Edge computing, seen by many industry pundits and analysts as a key piece of the jigsaw in enabling technological convergence, is at a tipping point today. According to a report from Frost & Sullivan, by 2022 90% of industrial enterprises will be utilising edge computing.
Many technology vendors are therefore advocating edge’s potential – but others have been exploring this frontier for much longer. Eurotech, a provider of embedded boards and modules, edge computers and IoT platforms, is one such company.
In a recent press release, the company outlines its perspective. “The number of intelligent devices and smart sensors is constantly increasing: maintaining such device infrastructures is becoming more and more expensive, due to the fact that huge amounts of data have to be transferred to central data centres via the Internet,” Eurotech wrote. “Edge computing provides advanced management functionalities where data is produced, thus reducing latency, connection issues and infrastructure costs.”
With this in mind, IoT News sat down with Marco Carrer, CTO of Eurotech (left), to discuss the future of smart cities, the primary roadmap for Industry 4.0, the impact of Covid-19 on the IoT industry, and much more.
James Bourne: Tell me a little about your career to date and your current role and responsibilities at Eurotech?
Marco Carrer: As CTO of Eurotech, I am leading the development of our Edge products and solutions to enable and simplify Digital Transformation. Eurotech’s vision is to enable the digital transformation of the traditional industries and empower the next generation of connected, smart, and autonomous products. Before Eurotech, I had a 15-year career in the software industry. I started at Sony and later joined Oracle where I was responsible for the design and development of several innovative Oracle products. Throughout my career, I loved collaborating on open source projects and I am currently project lead for a couple of Eclipse IoT projects.
JB: What does Eurotech do and why – in your opinion – does it do it better than competitors in this space?
MC: Traditional embedded computer companies provide the electronic boards to be integrated in larger solutions. Nowadays, customer demands have great evolved.
The new building blocks for modern solutions are boards and systems with connectivity, security, software stacks and AI frameworks. The integration of all these components has become the biggest challenge. Eurotech provides an answer to that challenge. It provides trusted edge components that offer a solid foundation for the next generation of connected, smart, and autonmous products.
That’s our mission.
Eurotech differentiates from its competitors in flexibility, vertical market expertise, and trusted global deployment. In fact, it provides the flexibility to select the hardware and software components that best fits the customer application use case. Eurotech product portfolio offers hardware options from low power entry systems to liquid cooled high-performance edge computers providing unprecedented scalable computing at the Edge.
Eurotech hardware can be complemented by Eurotech Edge software stack, Everyware Software Framework (ESF). Eurotech’s IoT Edge Framework packages tens of ready-to-use industrial field protocols for south-bound connectivity allowing the creation of digital twins of field assets. For north-bound connectivity, ESF is also certified with AWS IoT Core and Azure IoT Hub with off-the-box support for provisioning, data ingestion, and digital twins. Finally, all Eurotech systems can be remotely managed through its IoT Integration Hub, Everyware Cloud.
Eurotech has significant experience in developing reliable solutions for different industries, including Railway, Transportation, Medical and Industrial and their necessary certifications. Connecting high-value assets deployed into harsh environments requires edge solutions that are hardened and robust. Eurotech provides rugged hardware for environments with extreme temperatures, extreme vibration, shocks, etc.
Finally, a large focus for Eurotech has been information security. Eurotech is constantly working to improve the security of its products by following and adopting the latest security recommendations and regulations.
JB: Which industries do you think are best suited for the rise in Industry 4.0 and why? Which industries will see the biggest impact short-term and which will see the biggest impact long-term?
MC: The shift to digital transformation is impacting all industries, it is just a matter of when such transformation will take place.
At first, we have seen a lot of interest in retrofitting connectivity into existing products, especially high value assets. Connectivity enabled new services like remote maintenance, allowing manufacturers to have a direct link with their final customers. Connectivity also enabled the massive collection of operational data which, in turns, allowed for new insights on operational efficiency. The following evolution adopts smart and modular edge platforms; it has then enabled new services delivered over-the-air, converting closed products into new monetization platforms for subscription-based services.
Finally, the latest trend of AI on the Edge will foster the transition to autonomous operations bringing even greater efficiency in the field.
Most industries are going through this process. For example, we have seen adoption in the transportation industry which seeks improved operational efficiency and in utility operators pushing for “servitization” of their offering.
JB: Could you give me an example of a customer you have worked with in the industrial sector and how Eurotech helped with their transformation?
MC: DB Cargo, a leading company in the European freight rail transportation business, chose Eurotech as their strategic partner for a smart data logging infrastructure for Condition Based Maintenance (CBM) application development.
By combining its expertise in IoT architectures and embedded hardware subsystems for transportation and railway applications, Eurotech implemented an end-to-end architecture that provides the hardware and software components to enable Condition Based Maintenance on board (through Edge computing) and remotely (through its Cloud-based integration platform).
JB: How do you see smart cities developing? Do you agree that different industries (logistics, transportation, smart buildings) need to work together to create a smart city?
MC: More data is collected at every level: sensors installed on traffic lights, bus stations, trains, buildings, dustbins, etc. collect data to feed specific IoT applications. Examples include traffic management systems, connected public transport, waste management, monitoring of power distribution and consumption.
The real benefit will come by breaking the “silos” in which the data is collected. This way you will leverage different data sources and extract more value through data meshes. For this to work, it would be essential for smart cities to adopt and embrace an open data approach allowing access to anonymous data feeds across a set of diverse applications. This has to be achieved in respect of the privacy of each individual. That cannot be compromised.
JB: What concerns do your customers and prospects come to you with on edge computing? What edge trends should we be looking out for and why?
MC: The main challenges and risks connected to IoT development are cybersecurity and integrability. Whereas traditional embedded computers weren’t connected to the internet, now embedded computers must face issues related to data security. Not just at a cloud/software level, but also at a hardware level. Extending security frameworks to hardware-based root of trust and device attestation is something that Eurotech has been working on for quite some time in order to address this challenge. The IEC 62443 Security for industrial automation and control systems provides a great reference architecture on how to approach cybersecurity in industrial systems. In this regard, Eurotech has adopted the IEC 62443-4 as the reference cybersecurity model for its products.
The second hurdle is integration. With so many industrial protocols in the field and so many cloud service providers, it is difficult to integrate solutions from different vendors, and companies usually tend to fall into the vendor lock-in trap.
Customers need trusted solutions to reduce their time to market. That means off-the-box south-bound integration for industrial field protocols, in order to easily model digital twins of the field assets. The edge is a key element for bridging the OT (Operational Technology) infrastructure level with the IT (Information Technology) application level. Edge software frameworks with certified north-bound connectivity for integration of data ingestions and Edge and Device Management operations is also as critical. Servitization and security can only be offered through device management feature such as remote configuration management and OTA updates. Eurotech IoT Integration Hub, Everyware Cloud, provides an answer to these needs.
With an increasing number of connected devices and the quantity of data collected by them, traditional cloud computing architectures cannot be the only way to manage all that information. It is necessary to enable scalable, high-performance computing at the edge with workload consolidation. Going from traditional compute – devices that only collect data in the field and send it to the cloud – to real-time compute – that processes that data close to their source – means enabling a new generation of AI-driven workloads for analytics to happen directly at the edge, without the need of processing in the cloud or data centre. This distributed computing system enables a more effective response to critical situations, yet requiring advanced computing capabilities and security features at the edge of the network. and send data
This computing paradigm is enabled by integrated hardware and software platforms at the Edge. This approach is the foundation of Eurotech leading Edge products. Eurotech broad product portfolio paired with its IoT Edge Framework, ESF, is proven building block for next generation edge applications. ESF rich set of field protocols ensures a seamless integration to the fields while its certifications for Microsoft Azure IoT Hub and Edge and AWS IoT Core guarantees off-the-box integration with the Cloud.
Moreover, Eurotech develops its software products in open source within the Eclipse Foundation. Such approach eliminates the risk of vendor lock-in and, at the same time, creates an eco-system of players for a richer product offering.
JB: What has Eurotech been doing for its customers amid the Covid-19 pandemic?
MC: First of all let me say that I want to thank all the front line workers during these difficult months of the Covid-19 pandemic. Their effort and commitment has been exemplary and we are extremely grateful.
Our investment in IT and our IoT technologies have been instrumental for the support our customers remotely during the pandemic. Eurotech technologies enable our customer to remote access and remotely manage their devices through online tools thus ensuring continuing services and operations.
We will continue to invest in this direction in order to provide support for the present situation and to enable a more efficient way to manage future critical situations like these.
JB: What does the rest of 2020 and 2021 look like for Eurotech in terms of general roadmap?
MC: We will continue to consolidate and expand our offering of Edge solutions, from traditional rugged embedded computers to server-class and data centre-class high-performance edges for AI and other data-intensive applications.
Integrability and full manageability of end-to-end applications will be another key focus. By adding components to our IoT Edge Framework, ESF, we will create a strong Edge ecosystem to enable full edge-to-cloud integration from industry standards and protocols in the field to leading cloud services.
Data security will always be our number one priority. Our customers can benefit from a wide range of security features at the edge level (hardware and software), at the cloud level (access authentication, certificate management) and at the communication level (mutual authentication, encrypted communication).
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