Weeve and Festo complete a successful POC in the Industry 4.0 Domain

Sidd Bhasin
Jun 26 · 6 min read

Introduction

Festo and Weeve have been working together for the past 6 months on a technology that enables Festo to move towards innovative business models in the Industrial Automation domain. Weeve combines the powerful paradigms of the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain technologies to achieve this transformation.

“At Weeve, we have been working tirelessly for 2 years to develop next-gen technological solutions to extract the most value out of the machine economy. This POC with Festo shows how Weeve technologies applied with blockchain technology to the Internet of Things does just that. We are happy to say that we are working with a leading Germany company in bringing Industry Automation to a new level through smart solutions” (Prof. Dr. Sebastian Gajek, Weeve Co-founder and Managing Director).

Festo, a leading German Industrial Automation company, is developing a proof of concept (POC) with Weeve to explore moving towards novel pay-per-use business models and explore new business in the Sharing Economy. The POC scope is to incorporate blockchain technology to increase data integrity and process efficiency for Festo. The scope of the POC sees odometer data readings from Festo’s Industrial Automation machines to be recorded on a blockchain via the Weeve technology. Key objectives of the POC include elements like data integrity and immutability and process efficiency, while shifting Festo in a progressive direction of innovative business models that facilitate a sharing economy approach to machine leasing.

Weeve is building a secure IoT-Blockchain platform for the future machine economy. Weeve’s mission is to enable pioneering companies to securely extract new value from an increasingly connected machine economy. Weeve offers innovative ways to utilize IoT through security-by-design technology and customized solutions, operating across industry verticals of IIoT, Automotive, Supply Chain, Mobility and Logistics. Formerly known as eciotify GmbH, Weeve was founded in early 2017 by European renowned cryptographer, Prof. Dr. Sebastian Gajek and serial entrepreneur and angel investor, Harald Zapp.

Festo is a German family-owned multinational industrial control and automation company. Festo is engineering-driven and produces and sells pneumatic and electrical control and drive technology for factory or process automation. Festo Didactic is a world market leader in industrial education and consultancy and is a Founding Sponsor Partner of the WorldSkills Mechatronics Competitions. Sales subsidiaries, distribution centers and factories are located in 61 countries worldwide.

Purpose/Goal: What is the purpose/goal of the project?

Goal: Show the benefits of the Weeve Blockchain system in pay per use models for products/services of Festo.

PoC with HW prototype: Store odometer data in the Blockchain to ensure data integrity and immutability. The demonstration was done via an exemplary set of hardware representing Cartesian Robots of Festo.

Analysis: Settlement of payment transactions with all points of contact of the processes and procedures at Festo, including consideration of reliability, security and trustworthiness.

High-Level Technical Intro:

Extending and improving processes by elevating them to the next technological level often requires developers to adapt their techniques and software to the existing product that is being built upon. In our case, Festo provided us with a cartesian robot used to measure and map certain areas. While the sensors of said robot will generate a lot of data while it’s being used, only one specific value is of high value for this proof-of-concept: the mileage. With the help of the mileage value (and thus its history), Festo is able to bill customers in perfect accordance to their personal usage of a certain robot. But how can we ensure that the values haven’t been tampered with, haven’t been changed afterwards and can be linked to a certain user at a certain time in a verifiable way? This is where blockchain technology comes into play: by leveraging distributed ledger technology we are able to store the mileage values on an immutable ledger in a verifiable way. Through making use of a private Ethereum blockchain in combination with a deployed smart contract we are able to store the mileage value together with a corresponding time stamp for each and every machine. These values can then be accessed by our frontend (or any other software) in order to display and evaluate these values.

For the development of our Blockchain-IoT-Extension we didn’t want to change anything about the protocol that is being used as well as the hardware that we were provided with. The robot is communicating with a certain software made by Festo over the so called “ENGP” protocol. We piggybacked on the communication by passing the Ethernet messages through a Raspberry Pi. On the Raspberry Pi, a certain piece of software analyzes each and every packet that is passing through and relays the sensor value messages to the weeve backend via MQTTS — a secure and incredibly lightweight messaging protocol developed by the weeve team. On the receiving end of these values — our backend — we forward the desired values (in this case only the mileage) to the blockchain.

Backend

The weeve backend offers a high flexibility and all of the features that are needed in order to realize a complete IoT to Blockchain connection without any big overhead. We made use of a light version of the weeve Gateway, receiving data from the device and storing parts of it onto a blockchain. Namely these parts are the mileage values, while none of these values can be changed afterwards due to the immutability nature of blockchains. This is very important, especially for liability and invoicing reasons.

The whole process is divided into three steps:

  1. Data Transfer

The backend receives the data sent by the device via our secure and lightweight MQTTS protocol, where everything is encrypted while the overhead is kept to a bare minimum.

2. Parsing the data

The incoming data is parsed, extracting only the desired values from the data stream. In this case, the mileage value is extracted from the data.

3. Blockchain Interaction

The parsed mileage value is stored onto an private Ethereum-based blockchain

The blockchain is a private Ethereum-based blockchain where a so-called smart contract has been deployed. This smart contract mainly has two functionalities: read and write. While anyone is allowed to read any value, no one is allowed to overwrite any of the previous values. Only new values can be appended to the current dataset. We made use of web3.js, a javascript-based API that allows us to retrieve the values from the blockchain directly in a frontend. Possible capabilities of this frontend are billing and automated invoicing or just being a simple means of displaying these values for the renting user himself.

Next Steps

We are entering an era in which most of our clients value access over ownership and experiences over assets. Realizing this Festo plans to move to a pay per use business model for its Industrial Machines to make it flexible for clients to rent machines rather than own them and reduce asset overhead. This involves application of new technology (Blockchain and IoT) in the current process flow and researching what implications would it have.

Festo is undertaking serious actions to take a lead in moving to the next digital frontiers that would enable higher machine autonomy and automation in all involved and surrounding businesses. Our next steps would be a detailed feasibility analysis with our stakeholders in the company and proceed towards developing a launch plan.

Want to chat with us?

If you are also a corporate looking to find innovative partners or technologies to push your business to the next frontier, send us a quick email to info@weeve.network to chat more.

Talk to you soon!

NBT Thing Tank

Empowering the IoT and Blockchain Ecosystem

Sidd Bhasin

Written by

NBT Thing Tank

Empowering the IoT and Blockchain Ecosystem