Get Cosy With Remote Access to Machines

Feb. 18, 2015
Router offers access via LAN, Wi-Fi or Cellular.
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The eWON Cosy (COmmunication made eaSY) is an industrial VPN router designed to offer easy remote access across the Internet to machines and installations on customer sites or in the field. OEMs and system integrators can troubleshoot machines remotely without going on-site, which significantly reduces support costs and resources. Belgium-based eWON’s Cosy family is growing with three new products that offer remote access to controllers, operator interfaces and sensing devices of all types, now via LAN, Wi-Fi or cellular connection.

“The technology we use is OpenVPN,” explains Dominique Blanc, eWON’s U.S. general manager. “We were one of the first companies to use this technology. The machine builder is looking to be able to connect to the machine. The machine builder wants its engineers to connect to a machine in another network. Typically you have no way to connect to a device in another network because of firewalls. To do it, you would need to be granted access, and it’s very complex.”

The Cosy router can be placed on a machine, and an outbound connection is made using commonly left open TCP port 443 or UDP port 1194. Cosy has been available in the United States for three years, but some new features have been added, including new options for connectivity.

“There’s the ability to connect wirelessly,” says Blanc. “It’s going to give more flexibility. If there’s not LAN connectivity, then the Wi-Fi could be a solution. Or you can put an AT&T SIM card in the integrated cellular GSM modem. The second new feature is a four-port switch that is configurable as LAN or WAN ports. The new generation of products makes this technology more available. OEMs export and want to be able to reach all their machines farther, across country borders, for example, and then there’s the local base, too. Now you can do so much more with less. There’s greater ability to support and troubleshoot remotely, instead of sending an engineer to the remote site. Sixty percent of those service calls turn out to be simple fixes that do not require the long and expensive journey on-site.”

Cosy includes free Talk2M service from eWON. “Those VPN servers are designed to make sure the right server talks to the right device,” says Blanc. “eCatcher can be used to access the VPN service. When an OEM creates an account, he’s registering all of those eWON Cosy devices. The end user’s IT department doesn’t need to change its corporate network. The engineer can reach the Cosy to access the machine and PLC.”

See Also: A Web Broker Architecture for Remote Access

Cosy communication is designed for easy setup with no firewall issues, which allows access only to the machine and not to the factory LAN, and VPN access can be controlled locally with an external key switch. “A streamlined Web user interface and wizards provide for a fast setup without the need for an IT expert’s assistance,” explains Blanc. “The connection report gives full visibility, including a list of users who access particular machines plus the time of their connection.”

Cosy uses a fully secure SSL-based VPN tunnel. The information exchanged during the communication is encrypted (SSL—2048-bit keys), and only authenticated users can connect to the eWON. The gateway offers PLC support for RS-232, RS-485 and RS-422, and it’s an MPI/Profibus-to-Ethernet solution, compliant with PLC manufacturers such as Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric, Siemens, Omron and Mitsubishi.

How It Works

The eWON Cosy is connected to the Talk2M server, and the engineer uses the eCatcher client remotely to log into the Talk2M account and select the desired machine. “A fully secure VPN tunnel is now set up between the engineer and the machine,” says Blanc. “The engineer can go live with any devices connected to the Cosy’s LAN ports.”

Talk2M is the first secure industrial connectivity service in the cloud, explains Blanc. “With servers spread out all over the world, Talk2M offers a highly reliable, efficient and secure solution for connecting to machines remotely,” he says. “Talk2M gathers thousands of accounts and manages thousands of connections per day, including a full audit trail for connection tracking.  M2Web is a standard service of Talk2M providing secure Web, VNC and RDP access to the client’s HMI, Web server or PC from his smart phone or tablet.”

Cosy has a digital input to provide the local engineer or IT personnel with a switch to control when a connection is available. “They can locally enable or disable the access for the remote engineer to the machine as needed,” explains Blanc. “Any place where you don’t want to have to fly or can’t afford to wait, it makes sense. The Cosy product family makes it possible for manufacturers to enjoy a rapid resolution to the problem and increase factory uptime.”

Also of note, the eWON Cosy product line is part of the Rockwell Automation Encompass partnership program.

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