IIC Busy on IoT Front Publishes Standards Guide and Launches Patterns Initiative

Two news items from The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) came my way recently regarding work on IoT. One announced the the publication of the Global Industry Standards for Industrial IoT whitepaper. The other announced launch of an IoT Patterns Initiative.

The whitepaper offers industry guidance in the development, adoption, and use of IIoT standards. The whitepaper outlines a vision and strategy to enable interoperability and system compatibility across the entire IIoT ecosystem.

“The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a rapidly expanding world of connected objects. As IIoT systems proliferate, organizations consume large amounts of data through machine learning algorithms and share it between partners, customers, and others,” said Erin Bournival, Co-Chair, IIC Standards Task Group and Distinguished Engineer, Dell Technologies. “Integration and interoperability are critical in IIoT environments. That’s not easy to achieve in complex IIoT environments, so standards play a critical role.”

The whitepaper lists categories of standards and the organizations that produce them. It provides business cases for adopting standards as well as strategies for participating in standards development. “Users and vendors cannot engineer a custom interface every time components or systems need to interact,” said Erich Clauer, Co-chair IIC Standards Task Group, and VP Industry Standards & Open Source, SAP. “Standards are the lingua franca for interoperability and can make the explosion of interfaces manageable. For suppliers, standards can reduce or eliminate costs.”

“Operational Technology (OT) can no longer deploy isolated islands of automation,” said Claude Baudoin, Principal Consultant, cébé IT & Knowledge Management, and one of the authors of the whitepaper. “Information Technology (IT) and OT must work together to achieve digital transformation. IIoT environments are connected to enterprise systems through the internet, and must adhere to IT communication, security and data norms.”

What is more, customers require standards compliance to avoid vendor lock-in. Standards compliance creates a competitive environment in which failure to support standards — international, regional, industry- or function-specific — becomes a competitive disadvantage. Regulatory agencies require standards adherence to make their monitoring and auditing work feasible. Standards also make employee skills portable across divisions and companies.

“Organizations must define a standards strategy and execute it,” said Sven Toothman, Lead Project Editor and Industry Standards & Open-Source Architect, SAP SE. “IIoT stakeholders could adopt and implement standards as they emerge, but this limited engagement exposes an organization to surprises. By participating in standards development, organizations can anticipate the emergence of new standards. That involves a commitment and extends to processes, product design, and budget.”

IIC members who wrote the Global Industry Standards for Industrial IoT whitepaper and a list of members who contributed to it can be found here on the IIC website.

IOT PATTERNS INITIATIVE

The IIC also announced the IIC IoT Patterns Initiative to crowdsource, review, revise, and publish a library of high-quality and well-reasoned IoT patterns for use and reuse across industries.

A pattern describes a recurring design or architectural problem in a specific context and offers an established scheme for its solution. IoT patterns include architectural designs to represent essential cohesive components and their assembly; and design patterns that illustrate solutions to specific problems. 

“Patterns capture and condense teachings from developer and system architect experiences that others can use to tackle new problems,” said François Ozog, Director Edge & Fog Computing Group, Linaro, and Co-chair, IIC Patterns Task Group. “The IIC is also developing application notes to describe how to use patterns effectively in various contexts and to help identify the best patterns for solutions.” 

Use-cases describe various perspectives of a system based on user roles by defining user requirements and identifying essential functionalities. “Many patterns are technical,” said Daniel Burkhardt, doctoral student, Ferdinand-Steinbeis-Institut, and Co-chair, IIC Patterns Task Group. “But by focusing on end-user concerns and requirements, developers and system architects will use patterns effectively, and solution designs will improve.”

“Patterns enable industries to succeed through collaboration on best practices,” said Dr. Jason McC. Smith, OMG Vice President, and Technical Director. “IIC is leading the way in IoT by building a pattern repository that developers can use to solve new problems.”

IIoT developers and system architects can access the IIC IoT Patterns repository on the IIC Resource Hub. Developers can also join the IIC Community Forum to discuss patterns. Workshops to educate the IIoT developer community will follow. For more information about the IIC IoT Patterns Initiative, read our blog.

Financial Risks When Delaying PLM Upgrades

Senior management have always been reluctant to invest in technology and especially upgrades once a technology is in place. I have seen instances where management lays off the senior engineers who implemented something like Advanced Process Control or Manufacturing Execution Systems keeping a recent graduate engineer to maintain the system, if even that. Management sees only a large salary cost reduction. Rarely is maintaining momentum a virtue.

I have been in way too many of these discussions in my career. I’ve seen results one way or another. There have been the instances where they had to hire back the laid off engineer at higher consultant rates to get the system back up and running properly.

So, this report from CIMdata detailing research on PLM software upgrading was hardly surprising. Disturbing, perhaps, but not surprising.

Digital transformation is a popular topic, and CIMdata has written much about it. While many still wonder whether digital transformation is real or just the latest buzzword, many industrial companies are taking its promise very seriously.

While it is clear to all within the PLM community that PLM is foundational to a meaningful digitalization program (or digital transformation strategy), this truth is not always understood by senior leadership within companies. While CIMdata believes that the level of investment in digital transformation is appropriate, based on our research and experience we find that executive awareness of the dependency of digital transformation on PLM is lacking. This lack of understanding of its association to PLM-related investment, sustainability and impacts on business performance and benefits puts many digital transformation programs at risk of becoming yet another program of the month.

This research on obsolescence identified areas that increased the cost of technology refresh and found that heavy customization was at the top of the list. This aligns with CIMdata’s experience in the field and is why companies strive to be more out-of-the-box with their PLM implementations. CIMdata’s view is that customization can add significant value to a PLM implementation, but it needs to be either business or cost justified and deliver an appropriate return on investment over the long-term (i.e., even through subsequent solution upgrades).

A new study from CIMdata exposes the financial risk many organizations face when they take PLM upgrades for granted. According to the study, the cost of upgrades with legacy PLM vendors can average between $732,000 and $1.25 million. The study – which compares industry heavyweights such as Dassault, PTC, and Siemens – finds the Aras PLM platform is easiest to keep current. Aras users upgrade more frequently, over a shorter duration, and at less cost than other leaders in the space. 

What’s behind PLM obsolescence? According to CIMdata, “A sustainable PLM solution is one that can meet current and future business requirements with an acceptable return on investment (ROI) via incremental enhancements and upgrades.” But as clearly shown in the research, many companies using PLM software are not staying current. The five reasons are: 


1. Technically Impossible. Typically, after an arduous deployment and the necessary customization to meet the businesses current needs, the software is no longer capable of upgrading. 
2. No ROI. If you take a year to upgrade and it costs close to a million dollars, the cost and impact to the business is so outrageous it can’t be justified.

3. No Budget. Not having the budget is a real concern, but often the lack of budget is a mistake—a mis-prioritization of what’s important to your organization’s future growth, often combined with a high percentage of the overall budget being consumed by technical debt. 
4. Companies overinvest and therefore are committed. The only thing worse than spending large amounts of money on the wrong thing is doubling down and spending more, expecting a better experience. The pandemic has accelerated the need to change, to expect transformation with less risk, less cost, and greater ROI that will lead to greater business resiliency. Throwing good money after bad is no longer being tolerated—there is more of a focus on the bottom-line and doing more with less. 
5. Leadership Doesn’t Understand Dependency of Digital Transformation on PLM. If your PLM system hasn’t been upgraded in years and isn’t the foundation for continuous digital transformation efforts, there is an absolute lack of understanding of how PLM can transform a business.

The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum Publishes the O-PAS Version 2.1 Preliminary Standard

After my first meeting with Don Bartusiak, then with ExxonMobil, at an ARC Forum, I thought this was an extremely ambitious idea thinking that an open, interoperable, relatively easily upgradable process automation system build upon industry standards was feasible. And the timeline was aggressive.

The Open Process Automation Forum, under the auspices of The Open Group, has persevered, grown, and has now released version 2.1 “into the wild” for comments from the broader process community before finishing and adopting early next year. So, please go to the Website and review. Your comments could be most helpful.

The marketing people sent a news release, but I realized there wasn’t a lot of “there” there, so I talked with Aneil Ali, Director of the OPAF since May a year ago to get a bit more detail. A key factor gleaned from our chat was that 105 members were involved in the development of this standard. Final release is slated for early 2022. 

I think the remarkable thing about 105 member companies is actually getting something done. All of us who have worked on this type of project know that there are companies (which I shall not name) who send engineers to join with the express purpose of asking lots of questions in order to delay the process or even (hopefully) entice everyone else to give up in despair. This committee worked through 22 recurring weekly meetings to bring this together. Remarkable.

And Ali does not expect the pace to slow.

To recap: Version 1.0 dealt with interoperability; Version 2.1 with information model; Version 3.0 (in process) will focus on application portability—system orchestration.

Some of the details of 2.1 include defining standard function blocks, addressing IEC61499, IEC61131, IEC62443 (security), and OPCUA. O-PAS is a “standard of standards”, an approach that greatly reduces detail work.

In addition to this standards development work, companies have been building ongoing prototype test beds and field trials which are underway proving this is more than mere paper. The Forum has also been conducting plug fests and developing certification testing partners and parameters.

The group has really come a long way.

From the press release:

The Open Group, the vendor-neutral technology consortium, has announced the publication of the O-PAS Version 2.1 Preliminary Standard. Developed by The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), this release represents a key milestone towards testing and field trials of the O-PAS Standard, enabling greater interoperability and portability in manufacturing control systems.

The O-PAS Standard defines a Reference Architecture and Information Model that will enable a distributed and heterogeneous ecosystem of industrial process automation resources to interoperate. The aim of the Standard is to stimulate innovation, lower system lifecycle costs, and provide end-users with more freedom when managing obsolescence within systems.

Created with the direct involvement of over 105 OPAF Member organizations, Version 2.1 progresses the overall Information Model of Version 2.0, while also adding new configuration portability capabilities.

“This latest advancement of the O-PAS Standard reflects the overall consensus of industry leaders: open, secure, and interoperable architectures are the irrefutable and inevitable future of industrial process automation systems,” commented Aneil Ali, Director of the Open Process Automation Forum. “The sense of urgency among product managers and sales teams to achieve this goal is therefore well-founded, with end-user test beds, prototypes, and field trials already up and running.”

Alongside Version 2.1, a certification program for the O-PAS Standard – due to launch in the first half of 2022 – is being developed against the various Profile-based requirements. As part of this work, test tools are currently being beta tested with suppliers.

“The updated version of the O-PAS Standard empowers end-users to look more closely at product roadmaps for O-PAS inclusion,” continued Ali.  “As suppliers work to adopt the Standard within these roadmaps, OPAF is open to as much industry collaboration and feedback as possible.”

Following a finalized Version 2.1 Standard, scheduled for publication in Q1 2022, OPAF will work towards Version 3.0, which will address system orchestration, application portability, and further detail the physical distributed control platform.

About The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum

The Open Process Automation Forum is an international forum of end-users, system integrators, suppliers, academia, and other standards organizations working together to develop a standards-based, open, secure, and interoperable process control architecture. Open Process Automation is a trademark of The Open Group.

About The Open Group

The Open Group is a global consortium that enables the achievement of business objectives through technology standards. Our diverse membership of more than 800 organizations includes customers, systems and solutions suppliers, tool vendors, integrators, academics, and consultants across multiple industries.

Partnership Brings One-Stop-Shop for Cobot Applications to Manufacturers Globally

The Danish collaborative robotics (cobot) tools company OnRobot has been churning out innovative robotic tooling in a stream for the past year. It also taps the partnership stream of collaboration. I’ve run across Vention at a trade show a few years back but haven’t really seen something I could write about intelligently. Here is a partnership between the two that should bear fruit.

Vention, a manufacturing automation platform (MAP), today announced its partnership with OnRobot, which makes tools for collaborative applications. This partnership combines Vention’s online-first manufacturing automation platform with OnRobot’s library of plug-and-play end-of-arm tools to accelerate the design and deployment of end-to-end cobot applications.  

Vention’s MAP provides users with the engineering software and modular hardware they need to design, automate, order, and deploy factory equipment in a single digital environment. With thousands of modular parts, smart design tools, and real-time pricing, factory equipment can be designed in minutes—from anywhere, on any web browser. With the addition of OnRobot’s plug-and-play tools for collaborative and light industrial robotics, manufacturing professionals can focus on scaling production with greater flexibility and efficiency.

The combination of offerings makes it even easier to automate tasks like machine tending, material handling, material removal and assembly. With solutions for grippers—parallel, flexible, magnetic, and vacuum alike—as well as vision cameras, sanding tools, screwdriving tools, and more, the application possibilities have now been significantly expanded.

We’re thrilled to be working with OnRobot to offer a range of industry-leading cobot solutions,” says Patrick Tawagi, Director of Application Development at Vention. “OnRobot’s suite of grippers and end-of-arm tools covers almost every application in the cobot market, and their straightforward interface combined with Vention’s platform makes them incredibly easy to deploy.” 

OnRobot’s exciting partnership with Vention will make it easier than ever for companies of all sizes and skill levels to deploy collaborative automation,” says Kristian Hulgard, General Manager of the Americas division at OnRobot. “The combination of Vention’s superb MAP platform and OnRobot’s ever-expanding, award winning range of no fuss tools for collaborative applications will empower users to design and deploy advanced automation with unprecedented ease.” 

Solar Power From The Fabric In Your Tent Or Awning

One of this week’s more intriguing conversations centered on solar power from your canopy, awning, or tent with Pvilion CEO Colin Touhey. 

Maybe in these post-Covid days of rediscovered al fresco dining, you may be able to have a fine meal under a tent with lighting and outlets to charge your mobile device powered by solar cells in the fabric of the tent. Or perhaps thinking of work, you need temporary coverage of an area for work or storage. And electrical power is required. Maybe many volts and amps. Same scenario. Pvilion products, er, cover a fascinating range of use cases. I’ve included a general background of Pvilion and its technology plus use cases from the New York Botanical Garden and a Home Depot location.

Pvilion Solar Fabric

What is Pvilion?

(from an essay by Director of Marketing Jill Gettinger) Pvilion integrates solar cells into fabric, producing products that when exposed to the sun, generate electricity. Pvilion can take any surface that receives sunlight, cover it with this fabric and produce electricity, providing flexible structures that can be powered independent from the electricity grid.

The more technical name for Pvilion’s offerings is flexible photovoltaic (PV) solar fabric products and structures and behind the simplicity is a 10-year-old partnership between Colin Touhey, an electrical engineer and CEO of Pvilion, and fabric industry veterans Todd Dalland, a pioneering designer and inventor in the field of lightweight structures, and Robert Lerner, AIA, an architect who has led new technology development programs involving lightweight, deployable structures for NASA, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force. The three connected when they were working on integrating photovoltaic cells with fabric for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Pvilion’s roots go back more than 20 years when Dalland and Lerner developed the first photovoltaic tent. That the tent was easy to deploy, flexible and self-powered piqued the attention of the military, which led to research and development funding from the U.S. Army.

Military deployments during this time further increased product demand as forward operating bases needed to be setup quickly in places where there was no grid, and it was difficult to setup up traditional power generators.

At the same time, mobile device usage, cell phones, laptops, handheld computers, was taking off. The mobile purpose of these devices meant they often needed to be powered where access to a traditional grid source was not available. To meet this need, Pvilion developed the Solar Sail, a small solar canopy that resembles a sail, hence the name, which can be easily deployed in public spaces and at outdoor gatherings, e.g., sporting events, concerts, parks, weddings,et cetera. Once deployed and receiving sun light, it generates power that can be tapped into to charge mobile devices.

Concern for the environment also came into play as solar power’s proven advantage over fossil fuels is that its use leaves no carbon footprint. As a result, environmentally conscious corporations and public entities, like schools, began installing Pvilion’s solar power canopy structures to meet both short- and long-term needs while avoiding the costs, environmental damage, and time associated with erecting and running permanent structures tied into the local power grid.

What started out as a solar powered tent has evolved into a product range covering standalone USB charging stations and easy to erect temporary structures, including canopies and awnings, all solar powered.

The easiest way to understand what Pvilion does is to look at one of its signature products: The Solar Sail Canopy, a free-standing canopy that can be erected anywhere that receives sunlight: parks, university campuses, bus stands or in any public setting, and used to recharge mobile devices. The Solar Sail Canopy is available in (3) versions: a Single Pole Solar Sail, a Double Pole Solar Sail that can be used as a solar powered shelter, e.g., over a bus stop or bench, and a portable Four Pole Canopy for seasonal applications that can be customized to suit an individual space requirement.

Sustainability At New York Botanical Garden

NY Botanic Gardens

Aesthetic appeal is very important to The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), which is why the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) chose NYBG as the launch site for Pvilion’s Solar Powered Canopy structures.

Intended to provide NYBG visitors a place where they can seek shade, enjoy a beverage and recharge their mobile devices, the eight (8) solar canopies, designed, engineered and installed by Pvilion, provide ample space to relax while staying safely socially distanced.

Pvilion provides a fabric that incorporates photovoltaic cells, which generate electricity upon exposure to the sun. As part of New York City’s emission reduction efforts, seven (7) of the canopies contribute energy directly to the city’s power grid. One (1) structure powers a bank of batteries used by NYBG and by Botanical Garden visitors to charge their mobile phones and other cellular devices.

The solar canopies are a pilot project operated by Pvilion and the Innovative Demonstrations for Energy Adaptability (IDEA) Program, an initiative of the City of New York’s Division of Energy Management. The program encourages businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs to create transformative opportunities and to foster a culture of innovation. The goal is to find solutions to the challenges facing manufacturers and businesses through partnerships with private sector business entities, with emphasis placed on technology to help the City reduce carbon emissions.

Pvilion’s Solar-Powered Fabric Products are fully turn-key solutions that provide energy in any location where fabric is exposed to the sun. Pvilion integrates its fabric technology into a wide range of applications. The technology eliminates the need of having two (2) separate systems: fabric shade/shelter and solar panels. Instead, Pvilion integrates the solar power into its fabric to achieve one turn-key product that provides charging, lighting, ventilation, climate control all in an easy to install manner. Pvilion has delivered high quality products for customers like Google, Tommy Hilfiger, Carnegie Hall, Tishman, New York City, Yale Univ, the Florida Dept of Transportation, Bloomberg, The City of Miami, FL and more.

Home Depot Pilot Program to Achieve Sustainable Energy

The Home Depot Rental Center in Geismar, Louisiana, a large industrial building and parking area, serves as the rental equipment preparation and distribution center to surrounding Home Depot stores. Here, equipment is prepared before being sent to Home Depot Superstores upon being rented by customers. The first of over one hundred rental centers planned to be opened throughout the country, Geismar is also the initial location for a Home Depot green pilot energy sustainability program in which Pvilion Solar Canopies will be used to recharge rental equipment batteries.

Pvilion developed and installed its signature product, the Portable Solar Sail Tent, at the Geismar, LA Home Depot. Effectively, a relocatable canopy integrated with solar panels; the Solar Sail can provide sustainable power anywhere that receives sunlight. It lets Home Depot charge its electric rental equipment independently from the local electric grid, eliminating the environmental impact associated with traditional sources of energy and the need to create permanent infrastructure.

The implemented 20 ft x 24 ft structure provides two (2) bays under an angled roof for maximum sun exposure. It is designed to withstand extreme weather conditions yet is flexible for speedy assembly/disassembly. It can provide up to 5 kW of energy and storage for up to five (5) full operational days of energy without sun. In addition to charging rental equipment, the energy provided by the Solar Sail can also be used to power other devices such as cell phones, laptops and lighting.