October 14, 2021
Flexible Factory Partner Alliance
- Pushing to connect various wireless equipment under total management in factories -
Flexible Factory Partner Alliance (FFPA, Chairperson Andreas Dengel) has opened the technical specifications, namely Smart Resource Flow (SRF) wireless platform*1 to the public on the web site.
The SRF wireless platform aims to ensure stable operation of various wireless systems co-located in factory sites, originally proposed by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). FFPA completed the technical specifications in 2019 and the conformance test specifications in January, 2021. In order for many vendors to consider making their products compliant with the SRF wireless platform standard, FFPA has decided to open the technical specifications version 1.1 to the public. Increasing certified products facilitate realization of the scheme for visualization and total management of wireless systems with different standards, in different generations, and by different venders with stable operation ensuring coexistence and coordination.
The technical specifications describe definitions of functions for settings, control policies and monitoring of wireless equipment, and messages for an application interface, i.e., REST API. FFPA prepares the certification program scheduled to start in this year. In the program, controllers, gateways, devices (wireless terminals) and sensors are certified as standard-compliant-products for the SRF wireless platform.
FFPA is also developing the technical specifications version 2.0 extending functions to support 5G (5th generation mobile communication system) and wired- and wireless-integrated networks. FFPA continues promotion to introduce wireless technology to factory sites by spreading use of the SRF wireless platform.
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, requiring new production process and management that 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 with different standards, in different generations, 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. As an activity to solve these problems, FFPA has been developing technical specifications of SRF wireless platform (Figure 1) which aims to ensure stable operation of various wireless systems co-located in factory sites.
FFPA completed the technical specifications version 1.0 of the SRF wireless platform in 2019 and the conformance test specifications in January, 2021 in order to tackle these issues with connecting wireless devices developed by different vendors, and to realize visualization and total management of wireless networks.
FFPA has released the technical specifications version 1.1 to the public on the web site, offering an opportunity for the vendors to consider to adopt the SRF wireless platform for their products. The technical specifications are downloadable for free from the FFPA web site (https://www.ffp-a.org/contact-spec-en/).
The released technical specifications provide reference architecture, functions, interfaces among the functions, messages, typical sequence diagrams and data frame of SRF wireless platform. Wireless components shown in Figure 2, namely the Field Manager (controller), SRF Gateway/AP, SRF Device, and SRF Sensor, make up system configuration. Definitions of functions for settings, control policies and monitoring of the wireless components, and messages for an application interface, REST API have also been described. The SRF wireless platform can provide wireless systems in different generations, with different standards, and by different venders with stable operation ensuring coexistence and coordination in factories sites.
To encourage wireless utilization further in factory sites, the technical specifications version 2.0 under development will provide functions to control 5G which can realize the coordination control between 5G and wireless technologies in unlicensed bands. Moreover, the extension of network topologies in the technical specifications will support wired- and wireless-integrated networks and are easily expandable coverage of wireless networks.
The certification program, which is scheduled to start in this year, uses a test tool and reference devices to certify that the product complies with the technical specifications of the SRF wireless platform. A logo in Figure 3 will be granted for the certified product. In order to access the conformance test specifications and to participate in the certification program, it is required to become an FFPA member. For detail information, please contact FFPA Secretariat (email@example.com).
FFPA prepares certification program scheduled to start in 2021. 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.
Figure 1. An image of operation of SRF Wireless Platform.
Figure 2. Configuration for coordination control of multiple wireless systems.
Figure 3. Logo of SRF wireless platform.