I’m sitting in the San Diego airport following my second post-pandemic conference. ODVA wrapped up its 2022 Annual General Meeting at lunch today with technical committee sessions continuing the rest of the day. This organization may be the most active of any similar one of its kind currently. Working groups met virtually during the two years of the pandemic following the 2020 meeting and maybe were more productive than ever.

Technical Sessions

Yesterday, March 9, I sat in two technical sessions relevant to my interests. The first, ”Edge to Cloud”, discussed the work being done to map CIP data to OPC UA. A large amount of detail has been by the ODVA working group as well as work with a joint working group writing a companion specification for OPC Foundation. Much field-level data that may not even be used by the control function bears content useful to other systems—many of which use the cloud for storage and retrieval.

The second technical session concerned using CIP networks in process automation applications. ODVA originally developed DeviceNet, a fieldbus most useful for discrete applications. Even EtherNet/IP found most uses in factory automation. Process automation users also discovered a need to use EtherNet/IP (a CIP network). The technology enticing for process automation users is Advanced Physical Layer (APL). This network can handle identified required areas including safety, hazardous areas, configuration, process improvement, secure remote access, and 24/7 uptime. Work continues to define and implement standards.

ODVA Growth

Al Beydoun, executive director of ODVA and Adrienne Meyer, VP of operations, reviewed the many association activities of the past two years.

  • Grew membership to greater than 365
  • Focused on growth in China
  • Development work for EtherNet/IP over TSN
  • CIP Safety was recertified with IEC
  • Collaboration continued with Fieldcomm Group and FDT Group
  • Worked with OPD Foundation
  • Worked on xDS device descriptions
  • Extensive online training and promotion.

The technical committees recorded activities of 80 SEs and TDEs, completed two publication cycles in 2020 and three in 2021 one of which concerned APL, and recorded 27 volume revisions. They also worked on standards for resource constrained devices, process industry requirements, and Time Sensitive Networking (TSN).

User Requirements from P&G

Paul Maurath, Technical Director—Process Automation from Procter & Gamble’s Central Engineering, presented the user’s view of automation. I will dispense with suspense. His conclusion, ”Help us manage complexity.”

Maurath told the story of setting up a test process cell in the lab. They used it to test and demonstrate Ethernet APL devices and the network. They discovered that APL worked, the controller didn’t see any issues. The discouraging discovery was the amount of configuration required and the complexity of setup. He referred to an E&I technician working the shift on a Sunday morning at 3 am. Call comes in. Device is down. With a regular HART / 4-20 mA device, the tech has the tools. But with an Ethernet device configuration can be a problem.

Conclusion:

  • There is a need for new technology to deliver functionality and simplicity
  • Standards are great
  • Please keep end users in mind when developing standards and technology

ARC Advisory Group Glimpses the Future

Harry Forbes, research director for ARC Advisory Group. devoted a substantial part of his keynote to open source. ”There is,” he noted, ”an IT technology totally overlooked by OT—open source software.” He principally cited the Linux Foundation. You’ll find news and comments from LF throughout this blog. I see great value from this technology. That an ARC researcher also sees the power was somewhat a surprise, though. ”It’s not software that’s eating the world,” said Forbes, ”it is open source eating the world.”

The problem to solve as detailed by presentations at the last ARC Industry Forum (and I think also worked on by the Open Process Automation Forum which also appears often on this blog) is the need to decouple hardware and software allowing easier updates to the software through containers (Docker, Kubernetes) and virtual machines.

Is that the future? I’m not sure where the vendors are that will bring this innovation, but I’m sure that many users would welcome it.

Conclusion

ODVA appears to be thriving. It is at the forefront of pushing new standards. It is looking forward at new technologies. It is growing membership and mindshare. The staff also assembled an outstanding event.

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