Betacom executives have been talking regularly with me about the company’s many wireless projects especially in manufacturing. This news release highlights working with MxD (Manufacturing x Digital), the National Center for Cybersecurity in Manufacturing along with Google Cloud and Ingram Micro. A case for partnerships advancing applications for practical use.
Private wireless pioneer Betacom, along with Google Cloud and Ingram Micro, today unveiled an exhibition of Industry 4.0 innovations at MxD (Manufacturing x Digital), the National Center for Cybersecurity in Manufacturing, that are redefining efficiency, productivity and competitiveness in manufacturing and supply chain industries. From smart automation and machine vision to predictive analytics and real-time inventory tracking, the technology leaders are showcasing real solutions for some of today’s most in-demand use cases, powered by private 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud technology.
The interactive exhibit is part of a collaborative effort to equip manufacturers with digital tools and expertise needed to increase productivity and strengthen U.S. manufacturing. By bringing together diverse technologies and device manufacturers on the Factory Floor Lab, Betacom, Google Cloud and Ingram Micro aim to accelerate manufacturers’ automation and digitalization initiatives by demonstrating complete solutions that are available today.
Betacom became a partner of MxD in 2022 to provide the organization’s Chicago headquarters with a fully managed private 5G network built on Zero Trust design principles. The network, one of the first indoor private 5G deployments in the U.S., is the foundation to develop and enable technologies that power Industry 4.0, including several application areas on display in this joint showcase:
- Smart Manufacturing – How machine vision, AI, data analytics, robotics, 5G and other technologies are revolutionizing manufacturing processes through automation to improve the efficiency, output quality and uptime of modern production lines.
- Digital Workforce – How mobile devices and productivity tools enabled by AI, machine learning and assisted reality capabilities can streamline worker tasks, automate visual inspection and enable new levels of remote collaboration on and off the factory floor.
- Resilient Supply Chain – How cloud based data analytics can help manufacturers understand supply chain risks to improve demand planning and optimize execution, as well as how wireless technologies are enhancing inventory and asset tracking applications to provide end-to-end visibility from production to delivery.
- Safety and Security – How today’s solutions are protecting critical assets and data from physical and cyberthreats, as well as creating safer workplaces for employees in hazardous environments.
The exhibit is open year-round. Learn more about the technology exhibit or to schedule a meeting for an onsite demonstration with our experts.
TV with advertisements seldom plays in my house. But I just saw a cable provider advertising 10G connectivity. That, of course, it a completely made up marketing phrase. But 5G is a real thing. I’ve written several times about the potential, and some real applications, of private 5G networks. Infrastructure supporting such networks continues to be built out. This news from Siemens discusses their new 5G infrastructure solution specifically to support automation.
- Infrastructure for private industrial 5G networks with a focus on automation applications
- The solution is already in use at Siemens plants and pilot customers like Salzgitter AG
- 5G is crucial for mobile robots, autonomous logistics, driverless transport systems, and edge devices
Siemens is launching a private infrastructure developed in-house for the 5G mobile communications standard. The solution enables industrial companies to build their own local 5G networks that will provide optimal support for automation applications.
“By building their own 5G networks, industrial companies are launching the next stage of connected production,” says Axel Lorenz, CEO of Process Automation at Siemens. “5G is crucial for applications like mobile robots, autonomous logistics, and driverless transport systems in factories. Siemens’ private 5G infrastructure also gives users sole control over the data in their 5G network at all times, and they can custom-configure the network for their applications.”
Other scenarios for industrial 5G wireless technology include the integrated use of connected tablets, VR glasses, and smart tools. In addition, edge devices can be used flexibly: for example, in brownfield applications where it’s difficult to lay cables. In contrast to other wireless technologies, private 5G networks use a licensed frequency band and can therefore be operated without interference.
Siemens has developed its 5G infrastructure specifically for the requirements of industrial customers and industrial applications. It consists of a 5G core and a radio access network (RAN). The RAN includes the central unit (CU), the distributed unit (DU), and the radio units (RUs). Different 5G end-devices can connect to the 5G infrastructure and communicate in the private network. The all-in-one 5G solution is also designed for use in harsh industrial environments.
Before the market launch, Siemens extensively tested its private 5G infrastructure in real production environments like at the Siemens production site in Karlsruhe. By implementing and operating the prototype network in its own production facilities, Siemens was able to extensively test and refine the technology, ensuring that it can withstand the requirements of industrial production environments and support industrial applications. The private Siemens 5G infrastructure is now available in Germany, and other countries will follow.
One of the pilot customers for the complete 5G solution is the German steel group Salzgitter AG: “We don’t just want to build any 5G network, we want an industrial 5G that meets the enormous requirements of the steel industry,” says Gerd Baresch, Chief Technology Officer at Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH. “Wherever we need to wirelessly transmit data reliably and securely – from real-time camera images to safety-relevant emergency-stop signals for driverless transport systems – we need future-proof communication technology. Siemens has been a longstanding reliable partner for network solutions, and this is precisely why we decided to work with them.”
Private 5G networks, also known as campus networks, are 5G networks restricted to a defined company premises, a defined area, or an individual building. From Siemens’ point of view, private 5G networks offer many advantages for industry: Companies build them locally at their locations and can precisely modify them to meet their needs and applications. Companies also have full control over their data, because private 5G networks use their own local 5G spectrum. A private 5G infrastructure like the one offered by Siemens is required for building a local 5G network and making the 5G signal available on the company’s premises.
Siemens has been offering industrial 5G routers like the SCALANCE MUM853-1 and MUM856-1 for connecting robots, AGVs, and other industrial devices to a private 5G network since 2021. These routers are the final components necessary for efficient wireless connectivity in industrial environments.
has released a report of a study on connectivity technology and products.
- Contactless connectors slated to deliver increased reliability, durability and design advantages over physical, metal-to-metal contacts
- Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) antennas enable seamless communications between vehicles and infrastructure
- Power required for connected homes will drive innovations in energy management
- Hyperscale data centers built on 224G system architecture will enable unprecedented connectivity in the face of AI-driven data-processing requirements
The report, “Predicting the Connectivity of Tomorrow: Innovations Driving the Connected World,” offers insights into the powers of next-generation connectivity.
“From factory floors and hyperscale data centers to self-driving vehicles and smart, energy-efficient homes, connectivity innovations are shaping our technology future,” said Joe Nelligan, CEO of Molex. “Every step forward requires cross-disciplinary engineering, world-class manufacturing and constant collaboration with customers to push the boundaries of high-speed, high-power connectors. We’re excited to serve as a catalyst in this global push to lead the evolution of connectivity while accelerating the evolution of life-changing solutions.”
Leading-edge connectivity is the cornerstone of new products and solutions found in every industry and application area. To help product designers and engineers prepare for what lies ahead, Molex subject matter experts took a closer look at innovations on the rise.
Contactless connectors use miniaturized radio frequency (RF) transceivers and receivers to enable devices to communicate and exchange data without requiring physical contact between them. They also support much higher data rates than previously possible with existing wireless protocols, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Distinct reliability and durability advantages over physical, metal-to-metal contacts make contactless connectors ideal for video displays, harsh environments, sleek and light consumer electronics, as well as industrial robotics. The pace of development in this area is gaining momentum as companies realize opportunities for streamlined product designs, reduced costs and seamless device pairing.
Ongoing developments in antennas, sensors and connectors are among the most relevant enablers of evolving vehicle-to-everything (V2X) capabilities. Backed by a decade-long roadmap of 5G V2X projects and established industry leadership in shark-fin antenna development, Molex has set a steady pace of innovation in support of self-driving vehicles. Close collaboration with automakers and suppliers is essential to defining optimal antenna placement and performance. Additionally, advancements in non-conductive materials will allow future connected vehicles to incorporate seamless designs without sacrificing connectivity to satellites, Wi-Fi networks and other systems.
Tomorrow’s connected homes will combine Internet of Things (IoT) functionality with battery storage systems to ensure greater control and visibility over energy production and usage. Innovations in energy management, such as mini-inverters for solar panels and smart battery management systems, will improve energy-usage efficiency and control. These storage systems are expected to play a crucial role in the intelligent monitoring and routing of power where it’s needed most. Molex’s continued focus in this area led to the development of the Volfinity Cell Contacting System, which was selected by BMW last Spring for its next-gen electric vehicle (EV) class.
Hyperscale data centers built on 224G system architectures will enable Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help consumers optimize energy consumption while empowering businesses to keep pace with relentless requirements for real-time data processing. The rapid adoption of generative AI is forcing hyperscale data centers to evolve, prompting Molex to pioneer 224 Gbps-PAM4 architecture. Molex’s first-to-market 224G product portfolio offers unparalleled flexibility and scalability, along with superior signal integrity and robust mechanical composition.
If you’ve been around automation for the past 20 years, you’ve no doubt experienced how the job changed from isolated control connected to I/O to one or more field buses to one or more variety of Ethernet. We’ve now experienced the Internet of Things explosion (at least in hype). That latter is mostly Ethernet-based using IP (Internet Protocol).
If you’ve not been careful, you could be working with a mess of networks right now. I received this document of networking tips from networking infrastructure supplier Moxa. I thought it useful to pass along.
Tip One: Achieve Greater Integration with Unified Infrastructure
Over the years, various devices using different protocols have been deployed on industrial networks to provide diverse services. Under these circumstances, network integration usually costs more than expected or becomes more difficult to achieve. Manufacturers can either choose the status quo, that is, maintain their pre-existing isolated automation networks with numerous purpose-built protocols of the past, or seek solutions to deterministic services and that can integrate these “islands of automation” into one unified network.
If the goal is to be ready for future demands, the choice is obviously the latter. The rule of thumb is to take potential industrial protocols into consideration and ensure you can redesign networks in case any new demands arise in the market. One approach is Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN), a set of new standards introduced by the IEEE 802.1 TSN Task Group as an advanced toolbox. With TSN, you can build open, unified networks with standard Ethernet technologies that reserve flexibility for the future.
Tip Two: Enable Anywhere Access with Hassle-free Cloud Services
Cloud-based remote access offers many benefits to IIoT customers, such as reducing the travel time and expenses of sending maintenance engineers to multiple remote sites. Furthermore, cloud-based secure remote access can offer flexible and scalable connections to meet dynamic, fast-changing requirements. However, operational technology (OT) engineers may find it cumbersome to set up and maintain their own cloud servers for new services and applications. Indeed, there is considerable effort associated with setting up new infrastructure, even in the cloud. Fortunately, OEMs and machine builders can now deliver secure cloud-based services and remote access to their customers, therefore eliminating the need to maintain in-house cloud servers.
One key issue that definitely demands scrutiny is the cloud server license scheme. Often, upfront costs may seem low for limited server hosts. Yet these apparent cost savings on server hosts may actually make a project uneconomical due to a limited scale of connections. Second, you may also need to consider central management capabilities in order to flexibly expand remote connections as your needs change. With this said, carefully weigh the costs and benefits of incorporating secure remote access to industrial networks. Always select solutions that minimize hassles and will help deliver more value to customers.
Tip Three: Use Management Software for Better Visibility of Network Status
When complexity increases due to greater connectivity on industrial networks, it can become very difficult to identify the root cause of problems and maintain sufficient network visibility. Control engineers often have to revert to trial and error to get the system back to normal, which is time-consuming and troublesome.
In order to facilitate and manage growing industrial networks, network operators need integrated network management software to make informed decisions throughout network deployment, maintenance, and diagnostics. In addition, as systems continue to grow, it is important that you pay attention to a number of network integration concerns. First, only managing industrial networks in local control centers may not be feasible three or five years from now, especially when existing systems need to be integrated with new ones. It is therefore important to use network management software with integration interfaces, such as OPC DA tags for SCADA system integration or RESTful APIs for external web services. Furthermore, an interface to facilitate third-party software integration is also a key criterion for ensuring future flexibility.
There was a time when I would take information from OPC Foundation and chat with the MQTT people and then return the favor. It was much like being in the midst of a religious war.
My response was (is) that the market will decide. Individual engineers will choose the solution that best fits their needs at the time. If both technologies have sufficient benefit to enough engineers to form a market, then both will survive. I think there is room in the market for both, since they sort of do the same thing, but actually each provides unique benefits.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while since I’ve had so many other things to digest. The impetus came from a couple of directions—OPC Foundation President Stefan Hoppe’s editorial in the June newsletter and from Stacey Higginbotham’s IoT Newsletter recently that discussed edge.
Hoppe wrote, “Still to this day people only think of OPC UA merely as a secure protocol to move information. It is so much more than that. It is a modeling language in cloud applications and digital twins. It is capable of file transport (since 2009). Most people know that OPC UA started as an initiative in the OT world and expanded from the PLC control plane to SCADA and later to MES and ERP. More and more people are realizing that OPC UA via MQTT is the bridge between OT and IT and is able to push information directly into Microsoft and AWS cloud dashboards without the need for an adapter.”
From Data to Data Sources
Stacey Higginbotham writing in Stacey on IoT Bringing AI to the farthest edge requires new computing.
Stacey writes about IoT generally. Most of her topics are commercial/consumer and chips (her reporting background). She does follow the IoT trail into manufacturing at times. In this newsletter she broaches into something I’ve been expounding for a long time, that is, how edge devices have become smarter with better communications. Then the IT world came up with the term Edge, which is, of course everything manufacturing.
We’re in the midst of a computing shift that’s turning the back-and-forth between cloud and edge computing on its head. This new form of computing has been creeping to the forefront for the last few years, driven by digital transformations and complicated connected devices such as cars.
But the more recent hype around AI is providing the richest examples of this shift. And it will ultimately require new forms of computing in more places, changing both how we think about the edge and the types of computing we do there. In short, the rise of AI everywhere will lead to new forms of computing specialized for different aspects of the edge. I’m calling this concept the complex edge.
As part of this shift in computing, we have to become more nuanced about what we mean when we talk about the edge. I like to think of it as a continuum moving from the most compute and power-constrained devices such as sensors to the most powerful servers that happen to be located on premise in a factory. In the middle are devices such as tablets, smartphones, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), and gateways that might handle incoming data from PLCs or sensors.
Moreover, each of these devices along the continuum might run their own AI models and require their own specialized type of computing to compare the data coming into those models. For example, I’ve written about the need for sensors to get smarter and process more information directly.
Smart sensors turn to analog compute
Cameras or image sensors are popular examples of such devices. This vision sensor from Useful Sensors, which can do person detection on a $10 device, runs a simple algorithm that looks for people and counts them. At a higher level, which requires more processing power, sensors from Sony or chips from CEVA are able to detect specific movements, faces, or other options.
A few weeks ago at the Sensors Converge event, a company called Polyn Technology showed off a version of a chip designed to take raw data and quickly convert it into an insight. To quickly process analog signals from the environment (such as vibrations or sound), the Polyn chip uses analog processing to process the signal and then sends the “insight” to another computer for more processing.
We not only have cameras shooting pictures for QA purposes, but also they are streaming video for applications from industrial engineering to surveillance to predictive maintenance. This is a vast amount of data.
We have tools, but we will need more. Chips with built in communication and analytics are a start.
I remember my introduction to industrial “fieldbus” technology that came even before I became an editor with Control Engineering. That was in the 90s. Another indication of the maturity of the automation and control market lies in this announcement from the EtherCat Technology Group.
I love press releases. The writers are not bashful about proclaiming their virtues. I’m sure there are a couple of others who would contest some of the proclamations. But, this network did bring Ethernet early on and works well with motion control more so than some others.
Beckhoff Automation, a pioneer in automation solutions, proudly commemorates the 20th anniversary of EtherCAT, the groundbreaking industrial Ethernet ystem that transformed the world of industrial networking. Since its introduction at Hannover Messe in 2003, EtherCAT has emerged as the leader in speed, flexibility and openness, solidifying its position in the global market through its reliability and continuous technical advancements. Today, EtherCAT remains an open IEC standard and empowers companies across industries to leverage its key technological advantages.
EtherCAT combines the standard Ethernet protocol with the reliability, performance and stability required for industrial communication, delivering significant advantages:
- Fast communication and nanosecond synchronization via distributed clocks
- Reduce CPU loads by up to 30%
- Flexible topology: tree, star, drop, line, circle, etc. – or any combination of these is possible
- Automatic addressing of nodes
- Comprehensive and highly localized diagnostics
- Noise immunity and high bandwidth
- Integrated safety
- No switches are necessary, masters only need an Ethernet port, and sub-devices can use a variety of ESC chips – all of which keep expenses near or less than legacy fieldbus costs.