Automate Report 3: Inductive Automation and Opto 22

While at Automate 2024 I saw Travis Cox of Inductive Automation and Benson Hougland of Opto 22. It was tough seeing them since their booth was always packed. I wound up walking through the show and out into the corridor with them.

These two companies plus Cirrus Link (MQTT and Sparkplug) are perhaps the best partnership combination I’ve seen in my years reporting in this market. Ignition running on Opto’s Groov Epic platform with MQTT and Sparkplug as the communications architecture solve many customer problems.

Hougland told me that they are continuing to build out the Groov platform. And to watch for cool things coming.

Cox told me that the big thing to pay attention to right now from Inductive Automation is the integration with Snowflake (more below). He says the integration keeps improving.

Here is Cox describing the integration at the last Ignition Community Conference:

And well, we got all the community to participate, where they’re basically leveraging Ignition or Ignition Edge or potentially have a smart device that speaks MQTT Sparkplug and they’re gonna build a data model, publish that up to a Chariot broker that’s in the cloud. Real simple. Then we can use the IoT bridge for Snowflake by Cirrus Link and all that data from Sparkplug goes directly into the Snowflake database. We’re showing it on a dashboard within Ignition, but it’s going to Snowflake database as well. And we can easily go and query that data. And we went one step further and we’re actually showing the anomaly detection within the Data Dash. So we’ll do a demonstration of this in just a moment, but wanna show you just how easy it is for this solution. And it’s all something we could do right now. It’s very, very simple to get started with this whole thing. 

What is Snowflake, you may ask. Here is Pugal Janakiraman from Snowflake speaking at ICC 2024:

Snowflake is a globally connected cloud vendor agnostic data platform. It’s one single managed service from Snowflake. We take care of security, we take care of governance, we take care of scalability. And after that, much more cool, your API of choice is still SQL. You don’t have to learn hundreds of new services. You continue to use SQL as a mechanism to leverage data which is present in Snowflake, whether it is around building dashboards or you want to build an AI and ML model or build inference around those models, you still use SQL as an API for doing that.

Snowflake is a cloud-native database. Data can still reside on-premise or it can reside in whatever is your cloud vendor of choice. You can run analytics without the data movement out there. So we provide that kind of collaboration mechanisms. We provide AI and ML-based analytics. This is how the journey started for us. Ignition on Edge with zero coding using Snowpipe Streaming API, send the data to Snowflake. 

Siemens Have Made Many Interesting Automation Announcements

I received many releases regarding automation from Siemens resulting from the Hannover Messe last month. They presented them to assembled press, analysts, and blogger this week at Automate in Chicago. These are all pretty cool.

  • Siemens Industrial Copilot with Generative AI
  • Spatial Computing Electrical Training for Apple Vision Pro
  • Simatic S7-1200 G2—a new generation of controller

Siemens Xcelerator: Scaling roll-out of generative AI with Siemens Industrial Copilot

  • Siemens makes automation easy with the first generative AI-powered product for engineering in an industrial environment
  • Siemens Industrial Copilot accelerates the generation of complex automation code, reduces development times, and increases productivity
  • TIA Portal connection offers customers SCL code generation, customization of HMI visualization, and document search in natural language
  • Available for download from the Siemens Xcelerator marketplace starting in summer 2024

The Siemens Industrial Copilot, the generative AI-powered assistant, is now seamlessly connected to the Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) Portal. This will enable engineering teams to find the right help topic and to generate a basic visualization and code faster for programmable logic controllers (PLC). As a result, they will be able to significantly reduce their workload and offload repetitive tasks to the Siemens Industrial Copilot. In addition, the engineering of complex tasks will become less susceptible to errors. This in turn reduces development times and boosts quality and productivity over the long term. The Siemens Industrial Copilot for TIA Portal Engineering will be available for download from the Siemens Xcelerator marketplace starting in summer 2024. 

Siemens and BILT Launch Spatial Computing Electrical Training for Apple Vision Pro

  • Siemens leverages BILT on Apple Vision Pro to provide immersive step-by-step guided instruction for electricians
  • BILT becomes newest Siemens Xcelerator Ecosystem partner
  • BILT spatial computing app on Apple Vision Pro available at Hannover Messe tradeshow

Siemens and BILT, the creators of 3D Intelligent Instructions, are optimizing their mobile guides into spatial models for Apple Vision Pro. As the need for skilled electricians and other trades grows, training the entering workforce, while up-skilling the existing one, is essential. Tools such as BILT on Apple Vision Pro provide a highly immersive and visual training experience that helps users not only learn faster, but safer. 

Siemens’ first product assembly and installation guides available on BILT on Apple Vision Pro include Siemens Smart Infrastructure’s Class 14 NEMA motor starter, designed to control and protect motors applied in industrial processes, and the P5 Power Distribution Panel. 

To further the partnership and accelerate applications globally, BILT will become the newest addition to Siemens’ Xcelerator Ecosystem and Marketplace. Siemens Xcelerator, an open digital business platform and powerful ecosystem of partners, is where industrial clients from around the world can look for solutions that suit their needs. As part of Siemens Xcelerator, BILT will now be available as a turnkey solution to accelerate digital transformation and learning easier, faster and at scale. 

A new generation of controller with Simatic S7-1200 G2

  • Simatic S7-1200 G2 will be available in winter 2024
  • Key benefits include efficient motion control, flexible machine safety, increased performance, and seamless scalability

For the first time in ten years, Siemens is announcing a new generation of controllers, available in winter of 2024, at Hannover Messe 2024. The Simatic S7-1200 G2 controllers are part of the Simatic controller family. 

The new controllers help bridge the worlds of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT). The controllers’ high communication performance and efficient data processing increase production output. By connecting the controllers to IT systems, it is also possible to use advanced data analysis, for example in the cloud.

The new controllers are part of Siemens Xcelerator, allowing customers to benefit from the standardized engineering approach in the TIA Portal. The Simatic S7-1200 G2 controller generation enables customers to address major challenges, such as productivity, flexibility, and cost optimization. 

The new range of controllers combines integrated motion control functionalities with space-saving and flexible machine safety solutions.

For example, the S7-1200 G2 controllers make it possible for machine builders to control multiple coordinated axes and simple kinematics. Customers experience increased performance capabilities thanks to improved processing power, dedicated communication performance and more memory, as well as Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality with in-app access to diagnostic, operational, and device data. Plain text diagnostic information about the entire programmable logic controller (PLC) station reduces machine downtime and gives users quick access to data. 

ABB Co-launches Interoperability Initiative for Industrial IoT

Interoperability forms a key feature for useful technology. Think of train rail gauges. Or shipping cargo containers. Or much of our industrial technology—much, but far from all. The drive of technology application suppliers for proprietary lock in is strong. Many will open up only as much as customers demand immediately.

This news comes from ABB and the Linux Foundation regarding a new interoperability initiative for industrial applications. They call it “Margo” which is Latin for “edge.” Cute, eh? Better than many names I’ve seen over the years.

In brief:

  • Margo, a new open standard initiative for interoperability, will address key roadblocks to digital transformation
  • The initiative is hosted by the Linux Foundation and driven by a founding group of industrial automation solution providers, including ABB Process Automation and ABB Machine Automation (B&R)
  • Margo aims to unlock interoperability at the edge – a key layer of Industrial IoT ecosystems where plant data is transformed into AI-powered insights to drive efficiency and sustainability
  • At the Hannover Messe on April 23, 2024, founding members ABB (including B&R), Capgemini, Microsoft, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric (including AVEVA) and Siemens announced collaboration on a new initiative to deliver interoperability for Industrial IoT ecosystems.

Hosted by the Linux Foundation and open to further interested parties, the Margo initiative draws its name from the Latin word for ‘edge’ and will define mechanisms for interoperability between applications, devices and orchestration software at the edge of industrial ecosystems. In particular, Margo will make it easy to run and combine applications from any ecosystem member on top of the hardware and runtime system of any other member. Margo aims to deliver on its interoperability promise through a modern and agile open-source approach, which will bring industrial companies increased flexibility, simplicity and scalability as they undergo digital transition in complex, multi-vendor environments.

“Mastering efficiency, flexibility and quality faster than competitors is key to success in today’s industrial world,” said Bernhard Eschermann, CTO, ABB Process Automation. “Digitalization can help deliver on these benefits, but digital ecosystems require a robust, secure and interoperable framework at the edge, connecting operations and information technologies. For ABB, a long-standing advocate of open automation systems, driving a forward-thinking collaborative initiative like Margo is key to achieving this goal.”

“The more sources you get data from, the better the decisions you can make,” explained Florian Schneeberger, CTO of ABB’s Machine Automation division (B&R). “Yet, while the benefits of digitalization increase with scale, so do the challenges of navigating heterogeneous industrial ecosystems. That’s why interoperability is so crucial to unlocking the full potential of digitalization. It empowers organizations to adopt and scale Industrial IoT solutions at full speed without large teams of IT specialists.”

In March 2024, ABB became a member of the Linux Foundation. This will enable the company to further enhance efforts in promoting open community collaboration, helping unlock innovation and enable better products and experiences for customers. This further strengthens ABB’s commitment to open standard based systems.

PICMG Announces Release of New InterEdge Standard

  • Targeted at Open, Modular Process Control Systems
  • Modular compute, switch, and I/O architecture enables interoperable standard for industrial PCs, PLCs, and distributed control systems.
  • Supports IEC 61499 and IEC 61131 for compatibility with a wide range of automation systems.
  • Hot-swappable modules can be replaced or upgraded while the system is running, minimizing downtime and maintenance costs.

I am trying to understand this one. Reading it for the third time, I guess the Open Process Automation Forum decided that one of its defined components among its “standard of standards” needed to be a standard. Although this “open, modular process control system” sounds eerily familiar. I hope it does help move the industry forward.

­­PICMG, the consortium for open hardware specifications, announced the release of InterEdge, a modular architecture for process control systems (PCS). The IEC 61499 and IEC 61131-compatible InterEdge specification promises to revolutionize the industry with an interoperable, multi-vendor alternative to proprietary Industrial PCs (IPCs), Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), and Distributed Control Systems (DCSs).

Given that the OPAF initiative was begun by ExxonMobil engineering leaders, this quote is informative:

“Business needs evolve at an ever-increasing rate,” said Francisco Garcia, Americas Regional Instrument Lead at ExxonMobil Technology & Engineering Company and member of the InterEdge technical working group. “InterEdge delivers an interchangeable base hardware standard for industrial manufacturers looking to adapt to changing business needs. As a result, providers can deploy and scale dedicated physical assets and focus on value-added software and services.”

And from the press release:

InterEdge defines a vendor-neutral, open standard for edge computing and I/O module hardware. It segments hardware into Compute Modules, Switch Modules, and I/O Modules. All of these modules are connected via a common backplane, enabling easy customization and expansion of industrial automation functions.

An overview of the specification and an architecture diagram are available here. The full specification is available to purchase. 

And the reason for the standard:

By replacing proprietary edge devices, InterEdge eliminates vendor lock-in, simplifies integration and maintenance, and enables online upgrades, all of which contribute to significant cost savings.

Programming Model Enables Application Development for both Cloud and Edge

Edge compute continues to be the most talked about part of the network these days. This news concerns an application development platform for Edge and Cloud. I wish I could try out all this software like I used to many years ago. It’s all too complex and expensive today. Like everything, I don’t know if it works, but it sounds good.

Lightbend Inc., the company providing cloud native microservices frameworks for some of the world’s largest brands, has announced the release of its latest version of Akka, one of the industry’s most powerful platforms for distributed computing, which incorporates a new and unique programming model that enables developers to build an application once and have it work across both Cloud and Edge environments.

“Today, applications developed for cloud native environments are generally not well-suited to the Edge and vice versa,” said Jonas Bonér, Lightbend’s founder and CEO. “This has always struck me as counter-productive, as both architectures lean heavily on one another to be successful. As the line between Cloud and Edge environments continues to blur, Akka Edge brings industry-first capabilities to enable developers to build once for the Cloud and, when ready, deploy seamlessly to the Edge.”

“Akka has been a powerful enabling technology for us to build high-performance Cloud systems for our clients,” said Jean-Philippe Le Roux, CEO of Reflek.io, an innovative company delivering Digital Twin technologies to geo-distributed companies. “We have been able to dramatically speed our time-to-production by building a single solution for both Cloud and Edge with Akka.”

Akka provides a singular programming model that eliminates the high latency, large footprint, and complexity barriers the Edge has posed for development teams wanting to bridge the Edge and Cloud. Developers focus on business logic, not complicated, time-consuming tool integrations. As a result, businesses can harness, distribute, and fully utilize the vast amount of intelligent data to improve their operations, regardless of where that data is generated. Some specific capabilities of the latest version of Akka include:

  • Adaptive Data Availability
  • Projections over gRPC for the Edge – asynchronous, brokerless service-to-service communication
  • Scalability and efficiency improvements to handle the large scale of many Edge services
  • Programmatically defined low-footprint active entity migration
  • Temporal, geographic, and use-based migration
  • Run Efficiently In Resource Constrained Environments
  • Support for more constrained environments such as running with GraalVM native image and lightweight Kubernetes distributions
  • Support for multidimensional autoscaling and scale to near zero
  • Lightweight storage, for running durable actors at the far edge
  • A Single Programming Model for the Cloud-to-Edge Continuum
  • Akka single programming model keeps the code, the tools, the patterns, and the communication the same, regardless if it is Cloud, Edge, or in between
  • Seamless Integration – works at the Edge or in the Cluster automatically
  • Empowering New Innovation
  • Active/Active digital twins, and many other new use cases
  • No dealing with complicated logic to handle network segregation
  • Focus on business logic and flow (not on tool integrations)

Bosch Rexroth Ecosystem Continues Expansion

I’ve written a few times about Bosch Rexroth’s new OS and platform ctrlX. Most recently here. Just realizing that I have another post in queue to expand on the potentials of the OS. The company and its technology are attracting a number of partners. This is interesting. Will the market follow?

The vision of an automation world in which competitors become partners and users help to shape the solutions is becoming reality. The operating system ctrlX OS with its ecosystem has won over even more collaborators: In addition to WAGO, the first company to join the group, Dell Technologies, Nokia and others have joined too. As a result, the solution is now established on all levels of the automation pyramid. The partner network ctrlX World is growing too and now offers even more variety. At the moment, partner companies cover more than 150 use cases. KUKA, another leading robot brand, recently joined the group.

“Automation needs to move away from proprietary systems towards open, modular and scalable microservices architectures that will enable a profound transformation of industry in terms of digitalization, connectivity and sustainability. ctrlX OS is the enabler for this,” said Steffen Winkler, Vice President Sales Business Unit Automation & Electrification Solutions at Bosch Rexroth.

With ctrlX OS, Bosch Rexroth has developed an operating system with digital services. It is a core part of the ecosystem initiated by ctrlX AUTOMATION. The entire sector has access to it, even competitors. The aim of Bosch Rexroth and the partner companies is to create an open industry standard for the market.

Bosch Rexroth has opened up the operating system ctrlX OS for the entire market. It entered into its first system and technology partnership with WAGO. “We offer ctrlX OS on our own devices and develop specific applications on the basis of the operating system. WAGO is about to launch the Edge Controller 400 and the Edge Computer with ctrlX OS to coincide with the SPS trade fair. Together, we’d like to strengthen ctrlX OS and develop it further,” said Johannes Pfeffer, Vice President Business Unit Automation at WAGO.

Because it can be used flexibly on various levels, ctrlX OS is of interest not only for industrial control systems and edge industry PCs. As a virtualized solution, the operating system also runs on edge servers in close proximity to machines and production lines, in data centers and in the cloud.

Dell Technologies and Bosch Rexroth are working together to integrate ctrlX OS as an out-of-the-box software module for Dell NativeEdge, an edge operations software platform that simplifies edge operations and provides zero-touch implementation and zero-trust functions.

The solution offers companies support for applications and services needed to ensure smooth system operation – across sectors, in cloud environments and at sites spread across the world. To reduce time to production, Bosch Rexroth and Dell are helping customers to quickly configure, deploy and scale ctrlX OS in their environments with Dell Validated Designs for Edge.

Nokia is integrating the virtualized operating system ctrlX OS into its Nokia MX Industrial Edge (MXIE) on-premises operational technology (OT) edge solution. Various applications run on this and it has private wireless 5G campus network technology. Through this integration, Nokia MXIE customers can install ctrlX OS as an application at the click of a mouse and thus operate their business-critical use cases with reduced latency.

KUKA, a leading robot brand, has now joined the group. As a result, there is now a KUKA connection and integration based on the KUKA.PLC mxAutomation interface. This is used by the company Mairotec in its “MAIRobot” app and in an exhibit which will be shown at the Rexroth stand (booth 450 in hall 7) at SPS 2023.

Follow this blog

Get a weekly email of all new posts.