IoT: how Schneider Electric has developed a secure software platform

Today switches and valves, tomorrow motor starts. The French industrial group Scheider Electric, specialized in energy management, intends to make all of its electrical distribution products connected. “They can inform us of power outages, temperature changes or a polluted area, which would allow us to have a clear view of what is happening on the ground,” says Maurice Pitel, head of Innovation project at Schneider Electric, recalling that the Internet of Things accounts for 45% of the company’s turnover, set at $ 24.7 billion in 2017.

To integrate an Scheider Electric IoT communication architecture with its industrial electrical equipment, while ensuring that there is no risk of intrusion and control, Schneider Electric began to think in 2008 about the development of a software platform. Its goal is to guarantee both the operation of the controls and the security of the communication functions. The project came to fruition with the S3P program (Smart, Safe and Secure Software Development and Execution Platform), launched in October 2015 by a consortium of French industrialists with a funding of 45 million euros, of which 18.3 million of public funds.

The Schneider Electric teams exchanged on how to proceed with other manufacturers like Safran, which had the same problem. “We realized that the equipment used in aeronautics is identical to that of electrical distribution”, surprised the project manager Innovation. The program allowed them to connect with technology providers to put their concepts into practice.

A specific OS

The software architecture proved to be the main difficulty for Schneider Electric. “Associating the critical functions, for the electrical management, and the additional functions, to transmit information, is very complicated because their development does not have the same level of requirement, the security is less on the IoT architecture, Pitel explains that the two functions must not influence each other, so we looked for technology to shield the two functions. ” Three man-years were first invested in this project. Faced with the complexity of the work, in 2016 Schneider Electric created a ten-year business unit dedicated to this project.

The group’s teams collaborated with Krono-Safe, a French supplier of real-time operating systems (OS) for critical embedded systems, created in 2011 by spin-off from CEA. The two companies have developed an OS that achieves “space-time partitioning” of critical functions to avoid failure. The group also collaborated with Prove & Run, the French specialist in the security of connected objects, to reinforce IoT’s cybersecurity.

“Savings realized amount to 30% of the cost of the park”

The software developed, the teams of Maurice Pitel have implemented it in 2017. They chose to test it on a motor starter, a flagship product of Schneider Electric to operate motors, such as trolleys in the chains Manufacturing. “We have done tests in a glass company that has 5,000 motor starters: these are replaced at a level of wear of only 50% to prevent failure.Our software helps ensure operation up to 80 % wear and this extension of use has generated savings of up to 30% of the cost of the park “, certifies Maurice Pitel, for whom all the stake of the IoT is to predict the breakdowns to reduce the time of unavailability of equipment.

This successful step, the industrial group then began to develop in the year 2018 cloud applications around the software, allowing the project to be part of the group’s strategy for energy optimization. New services are envisaged, especially in maintenance. “This project has opened a paradigm shift in construction: the software becomes master, it is no longer dissociated from the hardware whose functions it controls”, observes Maurice Pitel. The S3P program ended in December 2018 but the various partners are continuing their work on this subject.

In the future, Schneider Electric aims to apply edge computing to all of its products. An embedded artificial intelligence will analyze the operation of these directly in the machine, without sending data in the cloud. The group announced to participate in the creation of a future European consortium dedicated to these issues, the Edge Computing Consortium Europe (ECCE).

About Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric is leading the Digital Transformation of Energy Management and Automation in Homes, Buildings, Data Centers, Infrastructure and Industries. With global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider is the undisputable leader in Power Management – Medium Voltage, Low Voltage and Secure Power, and in Automation Systems.We provide integrated efficiency solutions, combining energy, automation and software. In our global Ecosystem, we collaborate with the largest Partner, Integrator and Developer Community on our Open Platform to deliver real-time control and operational efficiency. We believe that great people and partners make Schneider a great company and that our commitment to Innovation, Diversity and Sustainability ensures that Life Is On everywhere, for everyone and at every moment.

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