Monitoring Methane Emissions

Sustainablility talk has been a focus everywhere I have been this past month. Companies are diligently working on technologies to reduce emissions, capture carbon, improve batteries, recycle plastic, and more. Corporately this makes sense from a public relations and investor relations point of view. But also these problems  are also waste. And we Lean aficionados hate waste.

One solution I heard a couple of times was methane leak detection. This solution comes from ABB using optical sensors mounted in a satellite. 

GHGSat equips its existing satellite constellation with three more ABB-built optical sensors, increasing the frequency of observations and capacity to precisely pinpoint the source of methane emissions

ABB-built methane detection optical sensors can map industrial emissions from space at a resolution of 100 times higher than comparable technologies currently in operation 

Monitoring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from space supports meeting the world’s climate change targets

Canadian company GHGSat, which specializes in high-resolution GHG monitoring from space, launches three new ABB-built optical sensors into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, doubling capacity to monitor methane gas emissions.

With ABB’s technology, the GHGSat team is able to precisely locate and measure methane emissions from any given industrial site on earth. The launch of three new ABB-built high-resolution methane sensors doubles the company’s capacity to monitor customer sites. In addition to the three units being launched – Luca, Penny and Diako – six additional units are under fabrication at ABB.  

According to the International Energy Agency, methane is responsible for around 30 percent of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, and rapid and sustained reductions in methane emissions are key to limiting near-term global warming and improving air quality.


Aluminum Pneumatic Tubing For Welding Cells

Aluminum Pneumatic Tubing for Welding Cells

Pneumatic technology resides a bit outside my area of expertise. However, every time I run across something from Festo my curiosity is aroused. I have seen some of the most fascinating demonstrations during my visits. This news involves using aluminum tubing in welding cells for spatter resistance.

Festo announces that its PM aluminum pneumatic tubing offers a weld-spatter resistant solution in welding cells that by every consideration outperforms both laminated and steel pneumatic tubing. Festo PM tubing is ideal for new welding cells as well as for cost-and-time efficient retrofit solutions for existing systems.

PM aluminum tubing can be located closer to the welding process than laminated tubing, creating a more efficient pneumatic setup without the worry of burn through. There are no clearance issues with PM tubing as it has a nominal outside diameter, unlike some laminated options. PM tubing is designed for standard pneumatic push connectors right out of the box, while laminated tubing typically needs specialized tools and/or oversized connectors that require technicians to strip away the lamination in order to use standard connectors. Once formed, PM tubing holds its shape and stays in place without the need for additional clips and tie downs.

In comparison with steel tubing, the Festo aluminum solution is significantly less costly. Steel requires specialized tools to bend the tubing, but PM tubing is easily formed by hand to fit the contours of the welding system. 

Sodecia is an early adopter of PM tubing 

Sodecia is a global Tier 1 supplier of structural components to the automotive industry. Based in London, Ontario, Canada, Sodecia GTAC designs, builds, and provides training for its production cells, with MIG welding cells forming a core competency. Sodecia constantly researches product solutions that provide improved efficiencies. 

“Festo’s PM aluminum tubing is an example of this constant improvement,” said Robert Remillard, Sodecia GTAC Engineering Manager. “We’ve found Festo’s PM tubing to be the best possible solution for our cells, maintaining all the benefits of conventional tubing with the added advantages of flame resistance and significant cost and time reduction.”

Remillard went on to reiterate the reasons PM pneumatic tubing improved upon past solutions:

• Inherently resistant to high temperatures

• Less bulky 

• No specialized tooling and connectors required

• Profiled by hand

• Inserted or removed from connectors multiple times without degradation of a tight, leak-free seal 

• Retains its shape for quick reinstall

• No need for multiple anchor points.

DHL Increases Productivity With Robotic Sortation

The invitation came from DHL to view a robotic sortation demonstration. I’m thinking that robots and DHL, the delivery service, had to be a non sequitur. I was wrong. What DHL and partners were doing with robotics was fascinating.

DHL eCommerce Solutions, a division of the world’s leading logistics company, Deutsche Post DHL (DPDHL) Group, has conducted a successful year piloting two DoraSorter robotic systems in its Atlanta distribution center. The robotic sortation systems are one of the projects that are part of the company’s USD$100 million five-year automation investment plan.

“With a near zero error rate and packages sorted on average in 3.6 seconds, our robotic arm pilot at DHL eCommerce Solutions has increased our efficiency, speed and streamlined our processes,” said Scott Ashbaugh, VP of Operations, DHL eCommerce Solutions, Americas. “It has also allowed our employees to focus on other non-repetitive tasks, and for some, it has provided new skills to work with robotic arms and automation.” 

DHL eCommerce Solutions has partnered with Atlanta-based Dorabot, an AI-powered robotic solutions provider for logistics, e-commerce, supply chain, consumer goods and other industries. DHL adopted two DoraSorter robotic systems with separate configurations: Sort-to-Bag and Sort-to-Gaylord. These configurations are each capable of sorting more than 1,000 parcels and packages per hour weighing up to 15 lbs. (6.8 kg) with a near zero error rate. The DoraSorters are equipped with 3D and barcode cameras to scan the package, informing the robotic arm about the package’s location and which bag or container is the targeted destination.

Using the Sort-to-Bag configuration, the robotic sortation system receives parcels and packages from the facility’s primary sorter and distributes them to 80 separate final mile zip code destinations. This system produces an 80% increase in labor efficiency.

The Sort-to-Gaylord solution has a proprietary drawer-shaped conveyor belt end effector that enables a wide assortment of parcels to be sorted and placed in Gaylord containers. Currently, the system in Atlanta sorts to 20 separate 60” tall Gaylord containers with a practically perfect sorting accuracy.

“The Dorabot deployments in DHL eCommerce Solutions is a winning example of the effective collaboration between the business unit and the DHL Innovation Center,” says Ben Perlson, Robotics and Automation Lead with DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. “The Innovation Center team supports operations by maintaining a pipeline of advanced technology solutions and strategic partners to continuously create new value through innovation and deliver greater service levels for our customers.”

“The DoraSorters are essentially like owning power tools that allow DHL eCommerce Solutions to improve the output by a factor up to four and perform important tasks with greater efficiency, ” says Spencer Deng, CEO of Dorabot. “As a robotic solutions provider, this is what we have been working on constantly – to deliver impactful results to our partners.”

In June 2021, DHL eCommerce Solutions’ sister division DHL Express announced the deployment of its first Dorabot AI-powered robotic sortation system at one of its service centers based in Miami, FL.

NI Introduces Data and Radar Technologies at NI Week

There was an invitation to join NI Week that was held a couple of weeks ago, but I chose to attend another conference. I can’t get to all the places I’m invited even though I’d love to be there. I am not NI’s target audience exactly, but many things it does fits here. I’ve included two products that look interesting.

Radar Target Generation System to Tackle Complexity and Cost

NI announced its newest PXI Vector Signal Transceiver (VTS) Radar Target Generation (RTG) system, which unlocks closed-loop, low-latency, real-time radar test capabilities. The new PXI VST allows engineers to identify and isolate issues before costly open-air range tests, increasing user confidence in radar system performance with accurately calibrated radio frequency (RF) test capability. 

Today, radar test engineers must test realistic scenarios to fully evaluate system-level performance. However, modern radar and their operating environments make adequate test coverage through simulation a complex challenge. Additionally, the application-specific nature of radar systems means test requirements can vary widely from system to system. To meet these nuanced challenges, NI developed the VTS RTG system, which injects independent targets into radar systems during productions tests. This allows users to validate the system performance and provide a final functional check before open deployment. Built on standard, off-the-shelf RF test hardware, the VTS RTG system is an efficient single instrument tool for multiple test requirements. 

The NI Radar Target Generation Driver is an alternative Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) configuration for specific PXIe Vector Signal Transceiver models. The VST configuration is a closed source and license-restricted FPGA build that allows the transceiver to operate as a closed-loop, real-time radar target generator or channel emulator. As a fully validated FPGA configuration, users can confidently add up to four independent targets to their radar or provide four multi-path delay channels for data link systems tests. Since the VST is a calibrated RF receiver and transmitter, its highly accurate response improves the reliability of test scenarios along with user’s confidence in test results.

DataStudio to Break Down Silos, From Design to Test

NI announced the launch of DataStudio. This new design-to-test analytics solution provides the foundation for modern, secure and scalable engineering data infrastructure and applications, accelerating the pace of wireless, semiconductor and electronics innovation. 

Consistent with the need to fast-track product development, DataStudio bridges critical data across the semiconductor design and test workflow. DataStudio Specification Compliance Manager (SCM), the first application in the DataStudio family, manages device specifications, connects to measurement data sources and automatically generates compliance reports. DataStudio SCM provides a comprehensive view of the device’s conformance to target specifications, enabling better decision making and reporting, and leverages data often lost across design, validation and production test silos. By laying the groundwork with comprehensive data infrastructure, engineers gain clear and actionable insights to improve productivity and reduce the manual effort required during chip development. 

In addition, NI is launching the DataStudio Bench Data Connector (BDC) validation bench test library. The BDC library provides a standardized way to store validation data that is automatically compatible with the DataStudio SCM, making it easy to import bench measurement data into the compliance reporting software.

DataStudio takes a modern, software-connected approach to design and test data with engineers’ needs at the center. Available in both on-premise and in-the-cloud deployment, this latest product from NI will help accelerate workflow modernization, from product definition to verification, validation and production test, coupling NI’s rich software heritage with new cloud and machine learning capabilities to support engineers who are rapidly creating what’s next.

Sparkplug Compatibility Program Enables Plug’n’Play Industrial IoT

People are often confused, sometimes deliberately (I think), by technologies–which ones work together, where are standards, what is competitive, and the like. I like to try to explain things clearly—often a challenge. I’m also generally agnostic. I’m not going to tell you what’s better. I don’t run a testing lab. But sometimes which is better for what application becomes obvious.

This is a story about OPC UA, MQTT, and Sparkplug. I’ve told pieces before. This is an update. First will be an update to the Sparkplug specification. Later I will have many updates about OPC UA from the Hannover Messe.

OPC UA is an international standard. It is also an information model. It’s one of those technologies that provides many benefits and options, but some people consider it too complex for some tasks. Searching for a lightweight messaging technology, Sparkplug was developed—at first by Arlen Nipper’s Cirrus Link and then turned over to open source Eclipse Foundation. Its drawback was, not being a standard, whoever wrote a “publish” message could not be assured that there would be anyone who could “subscribe” and interpret the message. By the way, both can  travel from node to node via MQTT which is a transport technology. Do not mix up these three things.

I turn now to a new development from the Eclipse Foundation regarding Sparkplug. Project Manager Frederic Desbiens explained enough of the guts of the tech to me to convince me of its usability. 

The Eclipse Foundation, one of the world’s largest open-source software foundations, in collaboration with its Sparkplug Working Group, announced June 7 at the ARC Industry Forum the launch of the Sparkplug Compatibility Program. This program is based on Sparkplug, an open source software specification that enables mission-critical operational technology (“OT”) clients to use industry standards like MQTT to seamlessly integrate data from their applications, sensors, devices, and gateways with most Industrial Internet Of Things (IIoT) Infrastructure.

“MQTT has already established itself as the ‘de facto’ standard for messaging transport in the IT and OT market sectors,” said Mike Milinkovich, executive director for the Eclipse Foundation. “However, it doesn’t specify the content of its payloads, making interoperability across the IIoT incredibly challenging. Sparkplug, acting as the HTML of the IIoT, is the industry’s best solution for solving this issue and is already in widespread use across multiple industries. Our new program lets industrial firms know if their vendors’ systems are Sparkplug compatible.” 

The Sparkplug Compatibility Program aims to provide integrators and end-users with an easy way to procure devices and software products that are fully compatible with the Sparkplug specification, thus ensuring their solutions will seamlessly integrate with the most common Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices and networks. To be included in the program, products will need to pass an open-source series of tests that validate conformance to the specification. These tests are based on the Sparkplug Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK). Products passing the TCK will be featured in the official list of compatible products, available on the Sparkplug Working Group’s website. In addition, licensees of the Sparkplug Compatible trademark will be able to promote compatibility, while also being recognizable in the marketplace through the use of the “Sparkplug Compatible” logo. 

Organizations who wish to participate in the compatibility program are invited to join the Eclipse Foundation and Sparkplug Working Group. Interested parties can find out more about the Sparkplug Working Group and the Sparkplug Compatibility Program.

By design, the MQTT specification does not dictate a Topic Namespace or any payload encoding. However, as the IIoT and other architectures leveraging the publisher/subscriber model are adopted by device OEMs in the industrial sector, having different Topic Namespace and payload encoding can inhibit interoperability for the end customer.

Sparkplug provides an open and freely available specification for how Edge of Network (EoN) gateways or native MQTT enabled end devices and MQTT Applications communicate bi-directionally within an MQTT Infrastructure. It is recognized that MQTT is used across a wide spectrum of application solution use cases, and an almost indefinable variation of network topologies. 

To that end the Sparkplug specification addresses the following components within an MQTT infrastructure: 

Sparkplug defines an OT-centric Topic Namespace 

Sparkplug defines an OT-centric Payload definition optimized for industrial process variables 

Sparkplug defines MQTT Session State management required by real-time OT SCADA systems

Quotes from Participating Organizations 

Foundations have a press protocol of adding comments from members of contributing organizations. Following are those comments.

Cirrus Link Solutions—“Cirrus Link was founded with the express purpose of providing MQTT centric software for Industrial Automation Solutions. As one of the co-inventors of MQTT I couldn’t be more pleased to be participating with the Eclipse Sparkplug Working group and see the launch of the Sparkplug Compatibility program. Having native devices and software solutions providing “Plug and Play” capabilities leveraging the power of an MQTT/Sparkplug infrastructure will be a disruptive change in the way industrial automation solutions are designed and implemented in the future.” Arlen Nipper, CTO at Cirrus Link Solutions

Chevron—“For a large enterprise like Chevron, Automation Engineers around the globe could be spending countless hours testing to see if something will work in their process control network or their IIoT network. Having the confidence that something will “just work” when you plug it in to your system via the Sparkplug compatibility program is a huge saver of time and money.” Todd Anslinger, IIoT & Automation Specialist at Chevron.

Inductive Automation—“We are definitely excited about the Sparkplug Compatibility Program and the experience of collaborating with this Eclipse Working Group. Since day one, Inductive Automation has supported an open, interoperable, and standards-based approach to industrial automation systems. The Sparkplug Specification expands Digital transformation opportunities across the industrial sector enabling deployments at scale and accelerating time to value. The entire ecosystem supporting IIoT evolution benefits from the launch of the Sparkplug Compatibility Program.” Don Pearson, Chief Strategy Officer, Inductive Automation

Opto 22— “For our customers, democratizing data in OT systems while securing legacy, brownfield devices is top of mind,” states Benson Hougland, VP Product Strategy with Opto 22. “MQTT with Sparkplug provides the tools they need to safely and simply share data among industrial operations, IT systems, and cloud platforms. Back in 1996, Opto 22 joined with Microsoft to develop the OPC specification—and later found the OPC Foundation—to solve the data share challenges of that decade. Today’s data-sharing problems have evolved. Our Sparkplug Working Group membership is our commitment to offer the most effective solutions now and ensure our customers’ success.”

HiveMQ—“Sparkplug is changing the OT industry for the better,” states Ian Skerret, VP of Marketing at HiveMQ. “It solves the data interoperability challenges many of our customers have rolling out new IIoT systems. HiveMQ is proud to participate in the collaborative community to make Sparkplug a success.”

Canary—“Our time-to-value when working with enterprise applications using Sparkplug brokers is mind blowing. Whether 10,000 tags or 2 million tags, historizing Sparkplug tags into a Canary Historian happens instantaneously,” said Jeff Knepper, executive director, Business Development, Canary.

The Eclipse Foundation provides our global community of individuals and organizations with a mature, scalable, and business-friendly environment for open source software collaboration and innovation. The Foundation is home to the Eclipse IDE, Jakarta EE, and over 400 open source projects, including runtimes, tools, and frameworks for cloud and edge applications, IoT, AI, automotive, systems engineering, distributed ledger technologies, open processor designs, and many others. The Eclipse Foundation is an international non-profit association supported by over 330 members, including industry leaders who value open source as a key enabler for their business strategies. 

Non-cellular 5G Networks

Several sources for networking keep me informed about progress and applications of 5G cellular, especially the ability to construct private cellular networks just for your plant. Then came an inquiry for an interview and news around a new IoT standard using noncellular 5G. The teaser, “with the promise to transform the way enterprises can scale, monitor, and track their businesses.” How could I resist?

From the press release,  ABI Research, in conjunction with Wirepas, has just announced a new 5G IOT Standard. The first mesh, non cellular technology of its kind, these new standards hold the promise of democratizing the deployment of massive IOT networks across industrial segments like manufacturing, warehousing, energy, and commercial buildings. 

I talked with Teppo Hemiä who has been the CEO of Wirepas since the beginning of 2014. Before joining Wirepas, Teppo held positions at Nokia, STMicroelectronics and ST-Ericsson. Wirepas is a Finland-based company that develops networking software that is embedded in radio chips. He was a main contributor to this new DECT-2020 NR Standard and the only manufactures of the mesh connectivity solution. The European standardization organization ETSI released its first set of DECT-2020 standards in June 2020 and updated them including addition of a fifth section published in December 2021.

Wirepas’ mesh connectivity solutions have made this new standard possible.

He told me that there is effectively no limit to the scale of this new network. They have networked a million smart electrical meters in Oslo, Norway with no network planning, no vase station. For every 300 nodes there was a cellular node to connect to the Internet. This network utilizes the 1.9 GHz spectrum that is free everywhere. It is the old standard for wireless phone headsets. It is not a high bandwidth network but perfect for IoT applications such as condition monitoring in factories. 

Another key is democratizing access. You don’t have to go through a supplier’s cloud. Any enterprise can set up and manage its own network. He says this is a tenth of the cost of cellular solutions. Companies are enabled to operate without middlemen or subscription fees.

This is from the preamble of the standard, These new standards hold the promise of democratizing the deployment of massive Internet of Technology networks across industrial segments like manufacturing, warehousing, energy, and commercial buildings. DECT-2020 NR has been designed and optimized for low-cost, low-power, and decentralized operation, providing opportunities for new applications across multiple industries.