A Step Forward for Modular Manufacturing Control

While I see companies that are predominantly American rushing to capture open technology initiatives and make them as proprietary as possible, here is another predominantly German initiative pushing for using standards to move manufacturing technology forward.

This news came to me indirectly from the PI (Profibus and Profinet standards organization). Check it out. Do you find this potentially useful?

What is MTP?

By now, we all know OPC UA is really good at supporting the use-cases for not only horizontal integration like machine to machine, but also vertical integration like device to cloud. Now, most recently, OPC UA is being applied to those industries considered to be process control or hybrid industries with factory automation. 

PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI) is leading the way with a technology called Module Type Package (MTP). For its runtime, MTP applies OPC UA information models to create standardized, non-proprietary, application level descriptions for process automation equipment. OPC UA Client/Server technology is used for communication. Offline engineering utilizes the AutomationML markup language. 

Rather than have every single I/O point controlled by one large distributed control system (DCS), MTP seeks to modularize the process into more manageable pieces. The point is to construct a plant with modular equipment to ease integration and allow for better flexibility should changes be required. With the help of a Process Orchestration Layer (POL), MTP-enabled equipment can “Plug & Operate” reducing the amount of time to commission a process or make changes to that process… pretty cutting-edge stuff.

The POL is the superordinate software into which an MTP file is imported. When an MTP file is imported into the POL, offline service engineering (orchestration) is performed along with communication configuration (OPC UA).  Note: if recipe/batch engineering is applicable, MTP utilizes the ISA 88 standard here. The next step is an Orchestration Test (“Plug”) and then to begin (“Operate”). It is truly “Plug & Operate”.

Why should you care?

MTP files describe Equipment Assemblies. These are individual automated units providing the functionality to realize a step in a process. They have their own mechanical equipment, sensors, actuators, and controller. A great example would be skid integration. Here, an end-user can quickly integrate skids into their plant DCS to reduce engineering effort. The MTP file describing the skid is employed to shorten the time-to-market. According to ZVEI the benefits from first pilot projects can be summarized as follows:

  • Reduce time to market 50%
  • Reduce engineering effort 70%
  • Increase flexibility 80%

M&M Software Releases fdtCONTAINER and Developer Tools Supporting FDT 3.0 

FDT Group’s latest significant release seems to be gaining traction. This release from M&M Software offers a migration path for users and vendors supporting modern intelligent device management and monitoring initiatives.

M&M Software released fdtCONTAINER version 4.8, a point-to-point device configuration tool supporting the latest FDT 3.0 specification to meet user demands for modern intelligent device management and monitoring initiatives. This release also includes updated developer tools which simplify the migration to FDT 3 systems and smart device DTMs for the vendor community.

Smart manufacturing initiatives drive end users and suppliers of industrial automation systems and devices to seek modern and comprehensive device management solutions that use interoperable, efficient, and sustainable plug and play engineering tools. FDT, an IEC 62453 embedded software standard, normalizes device data and communication between any host and device. The standard rooted in the host and device environment provides users a single tool for intelligent device management, operation, diagnosis, and maintenance. The latest FDT 3.0 specification enables a FDT Unified Environment (FDT UE) for IT/OT data-driven operations via authenticated OPC UA, FDT UE and mobile clients.

M&M Software’s FDT UE-ready product line includes:

  • OEM fdtCONTAINER application 4.8 – Free point-to-point device management and configuration tool supporting all DTM generations for users.
  • fdtCONTAINER component 4.0 (aka. FDT UE – Desktop Common Component) – The official component for integrating the FDT 3.0 interface and DTM runtime into an engineering application for system vendors with branded customizations and other value-add features.
  • dtmMANAGER development suite 4.0 – The comprehensive FDT 3.0 DTM development suite provides a simplified environment for device vendors to develop DTM’s allowing vendors to focus on the value-add device model features.

Qualcomm Adds New IoT Solutions

Qualcomm’s product development department has been busy extending the chip-maker’s presence in the smart device market. This news release announces what they term to be next-generation IoT devices. The new devices are Qualcomm QCS8550, Qualcomm QCM8550, Qualcomm® QCS4490 and Qualcomm® QCM4490 Processors.

  • The new Qualcomm QCS8550 and Q/CM8550 Processors combine maximum compute power, extreme edge AI processing, Wi-Fi 7 connectivity, and vivid graphics and video to enable and quickly deploy performance-heavy IoT applications, such as autonomous mobile robots and industrial drones.
  • The Qualcomm QCS4490 and QCM4490 Processors deliver key advanced features such as premium connectivity and next-gen processing to industrial handheld and computing devices. The solutions are equipped with both 5G and Wi-Fi 6E for multi-gigabit speeds, extended range, and low latency, and powerful, efficient processing to handle complex computing tasks. The Qualcomm QCS4490 and QCM4490 Processors are designed with planned support for Android releases through version 18, meaning they can be used in industrial designs through 2030, providing flexibility and longevity for maximizing development time and cost savings.

ODVA Adds Process Profiles to EtherNet/IP

ODVA announced that process device profiles have been added to The EtherNet/IPTM Specification to provide automation practitioners with another critical tool to help optimize plant operations. Process device profiles provide a standard format for process variables and diagnostics across an array of devices for smoother vendor interoperability and easier DCS and PLC data integration from EtherNet/IP-enabled field devices. 

Device profiles are available for Coriolis flow, electromagnetic flow, vortex flow, standard pressure, and scaled pressure devices. Process end users can now take advantage of EtherNet/IP devices with better communication of critical diagnostics such as NAMUR NE 107 status signals, and improved alignment with the Process Automation Device Information Model (PA-DIM).

EtherNet/IP process device profiles are made up of process measurement value objects for variables such as current pressure, level, flow, etc., process totalized value objects that track cumulative data totals such as total flow, and process device diagnostics objects that enable plant operators and maintenance personnel easier access to additional device and process status information. Process device profiles help convert sensor signals and actuator positions into valuable information that enables action to be taken to improve product quality and operational efficiency. Additionally, process device profiles can help evaluate the reliability of the measuring signal and aid in preventing plant shutdowns by identifying premature device failures. 

As an example, the process totalized value object can track total device usage and device health can be inferred from the process measurement value and diagnostics objects. This allows users to shift from time-based maintenance to condition-based maintenance, potentially saving devices from unnecessarily being replaced during plant shutdowns while identifying other devices that are failing prematurely, which can reduce both unnecessary maintenance costs and potential downtime.

The EtherNet/IP process device profiles were designed with additional parameters and modified data types to better align with PA-DIM, which is a joint standard between FieldComm Group, ISA100 WCI, NAMUR, ODVA, OPC Foundation, PI, VDMA, and ZVEI. PA-DIM represents information from process devices in a standardized way for easier access. 

In addition to exposing measurement values and the quality or status of those values, EtherNet/IP process device profiles can also simulate the measurement values. This enables critical safety functions such as partial stroke tests in valves to take place without interfering with the process data. The standard formatting of live process variables, data totals, and diagnostics that process device profiles provide will also increase vendor interoperability for end users given that the information will be the same across EtherNet/IP devices, regardless of vendor.

The addition of process device profiles adds to the process automation capability of EtherNet/IP, including the ability to use the Ethernet-APL physical layer. Ethernet-APL unlocks the advantages of commercially based industrial control hardware, an object-oriented foundation, and standard internet protocol compatibility including TCP/IP, HTTP, FTP, SNMP, and DHCP in process plants. Ethernet-APL is a combination of Single Pair Ethernet (IEEE 802.3cg-2019, 10BASE-T1L), engineered power, Intrinsic Safety (IEC 60079, 2-WISE), and Type A fieldbus cable (IEC 61158-2, for intrinsic safety) that is able to reach 1,000 meter distances and speeds of 10Mbit/s. 

Additionally, EtherNet/IP supports process automation through NE 107 diagnostics, HART integration, and IO-Link integration. Further, ODVA is continuing to expand the EtherNet/IP ecosystem with the next generation of digitized device description files, including FDT, FDI, and xDS, to simplify integration into process asset management tools. Lastly, ODVA has also just released the availability of concurrent connections allowing for failsafe controller redundancy for the most critical of process applications.

“The introduction of process device profiles to EtherNet/IP is another critical step in meeting the full set of requirements of the process industries,” said Dr. Al Beydoun, President and Executive Director of ODVA. “EtherNet/IP process device profiles will help end users operate plants with superior yields, minimal downtime, and reduced costs. Additionally, better integration with PA-DIM will help process automation practitioners have the most valuable diagnostics and process variables available in both the control room and in the cloud to allow for enhanced insights and timely intervention measures for optimization of operations.”

EtherNet/IP process device profiles enable enhanced vendor interoperability, easier access to process variables and critical diagnostics such as NAMUR NE 107 status signals, and more seamless integration with PA-DIM. Additionally, process field device profiles will allow for simpler commissioning and enhanced asset monitoring and integration into higher level PLC, DCS, and cloud-based systems. Visit odva.org to obtain the latest version of The EtherNet/IP Specification including process devices profiles for EtherNet/IP.

Betacom Unveils Private 5G Ecosystem with Private Wireless Networks

Betacom recently talked with me about its new Private 5G Ecosystem. To me the term ecosystem implies a (usually) proprietary software platform where a company hopes to recruit a critical mass of companies to commit. This ecosystem looks more like what I’ve been taught to be more resilient and perhaps useful—loosely coupled. And certainly private 5G networks are finally coming to fruition after a long gestation.

Betacom and its partners, including Google Cloud, Intel, Ingram Micro Inc. and Qualcomm Technologies, are collaborating to design, validate and deploy solutions for a variety of enterprise applications – setting the stage for the next phase of economic and business evolution driven by connectivity, automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning and real-time data. (I apologize for allowing almost every buzz word into the article.)

The partner initiative will help to expedite solutions through open collaboration aimed at building an ecosystem of pre-tested Industrial IoT devices and applications, integrated with mobile edge compute, supported by established system integrators and powered by private 5G.

The ecosystem currently includes 15 companies from across the technology spectrum – each with unique domain and industry expertise. Charter members include: 

  • Industrial IoT Devices:, Axis Communications, Ingram Micro Inc.,  Qualcomm Technologies, SVT Robotics, and Vecna Robotics
  • Applications: ADB SAFEGATE Americas, Evolon,  Ingram Micro Inc., and Solis Energy 
  • Mobile Edge Compute: Google Cloud, Ingram Micro Inc., and Intel
  • System Integrators: CDW,  Ingram Micro Inc., and QuayChain 5GaaS Technology: Airspan, Druid Software, FibroLAN, and Qualcomm Technologies

Deutsche Telekom and T‑Mobile US introduce Network APIs and Joint Developer Platform

More news from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, this one concerning working with telco networks.

In brief:

  • New network Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) will enable developers to build and innovate with telco network capabilities
  • Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile US address global use cases with joint platform and new network APIs
  • First partner: Siemens Energy optimizes user experience for remote maintenance using a Quality-on-Demand (QoD) API
  • Collaboration with Microsoft will make it easier for developers to access the network APIs via Microsoft Azure Programmable Connectivity

Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile US have developed a platform with joint Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) – called T-DevEdge – to make it easy and simple for the global developer community to create new, connected solutions. These APIs will give developers a direct and simplified entryway to connectivity and other core network services on both sides of the Atlantic.

As one of the first, Siemens Energy is using one of the new APIs for Quality-on-Demand to optimize its remote maintenance. Microsoft is the first cloud provider to integrate the new set of network APIs into their cloud platform through the Microsoft Azure Programmable Connectivity Software Development Kit (SDK).

To ensure that global standards for APIs are defined and used, Deutsche Telekom, among others, founded the CAMARA Alliance. The CAMARA initiative consists of network operators, cloud providers, application developers and technology and operating system vendors. The alliance was announced during the MWC in 2022 and has grown up to eleven API families, more than 50 partners and more than 300 people working in the different groups of the community.

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