SPS Drives Trade Fair in Nuremberg Automation News

SPS Drives Trade Fair in Nuremberg Automation News

I will only be at SPS for a few hours this year to check in with old friends and see some of the latest automation goodies. But I’m glad to be there at all. Thank you to Siemens who is sponsoring a press tour that includes a couple of days of intense cybersecurity briefings and workshops.

Oh, and a trip to Allianz Stadium to see the technology and a Bayern Munchen football match.

Some early SPS news:

  • Avnu Alliance Demonstrates New Conformance Test Reference Tool
  • OPC Foundation promises much news plus addition of Rockwell Automation

OPC Foundation

OPC Foundation has sent a couple of emails inviting us to a press briefing at SPS promising much news. I won’t be in Nuremberg on Tuesday, but I’ll catch up with Stefan and Tom for sure on Wednesday.

The mating dance has ended after a few months. Rockwell Automation has rejoined the OPC Foundation and gained a board seat. OPC Foundation has elected Juergen Weinhofer, vice president of common architecture and technology for Rockwell Automation, to its board of directors. Note that Weinhofer is also the Rockwell delegate to the ODVA board.

Weinhofer’s election to the board extends Rockwell Automation’s engagement in the technical work of the OPC Foundation and its technical advisory council.

“OPC UA has become the dominant open protocol for machine-to-software and machine-to-cloud solutions, and it is becoming critical for companies deploying a Connected Enterprise,” Weinhofer said. “I look forward to helping the OPC Foundation become a leader in machine-to-machine applications and helping OPC UA users unlock more value from their production systems.”

This quote is from the OPC news release. We should note that “Connected Enterprise” (capitalized) is the Rockwell Automation theme. I also note while parsing the comment that Rockwell is still firmly fixed in the factory floor area where Weinhofer specifically states “become a leader in machine-to-machine applications.”

“Rockwell Automation is a proven leader in industry standardization and open information technologies,” said Stefan Hoppe, president of the OPC Foundation. “I welcome not just Juergen’s business and political skills on the board but also the increased technical and commercial contribution that the wider Rockwell Automation team will also bring to the foundation.”

Avnu Alliance

Avnu Alliance, an industry consortium enabling open, standards-based deterministic networking, will exhibit at SPS IPC Drives in the University Stuttgart ISW booth. Avnu Alliance, alongside ISW and Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), will showcase the role of conformance test plans, testbeds and test reference tools in ensuring an interoperable ecosystem of Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) devices.

“We are in cooperation with IIC, IEEE, IEC and others in creating an interoperable ecosystem through a common network foundation that stems from industry open standards and testing,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Chair. “The market will continue to require multiple application layer protocols for networked industrial systems. The Avnu Alliance charter is to enable interoperability at the network layer, to ensure ‘One TSN.’ We are the organization focused on providing TSN test plans and reference test architectures to anyone in the industry that wants to test for TSN compatibility.”

As such, Avnu serves to support Fieldbus organizations by providing its TSN conformance tests and procedures to ensure those organizations’ interoperability in the wider Ethernet system.

Leveraging the industry-defined requirements for TSN network interoperability, Avnu ensures there is a universal set of test plans for conformance to guarantee interoperability at the network layer. Avnu has developed a baseline test plan in the industrial market that ensures industrial devices, whether end device, infrastructure component or silicon, conform to the relevant IEEE standards, as well as the industrial automation profile being defined by IEC/IEEE 60802 Joint Project working group.

Starting with Time Synchronization, or 802.1AS as the foundation for all TSN devices, Avnu released the first set of test plans at SPS IPC Drives in 2017. Avnu will soon publish additional conformance test plans for end devices, such as enhancements for scheduled traffic.

At SPS IPC Drives 2018, Avnu Alliance will show a new proof-of-concept (POC) Conformance Test Reference Design that offers a single, streamlined way for vendors to test TSN interoperability. The POC Conformance Test Reference Design is designed to automatically test TSN devices for compliance to 802.1AS. The demonstration features a Linux open-source test tool created by ISW in partnership with Avnu. This tool would also allow other protocol organizations to test application stacks on top of a TSN network in a streamlined way enabling one-stop certification at any test house.

ODVA Industry Conference and Annual Meeting

ODVA Industry Conference and Annual Meeting

The ODVA held its Industry Conference and 19th Annual meeting this week in Atlanta. Perhaps more than the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP), the topic of conversation was Michael—the hurricane. We started getting rain from its outer bands in the late afternoon Wednesday. By the time I awoke at 5:30 am to get ready to catch my flight out, it was all over. Not so fortunate were the millions directly impacted. My prayers go out to them.

I have missed the last two or three of these. It was good to get an update. There was no announcement while I was there, but there were some people from Honeywell Process Solutions present who talked about using EtherNet/IP for process automation applications. These switching industry alignments are fascinating to watch. Foundation Fieldbus seems to have lost momentum recently. Will EtherNet/IP, the CIP network, absorb some of the market share?

A well organized series of speakers started Wednesday morning tech sessions with a quick update from all of the SIGs. There are many volunteers putting out an incredible amount of hours developing and updating the various specifications. I can‘t report on them all here—it would be too deep into the weeds anyway. But let‘s just say that ODVA is alive and well.

As even casual readers here know, I am a fan of Time Sensitive Networking (TSN). Yes, I know that it‘s not ready for prime time, yet. Products are beginning to appear in the market, and interest is building across the industry.

I sat in two sessions focused on TSN and CIP. There is technical work going on. The sessions and ensuing questions laid bare the engineering challenges involved in developing CIP over TSN. It‘s non-trivial, but doable. Some may still question TSN, but I‘m even more bullish.

On another front, work has begun on updating the ODVA product data sheet specifications. This work will eventually provide for more and better information to users.

One Year After Launch, Bluetooth Mesh Adoption Surpasses Expectations

One Year After Launch, Bluetooth Mesh Adoption Surpasses Expectations

Wireless mesh networking has been the source of technology and market battles for years in industrial applications. There is one that’s seldom discussed among engineers in this sector, though—Bluetooth. There exists a Bluetooth mesh standard. It’s been out a year. At this point there are more than 65 Qualified Bluetooth Mesh Products.

The dominant application to date is smart lighting systems. Smart home applications are coming along. The Bluetooth SIG talks of other industrial applications. We’ll have to see what develops. If I were an active engineer, I think I would take a look at possibilities. Bluetooth has some longevity and stability. We all use it with our smart devices. Interesting possibilities.

Following is news from the press release. Bluetooth mesh plays a role in the development of emerging markets such as Smart Building, Smart Industry, Smart Cities, and Smart Home. In the year since the release of Bluetooth mesh, more than 65 products with mesh networking capability have been qualified from leading silicon, stack, component, and end product vendors.

Bluetooth mesh networking enables many-to-many (m:m) device communications and is optimized for creating large-scale device networks. Designed to meet the scalability, reliability, and security requirements of commercial and industrial environments, Bluetooth mesh is powering smart building and smart industry implementations where tens, hundreds, or thousands of devices need to communicate with one another effectively. From factories to hospitals, airports, retail stores, and the home, Bluetooth mesh supports building services that bring real value to owners, operators, and occupants.

“Bluetooth mesh is one of a number of fundamental enablers of future IoT markets, allowing for robust, secure and scalable connectivity across the smart home, commercial building automation, industrial environments, and beyond,” said Stuart Carlaw, Chief Research Officer, ABI Research. “Bluetooth mesh, in conjunction with Bluetooth beacons, can propel these environments towards greater automation, increased sensorization, and enable valuable RTLS services. Nearly 360 million annual Bluetooth Smart Building device shipments are forecasted by 2022.”

Lighting control systems have served as a key use case driving the increase in Bluetooth mesh implementations. A building’s lighting system provides a natural grid through which all devices in a Bluetooth mesh network can pass messages and establish whole-building control, monitoring, and automation systems within a facility. This wireless lighting solution can also function as a platform to enable indoor positioning and location services – including point-of-interest solutions, indoor navigation, asset tracking, and improved space utilization.

“Bluetooth mesh has fundamentally altered the conversation around connected lighting by providing a complete, high-performing solution that allows lighting to serve a greater purpose in industrial and commercial spaces,” Mark Needham, Vice President, European Sales at Fulham Co, Inc. “A lighting system that can both help visitors find their way and allow building operators to pinpoint the location of assets within a building or collect a vast range of data from various building sensors for analysis and utilization is only the beginning of what is possible.”

In one year alone, Bluetooth mesh has paved the way for wireless lighting control solutions and has been a driving force in realizing the concept of lighting as a platform. According to ABI Research, annual commercial smart lighting equipment shipments are expected to increase fivefold by 2022.

“We are really excited about the rapid progress our member companies have made using Bluetooth mesh in just one year,” said Mark Powell, Executive Director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. “The Bluetooth member community dove straight into developing with the new technology, creating a growing list of product innovations that will steer the evolution and direction of commercial and industrial markets for years to come.”

Avnu Alliance and TSN Developments at Hannover Messe

Avnu Alliance and TSN Developments at Hannover Messe

Hannover Messe continues to reflect the trend of companies joining alliances to develop and promote standards and interoperability. While I did not have an interview with the Avnu Alliance while I was in Hannover, I talked with some members and obtained other information. Avnu Alliance promotes adoption of the Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) extension to Ethernet.

Specifically, Avnu Alliance is a community creating an interoperable ecosystem of low-latency, time-synchronized, highly reliable networked devices using open standards. Avnu creates comprehensive certification programs to ensure interoperability of networked devices. The foundational technology enables deterministic synchronized networking based on IEEE Audio Video Bridging (AVB) / Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) base standards. The Alliance, in conjunction with other complimentary standards bodies and alliances, provides a united network foundation for use in professional AV, automotive, industrial control and consumer segments.

The adoption pace of TSN from 2017 to 2018 was amazing.

I always drop by the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) area at Hannover and check out the TSN Testbed for Flexible Manufacturing. The testbed was developed with two major goals – to show TSN’s readiness to accelerate the marketplace; and to show the business value of TSN in converged, deterministic IIoT networks. Momentum is increasing for the testbed, with the IIC hosting its 10th plugfest in an 18-month timeframe at the Bosch Rexroth facility in Frankfurt, Germany and its 9th plugfest, which was held in Austin, TX in February at National Instruments (NI) headquarters following a joint workshop on interoperability with Avnu Alliance. The TSN Testbed recently integrated test tools from Avnu Alliance members, Calnex, Ixia and Spirent into plugfest activities, and demonstrated interoperability of TSN devices from more than 25 companies performing real-time automation and control automation functions over TSN.

Any Avnu Alliance member is welcome to join the IIC TSN Testbed or to participate in a plugfest. Upcoming plugfests will be held in Austin, TX from June 26-29, 2018 and in Stuttgart from July 24-27, 2018.

The Edge Computing Consortium (ECC) along with members and Avnu Alliance, hosted a press conference to announce new developments surrounding the newly created OPC UA TSN testbed. The testbed demonstrates six major IIoT scenarios mimicking processes found in smart manufacturing settings and utilizing products across different TSN vendors. Avnu Alliance is a key partner supporting the development of the testbed with the ECC in the shared goal of enabling manufacturers to test their products for interoperability and conduct trials of real-world systems as an early check for problems.

Tom Weingartner, Avnu Alliance member and Analog Devices’ marketing director for Deterministic Ethernet Technology Group, represented the Alliance at an announcement ceremony.

Paul Didier, Avnu Alliance member and IoT solutions architect, Cisco delivered a talk at the Industrie 4.0 meet the Industrial Internet Forum, in a presentation titled “Time Sensitive Networks – Where does the technology stand and what to expect”. He will provide an update on TSN and how manufacturers, alliances and liaison groups are working together to advance the technology and its implementation in the IIoT.

Paul will present an additional lecture for the Forum on “Modernizing Your Industrial Manufacturing Network”. The presentation will follow the findings coming out of the IIC TSN Testbed and its capabilities, including information on how manufacturing automation and control infrastructure vendors and key decision-makers can leverage TSN for a variety of operational benefits, including increased connectivity between devices and the ability to extract and analyze valuable information through interconnectivity.

“HANNOVER continues to be a key industry event for both Avnu Alliance members and liaison groups that we work with to educate and increase awareness of TSN as a solution for the growing IIoT,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Leader and Chief Marketing Manager at NI. “Whether through the developments coming from the TSN testbeds, speaking engagements or product demonstrations, our members and partners are committed to creating an interoperable TSN network that gives all industrial devices a more streamlined path to participating in the TSN ecosystem.

Perhaps a Case for IT and OT Convergence

Perhaps a Case for IT and OT Convergence

Ever wonder about the need for the elusive IT/OT convergence? Rockwell Automation announces Factory Talk Network Manager software for its Stratix line of managed (Ethernet) switches. Rockwell OEMs switches from Cisco built to its specifications. Cisco builds good equipment, but it is famous in the networking world for somewhat, shall we say, complex management software.

Control engineers and plant-floor technicians who have growing Ethernet networks to connect all this Internet of Things stuff need something that is closer to their language.

By the way, I still have plenty of catching up to do with things I learned both at Hannover (where I spent many hours with Hewlett Packard Enterprise) and the following week at Dell Technologies World in Las Vegas. I’m finally home and getting organized.

This new management software enables engineers and technicians to monitor the health of their Allen-Bradley Stratix managed switches, troubleshoot switch issues, and quickly configure new managed switches all from one easy-to-use software interface.

“Many plant-floor personnel struggle to piece together information about managed switches and devices from different sources,” said Lorenzo Majewski, product manager, Rockwell Automation. “With the FactoryTalk Network Manager software, they can access this information in one collective spot. In addition, real-time alarms and events from network switches can help them conduct faster, more precise troubleshooting.”

FactoryTalk Network Manager software automatically discovers assets, their associated IP addresses, and creates a topology of these connected devices. The software’s intuitive interface offers grouping of equipment along with dashboard information, so users can organize devices into specific areas or analyze them individually.

The software also uses user-created configuration templates to get new switches up and running faster and more efficiently. These templates can be shared across an organization, or with OEMs and system integrators to further ease network deployments, commissions and maintenance efforts.

The FactoryTalk Network Manager software provides role-based access control with auditing capabilities to help track user-specific activities and changes. The software supports multiple protocols, including Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), Common Industrial Protocol (CIP), Modbus, BACnet and PROFINET. Access to the web-based platform is available via a personal computer in a control room or a mobile device on the plant floor.

Time Sensitive Networking or TSN Now Embedded In a Product

Time Sensitive Networking or TSN Now Embedded In a Product

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).

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