Meet our customer hero
In 2016 with the birth of the Raspberry Pi something exciting happened to Kunbus. The company, specialized in Ethernet & fieldbus protocol stacks and sensor integration, carved out a new route to market. It’s brainchild: RevPi—the first open-source, modular, industry-grade IoT hardware. “From the very beginning, our mission was to develop a low-cost, scalable and industrially suitable controller,” explains Boris Crismancich, Head of Business Development. “We made no secret of the hardware, source codes and software as we believe the future of manufacturing is open. And we’ve been proved right, our open-source product has set new standards in the automation and IIoT market.”
But the company needed an enterprise-grade solution to scale its offering, manage huge volumes of data from customer’s PLCs—both at the source and in the cloud—and deploy easily. “This is exactly where our story with Cumulocity IoT and thin-edge.io starts.” Crismancich smiles. In 2019, the company had considered building something themselves. But its requirements in terms of microservices, field integration, networking and serverless hosting were complex. Kunbus also wanted a solution that wouldn’t limit their ability to harness multiclouds flexibly. When he spoke to vendors, Crismancich frequently sensed “a big fat lock in.” “My gut told me that there must be something more future-proof out there, aligned to our philosophy of empowering mid-sized manufacturers with open technology that would be cloud agnostic.”
The company trialed Cumulocity IoT in 2020. The enterprise-grade solution was a fortune 500 favorite, and yet the company’s business model was based on freedom. Software AG also had numerous IoT-driven sustainability use cases. “This fitted very well strategically to our bigger game plan,” Crismancich explains: “Our customers were wanting to make cost reductions via energy savings in their factories. They were wanting to learn from their data and make smart decisions around maintenance and monitoring. And they were constantly asking us about how they should store their data” says Crismancich. A sales and potential partnership presented itself: Kunbus had the hardware. And Software AG had the thin-edge.io, cloud agnostic IoT framework.
“Software AG’s product portfolio is built on open standards” Crismancich grins. “Cumulocity IoT is out of the box, ready to use, can connect to any other big platform or system around, and has a clean microservice architecture. There’s probably only a handful of viable vendors left on the market that are open yet big enough to stand the test of time. And as Gartner attests, Cumulocity IoT is one of them.” Another point in its favor was security. “In the industry networking field, the OT guys don’t tend to focus on security. Company’s need tech dev ops because you can’t afford a breach. With Cumulocity IoT we have a secure solution and have effectively outsourced our risk.” Additionally, the platform enables customers to buy in 85% of IoT functionality and use low-code adaptors and packages to make the other 15% totally bespoke. “Cumulocity is refreshingly different. It’s a platform that is built the way you would build it. But has a self-explanatory, flexible frontend that our users simply love to develop on,” says Crismancich.
Another USP came in the form of open-source thin edge computing. This meant that Kunbus’ customers could install the RevPi; the PLC would generate a process image; this could then be analyzed at the source using a resource-constrained edge device; and later sent to the cloud powered by Cumulocity IoT. A huge benefit was that if customers needed to add new software on the Linux-based RevPi, thin-edge.io handled that without any further development effort. “Open-source thin edge.io is offers us simple and secure device connectivity, freedom in terms of cloud platform, and low programming effort. No need to reinvent the wheel” says Crismancich.
What sealed the deal though was Cumulocity IoT’s cloud agnosticism: “Kunbus and our customers expect to operate independently,” explains Crismancich. “We want to be able to work together with any cloud provider without jeopardizing the project if a partnership comes to an end. Software AG understands this.” Take the relationship with hyperscalers: If the prices at one provider increase significantly, the platform can be moved with little effort. If customers want to host the platform locally on premise without a cloud connection—that’s also possible. “While Microsoft and Amazon compete with Cumulocity IoT, they are valuable partners in hosting. Software AG has embraced the Frienemy concept with its strategic alliances putting the customer and end-customer front and center. Cumulocity IoT basically allows cherry picking.”
Live in just weeks, Kunbus haven’t looked back and the use cases are coming thick and fast.
Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): Take Kunbus’ own production site in Stuttgart. Here, for example, robots bring circuit boards to soldering machines and ovens which naturally consume a lot of energy. Prior to using Cumulocity IoT machines might take up to three-hours to warm up to the right temperature. Now, alarms are triggered that mean machines are powered up at the right time. And 60 factory workers can arrive and get to work. “Before this, up to three to four times a year they’d be twiddling their thumbs– which represents hundreds of thousands in cost savings a year” says Crismancich “Next step is to use our data to give us insights into OEE and machine operational efficiency. We’ve already started using AI cameras at the end-of-line testers”
Remote monitoring: As a decentralized company with 5 locations in Europe and a flexible home office culture, remote access is part of the Kunbus’ work culture. “We use the Cumulocity Cloud not only to collect data such as energy consumption and automatically process it for audits or to monitor production equipment, we also use it to manage our equipment fleet,” says Crismancich. “Via the Cumulocity Cloud, we can automatically provide our devices with updates and keep them secure. We can roll out network configurations and software, call up program functions remotely and even connect to a single device via console if necessary.” Particularly exciting for Kunbus are the touchscreens it has recently deployed. These allow staff to monitor production steps in real time and act on the data they see.
Energy metering for customers: End-customers are also delighted. One of the most typical use cases so far in Germany, for example, is related to the Renewable Energy Sources Act. “Our end-customers have to collect data for audits. With Cumulocity IoT powering the application behind it, Kunbus has started to offer its customers an application for Energy Metering. And if at any point these customers want to move on, they can take their solution and go. “Open source is about scale, flexibility, and freedom. We want to pass this on to our customers and working with Software AG completes the value chain.”
Embracing an ecosystem as device partner and customer
The future for Kunbus is inter-connected: The company already has a strong roadmap for selling directly to its own customers. And is now also partnering with Software AG as a device expert—taking the two companies to market. With three new customers in Europe and Japan, a lot of international eyes were on Kunbus’ recent Hannover Fair appearance. On its booth Kunbus demoed a retrofitted washing machine – 82 years old. Proving that in our modern age the concept of “rip and replace” is dated, Kunbus has fitted this washing machine with a RevPi to capture performance data. There’s no need to retrofit the CE certification – thin-edge.io takes care of that.
There are also conversations pending with the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers and a new customer project underway to monitor gas and electricity usage in the transportation of ISO tanks. “Manufacturers are now all paying the price for savings they should have made years ago. RevPi together with thin-edge.io and Cumulocity IoT is the perfect pairing to start to curb the current energy crisis and embrace a greener future”. Our hardware is multi-talented,” Crismancich concludes, “we expect the same of our IIoT platform.”