing technologies, enabling businesses to upgrade their operations with minimal disruption,” highlights Martinez Lastra.

Leveraging FIWARE’s flexibility, SMEs can achieve greater operational efficiency, improved data interoperability, enhanced scalability, real-time data exchange and easy integration.

The IIoT FIWARE implementation is open for public use, with expectations that it will attract more companies and thereby foster further development and code improvements. The CHARM project was funded by the European H2020 – ECSEL programme and brought together 37 partners from 10 European countries, showcasing the power of collaboration in advancing industrial IoT solutions that can operate reliably in harsh environments.