Industrial Readers—Watch Where IT Is Going

The manufacturing market is finally discovering the cloud in a big way. This reminds me of similar technologies such as Ethernet in 2003 when the market suddenly moved from “we don’t trust it” to “get me more”. Professionals in the industrial market are also testing out “edge-to-cloud” calling it Industrial Internet of Things. OPC Foundation has climbed aboard that train. We’ll see more.

But here is news that HPE has finalized its acquisition of Silver Peak, bolstering its vision of “edge-to-cloud transformation.” This vision goes far deeper and broader than IIoT, although it encompasses that…and more.

HPE announced the acquisition of Silver Peak in July. The deal totaled $925 million and brought Silver Peak into the Aruba business unit. Executives said Silver Peak’s SD-WAN [software-defined wide area network] capabilities would pair well with Aruba’s wired and wireless capabilities.

HPE president and CEO Antonio Neri called WAN transformation a crucial element of his company’s Intelligent Edge and edge-to-cloud strategy.

“Armed with a comprehensive SD-WAN portfolio with the addition of Silver Peak, we will accelerate the delivery of a true distributed cloud model and cloud experience for all apps and data wherever they live,” Neri said.

Keerti Melkote, Aruba founder and HPE’s president of Intelligent Edge, said customers want to increase branch connectivity and secure remote workers. As a result, Aruba launched a software-defined branch (SD-branch) solution in 2018 and revamped it earlier this year.

“By combining Silver Peak’s advanced SD-WAN technology with Aruba’s SD-branch and remote worker solutions, customers can simplify branch office and WAN deployments to empower remote workforces, enable cloud-connected distributed enterprises, and transform business operations without compromise,” Melkote said.

New WAN Business

Silver Peak founder and CEO David Hughes now serves as senior vice president Aruba’s WAN business. He said he looks forward to accelerating “edge-to-cloud transformation initiatives.”

“Digital transformation, cloud-first IT architectures, and the need to support a mobile work-from-anywhere workforce are driving enterprises to rethink the network edge,” Hughes said. “The combination of Silver Peak and Aruba will uniquely enable customers to realize the full transformational promise of these IT megatrends.”

Add Real-time Networks to the Smallest PC-based Devices

Compute platforms are achieving incredible power in very small form factors. I’ve been contemplating where we could go with industrial applications built on Raspberry Pi. Then I saw this note from Hilscher. This is the world where that company plays. Here is a complete industrial communications application on the new M.2 format for PCI Express that adds real-time communications to PC-based systems.

In just a few minutes, you can connect PC-based devices, such IPCs, HMIs and robotics, to Real-Time Ethernet and Fieldbus networks. The comprehensive package has all necessary hardware and software components, including protocol stacks, device drivers and network connectors. The M.2 card can be simply installed in new and existing devices to connect with industrial automation networks on the fly.

PCI Express M.2, briefly named M.2, is smaller than the Mini PCI Express format and was designed for very thin computing platforms like notebooks and tablets. Since its introduction, automation manufacturers of PC-based systems, such as Industrial PCs, vision systems, robotics, and human machine interfaces (HMIs), have integrated M.2 sockets into their devices for one simple reason. The tiny M.2 format allows many add-in functions to be included into their systems in very tight spaces. Now, with this Hilscher offering, M.2 cards can provide real-time automation network connectivity.

M.2 formats come in various widths, lengths, and socket keys. For this first M.2 card release, Hilscher is using the A+E key socket arrangement, as that is the PCI Express specification’s generic form factor for connectivity add-ins, such as WiFi and Bluetooth. The M.2 2230 Key A+E card, with Hilscher product name CIFX M223090AE, is part of Hilscher’s cifX family of PC Cards. cifX PC Cards are intended for easy integration of a network interface and fast time-to-market of the manufacturers’ products and features.

At the heart of the M.2 2230 card is Hilscher’s netX 90 multiprotocol communication chip. M.2 card users can choose among loadable firmware for PROFINET IO-Device, EtherNet/IP Adapter, EtherCAT Slave and OpenModbus/TCP. Available in Q4 2020 is firmware for CC-Link IE Field Basic and Ethernet POWERLINK Slave. The appropriate network connector is included with delivery. There are adapters available from third-party vendors for other key formats, if required by the application. Additional firmware options, more card and key formats, and OPC UA and MQTT functionality will be released in the future.

Other benefits of the netX 90 ASIC include its small size, low power draw, reduced heat waste and extended temperature range. These features make CIFX M223090AE the smallest multiprotocol card in the market, at 22 mm X 30 mm, and allow it to operate in conditions from -20 deg C to +70 deg C. With its low power consumption, the M.2 2230 is ideal for energy saving applications.

Choosing the Hilscher M.2 card allows users to future-proof their designs. Hilscher continuously provides new firmware for Real-Time Ethernet, traditional Fieldbus and IIoT protocols. Besides a wide range of industrial protocols, Hilscher also provides device drivers for all major operating systems used in the industrial environment, including Windows, Linux, INtime, RTX, and QNX, as well as a C Toolkit for custom device drivers.

Sparkplug: Open Source Technology to Bridge the OT-IT Gap

Many engineers are looking for better ways to move data with fewer programming hours and headaches. Whereas OPC solved many problems leading to interoperability and data exchange, it also brings with it a higher overhead and programming load. For those searching for a something lighter, and also open source, along comes Sparkplug.

Cirrus Link authored the Sparkplug specification and provided it to the Eclipse Foundation, and several other companies support the group as founding members including Chevron, Canary Labs, HiveMQ, Inductive Automation, and ORing. Now additional companies are developing their products using Sparkplug for interoperability.

I recently received a paper authored by Arlen Nipper, president and CTO of Cirrus Link “Sparkplug: Open Source Technology to Bridge the OT-IT Gap”. He begins:

One of the primary pain points in Industrial IoT (IIoT) is disparate systems with both modern and legacy assets. Companies in any industry ranging from oil and gas to manufacturing can hardly imagine a world where they can choose any vendor’s hardware, plug it into their network, and have the hardware 100 percent self-discovered by their SCADA system and every application in the enterprise. True vendor interoperability for both data producers and data consumers is the vision, and new open-source technology may be the answer.

These days, everything relates back to digital transformation. Nipper write, Digital transformation requires devices in the field to be connected, with data made available that can speak the language of both OT and IT for improved business intelligence. In order for this type of digital transformation to be successful, data must be decoupled from a single application so it can flow to enterprise applications in a one-to-many approach.

From the first time I met Nipper, he has evangelized MQTT—a protocol he helped write—as an IT-friendly messaging protocol. It is lightweight. It is a publish-subscribe network protocol allowing for multiple data consumers.

MQTT is a messaging protocol. It does not describe the data traversing the wire (or air). While it provides an excellent engine for delivering IIoT data, MQTT doesn’t make the data interoperable across the enterprise. Thus, a new open source standard has been created and the IIoT industry should understand its importance for bridging the gap from OT to IT.

Nipper explains the next step:

The Internet expanded rapidly thanks to two open technologies – first HTTP, a data exchange protocol, and then HTML, which was used to define the data sent by HTTP. Both were needed. MQTT has needed its “HTML” for years in order for IIoT to explode in growth and adoption. In order to solve this problem of OT-IT interoperability, the Eclipse Sparkplug working group was launched in February 2020 to bring device communications standardization to IIoT.

The Eclipse Foundation states, “The Sparkplug Working Group was established to ‘improve the interoperability and scalability of IIoT solutions, and provide an overall framework for supporting Industry 4.0 for oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, smart cities, and other related industries.’ ”

Sparkplug is an open source software specification that provides MQTT clients with a framework to integrate data. The specification articulates three goals:

1. Define an MQTT Topic Namespace optimized for IIoT.

2. Define MQTT State Management to take advantage of continuous session awareness.

3. Define the MQTT Payload.

Sparkplug adds features including birth certificate and death certificate (session awareness) to help with contextualization of data.

Sparkplug makes this process fast, secure, and open standard so anyone can make use of the framework for MQTT interoperability. Many device manufacturers are supporting Sparkplug, which means it is built in natively on the device on the OT floor.

Nipper concludes:

With Sparkplug, machine learning and artificial intelligence applications can utilize the same standard interface for data without having to know and understand the entire OT environment. They can subscribe to the OT data, and use it immediately for IT functions.

Harting A Partner for Industry 4.0 and IioT

Once again, in lieu of attending Hannover Messe in person, we attended a Web briefing. Harting held this one last week. I picked deeper information about a couple of technologies—especially “single-pair Ethernet (SPE).” It’s hard to do a complete Industrial Internet of Things (IioT) installation without connectors, cables, and the like. Harting has been a leader in this field.

“The industrial arena is undergoing far-reaching change: For Harting, this transformation means leveraging our key technologies and entering into targeted partnerships in order to pool skills and competencies capable of creating new solutions within the framework of our entire technology network,” explained Philip Harting, CEO Harting Technology Group. “Our ultimate goal here is to develop these solutions in larger contexts and create ecosystems that generate significant added value for our customers.”

Small Ethernet Infrastructures

Evolution of the Ethernet connector. Harting turned the RJ45 into the “RJ Industrial”, created modular M12 interfaces with X-coding and PushPull locking, and set the next major milestone in Industrial Ethernet with the miniaturized “ix Industrial interface” – which is 70% smaller than an RJ45, yet significantly more robust. ix Industrial is one of the most important components in the Harting solution portfolio for its All for Ethernet segment.

For more information, check out our Industrial Ethernet Trends 2020 webinar series.

Industrial standard interface for SPE

Users can now make investments with a reassuring measure of security: IEC 63171-6, published on 23 January 2020, sets the basis for future IIoT networks. The international standards bodies ISO/IEC and TIA have declared the IEC 63171-6 interface as the standard for SPE in industrial applications. On this foundation, a comprehensive portfolio for the Single Pair Ethernet market is now emerging.

SPE Industrial Partner Network grows to 20 members

Last year saw the foundation of the bhttps://www.single-pair-ethernet.com. As a registered association, the Network is more than just a loose association of companies with shared interests – it is a strong, legally binding community of partners. Consequently, it provides the security required to implement this new physical layer. All the companies in the network are technology leaders in their own right; between them, they specialise in the various fields needed to strengthen and complete the SPE ecosystem. The common, unifying basis of their work is the international standardisation for SPE infrastructure in accordance with IEC 11801-x, IEEE 802.3 and IEC 63171-6. In the space of just a few months, numerous strong partner companies from various fields of industrial production have expressed their support for IEC 63171-6 and joined the SPE Industrial Partner Network.

Han S: Safe contacting of modular energy storage systems

In Han S, Harting is – for the first time – introducing a special connector for battery storage modules. Global demand for electricity storage systems is booming. The new series meets the technical requirements of the latest standards for stationary energy storage systems (including UL 4128) and offers users optimum safety for the connected units. The single-pole connector solution with a 200A high-current contact is mechanically coded, is coloured red and black for easy identification, and locks intuitively. In this way, Han S enables fast, reliable contacting of storage modules and enables the processing of large volumes.

Han 1A: Miniaturised rectangular connector ideal for networking

The Ethernet networks sensors, machines, controllers, computers and data centres. Harting is now offering interfaces tailored to these applications as part of the miniaturized Han 1A industrial connector series.

The Han 1A features two new inserts for fast and secure data transmission. This can be used to supply end devices with up to 100 Mbit/s Cat. 5 Fast Ethernet for Profinet-based communication; a 10 Gbit/s, Cat. 6A version for High-Speed Ethernet is also available. The latter is used for live camera system applications.

High-performance switch with robust ix Industrial Interface

Imaging processes are becoming increasingly important for quality assurance and monitoring in all industry sectors. New camera technologies offer higher resolution despite their increasingly compact dimensions.

The new eCon 2000GX-I-A unmanaged Ethernet switches from Harting are high-performance Gigabit switches, enabling consistent networking of machine-monitoring and diagnostic systems via ix Industrial.

Focus on user-optimised DC power transmission

One current trend – particularly challenging from a technical perspective – lies in the field of DC power transmission, where demand is forecast to rise sharply. To equip the field of application with the appropriate installation technology, Harting is promoting technology concepts that offer increased personal and plant protection. A novel connector for industrial applications transmits voltages of up to 800V and currents of up to 40A and cannot be removed when under load. In addition to the DC Industries working groups, Harting is also engaged in the activities of the German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies (DKE) geared to drafting new standards. The project is based on cooperation with the SmartFactory KL.

Software solutions for cloud and edge: Partnership with PerFact

Harting are keenly focused on establishing optimal connections between the field level and software solutions in cloud and edge computing. Harting RFID solutions, digital twin, and the MICA edge computing gateway operate at this interface. What’s more, intelligent sensor technology solutions – which ensure seamless data exchange within networks – are also becoming increasingly important.

The partnership with PerFact, which Harting announced at the SPS trade fair in Nuremberg in November 2019, will be expanded in the field of software. PerFact develops customisable modules for servicing, maintenance, logistics and process management as IT solutions for industry.

“The market environment of the MICA edge computer, RFID, and IIoT is developing at an incredibly fast pace. Rapid, agile and entrepreneurial action is imperative,“ emphasized Philip Harting. In this context, the three companies peraMIC, PerFact, and Perinet will be advancing solutions in the field of digitalisation and will be cooperating closely with the Harting Technology Group.

PerFact develops individual, customization modules for service and maintenance, logistics, and process management as IT solutions for industrial clients. Perinet (Berlin) concentrates on the seamless connection of sensors and actuators with IT systems (ERP, for example), in order to improve the transparency and analytical performance throughout the value creation chain.

Secure Remote Service for the IIoT Age

The age of the Industrial Internet of Things opens a better pathway for OEMs to provide enhanced remote service. However, words such as “Internet” and “remote” conjure visions of cybersecurity holes in the minds of IT professionals.

It seems as if every few months for years as I scanned my contact list looking for someone, I’d see the card for Spencer Cramer, founder and CEO of ei3 and wonder what he was up to. Then a couple of weeks ago I heard from Mark Fondl, an industry friend over many years, who told me I needed to talk with Cramer and he set up a call.

ei3 has been busy over the years. Its technology can be found in more than 5,000 factories connecting to more than 20,000 machines. Typical installation is through the machine OEM giving them a secure channel into the machines they’ve sold. Cramer tells me they call it “secured remote services.”

Without diving into specifics, the gist of the service is allowing only a single point of entry through the corporate firewall. Consolidating all OT connections through a single point make IT happier. Meanwhile, the operations technology people—engineers, maintenance, operators—are able to control connections to equipment. It’s a way of creating happiness for both sides of the famous IT/OT divide.

Then I got the news that ei3 announces next phase of European expansion by completing acquisition of Copenhagen-based NextIOT. With two bases in Europe, ei3 is able to address strong demand for IIoT services in Europe with growing onshore, multilingual team

As part of the acquisition, NextIOT is being renamed “ei3 Denmark ApS” and will join ei3’s existing Switzerland-based data science team as ei3’s European operations.

By acquiring NextIOT ei3 is now able to expand its sales and marketing activities to serve the growing number of European clients from an onshore location and support them with a multilingual growing workforce. The ei3 solution of guiding OEMs of any size along their journey towards digitization and the practical adoption of IIoT with limited investment and instant ROI remains the same. Recent events have once again proven the value of remote access and remote service, though the full value of IIoT clearly goes beyond that.

“ei3 is the best choice for OEMs who want to provide secure remote service and support, which has now become more critical than ever. The safety of technicians and plant workers is increased by using remote service,” says Spencer Cramer, Founder and CEO of ei3. “In the coming months, we will be rolling out a new product called Essential that will allow a secure and free method for data collection to enable quick adoption of the IIoT technology. We are happy to complete this acquisition as it brings us closer to our European customer base. Especially in this trying time where the need for properly architected, secure, remote service is so critical.”

ei3 provides an end-to-end IoT solution starting from edge device to secure private cloud to robust web-based apps to powerful and practical predictive maintenance tools. Earlier this year, ei3 announced that the solution has now been decoupled from the hardware and can be deployed separately. This gives ei3 customers the freedom and flexibility to choose where and how their data is managed.

“We look forward to working closely with our new colleagues in Copenhagen to deliver on the benefits of Industry 4.0 and Artificial Intelligence,” says Dr. Stefan Hild, Managing Director ei3 Europe.

ODVA Hannover Report, Busy Year For Partnerships and IIoT

ODVA held its annual Hannover Messe press conference today (April 20), however, we all sat at desks in our homes to attend this year. ODVA looks forward to in-person meetings at SPS in November and at Hannover in April 2021. Working with other organizations and enhancing IIoT capabilities.

In brief:

  • ODVA LOOKS TO THE FUTURE AT ITS 20TH ANNUAL MEETING OF MEMBERS
  • OPC UA COMPANION SPECIFICATION TO BE DEVELOPED FOR CIP 
  • ETHERNET/IP Enhanced to further address industry 4.0 and IIoT
  • ODVA ENTERS INTO AGREEMENTS WITH FDT AND FIELDCOMM GROUP AND CONTINUES XDS DEVELOPMENT TO EXPAND ETHERNET/IP TECHNOLOGY ECOSYSTEM

Specifics from the press releases and comments in the conference:

ODVA LOOKS TO THE FUTURE AT ITS 20TH ANNUAL MEETING OF MEMBERS

ODVA held its 20th Annual Meeting of Members in Palm Harbor, Florida, USA on March 5, 2020. With over 120 industry professionals from over 50 companies in attendance, highlights of the Annual Meeting included a panel discussion titled “Can 5G and WiFi 6 Deliver on the Factory Floor?”, a keynote speech from Amazon Web Services titled “The Effect of Digital Transformation on the Industrial Automation Product Ecosystem at the Edge and Beyond,” and an update from the organization’s leadership on the strength of and opportunities for ODVA as a whole.  

Notable topics covered at the conference included Network Diagnostics, TSN, OPC UA, Constrained Devices, Ethernet-APL, FDI packages, and PA-DIM.

The leadership for the organization was elected and announced at the Annual Meeting. ODVA’s Board of Directors has top level responsibility for strategic planning and governance and is composed of senior executives from major industrial automation device and system vendors across the globe. In the 21st term, ODVA’s Board of Directors are:  

  • Dr. Rolf Birkhofer, managing director of Endress+Hauser Process Solutions for Endress+Hauser
  • Mr. Satoshi Kojima, general manager of network product management group, controller division for OMRON
  • Mr. David Lagerstrom, president and CEO of Turck USA for Hans Turck Company
  • Mr. Raja Ramana Macha, senior vice president for innovation and technology and CTO, industrial automation for Schneider Electric
  • Mr. Samuel Pasquier, senior director of product management for IoT industrial networking and security for Cisco Systems
  • Mr. Thomas Petersen, senior director of fieldbus and system integration for Danfoss
  • Mr. Brian Reynolds, senior director of engineering, projects and automation solutions for Honeywell
  • Dr. Jürgen Weinhofer, vice-president of common architecture and technology for Rockwell Automation 

The corporate leadership of the organization collectively defines and executes the strategic plan, oversees development and publication of technology and specifications, and is responsible for governance of the organization. In the 21st term, ODVA’s corporate officers are:  

  • Dr. Al Beydoun, President & Executive Director
  • Mr. Joakim Wiberg, Chief Technology Officer
  • Ms. Adrienne Meyer, Vice President of Operations and Membership 
  • Mr. Christopher Lynch, Corporate Secretary
  • Dr. Jürgen Weinhofer, Treasurer

ODVA’s Technical Review Board (TRB) oversees the development of technology and standards for the organization including approval of technology enhancements for inclusion in the ODVA specifications which encompass the Common Industrial Protocol or “CIP” and its network adaptations of CIP – including EtherNet/IP and DeviceNet. In its 21st term, ODVA’s TRB representatives are:

  • Mr. Joakim Wiberg, Chairman, of HMS Industrial Networks
  • Mr. Raj Bandekar of Honeywell
  • Mr. Rudy Belliardi of Schneider Electric
  • Mr. Mirko Brcic of Endress+Hauser
  • Mr. Paul Didier of Cisco Systems
  • Mr. Gregory Majcher of Rockwell Automation
  • Mr. Shinji Murayama of Omron
  • Ms. Roxana Sudrijan of Molex

OPC UA COMPANION SPECIFICATION TO BE DEVELOPED FOR CIP 

ODVA has launched a joint working group with the OPC Foundation to develop an OPC UA companion specification to the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP). The collaboration between ODVA and the OPC Foundation will result in reliable, secure communications between devices that are a part of a CIP-enabled Industrial Control System (ICS) and other OPC UA enabled applications allowing communication between CIP devices and OPC UA devices as well as with cloud and enterprise level services. Common tasks required for cloud gateway appliance management will be enabled, and CIP devices will have unimpeded access to leading cloud services. The OPC UA companion specification will address the challenge of moving industrial communication and control data from the factory floor to the cloud via gateways. “Connecting manufacturing process and control data from EtherNet/IP devices to OPC UA servers will enable valuable factory floor information to be made available at the edge and beyond for enterprise wide analysis,” stated Dr. Al Beydoun, President and Executive Director at ODVA. 

The OPC UA companion specification will map CIP objects to the appropriate OPC UA information models and profiles and vice-versa. Sending data to and from the cloud from EtherNet/IP to OPC UA will be accomplished by providing useful information including discovery, identity, diagnostics, status, parameter and much more from CIP devices. Allowing critical automation information to be easily transferred from EtherNet/IP to OPC UA will lower the effort required to enable access from higher level systems, such as Analytics, ERP, or MES. The OPC UA companion specification to CIP will ensure that data will be available to Enterprise and IT systems with proper context and semantics (i.e. meaning) for quick trend analysis and insight generation. 

A joint working group, composed of members of ODVA and the OPC Foundation, will work to identify critical device to cloud use cases, such as tying warranty costs back to production variations, that will drive the scope of the work to be done. In parallel work to the joint development of the OPC UA companion specification to CIP, CIP and EtherNet/IP will be enhanced by ODVA SIGs, as needed, to ensure that all of the pertinent data is able to be understood by OPC UA without any additional work needed by end users. “The time is right for the OPC UA Companion Specification to CIP to ensure that EtherNet/IP is prepared to meet the requirements of Industry 4.0 and IIoT,” stated Dr. Al Beydoun, President and Executive Director at ODVA. 

ETHERNET/IP Enhanced to further address industry 4.0 and IIoT

The latest enhancements to The EtherNet/IP Specification provide improved network diagnostics, new methods to lower bandwidth and resource requirements for devices, and the addition of IIoT building block infrastructure. “EtherNet/IP’s continued leadership in the industrial communication space will be assured by adding new tools to manage the network, removing roadblocks to adding EtherNet/IP to the simplest of devices, and preparing for TSN with LLDP,” stated Dr. Al Beydoun, President and Executive Director at ODVA.

In addition to the recent enhancements to EtherNet/IP to allow users to obtain device diagnostics pursuant to the NE107 standard, ODVA has enhanced EtherNet/IP further to provide overall system diagnostics. The additional EtherNet/IP system diagnostics will enable a better understanding of the number of connections, resource usage, the number of Ethernet errors, missed packets, and overall CPU utilization. A common, scalable network diagnostic assembly definition for diagnostic connection points defined by other objects will enable these new statistics to help assist in network troubleshooting. Additionally, new provisions for aggregation of multiple I/O connections will provide a mechanism to multiplex many individual connections into one, which will significantly reduce network bandwidth. Runtime reconfiguration will be seamless and efficiency will be improved across the board, especially in instances where IO-Link or HART translation or modular I/O is utilized.

Updates to allow for constrained devices running on EtherNet/IP will enable UDP-only device communication with the goal of lowering resource and hardware requirements. Constrained devices are anticipated to significantly lower the cost barrier thereby further strengthening the business case to add EtherNet/IP to in-cabinet, small sensors, and other simple devices. Ethernet will be possible all the way to edge devices, including use of Single Pair Ethernet (10BASE-T1S), enabling end to end IIoT communication. EtherNet/IP, including CIP Security, has been enhanced to include constrained device definitions. Furthermore, the addition of the option to use Link Layer Discovery Protocol (LLDP) will enable nodes and infrastructure to detect other devices in near proximity, and for the physical network topology to be discovered and visualized. As a required component for TSN, the addition of LLDP lays the groundwork for easier adoption of TSN into the EtherNet/IP Specification. Along with existing network extensions, the TSN standards for sending time critical data via industrial Ethernet will be an option to meet the needs of high determinism applications, to add network design options, and to plan for the significant future increases in data traffic brought about by IT and OT convergence.

The latest enhancements to the EtherNet/IP Specificationare enabling enhanced understanding and therefore performance of the broader network, driving EtherNet/IP down to the lowest capacity devices through reducing resource requirements, and are laying the foundation for TSN. ODVA is continuing to drive the advancement of EtherNet/IP to meet the evolving requirements of IIoT and Industry 4.0 to meet the needs of CIP technology users both today and tomorrow. 

ODVA ENTERS INTO AGREEMENTS WITH FDT AND FIELDCOMM GROUP AND CONTINUES XDS DEVELOPMENT TO EXPAND ETHERNET/IP TECHNOLOGY ECOSYSTEM

ODVA  has entered into separate agreements to further integrate FDT and FDI technologies into EtherNeat/IP. Additional device description work on the next generation xDS for CIP devices also continues to move forward.  “ODVA is committed to making EtherNet/IP a best in class communication network for both the discrete and process industries and this is another significant step in that journey” said Dr. Al Beydoun, President and Executive Director of ODVA.

Joint ODVA and FDT Group activities are underway to develop an FDT communications annex to support the ODVA Common Industrial Protocol (“CIP”) on the new FDT 3.0/FITS (“FITS”) platform. The FDT Group has agreed to form an annex project group to develop a communications annex for FITS to support CIP based networks such as EtherNet/IP. FITS extends the client server / architecture concept that was available in FDT2 to now enable full access via the edge, the cloud, the Web and OPC UA. FITS is platform independent through the use of an open .NET Core as well as HTML 5 and JavaScript. 

FDT technology standardizes the configuration interface between field devices and control systems, independent of communication protocol, allowing streamlined access to device parameters.  When FITS is used with CIP and network adaptations such as EtherNet/IP, the resulting system provides users with a feature-rich interoperable environment for commissioning, control, and diagnostics. FITS also extends the interoperability of CIP Networks with other network technologies by enabling the development of network independent common software tools.

Separately, members of ODVA and the Fieldcomm Group (FCG) are working together to enhance the FDI Package Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and FDI Host Components to support EtherNet/IP. The goal is to allow EtherNet/IP to work more efficiently and seamlessly with FDI technology for the benefit of implementers. The FDI Device Package IDE makes writing, running and testing FDI Device Packages easier and more efficient by providing the tools for industrial communication devices across multiple communication protocols in one application. 

With easier creation of FDI Device Packages for vendors, more end users will see significant improvement in configuration, commissioning, diagnosis, and calibration as more EtherNet/IP devices support FDI. Control systems, configurators, and asset management software that supports FDI will be able to take advantage of EtherNet/IP devices with FDI Device Packages. The inclusion of FDI Device Packages improves the interoperability and lowers the commissioning burden on end users for EtherNet/IP devices.

ODVA is also engaged in another device configuration enhancement effort via a Special Interest Group (SIG) that is making progress on a new specification for the next generation of digitized descriptions for EtherNet/IP device data, known as xDS. xDS will allow for workflow-driven device description files for device integration such as network and security configuration and digitized business models such as digital twins and cloud-based analytics. In addition to the specification efforts, ODVA is working on tools to simplify development of xDS device description files and their consumption by device integration tools, as well as conformance tests for xDS files.

The xDS device description for CIP devices will ultimately serve as a replacement for EDS files. xDS will enable the use of a wide array of tools and systems for both the process and discrete industries using established technologies. The rich information from the xDS customized device information file can be exposed to both FITS and FDI Device Packages. The work on xDS along with the activities outlined with the FDT Group and FCG ensures ODVA is in alignment with the next generation of value-added user interface, business logic, and device information technologies. ODVA’s partnership with FDT and FCG will ensure that both vendors and end users have the desired solutions and options to best meet their needs.  

ODVA is continuing to enhance EtherNet/IP to best meet the needs of industrial automation customers across the spectrum of vertical markets. These joint efforts with the FDT Group and FCG along with the xDS specification enhancement work are a part of the expansion of the EtherNet/IP technology ecosystem which will result in improving the experience of both device vendors and end users as well as to prepare for a future driven by Industry 4.0 and IIoT. The joint efforts between ODVA and the FDT Group and between ODVA and FCG will both benefit from the robust CIP information model presented by xDS.