DirectIndustry e-Magazine - #26 - SPECIAL SPS - DirectIndustry e-Magazine




Is a cyber war already being fought? Whatever the answer, specialists argue that there will be a cyber battlefield in the next conflict, be it hot or cold. And digital industry is not immune. With the Internet of Things and a multitude of objects connected to the cloud, cybersecurity is more than ever at stake. At SPS IPC Drive, an entire area was devoted to this theme. Our journalists roamed the aisles of the Nuremberg fair to discuss the threats and learn how to reinforce cybersecurity.

Our reports also explore how the nearly unknown stock of dark data can enlighten business. We also spotlight how the new Internet of Robotic Things is enabling smart robots to take control of manufacturing.

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Hot or cold, the next conflict will be cyber.


Watch our exclusive video report. Is a cyber war actually taking place? In any case, hot or cold, the next conflict will be cyber. French journalist Pierre Haski recently argued on that the recent US election campaign was a real battlefield. The theft of Democratic Party data last summer and the Dyn server...

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While companies can benefit from insight gained by examining dark data, those that fail to adopt a strategy to manage it may be exposed to risks.


The IT industry has been promoting big data for years. But some companies have found the data they needed was closer to home…dormant. And exploiting those dark data could be worth millions.


For at least 10 years, the IT industry promoted the concept of big data: the idea that huge volumes of external data will be indispensable to business. But some companies found the data they needed was closer to home. Exploiting dark data—internal files and logs which have served their immediate purpose and are now in storage—could be worth millions.

Seeing in the Dark

Quadis is a Spanish automotive business whose challenge was to improve the productivity of its call center while selling more products and enhancing control of inventory.

Its agents used a combination of the company’s industry-specific enterprise resource planning software and digital catalogues supplied by automotive manufacturers to take orders from repair shops across Spain. But since the two systems were not integrated, the agents needed to identify parts in the catalogues to find stock, and then place orders in the ERP system. After an order had gone through the system, the data was left unused and effectively dormant.

To exploit this untapped dark data, Quadis deployed Kosmos software from dark data specialist Datumize, on its network to read, capture and store data describing agent activity in both digital catalogues and the ERP system. It pulls data off internal networks and stores it locally or in the cloud.

The first outcome was to link caller ID with ERP records, avoiding the need for customers to introduce themselves and their recent business history. Quadis estimates this could save between 30 and 60 seconds per call, allowing the agents to take more calls each day, and potentially lifting revenue by €3.4 million.

The system also sifted through the history of requested parts. Using a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics, the software was able to forecast client parts needs based on those already ordered. The information gives agents the opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell parts when prompted by an on-screen dashboard. It also helps the business to forecast future demand for parts, making stock control more accurate and reducing inventory waste.

Quadis has been using the system for six months and estimates it has boosted service quality levels by 21%, reduced investment in assets by 25 to 50% and lowered operating costs by 10%.

Organizing in the Dark


Brown McFarlane, a UK-based steel firm, supplies safety-critical products to industries from oil and gas to mining, storing masses of information from suppliers to certify materials properties. IT manager Tim Wheatcroft explains.

These certificates were stored in PDF file formats and only read manually. The information was not easy to search or manage.

Brown McFarlane uses character recognition software from document specialist Kefron to read certificates and tag them with metadata to help organize information and allow engineers to search for materials properties more easily.

Wheatcroft estimates the system saves around 45 man-hours per week in research. It also provides opportunities to up-sell and improve service to clients.

We can suggest the substitution of products to clients more easily. We were always limited to specific properties the product was purchased for, but often it can do other things. For example, in some industries it is important whether the product is resistant to highly reactive chemical processes. Now we can search for that without looking through lots of test certificates.

Companies are also benefitting from dark data by looking deeper into their records to spur innovation. Knowledge-intensive businesses, such as pharmaceutical firms, tend to store research or patents for technologies which never made it to the market. These documents may contain data important to new areas of research or business opportunities. But the information will only come to light if someone in the business remembers the research and knows where to look.

Christopher Ganje is chief executive officer at Amplyfi, a specialist in using AI technologies to analyze dark data. He says that Amplyfi’s technology sifts through vast volumes of these historic data to pull up information relevant to new problems.

Companies can be nervous that they are missing a trick, that they have thrown away something that could later be valuable to a new technology or market opportunity.

The Risks of Staying in the Dark

While companies can benefit from insight gained by examining dark data, those that fail to adopt a strategy to manage it may be exposed to risks, says Ken Allan, cybersecurity leader at PA Consulting Group.

Businesses who are unaware of the dark data they hold are unlikely to protect it. Organized criminals or rogue nation states hacking into networks can exploit these data using their own analytics systems.

In doing so, they might expose personal information by cross-referencing the data or generate market insight or product information. To help defend against this kind of hacking, businesses can monitor networks for anomalous movement of data.

In any case, businesses need a strategy to manage and monitor dormant information to avoid being left in the dark.

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Cyber-physical systems will play a key role in managing production systems

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    Festo announced innovative application concepts for its superconductor technology at SPS. Georg Berner, Project Coordinator for the SupraMotion future concepts, talked to DirectIndustry e-magazine about SupraGripper and SupraMotion.


    DirectIndustry e-magazine: What is the technology behind SupraGripper?

    Georg Berner: SupraGripper uses superconductors to levitate the gripper modules. Below a certain temperature, superconductor materials can “freeze” the field of a permanent magnet, allowing them or the magnet to hover at a defined distance. The resultant gap remains stable regardless of orientation. The hovering effect is generated by three cryostats containing superconductors which are installed beneath two plates and can be driven upwards or downwards. Thus, the grippers either hover above the plates or under them. In addition, the two plates can be rotated and precisely positioned by means of rotary drives, moving the two grippers from one cryostat to the next.

    DI e-mag: How do the grippers work?

    Georg Berner: To grasp an object, electrical spools fitted to the cryostats emit an impulse, which either severs the connection to the magnetic gripper elements or restores them, as required. This impulse causes the individual gripper fingers to fold up or down, opening or closing them.

    [Watch our report from SPS 2015]

    DI e-mag:  Can you tell us about the SupraTube?

    Georg Berner: A round cryostat with superconductors is attached to the outside of each end of a liquid-filled glass tube. Inside the vertical tube is a magnetic puck that is held between the two cryostats without physical contact, and with a levitation gap of around five millimeters. It is initially suspended beneath the upper cryostat. A magnetic ring surrounding the cryostats is made to rotate by a stepper motor, transferring the motion to the suspended magnet. The magnet is repelled by the cryostat via an electrical impulse and spirals downward. At the lower end, it is captured once more and centered by the superconductor in the other cryostat.

    DI e-mag: What are the possible applications for the automation industry?

    Georg Berner: SupraGripper technology could enable objects to be grasped and transported within enclosed spaces, a practical solution for clean rooms or for working in liquids, gases or a vacuum. In a slightly modified SupraTube configuration, drive units with superconductive magnetic couplings could be fitted along the longitudinal axis of the tube to draw a cleaning unit through it, entirely without contact. Alternatively, the contents of a closed container—for example, hazardous substances or explosive gases—could be set in rotation.

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    Courtesy of Kuka

    KUKA Toledo Production Operations (KTPO) has built every Jeep Wrangler to the body-in-white stage for Fiat Chrysler (FCA US) since it began operations in 2006. DirectIndustry e-magazine talked to Larry A. Drake, President and CEO of KUKA System Group about digital supply chain and Industry 4.0.


    DirectIndustry e-magazine: Can you describe KTPO?

    Larry A. Drake: KTPO is one of two supplier plants comprising the Toledo Supplier Park, the only venture of its type in North America. The concept brings major suppliers on site to perform key assembly functions that have traditionally been conducted by the vehicle manufacturer alone. KTPO produces the unpainted vehicle body—over 700 a day, or one every 82 seconds—for FCA US. These exit into the third-party paint shop, where they are painted and then delivered to the FCA US assembly plant.

    DI e-magazine: What is IoT in a Box?

    Mr. Drake: KUKA has linked the plant’s 259 robots and 60,000 other devices with powerful back-end monitoring systems and a master data management system. This was essentially the development of “IoT in a Box.” It has evolved dynamically and continuously ever since, into an intelligent lifecycle management platform as part of Industry 4.0.

    DI e-magazine: What is it capable of?

    Mr. Drake:  It has become a fully digitized solution which, linked to production, controls and monitors the entire value chain in real time, from receipt of materials to the actual production processes and goods dispatch, as well as identifying weak points and optimizing capacity utilization. The intelligent system is based on Windows Embedded and Microsoft’s SQL Server. All the control tasks, including creating and running programs and diagnostic processes, can be performed directly on the robots from the control panel’s Windows-based interface.

    DI e-magazine: What is the future in this field?

    Mr. Drake:  Cloud computing and Big Data will give the digitization process another significant boost. Systems will have the capacity to learn quickly and develop further. Applied to industrial manufacturing in Industry 4.0, this will open up entirely new worlds of production. Machines will become increasingly sensitive, more autonomous, more mobile and easier to operate. Soon, robots will be intelligent enough to understand our language and gestures. They are increasingly evolving into assistants in factories, supporting humans in their work.

    DI e-magazine: How is KUKA pushing ahead?

    Mr. Drake:  In the Austin, Texas technology hub KUKA is working with an experienced crew of interdisciplinary development engineers to achieve the fusion of the IT sector with the leading expertise in the fields of mechatronics and industrial manufacturing processes. Our team in the USA will ensure that operational technologies such as robots and logistics machines are connected to the cloud, the web, mobile platforms and other modern IT technologies. This will make KUKA technologies even more user-friendly and provide new features in practical operation.

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    Camille Rustici

    Camille Rustici is a Video Journalist and the Editor-in-Chief for DirectIndustry e-magazine. She has years of experience in business issues for various media including France 24, Associated Press, Radio France…

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    Lindsay Clark

    Lindsay Clark is a freelance journalist specializing in computing. He has won industry awards as news editor at Computer Weekly. He has also written for newspapers including The Guardian, The Financial Times…

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    Chris O’Brien

    Chris O’Brien is based in France and is European Correspondent for VentureBeat and a freelance writer. Before moving to France, he spent 15 years in Silicon Valley covering technology for the San Jose Mercury News and the Los Angeles Times.

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    Abigail Saltmarsh

    Abigail Saltmarsh is a freelance journalist with 25 years’ experience for industry publications (Packaging Europe) and national magazines (The New York Times, International Herald Tribune).

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