Autonomous Guided Vehicles

The Device Chronicle interviewed Julien Bertolini, IoT Expert, at the Volvo Group on IoT in the Industry 4.0 settings – Automated Guided Vehicles and other IoT-enabled devices.

The Volvo Group provides building trucks, buses and construction vehicles. The automotive group is a separate entity. With almost 20 years of IT experience, Julien knows how to lead large scale industrial projects. He has followed the evolution of the IoT market from M2M to IoT for 10 years. At Volvo, he leads the IoT community of more than 200 people and is centrally involved in the IoT deployments of the Group. He is also involved in the cross-company Adira IoT group (Adira) and participates in the open innovation project at the Industrial Hive.

There are two different branches of IoT in the Volvo Group. The first is concerned with the Connected vehicle which manages over 1 million trucks connected on the road, building services for end customers. These projects have been running for the last 10 years. The second branch is Industry 4.0: IoT for factories, where the Volvo Group is just at the beginning of the journey. Julien works on this part in a team of 12 people. It is a globally distributed team across France, Sweden and India. The team works for all the Volvo Group factories all over the world. There are 140 factories, this involves connecting the factory, taking existing data from PLCs and industrial equipment and bringing it to their IoT platform based on PTC Thingworx, and using Azure as a data lake. They are also adding sensors and capability for logistics to this infrastructure. 

OEE and predictive maintenance in strategic focus

Julien says that the strategic focus now is on production optimization for calculating OEE, and Predictive maintenance which is a really big topic at Volvo. The approach is to build an IoT solution per use case so as to try to solve a particular problem. But data is also sent in a structured way to the data lake. We can have the full picture of all data collected from all factories, build more and more services and applications from this. So this is solving problems, or treating use cases one by one, and then trying to reuse successful use cases. 

Expert IoT community in Volvo Group

Julien says they have built out a successful IoT community at Volvo, so one factory can take the work done, or solution of another factory, build best practices, and skills, and not to repeat mistakes of the past. 

Industry 4.0 progressing fast – automated guided vehicles

Industry 4.0 started at Volvo in 2018, but they are running fast, it is a strategic point for management with a lot of investment. Julien points out that if you are building a new factory, it is easy to use all the IoT technology. In reality, you have to deal with a diversity of equipment and some of this equipment is more than 30 years old and this is one of the biggest challenges. Typically, the factory environment sees IoT working with AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles), conveyors, connected electric engines of all types, monitoring for vibration, big foundries with big fans. There are a lot of different types of equipment. And furthermore, there are lots of different types of factories at Volvo, compare a factory for truck assembly to a factory for building an engine, it is not the same assembly line, way of working, and the equipment size is different. 

IoT device management, software updates & automated guided vehicles

Julien explains that for connecting the factory to collect existing equipment, there is not much device management to do beyond managing inventory. But when it comes to adding new devices it is a different story. Julien and his team might deploy a solution to monitor the battery of the AGVs with a fixed external device communicating in LORA to send battery voltage. There would be a maintenance dashboard to see all the versions of the equipment, alerts if the sensor has not communicated for a long time. He also explains that a firmware update cannot be done remotely, as they are LORA devices and it is pretty hard to download the firmware over the LORA network. Each time they have to do a firmware update, it has to be performed manually. Lora Wan has bandwidth challenges, it is so low, there is little bandwidth between the gateway and the devices. ESP 32 is the main embedded hardware device used at the Volvo Group factories, and typically they run freeRTOS. The LORA Gateways in factories run Yocto Linux in the factories. Yocto use is typically the choice of the gateway manufacturer.  

Security expertise

When it comes to security, the IoT team at Volvo Group are savvy and self regulating, using their experience and expertise.  “We do not have a list of security requirements for IoT at Volvo, it depends on the experience of people who are experts in IoT. These experts know the biggest security issues that can be faced and they ensure that everything is right for the device and the LORA network.”  The IoT team follows best practices by using best methods such as flash encryption, secure boot and so on. They also have stringent security requirements for their providers.Julien concludes by saying that “IoT security is still artisanal while gateway equipment in the factory, on premise, server, cloud and applications are really industrial where the Volvo Cybersecurity service kicks in with full assessment and auditing. There, a full security review is completed.” 

We wish Julien and the IoT Community at Volvo Group success as they continue to innovate and leverage their expertise in IoT to help the company grow. 

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