Bill's Deep Dive: The Harting IIC MICA | Automation.com

Bill's Deep Dive: The Harting IIC MICA

Bill's Deep Dive: The Harting IIC MICA

By Bill Lydon, Editor, Automation.com

Harting Technology Group is embracing the changing landscape of the automation industry. The influences of Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet of Things, and IoT architectures and concepts can be found in Harting’s latest edge computing device, the IIC MICA (Modular Industry Computing Architecture).  Doing more with edge devices reflects the current drive in the automation and computer industries, to achieve more responsive and leaner systems.  The HARTING MICA is an open and modular computing platform, which was awarded with the 13th annual HERMES AWARD at the 2016 Hannover Fair Opening Ceremony in April.

MICA (Modular Industry Computing Architecture)

The MICA is modular IP67 fanless industrial computer hardware with hardened electronics, high EMC ratings and industrial-grade connectors, all packaged in a compact enclosure that protects against dust, oils, splashes, shocks and vibration.   MICA features a 1 GHz ARM processor, 1GB of RAM and 4 GB eMMC flash memory (additionally up to 32GB on a micro-SD card).

System Component

Lars Hohmuth, Product Manager, Industrial Computing, at HARTING IT Software Development GmbH & Co. KG provided insights into the MICA product and how it fits with the company’s Industry 4.0 vision.

“Our picture of IoT and Industry 4.0 aligns pretty closely with the RAMI 4.0 Specification published by ZVEI/VDI earlier this year. Interestingly enough, we developed MICA before we became aware of the RAMI 4.0 effort and were surprised how well MICA fits into the proposed framework.  Specifically, we do see a strong requirement for the layer/levels model to build out and manage IoT in industry. This is a slight change from the original idea of IoT that every sensor or device is directly connected to the cloud or the ERP system. The virtual industry computing architecture of MICA makes it very easy to encapsulate each instance and RAMI layer in a container. This means that every instance and layer has a unique IP address making it trivial to access them in a way consistent with the principles of IoT or Integrated Industry. To put it another way, any sensor or actor connected to MICA can be readily identified and accessed through and IP network—no matter how old it is, or which protocols it supports.“

RAMI 4.0 Model

Holmuth and I further discussed what role the company sees for its products in these architectures. 

“We see MICA , the entire stack including hard- and software as a natural fit for the Integration, Communication, and Information layers at the Field Device-Work Center levels. In other words, MICA works as a gateway and clearinghouse for communication from and to the lowest level of the IoT stack (sensor/actor). We are not planning to replace PLCs—first of all, because MICA is not a real time system – but to connect ‘dumb’ or legacy equipment to the cloud or the ERP, or to consolidate data coming from a multitude or sensors or going to many actors. In a typical retrofit scenario, actually solving a real problem in our packaging plant, MICA collects data from RFID readers and scales, passes them on to our SAP HANA ERP via OPC UA and then pulls down work instructions from the ERP, transcribes them into a STEP 7 program, and reprograms the packaging machine’s PLC on the fly.   Other typical applications include retrofitting preventive maintenance to existing machine parks—or adding it to new machines coming off the production line, collecting and caching large amounts of data in production environments, and orchestrating multiple machines or PLCs.” 

LINUX Containers

MICA’s virtualization is based on LXC Linux Containers that enables multiple programs to run in parallel within virtual containers.  LXC doesn’t use a multitasker or hypervisor, which makes it very well suited to embedded systems, as it uses small, efficient code sharing a single kernel, between all containers, in separate protected memory spaces. All communication between these containers is IP-based, which provides a simple and secure API between applications.   Further, all the management layer and tools used in MICA are HARTING-specific versions of the standard LXC tools.  The containers run in individual software “sandboxes” that isolate and secures components and applications from each other.  The HARTING busybox OS system software was developed by the company to support Harting devices based on the Debian 3.1.x open source operating system software.    https://www.debian.org/

Circuit Boards

The electronics in the MICA arranged on three circuit boards.

  • Supply board with power supply, network connection and 24V General Purpose I/O (GPIO)
  • Processor board with CPU, memory, eMMC and MicroSD slot.
  • Function board provides flexibility to add a range of features.


The individual circuit boards are connected with a support bracket and communicate via USB, in order to ensure simple communications and integration. The configurable, function-based board and front panel can be custom-developed for a user’s application's requirements and then built into the MICA from there. This does not affect the MICA's form factor or protection degree. All mechanical and electrical specifications are available free of charge from HARTING.

Interfaces and power supply

Each MICA has eight freely configurable GPIOs. The power is supplied either by 12 – 24 VDC or by Power over Ethernet (PoE). Other sockets (such as USB or Fieldbus connection) can be added as needed to the customized function-based board. Solutions for an RFID reader interface and  USB PushPull connectors are already available.

Enclosure

The powder-coated, die-cast aluminum enclosure features IP67 protection and protects the electronics from harsh environments. The MICA can be mounted directly on machines, vehicles, or in production lines wherever temperature fluctuations, humidity, vibration, dirt and dust may occur. The enclosure also shields the electronics from unwanted electrical or electromagnetic effects (EMC).  An adapter can be used to mount the MICA onto a DIN rail in the electrical cabinet.

HARTING's IIC MICA (Modular Industry Computing Architecture)

Power

The MICA can be supplied with electricity via Power over Ethernet. This Power over Ethernet is made possible by connecting the device to a PoE-capable switch with a suitable M12 X-coded cable.

Alternatively, the MICA can be supplied with electricity via a HARTING breakout cable (24 VDC) with an M12 plug-in connector, of which, the input cable is grey/pink and the ground wire is red/blue. When using the M12 plug-in connector, it’s important to observe the assignment of the pins before attaching the M12 connector to a power supply.

Collaborative Network

Harting launched a collaborative network for MICA users, with the first MICA.network meet-up held on June 30 at the Robotation Academy (Fairground / Pavillon 36, 30521 Hannover) for MICA users and interested parties.

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