The World and manufacturing companies are facing the fourth industrial revolution based on ICT. Traditional factories will increasingly be transformed into smart digital manufacturing environments. Currently, the full potential for ICT in manufacturing is far from being fully...\n\nThe World and manufacturing companies are facing the fourth industrial revolution based on ICT. Traditional factories will increasingly be transformed into smart digital manufacturing environments. Currently, the full potential for ICT in manufacturing is far from being fully exploited. Factories are complex systems of systems and there is a need to develop a platform on which future manufacturing applications can be built. Europe should achieve leadership in digital platforms for industry on which value is created (e.g. embedded operating systems, autonomous systems building blocks, cloud platforms, data, security, openness, interoperability, etc.).
Over the last decades, manufacturing companies have been implementing point-solutions each bringing a specific feature or fixing a specific issue. Resulting from this approach is a highly heterogeneous manufacturing IT landscape. These are already costly to administer and further addition of capabilities become even more costly. There is thus a need for a homogeneous manufacturing IT landscape offering manufacturing IT solutions to support manufacturing companies, especially SMEs, to successfully respond to the challenges. Allowing them to be flexible and offer highly customised products, without daunting implementation costs, and thereby maintaining and boosting their competitiveness locally in the increasingly globalised markets SMEs participate in.
The goal of the vf-OS Project is to develop such an Open Operating System for Virtual Factories, composed of a Virtual Factory System Kernel, a Virtual Factory Application Programming Interface, and Virtual Factory Middleware. An Open Applications Development Kit will be provided to software developers for deploying Smart Manufacturing Applications (vApps) for industrial users, using the vf-OS Manufacturing Applications Store to purchase vApps and modules and its Virtual Factory Platform to execute these vApps.
The Virtual Factory Platform will be a multi-sided market platform with the aim of creating value by enabling interactions between four customer groups:
- Software Developers (independent or within individual manufacturers) which will build Manufacturing Apps either through innovation or from manufacturing user demand
- Manufacturing Users which will explore the marketplace for already created solutions, ready to be run on the vf-OS
- ICT Providers which will provide ICT interfaces and manufacturing connections
- Service Providers (vf-OS innovators and third parties) will provide services (hosting, storage, connected cloud services, etc.) including those based on developed solutions.\n\nWithin the first reporting period the vf-OS project has worked on following topics:
1. To set up the vf-OS state-of-play by:
- Synchronising the project vision including to overview the target audience and the target market sector
- Identifying the use cases to understand the problem and the end-users needs
- Characterising the providers scenarios to understand their needs
- Analysing actual technologies and practices
- Deriving the vf-OS end-user requirements
2. To define the vf-OS architecture, specifications and components and to start implementing them by:
- Establishing both the Architecture, Functional, Technical, and Security Specifications
- Developing the first two phases of the vf-OS System Kernel components, including the Enablers' Framework to facilitate the connectivity of vf-OS components to the different Enablers
- Developing the first phase of the vf-OS I/O and the vf-OS Data and Connect components, eg Data Storage, Data Analytics, Drivers, etc.
3. To set up the vf-OS results dissemination & exploitation channels and means by:
- Generating impact to the external community in terms of dissemination and outreach of the activity in order to encourage the spread of results. This impact is achieved through the different means accessible to vf-OS consortium: Website, social media channels, workshops, newsletters and other printed media
- Assessing vf-OS market opportunities, selecting and refining them, and then producing solid exploitation plans. In parallel, vf-OS is dealing with the IPRs background and foreground issues order to establish a fair and successful collaborative exploitation
The vf-OS Project will develop an Open Operating System for Virtual Factories, deployed in a cloud platform, supporting a multi-sided market ecosystem for providing a range of services to the connected factory of the future to integrate better manufacturing and logistics processes. It captures the notion of a manufacturing 'operating system' and makes full use of the 'concepts' of a classical software operating system such as that on a desktop computer and provides the necessary tools to realise it either in-cloud or on-premise. This manufacturing approach can enable a whole new level of flexibility and scalability in the manufacturing domain and, like any good concept, tries not the re-invent the wheel but to take advantage of, replicate, and adapt such concepts and tools.
vf-OS will be an Open Framework able to manage the overall network of a collaborative manufacturing and logistics environment that enables humans, applications, and devices to seamlessly communicate and interoperate in the interconnected operative environment. vf-OS will provide a set of Open Services, rooted in the cloud and instantiated at the vf-OS Platform that moves from the device-centric to the user-centric paradigm. It will implement a multi-sided market exploitation strategy, with a clear value proposition to manufacturers, machine and device providers, logistic operators and end users. vf-OS proposes an Open Platform, linked by strong network externalities and exploiting advanced ICT (ie, CPS, IoT, Cloud-models, M2M, security by design, etc.), fulfilling the actual need on the market for open services for interoperability based on data exchange.
vf-OS will profit from existing technologies (e.g. FIWARE, Talend, etc.) to quickly provide value to enterprises (final users) and developers. At present, a widely used reference implementation of platforms supporting market ecosystems for developing applications for the virtual factory does not exist. vf-OS aims not to just provide 'never used research software' but outcomes which augment existing tools and only add/research where necessary.
vf-OS aims to become the neutral reference system software for managing factory related computer hardware and software resources and providing common services for factory computational programs. This operating system will be the component of the system software in a real factory system where all factory application programs will run. Such an operating system will include real-time architectures for interoperability, management of the data deluge, ICT security, knowledge protection, and trust in collaborative infrastructures.
Regarding the potential impacts by vf-OS, the project targets three main objectives:
- Innovative services, models and practices optimising manufacturing and logistics processes
- Quantified reductions in the effort for integration or reconfiguration of today's hierarchical automation systems through advanced de-centralised or hybrid architectures
- Better and faster reaction to market changes by being able to use holistic global and local optimisation algorithms in a collaborative sustainable value chain.