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).

Supplementing EtherCAT with TSN for Use in Heterogeneous Networks

Supplementing EtherCAT with TSN for Use in Heterogeneous Networks

Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) defines the future of networking. Most of the specifications have been agreed upon by the IEEE 802 committee, only a few remain to be completed. I have written a White Paper describing OPC UA over TSN for information communication. This corroborates the idea that information is where the new momentum lies within manufacturing and production technologies.

One topic of concern to many regards whether or not TSN will supplant current fieldbus technologies. Indeed, on the surface it appears that TSN can perform most, if not all, of those functions.

Therefore, it behooves the fieldbus groups to figure out how to work with this new technology in order to add value for users.

The EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG) has taken the initiative and supplemented EtherCAT with Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) technologies, expanding the field of possible EtherCAT applications to include heterogeneous network environments. With the help of TSN, industrial controls can contact a number of different EtherCAT segments in real-time through Ethernet networks.

In doing so, no changes to the EtherCAT slave devices are required: the EtherCAT Device Protocol, including all high performance characteristics, is fully preserved. Also expanded by TSN is the EtherCAT Automation Protocol (EAP) for communication between controls, which will result in even more deterministic performance on this level.

The ETG has specified the technology expansion in the form of a profile, which highlights the fact that no changes to the TSN standards are needed. This approach also considerably simplifies the adaptation to the final versions of the TSN technologies, because specification in the IEEE is not yet fully complete.

The ETG has supported the development of TSN from the very beginning through active participation in the IEEE committee, and is coordinating the specifications through a liaison with the IEEE 802.1 Working Group. This ensures that the ETG will also be able to access the IEEE 802.1 specifications that have not yet been adopted. Therefore, the technology can be introduced almost at the same time as TSN.

EtherCAT uses the TSN streams with any data rates for real-time communication above EtherCAT device segments. In the segment itself nothing is changed – the unique performance of the EtherCAT protocol built upon processing on the fly, highly precise synchronization, flexible topology selection, excellent diagnostic capabilities and simplicity through fully automated addressing of devices are all fully preserved. Similarly, the thousands of different EtherCAT devices available worldwide do not need to be modified at all. The stream adaptation feature that connects the EtherCAT segment to the heterogeneous TSN network can be placed either in the last TSN switch or in the first EtherCAT slave device.

Dr. Guido Beckmann, Chairman of the ETG Technical Committee classifies the new specification as such: “The incorporation of TSN standards will significantly improve the real-time characteristics of generic Ethernet. With our technology expansion we make use of TSN in an ideal way, and exactly where TSN can offer significant advantages – in the factory networks. As one frame is sufficient for EtherCAT to communicate with a whole segment, and thus with the entire fieldbus network, EtherCAT is virtually predestined for integration with TSN networks. We achieve this without turning our technology inside out. EtherCAT together with TSN offers the ‘best of both worlds’. Therefore, this prepares EtherCAT for the future perfectly.”

Are Partnerships the Future of Fieldbuses

Are Partnerships the Future of Fieldbuses

I have been wondering about the future of fieldbuses for quite some time. These include Profibus/Profinet, CC-Link, EtherNet/IP (CIP technologies), and even EtherCAT and PowerLink. Even HART, though not technically a fieldbus, fits the application. And the merger of HART’s organization with Foundation Fieldbus hints at the future.

I think that there will continue to be some development work with these technologies, but I also think that the next big advance will be with Time-Sensitive Networking. At some point in the not-to-distant future, TSN with commercially available components, will be the next communications revolution.

In the meantime, we are seeing what I’ve always believed to be the next useful application whether wired or wireless in industrial networking–gateways and connectors. Here is some news I received from the CC-Link Partner Association relating announcements from the SPS show (which I was unable to attend).

This case involves cooperation between the CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) and PROFINET & PROFIBUS International (PI). CLPA unveiled the first working coupler device that implements the CC-Link IE/PROFINET interoperability specification. This will enable easy transmission of information between the two protocols, leading to end users and machine builders benefiting from total transparency between CC-Link IE and PROFINET, the two most prevalent networking protocols in Asia and Europe respectively.

Developed by CLPA and PI partner Hilscher, the unveiling of the device marks another milestone in the on-going cooperation between the two associations. The announcement of the first working coupler on the CLPA stand at SPS/IPC/Drives 2017 less than a year after the completion of the specification underlines the importance that the market ascribes to the cooperation between CLPA and PI.

CLPA-Americas Director Robert Miller comments: “The 2015 fair saw the announcement of the cooperation between CLPA and PI, and at the 2016 fair we announced the completion of the specification to enable seamless integration between the two protocols. Now we have the first operating coupler, demonstrating that CLPA and PI, working with their partners, have delivered on the promise to produce working solutions. Hence the promise of increasing transparency and offering maximum flexibility to end users and machine builders as they operate globally has been realized.”

With the new Hilscher coupler, users can effectively achieve communication between different parts of a line on separate networks, hugely increasing transparency and integration. Hilscher’s NT 151-CCIE-RE coupler transmits data bi-directionally between CC-Link IE and PROFINET, offering simple network integration. The NT 151 works as a CC-Link IE Field Intelligent Device on one side and as a PROFINET IO-Device on the other, allowing both network controllers to communicate with each other. Fundamental mechanisms include a mapping model to map data from both sides, diagnostics for coupler and networks, and a SyCon-based DTM which works as the coupler configuration tool.

Hilscher Business Development Manager Armin Pühringer comments: “The simple bridge between the two networks will dramatically reduce the engineering work that has traditionally been necessary to achieve integration across the heterogeneous network architectures that are a fact of life in numerous plants around the world.”

Pühringer adds: “Hilscher has a long relationship with CC-Link based technologies and PROFINET technologies, and going forward both of these will be essential for our business on a global scale. And by facilitating transparency and ease of integration between these two global leaders we are addressing a primary goal of the transition to Industry 4.0: allowing ever greater connectivity by providing end users with a simple method of achieving interoperability in brownfield applications. And all of this without the effort, cost and complexity of requiring communication architectures to support additional technologies or protocols.”

PI Chairman Karsten Schneider comments: “What CLPA and PI have proven here is that two competing organizations can work together for the good of our users. If you really mean what you say about Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things, then we will need to see more of this sort of collaboration. CLPA and PI are paving the way, with a level of cooperation that has not been seen before.”

Miller concludes: “The cooperation between CLPA and PI really can help many companies make their vision of Industry 4.0 a reality. The introduction of this first coupler from Hilscher gives machine builders and end users the hardware they need to achieve seamless integration. We are also in discussions with other CLPA partners, so we hope the NT 151 marks the start of the arrival of other products onto the market. The delivery of such solutions to meet end user requirements shows just how committed CLPA and PI have been to deliver tangible results from their cooperation, and how partners such as Hilscher have recognized the market opportunity this represents. They also provide ample evidence of the benefits that can be gained when supposedly competing organizations work together to address their users’ needs.”

 

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