04/06/2015 | AGRARIAN, ENGINEERING AND MATERIAL SCIENCES
CIAA: a gateway to electronic technology in Argentina
Researchers at the CONICET developed the first open source hardware industrial computer of Argentina.
Ariel Lutenberg, assistant researcher at the CONICET. Photo: CONICET Photography.

In general, when people imagine a computer, they tend to relate it to notebooks, PCs or other similar structures. But actually there are many more computers that are hidden and are used everyday, such as the lift or the washing machine. Unfortunately, most of them are neither designed, nor produced or programmed in Argentina. In order to deal with this difficulty a group of engineers, designers, businessmen, programmers and even students, all from different parts of the country, work on the development of a computer useful for national companies. Thus, the Computadora Industrial Abierta Argentina –CIAA- [Argentine Open Industrial Computer] was born.

Ariel Lutenberg, CONICET assistant researcher at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and general coordinator of the project, remarks “the aim is to boost the national industry, incorporate added value, substitute imports, and generate wealth and employments. We look for a solution profitable for all”.

The CIAA is an open source hardware electronic platform. Apart from the availability of the software, it is designed to work with any hardware. The technical documentation and the sources code of the computer are free and available in the web site. Besides, they can be used without restrictions for the development of products and services with or without profit motive.

“It is the first open industrial computer in the world. Unlike other open projects that depend on a company to produce the chip, we do not have a direct relationship with any multinational company; therefore we are not bind to their products. From its beginning, it has been designed to be certified under highly demanding international standards. Furthermore, it was created to be used in places which are difficult to access, such as oil drilling or in sites where faults can cause serious damage, such as trains”, the researcher remarks.

The design of the computer is in charge of researchers from 11 national universities, 15 private companies, the Asociación Civil para la Investigación, Promoción y Desarrollo de Sistemas Electrónicos Embebidos -ACSE-[Civil Association for the Promotion of Embedded Systems], and Argentine Chamber of Electronic, Electro mechanic and Lighting Industries (CADIEEL).

Regarding this, Lutenberg highlights the value of the collaborative work that led to the development of the computer through the articulation of the public and private sectors. “The most remarkable and original characteristic of this project is the way in which it is produced, because it goes beyond the motherboard due to its joint development. Nobody is paid for this, but if we add the working hours of the people who participated in this project, it would cost ten million pesos”, he says.

The platform was created to be used by the productive sector, especially for its application in electronic systems to automate processes. This system is currently used in agricultural industry, medical equipment, location and georeference areas, and safety and rail devices, among others.

“We provide a great number of tools for the company to fit it to its technical needs. The main user of our system is the one who does not use any technology; then is intended for those who consume imported devices and thirdly for the ones that consume national but obsolete technology”, the engineer explains.

Furthermore, this Project has an educational version which is simpler and cheaper. The researchers’ aim is to have a teaching tool in all faculties of engineering of Argentina in 2015.

“We try to solve a structural problem in faculties, which has two aspects. The first one is that we are teaching obsolete technologies of the 80s and the second is that students and teachers are used to the laboratory design, that is to say something that works on the lab bench but it is not appropriate for the performance of a device or an industrial production line. Although students learn the necessary analytical skills, in general they graduate without learning a product certification”, Lutenberg affirms.

The CIAA represents a new paradigm that combines industrial applications, open and free use, the idea of collaborative work and adaptative design, with a low cost and competitiveness that is fir for small, medium and large Argentine companies. “We started about a year ago with a blank page, which means that the project is relatively new. We are really interested in not only the use of the platform in particular but the use of the electronic one in general. The CIAA is a gateway to the use of more electronic technology in our country”, the researcher concludes.

CIAA based products

The board provides solutions for the rail system, especially for sensing the temperature of the rails. This process prevents temperature from deforming the rails, which could cause a derailment
The implementation of the sensor based on the CIAA solves problems caused by frequent failures and shortens the operation time. Thus, it guarantees the use of an upgraded, economical and safe system that is already being used by the San Martin and Urquiza train lines.

  • By Cecilia Leone