IXON | Cloud Enables Access to Machines Easily and Securely
Service engineers and machine builders ensure that arrays of machines, computers, and equipment perform optimally 24/7. In the past, service engineers were alerted about a malfunctioning machine with a frantic call from a machine operator or owner. If it happened at night (which was all too often, right?!) the call forced the service engineer to roll out of bed, stop by the gas station for coffee, and head onsite to the machine’s location (or jump on a plane) to resolve the issue.
The days of late night onsite visits are in the past. Now when a machine malfunctions, the IXON app allows the service engineer to investigate the issue from their smartphone or tablet. Straight from the app, the engineer logs in to the machine, troubleshoots the issue, resolves it, and falls back asleep, confident that they will be alerted if further issues arise.
Remote Access – Anytime and Anywhere
IXON offers that secure, fast, and reliable access to machines from anywhere – home, office, offsite meeting, or vacation – with the world’s most advanced online cloud platform.
Willem Hofmans started his journey as an entrepreneur in 2003 right after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Along with his team he developed customized software and electronics mainly for machine builders. Even in the beginning, Willem was drawn toward the more complex projects. As PLCs were not always powerful enough, Willem and his team looked for other solutions, such as computer-based control systems, dedicated electronics and web applications. In 10 years, Willem and his team worked on over 100 projects.
Willem’s dream had always been to develop a self-made product and bring it to the market. To connect machines to the cloud was not a revolution. There had been solutions around for decades to provide remote service or to monitor and update machines remotely. However, these solutions were very complex, and with the increasing demand for machine builders to connect machines to the cloud, IXON was founded. Willem’s vision was to make cloud connection easier and more accessible. His knowledge of product development and knowledge about the machine industry along with a very experienced and dedicated team of software and hardware developers, allowed IXON to develop a self-made solution to connect machines to the cloud.
The IXON router was successful from the start. “Soon other clients were asking for the same solution, so we worked on perfecting it,” explained Hofmans. He started a company, Wivion, in 2003 and offered additional solutions and services. However, the IXON solution was clearly Wivion’s differentiator and best-selling product as it was already being sold all over the world. After a few years Willem made the business decision to focus solely on the IXON router solution, and he changed the company name to IXON.
Today, Willem Hofmans remains the owner and CEO of IXON. Based in the city of Overloon in southeast Netherlands, the company is growing rapidly and each day multiple clients are added. In the past year IXON’s staff increased from 8 to 17 employees, and hiring continues. Experienced server administrators and software engineers continually update security measures and design and build new features, while support staff drive operations and customer service.
User-Friendly Components Deliver a Simple User Experience
Hofmans shares the company’s philosophy and mission: “As experienced users of remote access devices, we create everything from a user’s point of view. Our mission is to offer the most secure and most user-friendly remote access and industrial IoT (Internet of things) solution for machine builders worldwide. In order to fulfill and achieve our mission and vision we provide faster service, predictive maintenance, and machine optimization for machine builders. By enabling machines to the cloud, machine builders now have access to their machines from anywhere, at any time, which allows them to
deliver faster and better service to their customers. Our platform also allows machine builders to gather and analyze technical data to predict maintenance of machines. This data can also be used by machine builders to optimize and further develop their machines to minimize downtime in the future.”
To keep it simple, the IXON solution has two components:
- IXrouter securely connects equipment to the internet.
- IXplatform creates a secure connection between the IXrouter and the IXclient.
The IXrouter is a compact and robust Linux-based router. At approximately 2.5”x 4.5”x 1.3” and weighing less than one pound, it sits next to the equipment and can be mounted on a Din rail. The system is easily connected using only an ethernet to connect the machine controller’s PLCs to the router. For security, the IXrouter establishes a secure VPN connection to the IXplatform.
The IXplatform establishes a secure connection that allows users to access the equipment connected to IXrouter. The IXplatform is hosted in the cloud distributed over eight datacenters in North America, Europe, Singapore, and Australia. The servers are maintained with the latest updates and security patches and are mirrored: so, if one server fails, another will take over. They are monitored 24/7 and 99.99% uptime is guaranteed when a service level agreement is purchased.
Most of the system’s functionality works from a web browser or the app. The IXrouter connects to machines with the click of a button. As a result, the client’s machine is online and ready to use within a few minutes. It can be accessed and navigated from an internet browser and is also a smartphone app available in Google Play for Android devices and the Apple Store for iOS devices. The software also provides a dashboard that shows current and historical performance information. In addition, users can create custom reports which are also viewable from the app.
With this level of ease, IXON offers “ROI from day one.” And, IXON’s online support offers a wealth of guides and tools to ensure that clients continue to benefit from the solution.
Bringing Transparency and Confidence to Clients
Traditionally, remote access systems have been technically complicated and requiring countless hours by systems engineers to install, monitor, and maintain. IXON offers its clients the ability to quickly connect to their machines and assign other employees, executives, and even company clients to observe performance.
By using the latest technologies when developing the completely web-based platform, IXON provides users complete freedom and more flexibility when choosing from which device they work. Hofmans stated: “The web-based platform has the advantage that we can allow users access to their devices’ web server or VNC server without the need for a VPN connection. This means, direct control of your machine from your smartphone or tablet as if you were onsite.”
Hofmans continued: “In the last few years we’ve seen an increase in the demand for data logging, storage, analytics and reports. Having insight into the data of your machine or production plant allows you to monitor machine status, identify bottlenecks in production, and improve the efficiency of your machine. It also allows machine builders to analyze their machines and benchmark them across different customers and locations. This gives them the interesting data/feedback to further improve their machines, but also to monitor the status of machines to offer proactive service to their customers when they see an anomaly in specific data.”
“We have created a centralized web-based platform for both machine builders and end users to access machines, machine data, and analytics. Our clients and their clients can be confident that their systems are running well at all times from wherever they are,” said Hofmans.
Enabling that confidence among service engineers and other internal and external stakeholders is exactly what consumers demand today. IXON’s solution provides that ease of set-up along with outstanding operations, continuous productivity, and excellent service — and virtually eliminating the middle-of-the-night urgent coffee stop.
In 2017 IXON partnered with AutomationDirect to create STRIDE SiteLink. Drawing from their wealth of experience, IXON developed an easy and affordable remote access solution for the U.S. market that is available exclusively through AutomationDirect.