The Flexible Factory Partner Alliance (FFPA) has created the technical specifications that are aiming for various wireless systems co-located in factory sites to operate stably. The National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) has proposed a Smart Resource Flow (SRF) wireless platform*1 which has been adopted as the architecture for the specifications. By adopting this platform, stable wireless communication is realized, making it easy to visualize and interactively manage various informations on the manufacturing sites.
The technical specifications define functions and interfaces to provide a framework for coordination and coexistence of wireless systems with different standards, of different generations and by different vendors coexisting in the same factory site.
An overview of the specifications will be presented at the FFPA seminar, “A vision of future factory sites created with the SRF wireless platform – Introduction of FFPA technical specifications Version 1 –” held on October 31 in Tokyo.
In factory sites the usage of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is increasing to enhance productivity by flexible operations, releasing constrains of shortage of skilled workers and workstyle change nowadays. Especially for use of wireless commutations voices from factory sites include:
- The need to monitor conditions of old machines by retrofit wireless sensors.
- The need to remotely monitor and control moving objects, e.g., human and automated guided vehicles (AGVs).
- The need to flexibly change processes and layouts of factory sites without costly and time-consuming rewiring of cables.
Wireless communication is an indispensable method to cover these needs. More and more wireless systems have been introduced to accompany manufacturing equipment for status monitoring, product inspection, process management, environment sensing, machine control etc..
There are concerns such as communication instabilities that lead to impact on the current equipment due to interference among wireless systems in unlicensed spectrum where they operate independently and sometimes cannot meet requirements for communications due to the degradation of wireless link quality. To address the issues on a technical approach, National Institute of Communication Technologies (NICT) has proposed the SRF wireless platform to define functions and interfaces among them. FFPA has been established in July 2017 to promote the SRF wireless platform into implementation for use in industries and to make an effort to create the specifications of wireless communications.
FFPA has now finalized the technical specifications defining functions and interfaces to pursue commercialization based on the architecture of the SRF wireless platform proposed by NICT. The specifications enable wireless communication stabilities and facilitate visualization and integrated management of various informations on the manufacturing sites.
The technical specifications also provide a framework for coordination and coexistence of wireless systems with different standards, of different generations and by different vendors coexisting in the same factory site.
In the architecture of the SRF wireless platform the Field Manager (i.e. coordinator) manages and controls multiple wireless systems consisting of gateways and wireless terminals with coordination (global control). The features are:
- Radio resources of frequency, time and space assigned to each system by setting control policy,
- Management with cognitive ways of both wireless communications and factory applications, and
- Monitoring wireless environment on the SRF wireless platform.
In addition, each system is allowed to have autonomous internal control based on the control policy to adapt to rapidly local change in wireless environment (local control).
An overview of the specifications will be presented at the FFPA seminar, “A vision of future factory sites created with SRF wireless platform ~Introduction of FFPA technical specifications Version1~” held on October 31 in Tokyo.
The FFPA is developing test specifications for preparation of certification program starting around in the middle of 2020. It also promotes the spread of the SRF wireless platform that enables visualizations of various informations on the factory site and integrated management of equipment connected to the network for the use of informations and communications to improve productivity.
About Flexible Factory Partner Alliance (FFPA)
FFPA 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, and Siemens K.K.. Chairpersons are Prof. Dr. Andreas Dengel and Prof. Dr. Hans Dieter Schotten from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI).
*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 a multilayer system analysis to achieve optimal performance.