January 19, 2021
Flexible Factory Partner Alliance
- Providing total management for wireless networks connecting equipment in factories -
Flexible Factory Partner Alliance (FFPA, Chairperson Andreas Dengel) has created conformance test specifications for the technical standard, namely Smart Resource Flow (SRF) wireless platform*1 that is aiming for various wireless systems co-located in factory sites to operate stably. National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) has proposed the SRF wireless platform, which has been standardized by FFPA since September, 2019. The conformance test specifications define criteria and procedures, and thus, it is possible for vendors to confirm that their products comply with the SRF wireless platform technical specifications. This is a big step toward realization of visualization and total management of wireless networks in the factory site.
The SRF wireless platform technical specifications define functions and interfaces to connect among wireless systems in different generations, with different standards, and by different venders, and to ensure coexistence and coordination for stable operation. This time, the technical specifications have been also updated to Ver. 1.1 to support control parameters for Bluetooth/Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Sub-GHz systems such as LoRaWAN in addition to Wireless LAN, and high-resolution spectrum monitoring.
At factory sites, in order to address macro issues including automation, labor-saving and challenges of high-mix and low-volume production, there are increasing opportunities to control robots and automated carriers, and to provide inspection, analysis and work support using AI and IoT based on real-time information from workers and manufacturing equipment. Now we are in the new normal era, production process and management are shifting to those enable remote monitoring and remote operation without workers sticking to the factory site. Under these circumstances, wireless communication has become indispensable in order to provide a means of communication for workers with mobile devices and automated carrier e.g., Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), and to emphasize configurability of manufacturing facilities.
Several wireless systems in different generations, with different standards, and by different venders often coexist in the factory site. In such a case, coordination between the wireless systems may not occur, resulting in communication problems. In addition, the wireless system may not be able to perform stable communication due to factors such as layout changes, movement of surrounding objects, and interference from other wireless systems.
In September 2019, FFPA published the technical specifications Ver. 1.0 of the SRF wireless platform in order to tackle these issues with connecting wireless devices developed by different vendors, and easily to realize visualization and total management of wireless networks. Multiple wireless systems built on this platform will be able to operate together by mitigating interference with each other.
FFPA has finalized the conformance test specifications for the SRF wireless platform. In the architecture of the SRF wireless platform, Field Manager (i.e., coordinator) manages and controls multiple wireless systems consisting of Gateways and Devices with coordination. The conformance test specifications describe criteria and procedures for the Gateways and Devices to communicate properly with Filed Manager. These test specifications make it possible to confirm that products by various vendors operate comply with the SRF wireless platform technical specifications.
Furthermore, the SRF wireless platform technical specifications have been updated to Ver. 1.1. In the technical specifications, control parameters for Bluetooth/Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Sub-GHz systems such as LoRaWAN in addition to Wireless LAN, and high-resolution spectrum monitoring, have been added. By adopting this platform, it is possible to realize visualization and total management of networks consisting of a variety of wireless systems.
FFPA is preparing certification program scheduled in 2021. It is also developing technical specifications Ver. 2.0 mainly to support 5G (5th generation mobile communication system). FFPA continuously promotes the spread of the SRF wireless platform that enables visualization of various information on the factory site and total management of equipment connected to the network for the use of information and communications technology to improve productivity.
FFPA (Chairperson: Andreas Dengel, DFKI) is a non-profit organization to promote the formulation of standards for coordination control technology, ensuring stable communications in an environment where various wireless systems coexist in manufacturing facilities. Members are OMRON Corporation, the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR), National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), NEC Corporation, Fujitsu Limited, Sanritz Automation Co., Ltd., Murata Machinery, Ltd, Siemens K.K, and Telcom Engineering Center.
*1 SRF Wireless Platform
System architecture to stabilize various wireless systems with connected facilities. SRF (Smart Resource Flow) is a system engineering strategy of managing resources (e. g., human, facilities, equipment, materials, energy, and communications) using multilayer system analysis to achieve optimal performance.
Configuration for coordination control of multiple wireless systems.