Protocol Converter Challenge Launch

One of the best things about the advent of Internet of Things (IoT) technology is its capacity to allow seamless communication between industrial machinery. The reason being, networking manufacturing equipment allows for greater efficiency, improved safety, and significant cost savings.

However, there is one significant obstacle preventing the full implementation of industrial IoT solutions: manufacturing companies use a variety of equipment made by a variety of different vendors that utilize idiomatic communication protocols.

As such, getting these machines to talk to each other can be a real challenge; one Zollner Elektronik AG hopes to overcome by harnessing the power of crowd engineering.

Zollner Elektronik’s Challenge

Put simply, Zollner Elektronik is inviting university engineering students and professional engineers to develop a new IoT server solution that enables communication between all types of industrial machinery.

However, the average factory floor is filled with new and legacy equipment that communicates using vendor-specific protocols. As such, transferring data across idiomatic mechatronic systems is an expensive and time-consuming process in serious need of streamlining.

Founded in Zandt, Germany in 1965, Zollner Elektronik is one of the world’s top electronic manufacturing service (EMS) companies. A family-owned operation, the firm currently employs 11,000 workers at 19 international worksites and provides cutting-edge solutions to companies across the globe.

Consequently, Zollner understands that crowdfunded engineering has provided innovative solutions for complex problems in every sector of industry. Accordingly, the corporation has turned to to develop a crowd engineered industrial IoT tool with industrial multiprotocol conversion capability.

Moreover, the firm’s envisioned solution will involve low-cost smart devices using off-the-shelf UDOO x86 boards running Windows 10. These IoT sensors must interpolate manufacturing execution system data via a self-developed GPIO library.

Obviously, Zollner is calling for a boldly innovative solution and it's offering a quality reward for its development. The prize for resolving the firm’s challenge is $45,000.

Challenge Overview

To start, the Zollner challenge is open to engineers of all backgrounds. College engineering students, professional design teams, and retired professional engineers are invited to enter the contest. Crowd engineering is based on the premise of finding out-of-the-box solutions that can’t be fabricated in a pressured, profit-driven institutional environment.

Zollner's industrial multiprotocol converter challenge will take place over 16 weeks and two stages. During phase 1, engineers will have eight weeks to develop their proposals. Phase 2 involves a two-week evaluation of competitors’ submissions and will end with five standout proposals advancing to the next round. The individuals and groups moving on to the next stage will be given $5,000 each.

In phase 3, engineers will have four weeks to develop working prototypes of their IoT systems. Finally, phase 4 will conclude the competition with a two-week review period that will ultimately name a winning prototype. The individual or group that wins the Zollner challenge will receive $20,000.

In reality, the prize money is only half the reward for overcoming the crowd engineering challenge. The other half is the satisfaction that comes from independently developing a groundbreaking new technical solution.

For college students, winning the competition can be the first step in a long and lucrative engineering career. Similarly, for startups and corporate engineers, beating this challenge means establishing a reputation for crafting innovative solutions under tight deadlines. And for retired engineers, it means proving you still have what it takes to make a dent in the universe.

Original thinkers and unorthodox designers can apply for the Zollner challenge here.

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