Within the German funded project ParsiFAl4.0 (product-capable autonomous and safe foil systems for automation solutions in industry 4.0) the focus was on development of foil-based electronic systems for the acquisition, processing and wireless communication of data. Production processes can be made more flexible and efficient through intelligent control and networking. The sensor technology and electronics within the production plants and products, enable decentralized monitoring and control of production processes. In addition to their wide range of application possibilities in sensors (e. g. for vibration monitoring or deformation measurement), the foil systems should be able to communicate wirelessly and to process and store information.
STACKFORCE GmbH is one of nine companies which was in charge of realizing the sub-project “communication” of ParsiFAl4.0 from 11/01/2015 to 10/30/2018. We are proud to have been able to contribute by our many years of expertise in the fields of communication and data security to the project.
The work of STACKFORCE GmbH within the sub-project focused on the analysis, design and implementation of a secure, interoperable, flexible and wireless communication. At the beginning, clear requirements and framework conditions were evaluated with the project partners. These should enable a stable and secure communication for the planned I4.0 applications.
In the next step, approaches to solutions were considered that allow simple connections of sensors. Likewise, the communication according to the sub-project description ParsiFAl4 0-Communication was built up modularly in such a way that a simple and efficient change of media could be made possible. In the last step, the communication design was implemented and tested, considering the identified requirements and framework conditions.
Task System Design
After analyzing the requirements, it was found that there is no solution having a complete protocol stack. Therefore, the team decided to use and combine individual free and already established protocols for the different levels of the protocol stack. The choice was made for IP-based communication “6LoWPAN” as the core of the entire communication solution. It offers alternatives on both the physical and application level to meet the requirements of different applications flexibly and precisely.
For the selection of the application level respectively the application data format, a universal but standardized protocol was chosen after a comparison of different protocols. In order to be able to operate this protocol stack independently of the application, many parameters had to be managed on different levels. Therefore, a special software component named Management Entity (MgmtE) was designed and implemented.
Task data security
In order to ensure the data security of such a sensor network, two main attack vectors were identified:
- Sniffing of radio telegrams
- Taking over sensors during commissioning, or coupling with the associated gateway
Based on a well-established encryption method, a security layer already offers native data security, which prevents data from being read out by sniffing of radio telegrams. A further security aspect was the processing and storage of security relevant information in the hardware. For this purpose, a security chip was used, which was developed by a partner company within the project. By developing the necessary drivers, the security chip could be optimally integrated into the protocol stack. This enabled to outsource some security functions to the security chip.
Test Validation Phase
To verify the communication and security solution developed by STACKFORCE, demonstrators were created. Since the sub-project was almost purely software-based, the demonstrators were created based on a development and evaluation kit from Texas Instruments.
A test and validation environment was also created in which the tests were virtualized and could also be performed with real hardware. This dual approach resulted in several advantages in development and problem solving.
For the visualization of the data traffic based on the test and validation platform, a protocol monitor (sniffer) was developed. In the last step, the data traffic could be delivered to a browser and displayed as a web-based frontend.
Summary and results
The management of network parameters is a high risk for companies and users who typically do not have competence in the field of wireless network technology. This is where STACKFORCE GmbH sees the possibility of using the Management Entity (MgmtE) developed as part of the subproject. By integrating the MgmtE into different protocols and protocol stacks, which are used for the wireless connection of sensors, an abstraction level can be delivered. This allows companies to purchase a solution that reduces their own technical and economic risk when using wireless radio protocols. The integration of the MgmtE into the LoRaWAN protocol stack has met with great interest.
Simple and safe commissioning is an essential acceptance criterion for communication solutions, especially for end-users. STACKFORCE GmbH expects that the procedure for safe commissioning in connection with the MgmtE will also continue to apply. Discussions with potential customers have shown that there has been a great deal of interest in the process.
In order to compensate for the lack of network competence in companies, STACKFORCE GmbH plans to use the test framework as well as the Sniffer in the form of development and maintenance tools.
If there are any questions regarding our contribution to the ParsiFAI4.0 project, don't hesitate to