New Industrial Automation Supplier: An Interview with Industrial Shields’ CEO

Albert Prieto, Chief Executive Officer at Industrial Shields

Albert graduated as an Industrial Technical Engineer specializing in mechanics. With his final degree project he obtained an honours degree and several awards.
Since his early career, he has worked in the design departments of industrial companies for a variety of sectors and applications. Throughout his career he has been very interested in industrial controllers and HMIs. In 2012, together with his cousin, he created Boot & Work with the aim of exploiting the possibilities of open source based hardware for professional and industrial solutions. His main skills are leadership, teamwork, research, and ability to come up with solutions in process of creating new products.

1.How is Industrial Shields involved in the IIoT industry?

Industrial is in our brand name itself, it is something capital for us, that’s why we have been developing a huge range of devices based on Arduino, ESP32 and Raspberry Pi, with the main focus of creating industry-ready solutions. Our open source based solutions can also have several communications available like: GPRS, LoRa, WiFi, Bluetooth, and even concrete protocols like DALI. This is very useful for our customers because they can implement our products in any application.

2. What do you think are the key factors in driving this industry forward?

Our customers are sharing with us their projects, their needs, their expectations, and in this field we are seeing that there is a great demand on all the monitoring of data. The need to send data to the cloud, or to the fog, has been growing exponentially and all the Industrial Shields solutions can really fit into any monitoring project or another. There is also the need to be agile and fast with the adjustment to any company or customer needs, and this is something that our customers are adopting thanks to the open source.

3. What do you think are the most challenging aspects for working in this industry?

There are many protocols and communications types, and the standardization is something really uncommon.

Furthermore, this challenge turns out to be an advantage thanks to the versatility of the three boards that we use (Arduino, ESP32 and Raspberry Pi), the current product range regarding inputs and outputs, and all the communications available to solve the customers needs. There is also the modularity of our product range, that allows an easily scaling of the solution.

4. What do you think is holding some companies back from investing in IIoT?

Technology is developing really fast, usually much faster than companies can adopt to. The key is to understand where to invest, why and with whom. If there’s a department or person with qualification and understanding of where this technology can apply, the process is faster, easy and smooth. So, the lack of knowledge in terms of expected benefits or the technology opportunities is one of the most important.

5. What do your customers say about your solutions?

In most cases they are greatly surprised how many possibilities there are with open source hardware. They love and hate all the programming parts. The ones with enough knowledge can easily program and do what they expect. There are others with experience in automation but not in programming and they find this part more tedious but our support team it’s always there and we also have hundreds of useful posts in our two blogs, and also the forum.

In conclusion, they love the product as a real industrial or professional option based in open source hardware.

6. How do you think security concerns have been addressed?

Working with industrial and professional companies means that you need to have this solved. We have some important certificates and we are working to have more certificates, both, product certificates and also company certificates.

We try to cover the whole spectrum where our products can fit, but we do not promote only our software part, but a hardware is very important to us and our customers. We are having a great feedback when our customers start to use our PLCs for all the monitoring part, they do not need to increase the license part.

Joan F. Aubets, Marketing Director at Industrial Shields

7. IIoT is very much a data driven industry, do you offer data services? How does this solution fair over other competitor services?

We have a product that combines both, hardware and software. It is a Smart City/Rural solution that fits perfectly in the IoT category. The current solution that combines hardware and software is a top selling solution at a very competitive price and includes the platform control and monitoring, multi device, and a huge options to keep the installation running, to monitor energy consumption, and much more.

8. Investing in IIoT solutions can be costly for companies if not done right. What level of support do you offer your customers adopting your solutions?

We have a technical support team dedicated to the pre-sales and after-sales process. During the product or solution definition the technical and sales team collaborates with the customer till they understand the needs and find the best solutions. The support team is committed to give you an answer to your question within 72 hours after receiving the query. We offer some paid support plans to solve urgent issues with shorter time.

9. What do you think will be the main focus in IIoT over the next couple of years?

It is difficult to say. There are so many applications in various fields, from smart manufacturing to farming and agricultural, medical, smart cities, buildings, and mobility applications. They all will be growing together with AI and IIoT. With more connectivity the data acquisition will be key to improve in predictive maintenance, production, security. The open source will play an important part thanks to the quantity and quality of options available to bring the best solutions. In terms of technical details, all the cloud and fog part, and the speed and security of the connections will be also relevant.

10. What is the most exciting about working in this industry?

Every day we can see the development of new ideas, new applications, new solutions capable of managing anything, taking data and controlling new systems, improving efficiency, decreasing the resources consumption and optimizing the results… very important with the present global environmental situation.

11. Is Industrial Shields already looking towards Industry 5.0?

Yes, thanks to our speed and consistency in developing new hardware we can and we should be looking towards the future and what is coming alongside. The presence of automation and robotics will bring new hardware to take care of it, and to support the control, the monitoring, and all the data management, from the data acquisition, the sending to the cloud, and also the interaction with this data through Panel PCs or other devices.

Hardware solution that can integrate several devices in just one like the Raspberry PLC that is a PC, a Router and a PLC.

12. What are your company’s current and future digital ambitions?

Our ambition is to become one of the major players on providing hardware to all companies developing solutions for IIoT and Industry 5.0. There are plenty of R&D teams developing software platforms, all of them will need the hardware to feed their databases, and here is where Industrial Shields can offer the best solutions based on Open source, providing the full control and flexibility required.

We want to keep being the company with the biggest portfolio of solutions based on open source hardware. Also with the capacity of developing new solutions thanks to the important know-how acquired during the past years. We also want to keep growing in quantity and quality of customers like the past years with more and more companies integrating our devices as their products to create their projects, machines or all kinds of solutions. For the future we want to improve this portfolio, with new open source boards and solutions, with new features, new certificates to win presence in more sectors, and open some international offices to be closer to our customers in our main markets.

13. The IoT industry has many manufacturers all working according to various standards or proprietary specifications. How open would you say your solutions are in the Industry?

Our solutions are based on open source hardware, this means that the programming part is totally open and the hardware part is open in the most essential part.

14. What is unique about Industrial Shields technology in connecting all systems into one data driven solution?

First of all, open source facilitates connectivity with all kinds of devices and the communication of this data. With this combination it can always be used as the best option in terms of speed, security, consistency. In comparison with proprietary solutions, the options available when working with open source hardware and software are much bigger and less expensive.

15. How do you support real-time data driven productivity?

Our customers had been installing some of our Arduino PLC to take data from the production line and improve the consumption of raw material. We have one of our customers located in Tarragona, who installed 10 of our PLC’s in a plastic cap production line.

16. What is your latest innovation in driving Al automation? (real-time data collection, tracking, planning, control and solution proposals)

The PLC based on Raspberry Pi can do part of these tasks thanks to a powerful board and an impressive processing power. Nevertheless, these features and possibilities have to be explored by the customer. We are currently working on industrial solutions that should fit better in the AI field.

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