The cloud computing wave stirred up by strong demand for tablet PCs and smartphones will also spread to the Internet of Things (IoT) in the future, creating new business opportunities that everyone will crave a share of. But many small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs), particularly those from the embedded industry, will find it unaffordable to build up their own private cloud architecture because of limitations in terms of operational scale, funding and human resources. Leading embedded platform developer Advantech, eyeing such business opportunities, has launched its industrial cloud services to address the market. With the services, embedded devices that are difficult to manage because of their scattered locations - such as digital signage and monitors - can be controlled, switched on and off, installed and upgraded through cloud computing. This can improve efficiency and lower maintenance cost.
Industrial cloud enhances intelligent use of embedded devices
Speaking at the recent "Embedded Forum" (part of the Digitimes Technology Forum - DTF series) Advantech Embedded Core Group project manager, CL Chiang noted that in 2010 Advantech already realized cloud computing would be the direction of future industrial development, but that no solutions specifically designed for embedded/industrial systems were readily available on the market. Therefore Advantech decided to work toward this direction by developing industrial cloud services to help its business partners construct their own industrial cloud. He identified the industrial cloud elements as follows: identification; manageability; interconnectivity; security protection; intelligent system; vertical applications; and biz model & services.
Chiang also outlined Advantech's vision for embedded cloud computing. Under the existing embedded systems, an intelligent system with Internet connectivity and intelligent computing capabilities can be formed through industrial cloud build-in. The integration of the existing IoT and industrial cloud can turn connected devices worldwide into intelligent systems. The combination of the IoT and industrial cloud will give birth to "Smart Earth."
Focusing on developing intelligent platforms industrial cloud
Chiang pointed out that the focus of Advantech since inception was on the development of intelligent platforms, such as computers on modules, embedded single board computers (SBCs), multiple I/O extension SBCs, industrial motherboards, and slot SBCs. Another direction was to provide assistance for developing industrial cloud services, and for the segment it has so far launched Industrial Cloud Center, Embedded Apps, Cloud Pro Guidebook and CloudBuilder.
Cloud Pro Guidebook mainly offers detailed step-by-step instructions and in-depth analyses that, together with industry-specific cloud applications, embedded industry players can follow to quickly and correctly set up their own private clouds. There are three steps: first, Intelligent Devices; second, Network Performance and Security Protection; and third, Design for Industry, On-Demand Software and Embedded App.
CloudBuilder was the main focus of the speech. Advantech has designed the One-Click Installation to Industrial Clouds, which can be applied to embedded systems for a wide array of purposes ranging from the medical, gaming, POS, vehicle, machine automation, factory automation, signage, military, marine to transportation.
Embedded cloud applications to construct last mile of industrial cloud
Chiang then introduced members of Advantech's Embedded App series, each of which targets different industrial environments. Remote Monitoring is for surveillance purposes; Remote Desktop offers intelligent remote control; Remote On/Off allows the switching on and off of devices remotely; System Protection protects and licenses cloud software; and System Recovery restores cloud systems.
He went on to introduce a medical cloud application: a bed-side management system for hospitals. This system has an interactive LCD display installed beside the patient's bed. When making their rounds, doctors can click on buttons on the display's screen to review freshly completed diagnoses and explain them to the patient. After the doctors have left, the patient can pick up the remote control to play games, watch TV and movies, surf the Internet or make telephone calls to friends and relatives via the system. It provides professional assistance to medical personnel, as well as better and more comfortable hospital stay for patients.
Another example cited is a monitoring cloud: a police roadside monitoring system. The roadside monitoring system developed by Advantech employs a region-by-region management interface to allow personnel at the control center to operate all on the computer screen: they can switch between different regions, conduct necessary control and make sure each monitoring system is working normally. When there is perpetration or malfunction, technicians can be dispatched to conduct on-site repair. Some regional police stations have realized the benefits of industrial cloud services. They have adopted Advantech's cloud monitoring system and also employed the company for help in future maintenance work.
Demonstration of industrial cloud applications
Chiang noted that the Advantech-developed SUSIAccess retains the flexible features of the company's previous SUSI API software suites and integrates central monitoring functions. The SUSIAccess menu displays big icons for Remote Monitoring, Remote- On/Off, Remote Desktop, System Recovery and System Protection. System control personnel can also implement various API (application programming interface) functions to facilitate full remote control and access to the applications. In the future, there is also a chance that mobile devices, such as smartphones, can be employed to check for any system anomalies.
He also demonstrated the features of CloudBuilder, such as One-Click Installation, and Notification Center that can detect latest versions and download upgrades once Industrial Cloud Center is installed. Advantech can customize cloud services to meet clients' specific needs, such as Notification Center, Hardware Monitoring, Booting Manager, Smart Battery, SQflash Tools (flash burn tools) through back-end computers, tablet PCs and smartphones.
All product lines support intelligent management
Chiang mentioned that since March 2011 Advantech has equipped all its product lines with intelligent management chips. Business partners only need the Advantech-provided Embedded App of Remote Monitoring to enable a close monitoring of its devices. When Advantech releases new versions of drivers and firmware, the system will automatically tell the client. At the end of 2011, Advantech announced the ClopudBuilder solution for constructing an industrial cloud in three steps. The free CloudBuilder software is easy to install, maintain and use. Users only need to follow the instructions displayed on the screen and can complete the installation in three minutes.
The next step of Avantech's cloud service development is to extend the services to more different sectors, such as intelligent medicare, POS kiosks, on-board computers, security surveillance and the IoT. It will release relevant APIs to allow more system developers to participate in the development of cloud service projects. It will also let Taiwan's embedded industry seize business opportunities from this wave of cloud computing revolution, and achieve sustainable development.
Advantech embedded software manager Chiang Chin-ling
Participants show keen interest in Advantech's industrial cloud that explores the potential and huge business opportunities of the Internet of Things.