Information technology (IT) hardware multinational DellEMC and local Internet of Things (IoT) developer IoT.nxt have launched an edge computing device, called the Raptor, which enables businesses to deploy an IoT network in their operational environments to integrate existing sensors and industrial devices into a platform that businesses can immediately use.
Speaking at the launch of the device, in Midrand, on Monday, IoT.nxt CEO Nico Steyn said clients were able to achieve value from Raptor deployments within about a week, adding that the Raptor can manage any sensors and connected devices, whether wireless or wired, using industry standard protocols.
“Cloud computing in Africa is often hampered by poor connectivity, intermittent connectivity or a complete lack of connectivity. However, intelligent edge gateways, such as the Raptor, can manage the sensors and components of an IoT network without the need for the cloud and, in combination with the cloud, can provide an effective way for companies to conduct analytics on their operational data, regardless of the link to the site or sensor.
“The true value for industrial IoT will come from the edge [of the network],” Steyn noted.
IoT.nxt has conducted proof of value pilot trials with clients in the agriculture, manufacturing and mining sectors.
The launch was a live demonstration of setting up a Raptor, which involved the installation of the device, which functions as a network gateway and requires only power and network connectivity; the linking of a basic water sensor; and the creation of a visualisation field for the sensor’s output.
The intelligence of the “off-the-shelf” IoT edge device, a patented IoT.nxt technology called software-defined device integration (SDDI), is that it will auto-provision itself, will identify the components and sensors linked to it, even proprietary sensors and devices, and serve as a gateway to the rest of the industrial or business network.
Specifically, the device uses software to change the behaviour of the hardware devices and sensors connected to it.
“We are able to take the DellEMC gateway, which also comes with internationally recognised warranties and support and, through software, we can extend the capabilities of this gateway and normalise the hardware to ensure that it can be secured and locked down as a single point in an industrial IoT network.”
The device connects to the IoT.nxt platform and downloads all the protocols relevant to the sensors and devices which it must integrate into the IoT platform.
“The challenge was how to integrate the equipment already in use and which will not be replaced, yet provide IoT functionality that will enable a business to monitor all parts of its supply chain to better perform its commercial functions, whether it is maintaining equipment, or improving processes or its supply chain.”
Prior to the deployment of the Raptor in an operational environment, the user can set up the various sensors and connectivity permissions, visualisation displays (also called dashboards) and triggers and parameters for when the device is installed. This is done using a simple object-programming suite and without coding or extensive IT knowledge.
Operational technology (OT) professionals can, therefore, set up the IoT platform to conform to industry standards, regulations and the business’ own rules before the devices are deployed.
While the benefits of the system is its auto-provisioning and automatic integration of a range of sensors and devices, the hardware normalisation afforded by the SDDI also allows businesses to determine what format the gateway should take, including, for example, using two ports as basic transmit and receive for basic or older sensors and equipment, or to set up the device to run the functionality the business needs, including allowing universal serial bus connections to the gateway.
Further, each component of the system is designed to be intrinsically safe, and most of the vulnerabilities are closed off through the aggregation and management of data and communications between the Raptor and the rest of the network, which may include a cloud computing component.
DellEMC IoT and embedded computing solutions business development lead Ben Vernooij noted that DellEMC’s strategy and approach to IoT was to bridge the gap between IT and OT.
“Companies can now make sense of their data at the edge,” he said.
The Raptor devices will be distributed in Southern and East Africa by IT distributor Axiz.
Further, IoT.nxt has opened an office in the Hague, in the Netherlands, to move into the European market and aims to enter the US market during the second half of this year with the full support of DellEMC.
“IoT is an evolution of technology. The revolution is in changing the way that we do business and digital transformation of businesses using the capabilities of IoT platforms,” noted Vernooij.