Using Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and CODESYS for car wash management
An automated car wash process leveraging today’s Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology has tremendous market potential and huge benefits for the car wash industry. According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are more than 100,000 car wash facilities throughout the country with Americans spending $5.8 billion annually to clean their cars and make them shine. Over the last two decades the number of car owners driving to the nearest car wash with its professional drainage and filter system equipment has increased exponentially. The industry revenue is forecasted to grow at an average rate of 3.3 percent per year.
Even if car owners can still wash their cars manually, a fully automated car wash is quicker, more convenient, and usually more thorough. With tremendous growth comes increased competition to provide the most convenient and specialized car wash process, the best possible protection of car surfaces and the optimum of environmental-friendly car cleaning.
Selecting the right intelligent control technology for car wash systems is of vital importance for achieving these goals. Using the possibilities of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and CODESYS cloud-based administration are steps towards for today’s car wash control systems.
Picture: A look ‘behind the scenes’ of a car wash: fresh, waste and process water processing
For their control technology, the company AWT relies entirely on CODESYS-based systems. The control applications for car wash facilities are developed and optimized by an experienced system integrator, the company Inasoft. Inasoft has been a CODESYS Premium System Partner for many years and has implemented numerous successful CODESYS projects. Early on, the system integrator Inasoft started working with the CODESYS Automation Server as their preferred cloud-based administration platform for control systems.
Benefits of an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform
Especially for the development and optimization of control application software for car wash systems, several long-time issues have to be addressed:
- How does the operator or the equipment manufacturer get an overview of the delivered control systems? After all, these are highly spread out with currently more than 40 locations in two countries in our example.
- The control application software is available as source code and as executable binary code. How can both be managed and accessed in a central location? How can authorized personnel easily access the latest versions - particularly when they are not at the company’s offices?
- How can updates of the control application software be deployed quickly to previously installed washing systems - without an employee on site having to work with the PLC programming tool?
- How can the manufacturer remotely adjust parameters to optimize the washing results without having to travel to the respective production site? How can he get a quick overview of the parameters at different production sites?
- How can operators and manufacturers protect themselves against loss of operating income due to a control defect? In other words: How can the software side of device replacement be completed swiftly so that an affected system can be brought back into operation quickly?
- How can an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform help with all these tasks?
The CODESYS Automation Server provides conclusive answers to these questions. This is why the system integrator Inasoft started early on to connect car washes with the CODESYS Automation Server as part of a pilot project for a car wash manufacturer.
Steps towards a cloud-based administration of car wash control systems
How can Inasoft connect the CODESYS controllers to the Automation Server? It takes only four simple steps:
- Create an account. Accounts for the CODESYS Automation Server can be easily set up in the CODESYS Store, where the entire administration of the accounts takes place.
- Connect the controllers to the cloud server. As data security is a major issue, a whole range of security measures are available for CODESYS controllers to protect the devices and applications. First of all, the CODESYS Edge Gateway creates an additional layer of security by separating the controller networks from the Internet. For this purpose, Inasoft installs this gateway as a software service either on a special controller or separately on dedicated Linux or Windows devices. The gateway is the transition point or “edge” between the local controller network and the cloud platform. All communication to the cloud is encrypted and signed with X.509 certificates - the same security standards used by online banking applications. The same security measures can be implemented for programming the devices and communicating to the local control network.
- Registration of Edge Gateways in the account of the CODESYS Automation Server: The CODESYS Development System allows the system integrator to register edge gateways at different car wash locations in the account of the Automation Server.
Picture: Gateways of different plant locations registered in the CODESYS Automation Server
- Add controllers to the CODESYS Automation Server: A network scan through the web interface shows all controllers connected to the gateways. Inasoft can add these controllers for administration by the Automation Server with a simple mouse click. This is all there is to do in order to create a central list of the devices. This list can be displayed in the browser on a PC, laptop, or mobile devices. To improve clarity, Inasoft additionally structured the controllers graphically in topology views, e.g., with map views for their locations in two countries. It is also possible to group the display according to different types of facilities.
Picture: Search the network to find controllers via scan
There are even more options available to fully utilize the features of the CODESYS Automation Server.
Publication of parameters of the control applications. In order to edit application variables directly from the web interface of the CODESYS Automation Server, these variables can be published in the project. The CODESYS Development System provides a special configuration tool for this purpose. This tool can also be used to configurate data exchange via OPC UA.
Picture: Overview of all Swiss carwash locations. A mouse click takes you to detailed regional views or directly to the control information of individual plants, such as software and firmware version, serial number, etc.
Storage of the control project in the Automation Server. The source code as well as the executable application are loaded into the cloud via the CODESYS Development System. Regardless of where the application developer is physically located, the cloud is a central storage location from where the developer can open and edit the project on a local PC with just one mouse click or the previously compiled application can be rolled out immediately from the web interface to one or more suitable controllers. For example: a new released version of the application can be transferred simultaneously to all delivered car wash facilities of a certain type. Of course, the Automation Server has an authorization concept based on user profiles for such sensitive tasks.
Creating work order tickets. Deploying an application to a new controller, replacing a failed controller with a new device, and uploading existing backup information – the system integrator Inasoft can forward such work orders via a web interface to employees on site, even to maintenance personal who are not familiar with CODESYS or have no experience with the server. For this purpose, an account for the respective employee is created in the server’s web interface. When creating a ticket, the work order is briefly described, e.g., "Hello Mr. Miller, please replace the defective controller with the identical replacement unit from the warehouse, then click on the link below, and enter the serial number of the new controller via QR code using the integrated camera on your tablet. Thank you very much, your Inasoft team". Mr. Miller receives this ticket by e-mail. After replacing the hardware, the maintenance employee uses the mentioned link. The link opens a restricted view of the Automation Server account that allows him to do exactly what he needs to do: The maintenance employee enters the serial number of the new device and confirms the entry - no more, no less. The ticket has already established the connection to the backup of the failed controller. The serial number is used to register the replacement device in the Automation Server, and the application and parameter backup is transferred automatically. Within minutes, the new controller and the entire car wash is back in operation.
Outlook: Even more benefits with CODESYS
With the CODESYS Automation Server, the system integrator Inasoft is already in a good position to solve typical tasks that operators and manufacturers of car wash facilities have to face. CODESYS is constantly adding new features to the Automation Server. The latest examples are remote debugging or remote access to the controllers HMI interfaces and the data analyzer.
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CODESYS is the global market leader of manufacturer-independent IEC 61131-3-automation software with over 5 million device licenses sold worldwide. The CODESYS system is the basis of a comprehensive suite that covers the entire software side of automation including Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), communication, Soft PLC, motion, drives, CNC, robotics, redundancy, and visualization.
With CODESYS you have the right tools to improve and strengthen your market position and industry effectiveness. To participate using CODESYS for your industry and specific application, please feel free to contact our North America team at northamerica @codesys.com.
State of the art textile washing facilities
Autowaschtechnik AWT AG, founded in 1997 and headquartered in Switzerland, is a well-known supplier of textile car washing facilities. The supplier focuses particularly on economic aspects of the system such as the efficient use of energy, local water, and cleaning chemicals, as well as thorough cleaning of waste and process water. AWT AG also focuses on ensuring consistent cleaning quality and the best possible protection of car surfaces. The intelligent control technology of the car wash systems is of vital importance for achieving these goals. Even though the systems are standardized, the environmental conditions of each system differ, e.g., in water hardness or typical vehicle soiling. This is why AWT AG not only sells its systems as independent units, but also as turnkey car wash centers under the brand name Soft Car Wash. AWT thus has experience both as a plant manufacturer as well as a plant operator. This combination of skills, which is unique in the industry, helps to continuously optimize the plants.