Track & Trace Testbed

The Track & Trace testbed from the Industrial Internet Consortium will provide solutions for the manufacturing and maintenance of safety-critical products such as machines, vehicles, aircraft, etc. Another application area is the construction and maintenance of buildings or industrial structures like oil rigs.

In many of these sectors, more and more advanced industrial power tools are being used. In the past, such tools were generally connected to a base station via cables and tubes. The base station provided electricity and compressed air, as well as central control of the tool and the work process. Because of the advancements in battery and computer technology, a whole new generation of completely cordless industrial power tools is now emerging, with powerful battery packs and on-board computers. Examples include measurement, riveting, and tightening tools. Their ability to communicate wirelessly via the IP protocol has made these intelligent power tools the poster children of the IoT movement.

These types of cordless, handheld power tool are often used in environments where cables would be a hindrance, such as inside an aircraft body. However, because of their flexibility, they can also be found in many other environments, including automotive manufacturing.

Despite the many benefits of this newly won flexibility, there are also some disadvantages to cordless power tools. Managing larger fleets of these tools becomes more difficult because they are difficult to locate. It is also trickier to ensure that the tools are used in the right place at the right time, and with the right configuration. And finally, while it is great that intelligence is now located directly on the tools – allowing for finer-grained work control and tracing – it is vital that the tools don’t operate in isolation; integration with MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems), PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), and other enterprise systems therefore becomes essential.

IIC Track & Trace Testbed Overview (Source: Bosch)

Overview of the Track & Trace testbed from the Industrial Internet Consortium (Source: Bosch)

Phased Approach

The Track & Trace testbed will provide solutions in a phased approach, as well as providing other value-added features too. Phase one can be summarized as follows:

  • Takes a pragmatic approach, focusing on go-to-market strategy, and leveraging existing technologies for innovative use
  • Key deliverables will include a proven benchmark solution and a physical testbed with associated documentation
  • The first tool to be integrated will be the Bosch Rexroth Nexo
  • A set of open interfaces will be published that allow flexible access to all components of the testbed, allowing partners to integrate different power tools and software/hardware components
  • Go-to-market is planned for 2015
  • First important milestone is the keynote demo at Bosch ConnectedWorld (February 2015)

Phase two takes a much longer-term perspective, with a focus on the advanced aspects of Track & Trace, such as high-precision indoor localization (sub-centimeter accuracy), deployment of customizable logic on the power tools, advanced vertical integration, etc.

Testbed Sponsors

Each Industrial Internet Consortium testbed has a set of designated testbed sponsors who are responsible for the development and go-to-market of the testbed. The sponsors of Track & Trace Phase One are:

  • Bosch Software Innovations as the industry solution leader and provider of the underlying IoT application platform
  • Bosch Rexroth as provider of industry expertise and test tools like the Nexo nutrunner
  • Tech Mahindra for solution development
  • Cisco for indoor localization
  • National Instruments will join in Phase Two for the advanced tool control

Phase One

Phase One of the testbed will use existing technologies. As the first tool to be integrated, we are using the Nexo nutrunners from Bosch Rexroth. The Nexo is a high-end tool for industrial use cases. It offers the ability to measure the quality of a tightening run via multiple sensors, including torque, wrench, and angle. The tightening run is completely programmable and includes parameters like the torque and timing information. The nutrunners have an on-board operating system, which allows workers to choose from multiple programs as well as to see the quality of each tightening run in real time. Furthermore, the tools are connected via Wi-Fi and can be configured to transmit the results in real time to a backend component. It is also possible to push new programs to the nutrunners as well as to remotely enable or disable them.

We place the nutrunners in a setting where a fleet of assets is used within one or more shop floors or even out in the field. In Phase One, the implementation will be able to track devices inside buildings via Wi-Fi triangulation. Additionally, we are able to trace the actions of the different hand-held tools remotely in real time.

Track & Trace Overview

Track & Trace overview

The ability to track the locations of hand-held tools and trace their actions in real time offers three major benefits in Phase One that go beyond the current industry offering (see interview with Bosch Rexroth below). In particular, Phase One will deliver the following benefits for customers:

  • Support for new, flexible assembly processes where the tools are brought to the work item by the operator at any point in the product’s lifecycle. This allows for flexibility regarding the space and time where the actual work is carried out.
  • Zero defect and early fault detection guarantees factory-level quality and traceability in the field. This benefit will be enabled through direct integration with existing PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) systems used in the industry.
  • Creation of new business models that lower CAPEX and provide improved SLA management, such as “Bill per Drill” or “Power by the Hour” where the equipment manufacturer is in charge of providing the necessary tools at the right place and time.

Phase Two

The vision for Phase Two takes the concept of Track & Trace much further. The idea is to be able to track all work tools, products, and semi-finished products in a factory or similar environment with a very high level of precision, and to map this localization data in real time to a 3D model. For example, the 3D model can provide information about the different joints that need to be worked on – in a large aircraft, this can number more than 400,000 (see interview with Airbus below). The data associated with the 3D model can help to identify which program needs to be used for a tightening process at a selected joint. This program can then be automatically activated (or even uploaded) to the power tool in use. Likewise, after the tightening process has finished, the details of this process – a curve that records torque and angle – can be read from the tool and written back to the quality management database, creating a quality lot for the particular joint based on the localization and 3D PLM data.

One limiting factor currently is the lack of cost-efficient, high-precision indoor localization technologies for industrial environments. This is one of the key problems that must be addressed in Phase Two of this testbed. Some trials in this area have already started, as we will discuss below.

First Milestone: Bosch ConnectedWorld 2015

In order to get a better feel for the current status of available technologies and how they can be used in Phase Two of the testbed, the testbed sponsors agreed to take the basic Track & Trace functionality of Phase One and use it as the foundation for an advanced prototype showcasing some of the features that should be developed for Phase Two. These are, in particular, high-precision indoor localization and mapping to 3D PLM data. The task was to complete this in time to be used as a keynote demo at Bosch ConnectedWorld 2015 (February). The Track & Trace sponsors invited the following companies to contribute to the demonstration system:

  • Dassault Systèmes to provide support for the 3D element of the demo
  • Haption to help connect a real tool operator to a virtual 3D avatar
  • Xsens for their expertise in 3D motion tracking

The Ignite | IoT Methodology was used to structure the development of this system. We will discuss the results and experience of this approach later. But, before this, we will provide some more background on the testbed scenario from the perspective of two industry experts.