Hannover Trade Fair: Fraunhofer ESK puts harvesting machines on the path to the Internet of Things

Press Release / 4.4.2016

At the Hannover Trade Fair (April 25-29), Fraunhofer ESK is showing how conventional industry is migrating to the Internet of Things with a predictive, cloud-based maintenance application for harvesting machines manufactured by Holmer. Electronics specialist Huawei is providing the hardware for the application. The concept and the implementation methodology originated from ESK (joint Fraunhofer exhibit, hall 2, booth C22).

© HOLMER Maschinenbau GmbH

In a joint project, Fraunhofer ESK, Huawei and Holmer ported the concept of predictive maintenance to harvesting machines."

The advantage of predictive maintenance is the capability to determine the need for maintenance before it actually has to be carried out. That saves time and reduces downtime for the expensive machines. Although the technology has only been used in wind power turbines and manufacturing systems until now, Holmer, Huawei and Fraunhofer ESK managed to successfully port the technology over to harvesting machines in a joint project.

The system is based on various sensors that monitor critical parts of the machines, such as the drive train, and transmit the information to a centralized maintenance service in the cloud. The service utilizes online analysis methods to detect irregularities and raise alarms early enough to allow a component to be swapped out before the machine shut downs.

One of the project partners is Holmer, manufacturer of the harvesting machines that are equipped with sensors. Huawei supplies the hardware components - the gateway - and establishes the connection to the manufacturer via its own Internet-of-Things (IoT) platform. Fraunhofer ESK was responsible for the concept and the implementation methodology. Engineers at the institute are also participating in the system integration activities.

Core element: EDGE cloud

In order to make the existing products IoT-compatible, the project uses a six-step methodology that begins with an analysis of the application to understand where room for improvement exists, among other things. This is followed by the design of the necessary infrastructure and ends with the pilot phase. For the implementation, ESK is focusing on solutions based on the EDGE cloud technology, which is a gateway over which the data analysis applications run and are linked to the cloud. This allows data to be analyzed directly on the machine, with a cooperative system in which multiple machines communicate directly with one another or in conjunction with a cloud provider.

Fraunhofer ESK's main contribution to the project is selection, testing and implementation of the machine-to-machine (M2M) protocols and the interfaces for manufacturers of IoT-capable products. The goal here is to ensure the long-term interoperability of the communication components by insisting on the use of current web technologies for the communication and the development of distributed IoT applications. This provides the flexibility needed to adapt distributed applications to the resources of the components

At a high level, the partners managed to create a framework flexible enough to address various requirements over the course of the project. It also offers a foundation for expanding the predictive maintenance concept to an entire fleet of machines instead of limiting it to just one harvesting machine.

Joint Fraunhofer exhibit: Hall 2, Booth C22