A platform for systematizing and sharing information and knowledge from the field of automation

Industrial automation, control and information systems become an integral part of operation in firms nowadays. In the past, automation was a performance enhancing area, which was improving production and management efficiency. Today, automation becomes a necessity and a great number of companies are not able to operate without automation and computer aids. Increasing interdependency of technological processes and the automation (and information systems) introduced forces both suppliers and users to deepen their knowledge. As all technologies are more and more sophisticated and the possibilities of automation increases, it results in the calling for the necessary systematization of knowledge and information. One of the EARN project’s goals is to create a platform, which will enable the partners to store, systematize and share information and knowledge from the fields of automation, automated control and control systems.

The Faculty of Mining and Geology at the VŠB – TU of Ostrava is one of four founding partners in this project. In this project each partner is dealing with a number of tasks from various areas, and at the same time each partner is in charge of one area (a work package), and he/she is responsible for outputs defined for this area. The main task of VŠB – TU of Ostrava is to create the mentioned platform, which will serve to collect, share, and present information from the field of automation and control systems. This information system is being created in close cooperation with our CIT department (IT), based on information previously consulted with professionals dealing with portals development and information systems.

A basic element of the created platform and the information system is a virtual server with a Linux operation system, which has sufficient capacity and the required application software. This server is embodied in the VSB -TU Ostrava computer infrastructure. By embodying this server into the university infrastructure, we can ensure good security, maintenance and backup of the whole system. The university infrastructure ensures a reliable power supply from several independent sources and the complete design of firewalls, access from the public network and antivirus protection. One of the requirements for the system was the optimization of implementation costs, and to ensure the operation and sustainability of the system for at least 5 years after the project is finished.

The main goal of the EARN project is to improve the ways of ensuring the good transfers of ideas, thoughts and innovations from the university environment into practical use in industry. The platform created within the work package of the VSB TU of Ostrava is therefore designed, so that it can be beneficial to potential clients, who will be interested in cooperating with the university. In the EARN information project firms will find services at their disposal, which participating universities are able to offer and put into action. By service we understand a whole spectrum of activities – from providing professional consultancy, carrying out research activities, organizing specialized trainings and seminars, up to offering the use of specific equipment or laboratories. This information system will include information on finished projects, in which the universities cooperated with industrial companies, from which the companies can draw inspiration for potential cooperation. Our objective is to find ways of interconnecting the world of university research programmes, characterized mostly by long-term and conceptual projects, with the corporate sector, in which companies are searching for fast solutions to current problems. To connect these two different philosophies is not an easy task, as the interconnection of university research programmes with industries is assessed as insufficient in many countries all over the Europe. Another area of the project EARN concern is to involve students into the research and innovative programmes (from the idea to its implementation). The newly built platform should be of a good assistance in this area as well. It has not been successfully designed everywhere for students from research or from the application sphere environment to be able to apply their ideas.

At the present time the EARN server is fully operating and its maintenance has been ensured for 6 years (till its deadline in November 2014 plus 5 subsequent years). We have created a database of services offered by this project´s partners and an information portal for the general professional public. This system will enable companies to input their requirements for the requested services. We are working on designing an internal platform (based on the LMS system Moodle) to share knowledge, information and educational material among participating partners.

Our goal is to create a system, which will be beneficial and attractive enough to initiate the formation of a partners network in a number of European universities and research institutions, and thus the system for information sharing will be utilized and developed in the long run.

-Michal Repka, VŠB-TU Ostrava