Finally a Fieldbus Convergence, Ethernet-APL Technology Now Available

Process manufacturing grew more and more complex, as well as more and more digital. Engineers needed better ways to communicate with field devices and instrumentation from control and operator stations. “We need a fieldbus,” they said.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get a fieldbus; they got many. There were angry magazine articles and resignations and recriminations as standards organizations didn’t approve one fieldbus for process applications. Every company through its proxy association wanted its technology recognized as a standard. And that is what happened. We had many standards.

Imagine my bemusement when after rearranging my schedule a bit to attend a 7 am (for me, 2 pm in Germany) press conference only to see the leaders of FieldComm, ODVA, and Profibus/Profinet International along with the leader of the OPC Foundation together discussing how this new Ethernet for Process manufacturing—Ethernet Advanced Physical Layer or Ethernet-APL—was the culmination of their work.

One physical network. The differing protocols? Well, heaven is still in the future, I guess.

Actually, this new network does solve many problems, bringing 10 Mbs Ethernet in standard cable and connector being intrinsically safe to the market. This is an example of collaborative work on a standard bringing great benefit to users.,

Following is today’s press release:

The numerous barriers to deploying high-speed Ethernet enabled instrumentation in hazardous process automation facilities are now resolved with the introduction of Ethernet-APL technology. Ethernet-APL is the new two-wire, intrinsically-safe physical layer suitable for use in demanding process automation applications.  Ethernet-APL’s benefits include dramatically improved communication speed, hazardous area reach, power to field instrumentation, and long cable runs. Leading standards development organizations FieldComm Group, ODVA, OPC Foundation, and PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI), as well as 12 major industrial project partners, have worked together successfully over the past three years under “The APL Project” to create this new physical layer solution for field instrumentation.  With the release of the specifications, engineering guidelines, and conformance test plans by The APL Project, end users can now expect components from leading suppliers, with first products now available from select vendors.

Ethernet-APL is an extension of the specification for Single-Pair Ethernet (SPE) based on 10BASET-1L, which can support every higher-order Ethernet communication protocol. By making adjustments to the physical layer, the requirements necessary for reliable operation in process-related plants are satisfied. The principal requirements are high-speed Ethernet based communications, operation in potentially explosive areas, and an ability to install long cable lengths of up to 1,000 meters. The electrical parameters that an Ethernet-APL device must meet to ensure “intrinsically safe” ignition protection are defined in the technical specification of the IEC TS 60079-47 (2-WISE or 2-Wire Intrinsically Safe Ethernet). 

The APL Project to bring Ethernet to the field has been underway for several years, and it is with much excitement and anticipation that this initial technology launch is announced. “We are very pleased to release the carefully crafted technology specifications and engineering guidelines to enable Ethernet-APL technology to start to transform the field of process plants,” commented Dr. Jörg Hähniche, Chair of the APL Steering Committee. “The high level of cooperation across multiple standards development and vendor organizations within the APL Project has resulted in one future oriented Ethernet physical layer for process automation. This technology launch is a key progress marker, and the development journey will continue now with products in the pipeline from significant industry partners.”

The APL Project has defined port profiles to create the Ethernet-APL concept for multiple power levels with and without explosion hazardous area protection. Ethernet-APL port profiles, including electrical power classes, shield connection options, and segment lengths, have been finalized. Markings on devices and instrumentation will indicate power level and function as sourcing or sinking. This will provide a simple framework for interoperability from engineering to operation and maintenance. Engineering guidelines and best practices for planning and installation are also now complete and available in an engineering directive document that will support users when designing and commissioning networks utilizing Ethernet-APL. This facilitates an easy transfer of knowledge for a smooth adoption of Ethernet-APL. Standard Ethernet diagnostic tools will assist new or seasoned instrument techs and engineers in their daily work, providing for a shallow learning curve. 

As a single physical layer, Ethernet-APL will be able to support EtherNet/IP, HART-IP, OPC UA, PROFINET, or any other higher-level network protocol. Activities are underway to finalize conformance testing at the leading standards development organizations that are a part of the APL Project. The test specifications now published will assure the quality of products and verify that a product complies with the parameters defined in the APL port profiles specification. The APL Project team has also cooperated with semiconductor manufacturers who will offer 10BASE-T1L Phys for Ethernet-APL on the market. Additionally, the 12 APL Project industry partners are finalizing development of products that will be available in the marketplace soon. The multivendor demonstration in Karlsruhe, Germany –  displayed digitally during ACHEMA Pulse showing participation across different product vendors and networks – highlights the multiple options and interoperability that Ethernet-APL will offer end users.

With the launch of Ethernet-APL, users can now anticipate a single Ethernet physical layer that can enable long cable reach, intrinsic safety, and application-level protocol support for maximum productivity and output. Products will be available in the market soon with conformance testing certification. Users can learn more about Ethernet-APL by visiting ethernet-apl.org and downloading the “Ethernet to the Field” white paper.

About FieldComm Group

FieldComm Group is a global standards-based organization consisting of leading process end users, manufacturers, universities and research organizations that work together to direct the development, incorporation and implementation of new and overlapping technologies and serves as the source for FDI technology. FieldComm Group’s mission is to develop, manage and promote global standards for integrating digital devices into automation system architectures while protecting process-automation investments in HART and FOUNDATION Fieldbus communication technologies. Membership is open to anyone interested in the use of the technologies.

About ODVA

About the OPC Foundation:
Since 1996, the OPC Foundation has facilitated the development and adoption of the OPC information exchange standards. As both advocate and custodian of these specifications, the Foundation’s mission is to help industry vendors, end-users, and software developers maintain interoperability in their manufacturing and automation assets. The OPC Foundation is dedicated to providing the best specifications, technology, process, and certification to achieve multivendor, multiplatform, secure, reliable, interoperability for moving data and information from the embedded world to the enterprise cloud. The Foundation serves over 815 members worldwide in the Industrial Automation, IT, IoT, IIoT, M2M, Industrie 4.0, Building Automation, machine tools, pharmaceutical, petrochemical, and Smart Energy sectors.

About PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI)

PI is a wide spread automation community in the world represented by 25 different Regional PI Associations and is responsible PROFIBUS and PROFINET, the two leading industrial communications protocols covering all industries. The common interest of PI’s global network of vendors, developers, system integrators and end users lies in promoting, supporting and using PROFIBUS and PROFINET. Regionally and globally over 1,500 member companies are working closely together around the world to the best automation possible. The organization’s global influence and reach is unmatched in the world of automation.

Industrial Controls Market Partnership of Process Automation and Cybersecurity

Partnerships remain crucial for success in today’s industrial market. This seems especially true for cybersecurity firms who need ways into integrating security into operational technology. This is the story of one such partnership.

Horizon Controls Group, a global digital process automation solutions and consultancy company, has announced a formal agreement with Verve Industrial, a leader in operational technology and industrial control systems (OT/ICS) cyber security technology and consulting solutions. This partnership allows both companies to expand collaboratively into new areas of highly sophisticated service and technology delivery engagements with manufacturing and research organizations in pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, and other life sciences. 

The increased publicity and attention to the unprecedented achievements of the pharmaceutical industry during the global pandemic have significantly increased the potential cyber-related threats to this critical infrastructure. While energy and other utilities such as water treatment have historically been targets of advanced persistent threats (APTs) from highly resourced, nation-state, or terrorist-backed organizations, the value of the pharmaceutical sector is increasingly apparent and, in many cases, lags the security posture that has developed in these other industries. 

Verve Industrial’s OT/ICS cyber security products and support services were selected by Horizon Controls Group as a powerful, targeted, and holistic solution to manage the sprawling ecosystem of myriad automation applications employed at any given pharmaceutical facility. 

“Horizon Controls Group provides consultation, design, execution, and support for the full project life cycle of automation process control systems (PCS), building automation systems (BAS), manufacturing execution systems (MES), and process historians, using industry standards and best practices,” said Youssef El-Bahtimy, Automation Information & Systems Manager at Horizon Controls Group. “Our team integrates data integrity, resiliency, manageability, and security principles into every project, not as an afterthought, bolt-on, or cost adder, but in a proactive quality by design (QbD) manner.”

El-Bahtimy continued: “We believe this is the new standard for a modern systems integrator, and a key differentiator to becoming more than just a service provider – being the trusted adviser that our clients require. We see the Verve Security Center (VSC) and the expertise of Verve Industrial’s team as an invaluable and versatile way to solve the challenges posed by the unique security, situational awareness, and manageability environment of the OT space.” 

“We are quite excited to join forces with Horizon Controls Group,” said Rick Kaun, VP of Solutions at Verve Industrial. “Their ‘trusted adviser’ status within their client base combined with their deep OT systems control abilities are a perfect match for the power and insight provided by our industry-leading VSC platform.”

About Horizon Controls Group
Horizon Controls Group is a full-service digital process automation company offering solutions including engineering design, systems integration, cyber security, and customized training. With corporate headquarters in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, its European subsidiary is based in Cork, Ireland.

About Verve Industrial
Verve Industrial Protection has ensured reliable and secure industrial control systems for 25 years. Its principal offering, the Verve Security Center, is a unique, vendor-agnostic OT endpoint management platform that provides IT-OT asset inventory, vulnerability management, and the ability to remediate threats and vulnerabilities from its orchestration platform. Verve Industrial’s Design-4-Defense professional services support clients in ensuring their OT environments are designed and operated in a secure manner.

The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum Publishes the O-PAS Version 2.1 Preliminary Standard

After my first meeting with Don Bartusiak, then with ExxonMobil, at an ARC Forum, I thought this was an extremely ambitious idea thinking that an open, interoperable, relatively easily upgradable process automation system build upon industry standards was feasible. And the timeline was aggressive.

The Open Process Automation Forum, under the auspices of The Open Group, has persevered, grown, and has now released version 2.1 “into the wild” for comments from the broader process community before finishing and adopting early next year. So, please go to the Website and review. Your comments could be most helpful.

The marketing people sent a news release, but I realized there wasn’t a lot of “there” there, so I talked with Aneil Ali, Director of the OPAF since May a year ago to get a bit more detail. A key factor gleaned from our chat was that 105 members were involved in the development of this standard. Final release is slated for early 2022. 

I think the remarkable thing about 105 member companies is actually getting something done. All of us who have worked on this type of project know that there are companies (which I shall not name) who send engineers to join with the express purpose of asking lots of questions in order to delay the process or even (hopefully) entice everyone else to give up in despair. This committee worked through 22 recurring weekly meetings to bring this together. Remarkable.

And Ali does not expect the pace to slow.

To recap: Version 1.0 dealt with interoperability; Version 2.1 with information model; Version 3.0 (in process) will focus on application portability—system orchestration.

Some of the details of 2.1 include defining standard function blocks, addressing IEC61499, IEC61131, IEC62443 (security), and OPCUA. O-PAS is a “standard of standards”, an approach that greatly reduces detail work.

In addition to this standards development work, companies have been building ongoing prototype test beds and field trials which are underway proving this is more than mere paper. The Forum has also been conducting plug fests and developing certification testing partners and parameters.

The group has really come a long way.

From the press release:

The Open Group, the vendor-neutral technology consortium, has announced the publication of the O-PAS Version 2.1 Preliminary Standard. Developed by The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), this release represents a key milestone towards testing and field trials of the O-PAS Standard, enabling greater interoperability and portability in manufacturing control systems.

The O-PAS Standard defines a Reference Architecture and Information Model that will enable a distributed and heterogeneous ecosystem of industrial process automation resources to interoperate. The aim of the Standard is to stimulate innovation, lower system lifecycle costs, and provide end-users with more freedom when managing obsolescence within systems.

Created with the direct involvement of over 105 OPAF Member organizations, Version 2.1 progresses the overall Information Model of Version 2.0, while also adding new configuration portability capabilities.

“This latest advancement of the O-PAS Standard reflects the overall consensus of industry leaders: open, secure, and interoperable architectures are the irrefutable and inevitable future of industrial process automation systems,” commented Aneil Ali, Director of the Open Process Automation Forum. “The sense of urgency among product managers and sales teams to achieve this goal is therefore well-founded, with end-user test beds, prototypes, and field trials already up and running.”

Alongside Version 2.1, a certification program for the O-PAS Standard – due to launch in the first half of 2022 – is being developed against the various Profile-based requirements. As part of this work, test tools are currently being beta tested with suppliers.

“The updated version of the O-PAS Standard empowers end-users to look more closely at product roadmaps for O-PAS inclusion,” continued Ali.  “As suppliers work to adopt the Standard within these roadmaps, OPAF is open to as much industry collaboration and feedback as possible.”

Following a finalized Version 2.1 Standard, scheduled for publication in Q1 2022, OPAF will work towards Version 3.0, which will address system orchestration, application portability, and further detail the physical distributed control platform.

About The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum

The Open Process Automation Forum is an international forum of end-users, system integrators, suppliers, academia, and other standards organizations working together to develop a standards-based, open, secure, and interoperable process control architecture. Open Process Automation is a trademark of The Open Group.

About The Open Group

The Open Group is a global consortium that enables the achievement of business objectives through technology standards. Our diverse membership of more than 800 organizations includes customers, systems and solutions suppliers, tool vendors, integrators, academics, and consultants across multiple industries.

Software-centric Automation Hannover Messe Update from Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric has been publicizing an implementation of the decoupled control hardware and software envisioned by the Open Process Automation Forum using IEC 61499. https://themanufacturingconnection.com/2021/02/schneider-electric-updates-ecostruxure-automation-expert-forges-strategic-agreement-with-wood/ For example, a recent post from the blog.

At last week’s Hannover Messe, Schneider Electric used its press conference to tout some updates to its Ecostruxure Automation Expert.

The press release is included below for your information, plus a bonus press release regarding a new, smaller footprint UPS.

First, a couple of notes. I listened recently to some software developers discussing the benefits and drawbacks of version numbering their software. The traditional way is to begin with version 1.0  and then increment. Of course, no one (or few?) buy version 1.0 which is typically pretty buggy. An alternative is to version number by year thus avoiding the dreaded V 1.0. Automation Expert has just been released a couple of months ago as Version 21.0. The new release discussed below is version 21.1.

Someone, I know not whom, asked a pointed question during the press conference. Schneider points to its offering following the IEC standard. The questioner wanted to know if Automation Expert was just another proprietary software with some standards baked in. The question was not answered directly. The answer given dealt with decoupling hardware and software allowing each to be independently upgraded. Good question to keep in mind if other companies dive into this water. Or—perhaps there is room for an independent software developer to jump into the fray if and when.

Automation Expert V21.1 Release

Schneider Electric released version 21.1 of EcoStruxure Automation Expert, its software-centric universal automation system. Adoption of the new technology is proving immediately beneficial for consumer-packaged goods, pharmaceutical and logistics enterprises. 

“EcoStruxure Automation Expert v21.1 is an important milestone in our journey to help manufacturers achieve the step-change advancements possible with a digital-first approach to industrial automation,” said Fabrice Jadot, Senior Vice President, Next Generation Automation, Schneider Electric. “Today’s operations need to react quickly to fluctuating market and environmental dynamics and rapidly mitigate potential risks. By separating the hardware and software lifecycles, EcoStruxure Automation Expert enables automation applications to be built using asset-centric, portable, proven-in-use software components, independent of the underlying hardware infrastructure. This software-centric approach delivers unprecedented cost and performance gains and frees engineers to innovate by automating low-value work and eliminating task duplication across tools.”

GEA is one of the largest technology suppliers for food processing and a wide range of other industries. The company focuses on technologies, components, and sustainable solutions for sophisticated production processes in diverse end-user markets where time to market and agility is essential. EcoStruxure Automation Expert greatly simplifies the integration between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) creating new agility for GEA and its customers.

Master Systèmes, an industrial automation system integrator and Schneider Electric Master Alliance partner, is using EcoStruxure Automation Expert to increase the agility and flexibility of one of its cosmetic customer plants.

Schneider Electric is also implementing EcoStruxure Automation Expert in its own Smart Distribution Center in Shanghai, China to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Because the software is decoupled from the hardware, modifying the conveying line to adapt as flow requirements change is easier and more cost-effective. With EcoStruxure Automation Expert, identifying the root cause of failure and troubleshooting is four times faster. And with 45% less products on the error line, throughput is increased by 5.3%.

Among other advancements, EcoStruxure Automation Expert V21.1 includes: enhanced cybersecurity, diagnostics, discovery and commissioning features, and expanded libraries and language support.

In addition, improved integration with AVEVA System Platform ensures EcoStruxure Automation Expert customers can take advantage of AVEVA’s market leading software for supervisory, enterprise SCADA, MES, and IIoT applications with minimal engineering overhead. One study showed the EcoStruxure Automation Expert and AVEVA combination reduced engineering efforts by over 50%.

New 3-phase UPS

Schneider Electric announced the global launch of the Galaxy VL 200-500 kW (400V/480V) 3-phase uninterruptible power supply (UPS), the newest addition to the Galaxy family. Available worldwide, this highly efficient, compact UPS offers up to 99-percent efficiency in ECOnversion mode for a full return on investment within two years (model dependent) for medium and large data centers and commercial and industrial facilities. A live, virtual “hands-on” event for data center professionals and partners will take place May 4 to demonstrate Galaxy VL’s capabilities and features from Schneider Electric’s Innovation Executive Briefing Center.

With data center floor space at a premium, the compact design of the Galaxy VL is half the size of the industry average at .8 m2. Its modular and scalable architecture enables data center professionals to scale power incrementally, from 200 kW to 500 kW with 50 kW power modules, providing flexibility to grow as their business demands.

With Galaxy VL, Schneider Electric introduces Live Swap, a pioneering feature which delivers a touch-safe design throughout the process of adding or replacing the power modules while the UPS is online and fully operational, offering enhanced business continuity and no unscheduled downtime. Additionally, Live Swap’s touch safe design offers increased protection for employees who no longer have to transfer the UPS to maintenance bypass or battery operation during the insertion or removal of the power modules.

Key Benefits of the new Galaxy VL:

  • Maximize space to enable future growth: Galaxy VL is the most compact in its class, 50-percent more compact than the industry average at.8 m2, freeing up valuable data center real estate and IT space. Additionally, Galaxy Lithium-ion Battery Cabinets deliver total space savings of up to 70 percent compared with VRLA battery solutions.1
  • Save money: Galaxy VL’s modular, scalable platform enables you to pay-as-you-grow, reducing CapEx investment, operating costs, energy consumption, and TCO. Scale power instantly in 50 kW increments from 200 to 500 kW with no extra footprint.
  • Reach sustainability goals: Up to 99-percent efficient in ECOnversion mode for a full return on investment within two years in energy savings (26,280 EUR annual electricity savings). A Schneider Electric Green Premium product, it includes the option for long-lasting Lithium-ion batteries.
  • Increased Reliability through EcoStruxure3By connecting Galaxy VL to EcoStruxure—Schneider Electric’s open, interoperable, IoT-enabled system architecture and platform—data center operators can benefit from EcoStruxure™ IT software and services. These EcoStruxure offerings enable customers to monitor, manage, and model their IT infrastructure and get service support 24/7 anywhere, anytime.

ABB Drops a Bunch of News, Drones, OEMs, and Mills

ABB has moved its media relations, at least the people working with me, to England. Two other major European industrial technology providers also have moved marketing and media relations from the US to England. I have no idea whether this is a statement about the state of the US market or the state of their cost structure. Maybe both.

ABB changed CEOs several years ago and just changed again. These precipitated changes in corporate emphases—divesting several large businesses and adding others. The variety in these three announcements certainly reflects the new diversity of the corporate portfolio.

ABB drone-based leak detection and greenhouse gas measuring system

HoverGuard can help operators of USA’s three million miles of pipeline infrastructure to increase their safety and environmental capabilities in line with the USA 2020 PIPES Act.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the majority of gas shipments in the US take place using the millions of miles of the nation’s pipeline infrastructure. On December 27, 2020, the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act was signed into law in the United States. The Act directs gas pipeline operators to use advanced leak detection technologies to protect the environment and pipeline safety.

Detection of odorless and invisible gas leaks can be challenging and expensive. ABB’s latest addition to its ABB Ability Mobile Gas Leak Detection System, HoverGuard, provides the solution by finding leaks faster and more reliably than ever before. 

HoverGuard is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)-based system that detects, quantifies and maps leaks up to 300 ft from natural gas distribution and transmission pipelines, gathering lines, storage facilities, and other potential sources quickly, safely and reliably. It automatically generates comprehensive digital reports that summarize results and can be shared in minutes after a survey.

The cloud-connected, multi-gas solution is also the first of its kind to quantify the three most important greenhouse gases methane, carbon dioxide and water vapor continuously while flying. Each greenhouse gas affects the environment differently and is present in the air in different amounts. Sourcing individual gases also provides important information to scientists and researchers when studying the complex environmental processes affecting climate and pollution.

Patented cavity enhanced laser absorption spectroscopy detects methane with a sensitivity more than 1,000 times higher than conventional leak detection tools. This sensitivity and speed allow HoverGuard to detect leaks while flying at altitudes of 130 ft, or higher, and at speeds greater than 55 mph. It can cover 10-15 times more land area per minute by operating on low-cost commercial UAV capable of carrying a payload of 6.6 lbs.

ABB calls for more collaboration with OEMs

ABB has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Hitachi Construction Machinery to share their expertise and collaborate in bringing solutions to market that will reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with heavy machinery in mining.  

The companies will explore possibilities to apply ABB’s electrification, automation, and digital solutions to mining trucks and excavators provided by Hitachi Construction Machinery as part of wider efforts with mine operators to electrify all processes from pit to port. Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Hitachi Construction Machinery also brings expertise in driverless operation and labor-saving technologies. The aim of the combined solutions is to enhance the efficiency and flexibility of customer businesses, contributing to the reduction of CO₂ and the realization of a sustainable society.

The collaboration with Hitachi Construction Machinery is one of many that ABB are looking to develop with OEMs to accelerate the transition to all-electric mines.  

“ABB is calling for more collaboration between OEMs and technology companies to fast-track the development of new emissions-reducing systems with electrification and automation of the whole mining operation the goal. We are ready to work more with OEMs to establish a common approach for the market, and through strategic collaboration provide solutions that can help enable a low-carbon society and make mining operations more responsible,” said Joachim Braun, Division President, Process Industries, ABB. “New emissions-reducing technologies can transform the energy-intensive mining industry to achieve an even more productive, but also sustainable future.”

“Today, the challenge of our customers is on electrification of trucks and the time to change is now. But nobody can achieve this transformation alone. Co-creation of solutions with OEMs and mining companies is needed to successfully integrate electrification in mines.” said Max Luedtke, ABB’s Global Head of Mining.

ABB Ability Performance Optimization Service for cold rolling mills

ABB has launched its new ABB Ability Performance Optimization Service for cold rolling mills, offering steel, aluminum, and other metals manufacturers opportunities to reach new levels of operational performance through technology, boosting their processes and profitability.

The new service – part of ABB’s metals digital portfolio and Collaborative Operations for Metals suite – combines continuous performance monitoring using ABB Ability Data Analytics for cold rolling mills, with real time support from ABB experts. ABB will work alongside customers with the vision of continuing to transform the metals industry.

The data analytics component uses process-specific algorithms based on a century of metals domain expertise to collect high frequency data from mill control systems and discover trends, benchmarks and other performance factors, sending alerts to operators and maintenance when opportunities to optimize performance are identified.

Alongside this, ABB experts are available to provide onsite or offsite support, recommending actions to ensure the mill maintains its performance targets against key performance indicators (KPIs) for productivity, quality and yield. Leveraging the collective strengths of metals producers and ABB experts, access to dashboards is shared, enabling all parties to drill down to individual coil level.

In addition, ABB experts can provide customers with detailed reports at regular intervals describing areas for improvement, identified trends, or problem areas found in historical data, allowing for continuous improvement over time.

Key benefits include continuous collaboration and access to experts; increased productivity through improved asset performance and reduced downtime; higher yield and quality resulting from immediate corrective action when problems occur; reduced risk of equipment failure; the ability to leverage insights across the enterprise and reductions in wastage, energy and other costs.

PAS Releases Sensor and Data Integrity

New capability ensures configuration data integrity and signal tracing to improve process safety, reduce cyber risk and support digital transformation

PAS (now PAS Global, part of Hexagon) has long provided some valuable and interesting solutions for process automation. Its Integrity series of configuration management tools now integrated with its cyber security work offers many benefits. This announcement was highlighted at our meetings (virtual, of course) at the 2021 ARC Industry Forum.

PAS Global announced Sensor Data Integrity, a new Automation Integrity module, which enables industrial organizations to ensure configuration data integrity for smart and traditional sensors with signal tracing and validation. This addition to Automation Integrity helps reduce both process safety and cyber risk in support of digital transformation and Industrie 4.0 initiatives.

As industrial organizations expand their deployment of smart sensors, it is becoming increasingly more complex to manage configuration consistency across field device management, distributed control systems (DCS), programmable logic controllers (PLC), safety instrumented systems (SIS), historians and other operational technology (OT). Managing the complex configuration of millions of multi-vendor sensors consistently has become a major challenge for industrial companies. The lack of effective sensor management also puts digital transformation initiatives at risk of falling short of their intended benefits, potentially wasting multimillion-dollar investments.

The new Sensor Data Integrity module provides multi-vendor:

  • Discovery of smart, industrial IoT, and traditional analog sensors
  • Visibility to the complete inventory and potential cyber vulnerability for sensors
  • Creation of templates to define approved configuration for each sensor type
  • Automated detection of configuration errors
  • Automated identification of devices that don’t match assigned templates
  • Cross-checking of parameters (ranges, units, etc.)
  • Support for large-scale, multi-site sensor deployments
  • Sensor signal tracing, validation and visualization

The information provided by Sensor Data Integrity can also be leveraged by sensor asset management systems (AMS) to support instrument calibration and can feed PAS Cyber Integrity to support cybersecurity vulnerability assessments.

“PAS has a strong history of customer-led innovation and the development of Sensor Data Integrity builds on that tradition,” said Eddie Habibi, PAS Founder. “The expansion of smart sensors is making it increasingly difficult for operations teams to monitor for configuration drift and inconsistencies. This means teams are spending more time trying to find issues instead of correcting them, which increases the risk of poor plant performance and cyber vulnerabilities. PAS, now part of Hexagon, is the first technology provider addressing this challenge with a multi-vendor solution that works across OT systems.”

With Sensor Data Integrity, industrial organizations will:

  • Reduce manual effort in reconciling sensor and field device configurations
  • Improve plant performance and reduce safety risk (e.g., fewer unit trips due to bad configurations)
  • Reduce sensor configuration drift and errors by more than 40%
  • Enhance decision-making with higher-quality sensor diagnostics
  • Leverage sensor data for vulnerability assessment and obsolescence planning
  • Reduce sensor-related cost overruns before startup (e.g., accelerated loop check out)

“Multi-vendor sensor configuration management is a long-standing challenge in the industrial sector and the problem is only getting worse with the proliferation of smart sensors,” said Larry O’Brien, Research VP ARC Advisory Group. “In a 2017 study, ARC estimated the process industries lose as much as $1 trillion per year due to unplanned downtime. Misconfigured or inconsistent sensor configurations are key contributors to these events. We are pleased to see PAS, with support from key customers, has introduced sensor data integrity to address this pervasive and growing problem.”