Advantech teams up with Alleantia to co-create a European smart factory market

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To capitalize on emerging business opportunities in Industry 4.0, Advantech is actively promoting the co-creation" model. This approach is aimed at forming an industrial IoT (IIoT) chain by working with domain experts in different sectors to build comprehensive field solutions. In Europe, Alleantia, a provider of connected industrial equipment solutions from Italy, has officially become a Solution Ready Package (SRP) co-creation partner. The two companies plan to cooperate to expand into the European market in a move that strengthens the strategic deployment of Advantech beyond Greater China.

Alleantia is a software company based in Pisa. Since its establishment in 2011, it has focused on Industry 4.0 markets. According to Stefano Linari, the company's founder and CEO, Alleantia's goal is to connect existing high-value industrial equipment, including machine tools, metal forming machines, and packaging machinery, in a simple, plug-and-play approach with the company's device drivers. This enables the equipment to transmit collected data to enterprise applications or cloud services for further application.

Simplifying Industrial Equipment Connectivity

When people buy common consumer electronics, such as printers, drivers are readily available to connect the printer to the PC. Linari explained that this is often not the case with industrial equipment, most of which is traditionally a closed system that adopts a proprietary protocol. Therefore, the aim of establishing Alleantia was to develop driver software for various types of industrial equipment, making it easier to connect to networks.

Currently, Alleantia has developed more than 5,000 software drivers. The company has also built an online library for device vendors to publish their drivers on the Alleantia website whenever they develop new machines, thus giving their customers free access to their drivers.

Alleantia has now been working with Advantech for two years. According to Linari, great achievements have been made in Italy using Alleantia's easy-to-connect software technology and Advantech's hardware gateways. Customers need only install the driver software in Advantech's gateway to connect their equipment and then link to any enterprise application or cloud service, such as Advantech's WISE-PaaS Cloud, to help companies build a complete IoT chain from the edge to the cloud.

The convergence of operation technology (OT) and information technology (IT) is key to the success of smart manufacturing. Linari emphasized that Alleantia is in the middle to play the role in the bridging of both sides. By running Alleantia drivers on Advantech's gateways, OT can be more easily connected to IT, and with Allentia's encryption, data security can be ensured.

"We have developed drivers for many legacy devices that communicate with machine controllers via encrypted data," Linari stated. "When customers collect machine data, they cannot directly access the core controller of the device. For equipment vendors, with this approach, they not only have no losses but are also able to make their machines connected more easily to meet the requirements of Industry 4.0. As a result, many equipment vendors are willing to cooperate with us."

Leveraging the Co-Creation Model to Build Synergy

Linari pointed out that IIoT cannot be realized by a single company, and Alleantia is only a small part in the IoT value chain. By becoming a co-creation partner of Advantech, Alleantia is contributing to constructing a complete value chain in order to provide true end-to-end solutions, in a bid to co-create new business opportunities.

With the complement of the two companies' technology strengths, Advantech and Alleantia have won the recognition of many customers over the past two years. Among them, MEP, an Italian tool machine maker, has adopted solutions from both companies to transform its existing hardware-based business model into a new service model that provides such services as data analysis for predictive maintenance and operation monitoring. The company will be ready for IPO next month.

"This is an important success story for our cooperation," Linari described. "It is a kind of disruptive innovation for the tool machine industry, and the end-to-end solution we provide is an important factor in accelerating the realization of its goals. In addition, through working with Advantech, we will be able to expand our business from Italy to the rest of Europe and even the world with our extensive sales channels."

Arturo Lotito, head of Technical Services and Project Management at Advantech's E-IoT Europe, also said that Advantech will leverage Alleantia's domain knowledge to reach customers in industrial equipment and machine tool sectors that Advantech could not penetrate in the past, and the company can meet their requirements with more professional and effective solutions.

More importantly, by providing end-to-end solutions, Advantech can reach a higher level of customers, from IT departments to the CEO level, helping them develop a comprehensive Industry 4.0 transformation project. This is experience that Advantech has previously lacked, but it fully demonstrates a significant enhancement of the value that Advantech can bring.

According to Advantech's plan, to accelerate the widespread usage of IIoT applications, 20 SRP co-creation partners, like Alleantia, will be added every year over the next five years. Through close cooperation with platform providers and domain experts, Advantech will drive the formation of a complete IIoT chain, in preparation for the sizeable growth opportunities expected over the five to 10 years.

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