Advantech has been appearing on a variety of lists of prominent Internet of Things suppliers. The Taiwanese computer company with a US office in Cincinnati, OH and intellectual leadership, supplies intelligent I/O, a variety of computing devices, and HMI devices.
Several years ago I was privileged to be invited to Suzhou, China to attend Advantech’s user conference. It was an impressive event. This year they called it the “first IoT Co-Creation Summit.”
More than five thousand Advantech clients and partners from around the world attended the summit. Here Advantech introduced its newest IoT platform structure WISE-PaaS 3.0 and 32 IoT solution ready packages (SRPs) co-created with software and industry partners.
The event in itself will aid in the software/hardware integration for various industries, connect and build a complete industrial IoT ecosystem and value chain, and allow Advantech and partners to officially step into the next IoT stage.
Advantech Chairman KC Liu stated that in view of IoT application characteristic’s diversity and fragmented market, Advantech has assisted industries in integrating and connecting existing hardware and software and regards creating a complete industry value chain as its primary task in IoT industry development.
Advantech is introducing new features for its WISE-PaaS 3.0 and sharing a number of IoT solution ready packages (SRPs), based on WISE-PaaS, developed with numerous co-creation partners. The company is also outlining future co-creation strategies and schedules for the upcoming year.
Allan Yang, Chief Technology Officer at Advantech said, “While IoT is currently flourishing and many companies have invested in connectivity and data collection equipment, we are still in the early stages of generating value from IoT data. Since WISE-PaaS launched in 2014, Advantech has continued its integration and improved connectivity with open source communities. Our IoT software modules are developed to create operational cloud platform services oriented around the commercial value generated by data acquisition. Data-driven innovation has thus become the main target for our WISE-PaaS evolution.
WISE-PaaS 3.0 offers four main function modules:
- WISE-PaaS/SaaS Composer: a cloud configuration tool with visible workflow. WISE-PaaS/SaaS Composer supports customized component plotting for simple and intuitive 3D modeling application and interaction. It updates views at millisecond rates and, together with WISE-PaaS/Dashboard, presents critical management data in a visually intuitive display to help extract valuable data and improve operational efficiency.
- WISE-PaaS/AFS (AI Framework Service): an artificial intelligence training model and deployment service framework. The WISE-PaaS/AFS provides a simple drag and drop interface that allows developers to quickly input industrial data. When combined with AI algorithms, the service builds an effective inference engine with automatic deployment to edge computing platforms. AFS offers model accuracy management, model retraining, and automated redeployment. It simultaneously controls multiple AI models in the application field; offering automated model accuracy improvements and life-cycle management services.
- WISE-PaaS/APM (Asset Performance Management): an equipment network connection remote maintenance service framework. WISE-PaaS/APM connects to a wide array of on-site industrial equipment controls and communication protocols. It supports the latest edge computing open standard, EdgeX Foundry, and includes built-in equipment management and workflow integration templates. Jointly with the AFS, APM accelerates Machine to Intelligence (M2I) application development.
- Microservice development framework: WISE-PaaS contains a micro service development framework to help developers rapidly create program design frameworks while reducing development requisites. Micro service functions, such as service finding, load balancing, service administration, and configuration center, all offer built-in flexible support mechanisms.
Advantech recently established a water treatment system, jointly developed with GSD (China) Co., Ltd., and a CNC equipment remote operation service, jointly developed with Yeong Chin Machinery Industries Co. Ltd. Both partnerships demonstrate how industrial digital transformations, led by Advantech and its partners through the co-creation model, offer innovative win-win IoT solutions.
Advantech’s IIoT iAutomation Group has launched a broad selection of rackmount GPU Servers from 1U to 4U. The SKY-6000 GPU server series are powered by Intel Xeon scalable processors and each of these highly scalable GPU-optimized servers support up to five NVIDIA Tesla P4 GPUs. IPMI management functions and smart fan control ensure better temperature control and thermal management environments. Every GPU pair includes one high-speed PCIe slot for highly parallel applications like artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning, self-driving cars, smart city applications, health care, high performance computing, virtual reality, and much more.
AI Deep Learning GPU Solution
With support for up to five pcs of half-length half-height (HHHL) GPU cards or one full-height full-length (FHFL) double deck card, plus one full-height half-length (FHHL) GPU card, the SKY-6100 series are designed for NVidia Tesla P4 HHHL GPU cards, making it the best choice for deep learning applications.
IPMI Server Management
With IPMI 2.0 support, the SKY-6000 series allows users to monitor, manage, and control servers remotely and receive alerts if any sensors detect device or component faults. In addition, event logs record important information about the server which can be controlled remotely using the IPMI KVM.
Smart Fan Control
The optimized thermal design separates the CPU and GPU fan zones, making sure the GPU card is not preheated or thermally affected by any other heat source. Also, with the smart fan control mechanism, fan speeds are controlled based on different CPU and GPU workloads and ambient temperature. This feature lowers the acoustic noise of GPUs that have heavy loading but not CPUs. Advantech’s SKY-6000 server series are available for order now.
IMTS has been a huge show for many years. As you might expect from a trade show, the theme is broad. Exhibitors are a diverse lot. Things I saw indicating a new wave of technologies including machines designed to work with humans (so-called “cobots”) and various aspects of Industrial Internet of Things. Following are a few specifics.
Formerly the International Machine Tool Show and now the International Manufacturing Technology Show, the South Hall of Chicago’s McCormick Place is still filled with huge machining centers. The North Hall was packed with robotics, components, and other automation products. Much of this flows over to the East Hall where several aisles were devoted to Hannover Messe automation companies—my sweet spot. Even the West Hall was packed.
Beckhoff proclaimed, “Solve the IoT hardware, software and networking puzzle.”
The company introduced ultra-compact Industrial PCs (IPCs). These IPCs are Microsoft Azure Certified and can work just as easily with other major cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and SAP HANA.
Significant updates will span three key areas of the TwinCAT software suite: new HTML5-enabled TwinCAT HMI for industrial displays and mobile devices, important data processing expansions in the TwinCAT Analytics offering, and TwinCAT 3 Motion Designer, which adds a deep set of valuable tools to commission entire motor, drive and mechanical systems in software. Motion Designer can be integrated into the standard TwinCAT 3 software platform or it can be used as a stand-alone motion system engineering tool.
EK1000 EtherCAT TSN Coupler expands the industrial Ethernet capabilities of the EtherCAT I/O system to utilize TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) technology. The EK1000 enables communication among high-performance EtherCAT segments with remote EtherCAT controllers via heterogeneous Ethernet networks.
Ideagen plc, the UK-based software firm, announced the acquisition of American quality inspection software provider, InspectionXpert. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, InspectionXpert currently generates $2.8 million in revenue and will bring more than 1,000 clients including Boeing, Kohler and Pratt & Whitney to Ideagen’s existing customer base.
Speaking at IMTS, Chicago, Ideagen CEO, Ben Dorks, said: “As well as significantly enhancing our manufacturing supply chain product suite, the acquisition of InspectionXpert provides Ideagen with a fantastic opportunity for growth by broadening upsell and cross-selling opportunities, increasing our customer footprint and expanding our geographical reach.”
InspectionXpert’s products, InspectionXpert and QualityXpert, enable organizations in the precision manufacturing industry and associated supply chains to simplify inspection planning, execution and reporting and general quality through digitalization of paper-based processes.
InspectionXpert and QualityXpert will be integrated into Ideagen’s existing software suite, which will enhance Software as a Service (SaaS) revenues and provide excellent opportunities for future growth.
Energid released Actin 5, an update to its robot software development kit (SDK). Called the industry’s only real-time adaptive motion control software, it allows robotic system developers to focus on the robot’s task rather than joint movement and paths. It responds in real time to sensory input and directs the robot on the most efficient path while avoiding collisions. The robot motion is updated dynamically without requiring reprogramming, even in dynamic, mission-critical environments.
Forcam develops software solutions in the area of MES, IIoT, and OEE. It leans into the trend of developing platforms. Its platform is built with open APIs with the latest programming languages and tools. It supports Microsoft Azure Cloud, SAP ERP, Maximo maintenance/asset applications, and Apple iPads for input. The platform helps reduce integration time and expense.
I came across the Dell Technologies booth in the automation hall. The big news was a collaboration with Tridium and Intel for IIoT solutions.
The IIoT solution is built on the Niagara Framework, Tridium’s open technology platform, and combines software and consulting services to help customers begin the digital transformation of their businesses.
The Niagara-based IIoT solution built with Dell and Intel technology will comprise a complete hardware and software stack delivered as a finished solution for ease of adoption, and will encompass consulting services from subject matter experts to support implementation. The application layer of the IIoT solution is being developed and supported by Tridium and will expand over time with solutions designed for the telecom and energy sectors.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) held its annual Discover conference in Las Vegas last week. It has made a sizable commitment to Internet of Things (IoT) and the Edge—areas central to my writing for the past few years. I am floating a number of ideas looking for feedback as I travel, and I’ll bounce some of those here later.
There is so much I learned last week beyond even what I wrote Monday about the new Edgeline computer. Perhaps the best place to start is with my latest discussion with Lin Nease, Chief Technologist IoT at HPE. This was a continuation of a discussion we began in Madrid last November and resumed at Industry of Things World in San Diego in February.
HPE’s power of compute at the Edge fascinates me. Even though my being in Las Vegas precluded being in Boston for LiveWorx, ThingWorx came up in many conversations at Discover. Nease said that ThingWorx (product and division of PTC) has been a good partner. Back to compute power at the edge Nease mentioned this power combined with TSN—Time Sensitive Networking, a new extension of Ethernet promulgated by IEEE.
Indeed, there is sufficient power in Edgeline that an enterprising developer could, for instance, accomplish the software defined DCS that seems to be the dream of some of the engineers at ExxonMobil and the Open Process Automation folks. Anyone out there have time and money?
Speaking of Edge, evidently the enterprise IT bloggers I hung out with during the event try to avoid the term. CEO Antonio Neri had said, “Edge is everything outside the data center.” In the blogger round table that I posted Monday, blogger Alastair Cooke noted, “Gary, we consider everything you do as edge.” Back to Neri who stated 94% of data is wasted; 75% of data comes from the edge.
Following are some points I gleaned from a session called “Harness the Power of Digital Platforms”:
- HPE is a huge fan of open source & open platforms
- Digital natives build platforms-e.g. Uber, Google, Amazon, etc.
- An internal team built an open API platform to solve a problem in supply chain
- Biggest problem was selling the system internally so that people would actually use the system (never seen that before—said no one anywhere)
- Traditional—>Digital; everything is a frictionless stream of data
- Platform always on, always looking for exceptions — sense/respond
HPE has an OEM Solutions group. Following are some points from a session discussing them:
- OEM Solutions can be Embedded, Integrated, Private Label
- Everything as a Service — Green Lake is the service offering that OEMs can resell the service
- Shift to software defined
- From storage to flash
- Example—Konica Minolta embedded an Edgeline computing device in a printer called workplace hub that makes it easier to set up and install a new remote office
HPE has momentum in IoT and edge devices—and an organization supporting manufacturing.
Taiwan-based Advantech’s leaders have always been intellectual strategic thinkers. They have clued me in on several good management books. The company is an industrial computer company with industrial data acquisition and I/O devices that has successfully positioned itself as an edge device leader in the Internet of Things space.
The company has announced its strategies for entering the next phase of IoT development. To expand local operations, Advantech will fully activate the deployment of branch locations throughout various regions. In addition, a co-creation model will be adopted to construct the Industrial IoT (IIoT) ecosystem and strengthen the influence of vertical domains.
Advantech’s Executive Director of the Board, Chaney Ho, stated that since taking over as executive director last year, he has been focusing on developing regional strategies and establishing development goals and directions for each region, all of which are based on their scope.
In regions with a larger scope (Europe, United States, and China), to reinforce the Advantech brand recognition in IoT and Industry 4.0, talent cultivation and an increased presence in local sales are the company’s primary goals to actively respond to recent developments in Industry 4.0 trends in the EU, plans by the U.S. government to shift production back to America, and the China One Belt One Road policy.
For medium and small-scale regions, Mr. Ho stated that Advantech will develop Japan, South Korea, India, and Russia to generate $130 million in revenue. The company also plans to further increase investment in Malaysia and Thai IIoT organizations and new branch locations in Vietnam, Russia, and Turkey will be established through mergers and acquisitions as well as joint ventures.
Regarding developments in the European region, Miller Chang, President of Advantech’s Embedded-IoT (EIoT) Group, expressed that a sector-lead strategy has been practiced by the EIoT group since 2014. Various product divisions from headquarters have been fully connected with overseas frontline business teams and compound annual growth rate from 2014 to 2017 has reached 25%.
Key development points for the next three years in Europe are:
1. Elevating operation levels in five key regions, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.
2. Establishing branch offices in emerging European regions for conducting business and providing technical support.
3. Focusing on key industries, such as gaming, medical, transportation, and automotive, in Germany, UK, and the Netherlands.
With respect to development in the Greater China Region, Linda Tsai, President of Advantech’s IIoT Group, believes that the embedded systems/hardware from Phase I IOT development as well as IoT solutions platforms from Phase II are Advantech’s “double-growth engine” in IIoT development. Following this, three key strategies have been proposed.
1. Implement and IIoT sector-lead organizational development model expanding industry management and optimize regional resource allocations,
2. Set successful examples in the Greater China Region to accelerate the marketing of hardware/software and imaging solutions.
3. Actively cultivate local personal to become mid-to-high level supervisors to expand into the Chinese market.
Fantine Lee, Manager of Advantech’s Corporate Investment Division, pointed out that Advantech will continue to actively promote platform management during Phase II IoT development, SRP co-creation, and the co-created digital transformation of vertical industry cloud services during Phase III through the co-creation model. As for vertical industry, cloud service companies to be co-created during Phase III, Advantech plans to establish subsidiaries in Taiwan and China and will include domains such as Smart Manufacturing, Smart Environmental Protection, and Smart Retail. These companies will be managed together with Advantech’s co-creation partners. Furthermore, opportunities in other domains, such as Smart Hospitals, Smart Factories, Industrial Vision Systems, Consultant Training, and Integration Services will continue to be promoted and co-created.
Miss Lee further stated for Phase II development, Advantech’s WISE-PaaS cloud platform will serve as the foundation for building a comprehensive value chain for SRPs. This year, third-party software and WISE-PaaS platform integration with SaaS suppliers and collective sales/agents will be introduced at an accelerated pace. In addition, partnerships with software developers specializing in monitoring and diagnosing connected equipment, energy management, data analysis, machine learning, and other vertical industries will be established.
Time Sensitive Networking, or TSN, extends and amplifies standard Ethernet as defined by the IEEE. The complete suite of specifications lacks a couple of areas, yet, but it is complete enough to begin using. NI (National Instruments) has been an early proponent of the technology participating in a testbed assembled by the Industrial Internet Consortium.
I’m a TSN believer. When the complete set of specs if finished and we see commercial-off-the-shelf chipsets, this high speed, deterministic network will be a game changer for the Internet of Things and indeed industrial control and automation. The amount of murmuring I’m hearing from suppliers confirms in my mind the potential.
NI has announced new CompactRIO Controllers that include NI-DAQmx and Time Sensitive Networking (TSN). These controllers offer deterministic communication and synchronized measurements across standard Ethernet networks to increase performance and help improve productivity in addition to flexibility. NI was the first to market with industrial embedded hardware supporting TSN, the next evolution of the IEEE 802.11 Ethernet standard, and provides these controllers as part of its continued investment in TSN. Engineers can use TSN to synchronize distributed systems across networks, which eliminates the need for costly synchronization cables.
As industries such as automotive, oil and gas, research and aerospace continue to implement the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), acquiring accurate, reliable and synchronized data across distributed nodes has become more challenging. As a result, companies must keep pace to ensure their systems are ready to meet these evolving requirements.
In the research space, A.M.S. Software GmbH is already taking advantage of the flexibility of CompactRIO with NI-DAQmx. “We are excited about the new CompactRIO Controller because of the flexibility it offers us,” said Klaudius Pinkawa, CEO of A.M.S. Software GmbH. “We needed to set up several experiments in a lab and then perform them on an aircraft in zero gravity. CompactRIO with NI-DAQmx allowed us to perform any experiment using the same hardware in both environments, which saved development time and reduced risks to the experiments.
The new CompactRIO Controllers feature:
- Submicrosecond synchronization with TSN over standard Ethernet for tightly synchronized, distributed measurements and control
- Shorter time to measurement than previous CompactRIO Controllers because of intuitive NI-DAQmx driver software
- Open and secure processing at the edge of the IIoT with the NI Linux Real-Time OS
- High-performance data analysis and control with an industrial-grade processor and onboard FPGA, programmable with LabVIEW FPGA
- Reliable operation in harsh environments with -40 °C to 70 °C operating temperature range, shock resistance up to 50 g and vibration resistance up to 5 g
With the addition of NI-DAQmx to the CompactRIO Controller family, engineers can access I/O directly from ready-to-use functions, which have made working with this driver the preferred data acquisition method for over 15 years. This intuitive driver coupled with the openness of the NI Linux Real-Time OS means users can continue to leverage the vast ecosystem of IP available for Linux, like Security Enhanced Linux (SE-Linux).
Bedrock Automation, products built for security from the chips up, had a flurry of activity at the ARC Industry Forum in Orlando last week. It announced a firmware upgrade, OPC UA and partnerships for its SCADA product, and anomaly detection. Here’s a teaser—CEO and Founder Albert Rooyakkers pulled out a new piece of hardware. He didn’t have a release or specs for me, but watch for a new, lower cost, SCADA or gateway device hardened and built with security in mind from the chips up.
Bedrock and OPC UA
Bedrock Automation has published a concise, easy-to-deploy interface specification that enables users and application developers to take advantage of the security capabilities of OPC UA communications software. By following the simple procedures outlined in the Bedrock SCADA Security Platform Specification, developers can upgrade any OPC UA compliant client into a highly secure OPC UA channel, across which users can exchange data between plant floor operations and SCADA applications. Three leading SCADA software developers, Inductive Automation, ICONICS and TATSOFT, are committing and releasing support to the Bedrock interface specification.
“OPC UA provides unique cyber security advantages enabling open communications across numerous industrial devices and applications and providing the end-users options for integrating authentication keys protecting those communications. The most secure OPC level is to authenticate those keys against a known root of trust, which Bedrock supplies via a certificate authority (CA), validated against cryptographic keys built into its controller,” said Thomas J. Burke, OPC Foundation President and Executive Director, adding “Bedrock Automation is a clear leader in supporting the OPC UA standards, and provides information integration and communication that the end users have been demanding.
Bedrock designs and sources its own secure semiconductor components with encryption and authentication technologies embedded at the “birth” of their modules, assembled and tested by Bedrock in their cyber secure supply chain. The unique design then draws on the power and flexibility of public key infrastructure (PKI) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) standards similar to those used to secure ecommerce transactions and military and aerospace electronics. Bedrock Automation then uses those securely embedded keys as the basis for digital certificates that manage access and communication between SCADA applications and control systems. Bedrock Cybershield 3.0 firmware is the first control system to offer an embedded PKI for SCADA applications.
“Such a simple specification demonstrates that Open and Secure SCADA can be deployed today, and that an applications interface does not have to be thousands or even hundreds of pages. We are pleased to be working with innovative SCADA software providers such as Inductive Automation, ICONICS and TATSOFT, to help them and their customers take advantage of the secure communications capabilities of OPC UA and the intrinsic security of the Bedrock platform,” said Rooyakkers.
Bedrock Automation also announced the availability of Cybershield 3.0, a major firmware upgrade with advancements that make it easier for end users and developers to build control applications that are both open and secure. Among the six major innovations facilitated by the Cybershield 3.0 upgrade are the first public key infrastructure (PKI) built into an OPC UA server for SCADA applications; an industrial Certificate Authority (CA) for user key management; virtual crypto key locks for the controller; and a Secure Proxy server capability that can protect legacy controls systems of other vendors.
“Cybershield 3.0 is one of the most significant steps forward since the release of our Bedrock OSA platform. We now support leading SCADA companies in integrating their OPC UA client to our open security and key management tools. In addition, we start our march to converge IT cyber detection technologies into real-time OT automation with our integrated Anomaly Detection (AD) tools built into every controller. We are delivering secure SCADA and AD as intrinsic and zero-cost advancements, focused acutely on ease of use and reductions in lifecycle costs,” said Bedrock founder and CEO Albert Rooyakkers.
Bedrock Cybershield 3.0 includes the following capabilities:
1) Secure Open SCADA with OPC UA. The cryptographic keys built into all the Bedrock system electronics, provide the root of trust for the Bedrock Certificate Authority (CA) that verifies the reliability of OPC UA-managed communications between SCADA and PLCs or other industrial control systems.
2) Open Certificate Authority (CA) for SCADA. This advanced SaaS key and certificate management tool is not only FREE to our customers but is simple to deploy with our Secure SCADA Interface Specification. Leading SCADA providers, including Inductive Automation, ICONICS and Tatsoft, are committing to and releasing support to this interface specification.
3) Intrusion detection. Even though the Bedrock control system has protection built into its core, users still need to know when system security is challenged. Cybershield 3.0 comes standard with intrinsic Anomaly Detection (AD) functionality that continuously monitors the controller’s network and system time to detect intrusions and anomalous behavior and report it to both SCADA and enterprise database applications for trending, alarming and historizing anomalous cyber activity.
4) Quickly Secure Legacy Automation with Secure SCADA. Companies can now use Bedrock security to help integrate open standard communications protocols with legacy PLC and DCS systems from other vendors. A Bedrock secure controller module acts as a gateway between SCADA platform workstation and the legacy controllers.
5) Cryptographic key locking. Cybershield 3.0 also includes a cryptographic controller engineering key lock that permits only users with the required credentials to change the mode of the controller.
6) Achilles and EMP compliance on power supplies. Bedrock Automation is certifying its standalone power supply and standalone uninterruptible lithium power supply to both MiL-STD-461-G, the military standard for advanced EMP hardening, and Achilles Level 2 certification, augmenting the EMP and Achilles certification achieved for its control system modules last year.
“Today’s increasingly connected environment drives the process industries to search for automation solutions that deliver the benefits of open communications with ‘baked in’ cybersecurity. By extending its secure automation technology to third-party software providers, Bedrock Automation addresses this key pain point of future automation requirements. ARC believes the intrinsic and no-cost approach of Bedrock’s cybersecurity strategy is the quintessential component missing in control systems, today,” writes ARC analyst Mark Sen Gupta in his recent report, Bedrock Automation’s Open Secure Automation a “Win” with End Users
Bedrock Open Secure Automation (OSATM) firmware will include intrinsic Anomaly Detection (AD). Bedrock OSA AD will be available as standard integrated functionality that continuously monitors the controller’s network and system time to detect intrusions and anomalous behavior.
“Preventing control system intrusion is fundamental to holistic cyber security. In addition, users need to know when the system security is being challenged. This is the role of anomaly detection. At no additional cost or complexity for the user, Bedrock’s AD delivers additional assurance that no one is tampering with your automation,” said Rooyakkers. Bedrock Anomaly Detection includes the following functionality:
• Dynamic Port Connection Monitoring, which records all attempts to connect any controller or communication point and captures identifying information on the intruder
• Network Port Scanning, which detects if hackers are scanning for open ports that might provide access to the control network
• System Time Monitoring, which detects attepts to manipulate log files to conceal malicious activity
• Cryptographic Controller Engineering Key Lock, which permits only users with valid user credentials to change the configuration and operation mode of the controller and records all access
• Intrusion Event Logging, which records all detected anomalies and reports them to SCADA software through OPC UA and standard database access for historian, alarming, and trending functions. Additionally, a tri-color status LED on the faceplate of Bedrock Controllers provides indication locally whenever an intrusion is detected.