Nymi Partners with ThinManager for End-User Authentication in Highly Regulated Plant Floor Environments

A few recent posts dealt with the “connected worker.” These are all workflow-oriented solutions. After talking with Chris Sullivan, CEO or Nymi, I learned about really connected workers. Previously I had seen Numi partner with Quupa for real-time location. Nymi has a raft of solutions. This partnership with Rockwell Automation through the ThinManager acquisition is a big deal for Rockwell Automation.

Nymi Inc. and ThinManager, a Rockwell Automation technology, have partnered to provide a full-feature, integrated, on-body solution that allows businesses to use ThinManager to deliver biometric-enabled touchless authentication with zero-trust security principles and access controls through the Nymi Band.

ThinManager offers numerous features that allow the modern factory to lower energy cost, implement sustainable technology, and increase operational efficiencies. They are a natural fit for Nymi and its workplace wearable wristband, designed to help businesses remain secure while improving productivity, compliance, and active worker health and safety. 

As the world’s only workplace wearable wristband that, once authenticated at login, continuously authenticates the user’s identity until it’s removed from the wrist, the Nymi Band gives ThinManager users a powerful, secure form of authentication used for specially configured access control, logins, and e-signatures with just a tap. Other Nymi Band applications include social distancing and contact tracing.

“We see our product working side by side with ThinManager to help companies be secure, safe, and efficient in their day-to-day operations,” said Andrew Foxcroft, Vice President of Nymi. “The enterprise-class, secure industrial wearable Nymi Band, combined with ThinManager’s knowledge of the modern factory, provides a solution to address pain points in Pharma and highly regulated manufacturing processes.”

“We are very excited to collaborate with Nymi to provide additional cutting-edge user authentication options for our customers,” stated Tom Jordan, Marketing Lead for ThinManager.

Automation Fair at Home 2020

Rockwell Automation’s version of a virtual trade show and conference, Automation Fair at Home, is wrapping up. I have been able to talk with only a few people outside of Rockwell about the event. Looks like it went well for them. Reports are the sessions were well attended. The trade show part was interesting. I went, but I didn’t try the Zoom one-on-ones at each booth. I attended so many sessions that I received a Certificate of Completion for 1 professional development unit for Digital Transformation.

I sat in mostly software-oriented press conferences and sessions. PTC and Microsoft were given a lot of promotion. One could easily get the impression that ThingWorx provided a huge share of Rockwell Software. The partnerships with Microsoft were highlighted in most talks. Rockwell has always talked partnerships, but it seemed much more serious this year.

This is also the year when I felt that Rockwell Automation was seriously all-in on Connected Enterprise. I always felt something missing before. This year it can really talk the IT and OT connection—and prove it.

I have two more press releases. Before that, a conversation I would have had at the booth with Jason Anderson, Stratus Technologies VP of Strategy and Product Management. I’ve previously written about the press release with PlantPAx (RA process control software) on the Stratus Edge compute product. Anderson explained that his company’s compute platform stands between the high-end compute of large IT companies and an industrial PC. Machine and skid builders have adopted it as a way to perform the analytics and other compute functions, including even the process control, eliminating the problem of connecting to their customers’ IT infrastructure from controllers or PCs. I think it’s a great strategy and fills an open market segment. It’s a win for Stratus as well as for Rockwell—and of course for customers.

Rockwell Lifecycle IQ Services

Lifecycle Services was elevated to a top business unit at Rockwell headed by an SVP—Frank Kulaszewicz, and therefore is evolving a new brand: LifecycleIQ Services.
 
LifecycleIQ Services combines digital technologies with human know-how helping companies at every point in their business cycle during the design, operations, and maintenance stages in greenfield and brownfield facilities.

“LifecycleIQ Services create a more intimate customer engagement model, one that can help companies not only solve problems, but also see new possibilities in production and transform them into reality,” said Frank Kulaszewicz, senior vice president, Lifecycle Services at Rockwell Automation. “We’re investing in providing a wide range of holistic services to help companies be more productive, safe and secure anywhere in a product, process or plant lifecycle.”

Industrial companies can use LifecycleIQ Services to achieve outcomes like:
 
Capturing more value from digital transformation initiatives
Reducing risk with comprehensive cybersecurity support
Improving workforce support

LifecycleIQ Services can help companies by assessing needs, identifying priorities and creating workforce development programs. Rockwell Automation also uses remote support capabilities and augmented reality technologies to help companies interact virtually with support engineers, strengthen skills with virtual training, and provide safety and security services without sending people into plants.

To improve customer experiences, LifecycleIQ Services is also introducing a new way to receive multiple services in one contract. An Integrated Service Agreement allows companies to select a package of offerings to simplify their support needs and have just one number to call to access experts and receive priority service. Companies can get 24×7 technical support, repair services, reports and analytics, field services and more, all in one integrated contract.

New security certifications and products 

Rockwell Automation continues expanding its cybersecurity certifications and incorporating advanced security capabilities into more of its products. It recently received certification to the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) 62443-3-3 cybersecurity standard. The certification, performed by third party TÜV Rheinland, means Rockwell Automation has demonstrated the ability to install and configure production systems to meet security requirements to level 1 as defined in the world’s leading global standard.

Rockwell Automation offers reference architectures for implementing a certified production system, such as PlantPAx 5.0. The architectures were developed to help customers certify production systems while minimizing the need to buy new technologies as part of the process. To date, Rockwell Automation has received several certifications for the IEC 62443 series of standards.

Rockwell Automation also recently received certification for the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 27001 standard, confirming that the company’s information security management system used to protect data meets the standard’s requirements. 

“Companies are facing the dual challenge of digital transformation to stay competitive, while also keeping their people, operations and intellectual property secure,” said Sujeet Chand, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Rockwell Automation. “We continue to aggressively expand our cybersecurity skills, certifications, product capabilities and services in ways that help our customers stay ahead of new threats and focus on realizing new possibilities with digital transformation.”

In addition to earning the new certifications, Rockwell Automation is also releasing new products with CIP Security to help companies secure their communications. Developed by ODVA, CIP Security is the only standard designed to secure communications between industrial control systems and other devices on an EtherNet/IP network.

New industrial control products offering CIP Security include:

  • Allen-Bradley PowerFlex 755T AC drives
  • Kinetix 5300 servo drives

Other Rockwell Automation products that already support CIP Security include:

  • ControlLogix 5580 controllers
  • Kinetix 5700 servo drives
  • 1756-EN4TR communication module

To help protect the many devices in use today that don’t support CIP Security, Rockwell Automation is also introducing the new CIP Security Proxy device. When used in a physically secured location, the device provides CIP Security for a wide range of industrial control devices and create more secure industrial networks.

Rockwell Automation Announcements From Automation Fair at Home

I posted overall thoughts from the opening day of Automation Fair at Home yesterday. It’s not that all is rosy in Milwaukee, but the company keeps making strides forward and yet goes its own way not bothering to emulate any competitors.

Several announcements have accumulated that I thought would fit along with Automation Fair thoughts. We have an acquisition, a partnership, and a new product series.

First, the acquisition. 

Rockwell Automation Acquires Fiix Cloud Software for Maintenance Solutions

Rockwell Automation announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire Fiix, a privately held, AI-enabled computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) company. Fiix, founded in 2008, is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Fiix’s cloud-native CMMS creates workflows for the scheduling, organizing, and tracking of equipment maintenance. It connects to business systems and drives data-driven decisions. The company’s revenue grew 70% in 2019 with more than 85% recurring revenue. Fiix has more than 2 million assets under management and creates more than 6 million work orders a year.

“We believe that the future of industrial asset management is performance-based,” said Tessa Myers, vice president, product management, Software & Control, for Rockwell Automation. “With the addition of the Fiix platform and expertise, our customers will benefit from a 360-degree view of integrated data across automation, production, and maintenance, helping them to monitor and improve the performance of their assets and optimize how maintenance work is done.”

James Novak, Fiix CEO, said, “From the beginning, Fiix has been on a mission to connect maintenance and operations teams to the tools, resources, and technology they need to modernize and join the future of maintenance. Joining Rockwell Automation will allow us to help even more companies modernize maintenance and increase asset performance by connecting to industry-leading data, automation, and production systems.”

Fiix will be reported as part of Rockwell Automation’s Software & Control operating segment. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the 2020 calendar year, subject to customary approvals and conditions.

Second, the partnership.

PlantPAx 5.0 Running on ztC Edge by Stratus

Stratus Technologies announced a “Solution in a Box” process control architecture for fast, easy deployment at edge locations that require 2,000 I/O’s or less. The solution runs Rockwell Automation PlantPAx 5.0 software on Stratus ztC Edge. The solution is performance tested, characterized, and validated by Stratus and Rockwell Automation to ensure reliable, rapid deployment by operations teams and systems integrators using a single industrial-grade, panel mounted Edge Computing device.

“Whether it’s control in Water and Wastewater management, Machine Builders innovating for their customers, or managing remote assets in Oil & Gas, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving operational excellence. Enterprises require plant-wide data and control solutions with high availability that can both scale up and scale down based on the use case and location, while being cost effective and easy to implement,” said Dave Rapini, Business Manager for PlantPAx at Rockwell Automation.

The ability to bring mission-critical applications to where they’re needed most via Edge Computing delivers the scale and real-time data acquisition for operational excellence. Stratus’ simple, protected, and automated platform with fault tolerance and zero-touch operation is powering the disaggregation of large process architectures, traditionally deployed at level 3 and 4 of the Purdue model. The combined Stratus and Rockwell Automation “Solution in a Box” architecture provides a flexible approach to scale Industry 4.0 capabilities across a range of environments that was not previously possible.

PlantPAx is a plant wide distributed control system (DCS) that utilizes a common automation platform to integrate both process and discrete control as well as plant-wide information. ztC Edge is an industrial-grade Edge Computing platform that offers built-in redundancy and meets Class 1 Division 2 requirements to operate in hazardous environments. 

Architecture Details

The tested Solution-in-a-Box architecture includes:

  • Rockwell Automation PASS-Consolidated Image 
  • PASS (Process Automation System Server) – FactoryTalk View
  • FactoryTalk AssetCentre
  • FactoryTalk Historian
  • FactoryTalk VantagePoint
  • Rockwell Automation Application Server -OWS – ThinManager remote desktop server (RDS) for remote, mobile, and tablet access 
  • Stratus ztC Edge 110i (single system with a redundant option) – tested in fault tolerant and high availability modes

And thirdly, a new product series.

High-Performance, Scalable Kinetix Integrated Motion Drives

Rockwell Automation’s motion business has expanded its Kinetix line of servo drives with intelligent and scalable solutions.

The new Allen-Bradley Kinetix 5300 servo drive is a fully integrated, CIP Motion solution for global machine builders looking to increase performance and leverage a single-design environment for control and motion. When paired with the new TLP motors, customers get a coordinated platform as they extend the power of the connected enterprise into simple machines, an approach that positions Rockwell Automation to accelerate growth in emerging markets throughout Asia and mature markets in Europe. The new product line, combined with the rest of the Kinetix family, provides a complete range of servo drive offerings from Rockwell Automation for everything from small, standalone machines to large, complex systems. 

The Kinetix 5300 servo drives are designed for diverse machine applications such as electronics assembly, packaging and converting, printing and web (CPW). The new drives also feature capabilities that can help simplify machine design and optimize performance throughout the machine lifecycle. Like other Kinetix integrated motion drives, Kinetix 5300 leverages Studio 5000 as a single design environment. Using a single family of servo drives allows machine builders to program all their drives in this one design environment and reuse code across drives, streamlining the design and commissioning process. Kinetix 5300 native integration with Logix control enables smart tuning capabilities that adjust for changes in inertia and resonances automatically, helping to optimize machine performance and simplify machine maintenance over time. 

“Our expanded portfolio provides machines builders a complete family of scalable servo drives for diverse applications,” said Bill Kegley, director, product management – motion control at Rockwell Automation. “Now with the addition of the Kinetix 5300 to our family of servo drives, we are in a position to deliver truly scalable and intelligent motion solutions that help our customers achieve productivity and sustainability for a wider range of applications.”

[Note: I have been asking for a few years for a working application of CIP Motion at a customer site. If anyone reading this has one, please contact me. If you don’t want mentioned, just say so. In 20 years, I have yet to violate a confidence. But enquiring minds want to know…. Thanks.]

Rockwell Automation Unleashes Automation Fair at Home

I have to admit, I’m much less tired than I’ve been this week relative to every other year beginning in 1997 at my first Automation Fair by Rockwell Automation. I sat in on a few Rockwell sessions and even squeezed in a robotic press conference from a different supplier. Busy day.

Bear with me a moment. One of my favorite philosophers is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He was a French Jesuit priest and a paleontologist. In one of his books, he used the metaphor of an ascending spiral to describe the history of evolution. Or, if theology is your hobby, try outlining John’s First Letter (from the Christian New Testament). It won’t come out Roman Numeral I with A, B, C and then Roman Numeral II, etc. That outline will also look like a spiral with each new idea ascending above the earlier one.

The reason I bring this up is that I listened to all the presentations and, with one filter in place, it sounded much like the same words as seven years ago. In fact, many of the ideas could date back 20 years. On the other hand, remove that filter and look at the presentations with a different filter, we see that everything is the same, but at a much higher level.

Each year, both the technologies and business contexts have grown over the year before until you realize that the seven-years-ago-me would not recognize much of the today-me.

The constant theme of several years returned in force this year—Connected Enterprise. And the Connected Enterprise does not work for customers unless the supplier brings partners. Rockwell Automation spokespeople prominently displayed this year’s premier partners—Microsoft, PTC, Emulate3D, Ansys, Kalypso.

Cloud is accepted as commonplace. It’s just one of the gang. Not a lot of discussion of Edge except for a short introduction of Microsoft Azure Edge technologies. Ethernet is now so commonplace that it was not mentioned. However, MES (the manufacturing execution software) received more mentions that a center midfielder in the English Premier League gets touches of the ball. Almost every case study mentioned it.

I went to the Milwaukee headquarters for the first time in the mid-90s for a week-long training class. It was brutal, by the way. But those of us smart enough to wait until we finished homework before we got our beer finished high on the list (I think I was 3rd in my class). One of the features was an automated manufacturing line for the new IEC-style contactors. Guess what? Featured this year was a brand-new automated assembly line making—contactors. It looked pretty good.

The contactor line was part of a Rockwell supply chain tour of plants in the US, Mexico, Singapore, and Poland exhibiting how Rockwell uses its own products plus those of its partners to maintain a robust internal supply chain.

The company has come a long way from the controller and contactor company I knew 30 years ago. They proved to me (not that I don’t have many other questions) that they are serious about the Connected Enterprise. It has progressed up the spiral.

Not to mention, this year I don’t have to travel on my Birthday, which is this week.

Adoption of AI-based Machine Vision Is Growing


Machine vision technology and applications continue to hold a spot in my heart even though it became less interesting to me over the years. My $25K system from 1993 went to $10K by 1996 to $5K and under by 2000, all the while becoming more powerful and easier to use. However, I’ve lately talked with a company working on Artificial Intelligence for machine vision. It seems to be getting some traction. Here are two recent releases.

Landing AI and the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) have released a report from a survey covering a range of topics, including the level of adoption, benefits, and challenges of implementing AI-based visual inspection. 

“As evidenced by the survey, AI-based machine vision is already creating value for the manufacturing industry, with proven benefits including improved accuracy, flexibility, and reduced cost,” said Dongyan Wang, Vice President of AI Transformation at Landing AI. “The availability of easy-to-use AI tools specifically designed for visual inspection will drive further industry adoption and bring the benefits of AI to more organizations.” 

The report from Landing AI and A3 found that companies have a high degree of confidence in the effectiveness of AI, with 55% of respondents saying their overall opinion is either high or very high. The survey showed that 26% of respondents have adopted AI-based machine vision while 41% say they plan to in the future. Of those who are using AI, improved accuracy is the top benefit (62%).

While implementing AI, the primary challenge is scarcity of data on which to train AI models, noted 62% of manufacturers. Companies were also concerned about scalability as solutions moved out of pilot programs, with 27% saying they struggled when moving from proof-of-concept to initial deployment. 

Additional findings from the Landing AI and A3 report include:

  • In a heavily automated sector, manual inspection is still playing an important role, with 40% saying their inspection is either completely or mostly manual.
  • The confidence level of businesses regarding AI effectiveness is high with 26% saying they are already using AI for visual inspection.
  • When it comes to using AI, scarcity of data, complexity of integrating AI within existing infrastructure, and the inability to achieve lab results in production are the top three challenges. 
  • Most businesses prefer to have ownership of their AI projects either by developing in-house or by working with a vendor. 

AI Visual Inspection Platform to Improve Quality and Reduce Costs

Meanwhile, Landing AI unveiled LandingLens, an end-to-end visual inspection platform specifically designed to help manufacturers build, deploy, and scale AI-powered visual inspection solutions. 

“AI-powered visual inspection solutions have demonstrated clear advantages over conventional methods, yet the overall adoption is slow as many companies get stuck after some small-scale proof-of-concept projects,” said Andrew Ng, founder and CEO of Landing AI. “LandingLens, developed with the know-how and expertise from building and shipping many visual inspection projects, is best positioned to bridge the gap and enable teams to succeed. With an intuitive interface, Landing AI’s visual inspection platform allows even non-AI experts to train and deploy a model with a few clicks, putting the ownership of the solution in the hands of users so they can build and update the solutions without being beholden to a third-party AI team.”

Features

  • Defect and Data Management: A robust data preparation module helps customers improve efficiency and produce more accurately labeled data, resulting in better performing models in less time. 
  • Model Iteration: Training and evaluation tools enable users to rapidly develop a deployment-ready model. 
  • Continuous Learning: Inference and monitoring modules allow users to scale their AI solutions by enabling them to deploy production-ready models to the edge with ease, while continuously monitoring those deployments from a central location.

Benefits

  • Reduced Project Lifecycle: Reduces the AI project development life cycle time by up to 67%.
  • Cost reduction: Reduce the overall AI development and deployment costs by up to 60% 
  • Improved Accuracy: Improves accuracy of Machine Learning models through more accurately labeled data
  • Scaling: Enable users to effectively scale to multiple production lines across many factories

TRUMPF and SICK Develop First Industrial Quantum Sensor

In a continuation of Sensor Day at The Manufacturing Connection, here is an announcement about an Industrial quantum sensor development.

  • Cooperation agreement on development of industrial quantum sensor signed
  • Successful functional test of the world’s first quantum optical sensor for serial production
  • First sensors in industrial use from 2021
  • Experts estimate total market for quantum sensors at about EUR 1.1 bn. by 2023

The wholly owned TRUMPF subsidiary Q.ANT and sensor specialist SICK will in future work together on the development of quantum optical sensors. Representatives of the two high-tech companies signed a cooperation agreement in early November 2020 to make quantum technology for sensors available for industrial use. 

Quantum sensors enable measurements with unprecedented accuracy. The signing was preceded by a successful functional test of the world’s first quantum optical sensor for serial production. 

“SICK is expanding its position as a worldwide technology leader in the sensor sector by embarking on the production of quantum sensors. Quantum sensors are a key technology for the future of industry,” says Robert Bauer, Chairman of the Executive Board of SICK AG. 

As a market and technology leader for industrial sensors, SICK will be responsible for application development and sales of the product. As a specialist in quantum technology, the TRUMPF subsidiary Q.ANT takes on production of the measurement technology – and thus the sensor’s core technology. 

“Quantum technology is an enormous opportunity for German and European industry. This will be the first time that the partnership between our two high-tech companies will involve a product for serial production. The quantum sensor enables highly accurate measurements and will provide insights that will lead to completely new industrial applications,” says Peter Leibinger, Chief Technology Officer at TRUMPF. The first use of the new quantum sensors is planned for 2021.

Highly precise measurements of the smallest of particles 

Quantum sensors have hitherto mainly been used in research. For the first time, Q.ANT and SICK have now successfully completed functional tests for an industrial application. 

“Quantum technology enables, for example, ultrafast measurements of the movement and size distribution of particles. With industrialization of these sensors, not just us but Germany – as a high-tech location – takes a major step towards the commercialization of quantum technology,” says Michael Förtsch, CEO of Q.ANT. 

Using laser light, quantum sensors permit highly efficient measurements that would be impossible with conventional processes. 

“Quantum technology is the next level for sensors because it shifts hitherto firmly established technical limits. Using quantum effects, additional details can be perceived from signal noise where, up to now, no specific signals would have been measureable. This enables the measurement of particles that are about two hundred times smaller than the width of a human hair,” says Niels Syassen, Senior Vice President R&D at SICK and responsible for the project there. The quantum sensors will initially be used for analyzing substances in air.

Industrialization leads to increased market volume

Quantum sensors could in future become everyday equipment in various industries: For example, they could be used in civil engineering to visualize underground structures before construction work begins; in the pharmaceutical industry they could make it easier to determine the best composition of tablet powder; in the electronics sector circuits could be inspected through surfaces; and highly accurate measurements could be made in industry in general. The market for quantum sensors could grow steadily with industrialization. Experts at Germany’s National Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech) estimate the worldwide market volume of industrial quantum sensors at about EUR 1.1 bn. by 2023.