Edge Computing and IIoT Platforms and More At ARC Forum

Edge Computing and IIoT Platforms and More At ARC Forum

Let me try to summarize a number of other news items gleaned from the ARC Forum featuring edge computing, IIoT Platforms, and technology. When ARC’s Paul Miller told me it would be the best ever, he turned out not to be exaggerating. More people, more news.

Stratus Technologies, known for years for secure servers, released an edge computing device. Interest in computing at the edge of the network has blossomed lately, with many companies releasing products. Lots of choices for users.

Integration Objects, firmly within another important trend, introduced an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Platform. I’m beginning to see articles about users latching on to these platforms rather than building their own ad hoc connections among IoT devices and applications.

UL discussed standards with me during the show. The company known for developing safety standards and then testing for compliance has developed also a security standard. And it tests to it for compliance.

HIMA is another company combining safety and security technologies. There is so much in common between the two–especially thought processes and planning.

Yokogawa has extended and rebranded its process automation offering, now called Synaptic Business Automation. Among other things, it has refined the dashboard into a “karaoke” style.

Bentley Systems discussed the combining of engineering design tools with digital photography and other digital technologies to better represent the engineering and design of a plant. This is the most cutting edge technology I saw during the week, but I cannot do it justice in a paragraph. I encourage a tour of the Website.

OPC Foundation Cites Advancements at Recent ARC Forum

OPC Foundation Cites Advancements at Recent ARC Forum

The OPC Foundation was active during the recent ARC Industry Forum in Orlando as a Platinum Sponsor and presenting a press conference. With OPC UA released and in use and the publish/subscribe about to be release, OPC Foundation’s emphasis has been on companion specifications. It had a joint press conference with the FieldComm group to discuss its joint working group and then released news of a released companion specification with Ethernet Powerlink. The last release, something I was able to work on pre-release review, concerns a study with ARC Advisory Group on adoption of the UA specification.

Below are some details. More at the Foundation website.

OPC and FieldComm

The OPC Foundation and FieldComm Group announced an alliance to advance process automation system multi-vendor interoperability and simplified integration by developing a standardized process automation device information model.

A joint working group between OPC Foundation and FieldComm Group, tasked with developing a protocol independent companion specification for process automation devices, was formed in late 2017. The goal of the working group is to leverage the extensive experience of FieldComm Group with the HART and FOUNDATION Fieldbus communication protocols to standardize data, information, and methods for all process automation devices through FDI using OPC UA. The OPC UA base information model and companion Device Information (DI) specification will be extended to include the generic definition and information associated with process automation devices.

The OPC Foundation and FieldComm Group have worked together for over a decade, initially working on the development of the EDDL specification and most recently on the creation of FDI technology.

“FDI provides the new standard for device integration to deliver a protocol independent path to configuration, diagnostics and runtime operation for process devices,” states Ted Masters, President and CEO of FieldComm Group. “The partnership between OPC Foundation and FieldComm Group further builds upon the common information model of both to deliver process automation data in context which is the key to enabling value from enterprise systems and analytics. The 350+ suppliers of devices and applications that are members of FieldComm Group have an opportunity to benefit from the key initiative to develop a standard process automation information model by their adoption of FDI and OPC UA technologies.”

“I’m excited that the OPC Foundation and FieldComm Group are working together on this important initiative, and will be partnering with other organizations, end-users and suppliers to make the dream of a standardized process automation device information model a reality. This is truly a breakthrough in our industry that will provide significant operational benefits across all points of the value chain,” states Thomas J. Burke, OPC Foundation President and Executive Director.

“This important collaboration will provide a solid foundation for standardization of devices that will serve as the base infrastructure for the numerous other collaborations that the OPC Foundation is doing across international boundaries,” says Stefan Hoppe, OPC Foundation Global Vice President.

The joint working group plans to release an extensible, future-proof process automation information model specification during the first quarter of 2019.

OPC and Powerlink

An OPC UA companion specification is now available for POWERLINK according to a joint announcement by the OPC Foundation and the Ethernet POWERLINK Standardization Group (EPSG). The companion specification describes how payload data is exchanged between POWERLINK and any OPC UA platform. The result is integrated communication from the sensor to the cloud.

“As technologies, OPC UA and POWERLINK complement each other perfectly,” emphasized Thomas Burke, President of the OPC Foundation, in his announcement. “POWERLINK is among the leading real-time bus systems used in plants and machinery. Together with OPC UA, POWERLINK networks can now communicate seamlessly and securely with the IT environment and into the cloud.”

“This specification allows OPC UA and POWERLINK to fuse into a single network,” added Stefan Schönegger, Managing Director of the EPSG. “We’re then able to join devices from different manufacturers and across different levels of the automation pyramid into a single, cohesive system.”

A joint working group between the OPC Foundation and the EPSG had been working on the specification since 2016. The document can be downloaded from the OPC Foundation website.

OPC UA Adoption

OPC Foundation announced today the release of an in-depth ARC Advisory Group report on the important role the OPC data connectivity standards play in control automation today and in future IIoT and Industrie4.0 based solutions.

Key ARC report findings confirmed that with an estimated global install base of over 45 million units, OPC is the de facto standard for open data connectivity and that OPC UA is well positioned to serve as the next data connectivity foundation for control automation applications in traditional industrial settings and new ones like building automation, transportation, and others. Key contributing factors to the continued success of OPC UA included the scalability, performance, and robustness of the technology and the large community of end-users, vendors, and other standards bodies actively working with the OPC Foundation to best utilize OPC UA in their applications.

According to Thomas Burke, OPC Foundation president, “the [ARC report] findings accurately reflect what we [OPC Foundation] have been seeing from an adoption and collaboration point of view. I highly recommend reading this ARC report for a high level perspective of what OPC UA is doing in the market and the future of data connectivity”

Commenting on the popularity of the OPC UA standard, Mr.Burke explained “OPC UA has something to offer for everyone from end-users and product vendors to other standards bodies. After people look at what is really out there as far as a single standard that has the scalability, performance, and flexibility to meet the challenges of modern data connectivity and interoperability and has the reputation and a large enough adoption base needed to make it a safe investment – they come to realize OPC UA is the real deal.”

“OPC technology has become a de facto global standard for moving data from industrial controls to visualization up to MES/ERP and IT cloud levels”, according to Craig Resnick, Vice President, ARC Advisory Group. “The rapid expansion of OPC UA in automation, IIoT, and into new, non-industrial markets suggests that OPC will remain an important technology for multivendor secured interoperability, plant floor-to-enterprise information integration, and a host of other applications yet to be envisioned.”

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.”

Artificial Intelligence In a Module Learns Process, Alerts Personnel

Artificial Intelligence In a Module Learns Process, Alerts Personnel

OK, so I study productivity, write about it occasionally, and practice what I preach—almost. Back from five trips in six weeks, getting back in the routine is proving tough. Yesterday I dove into email and didn’t come up for air until afternoon. Missed my post.

I’m still catching up from my Rockwell Automation trip the week before Thanksgiving and my Hewlett Packard Enterprise trip the week after. No, I don’t get jet lag. It’s just finding my morning routine.

Today’s post number one is another Rockwell Automation post. Last year witnessed the introduction of a little bot called Shelby. It was essentially an iPhone app similar to Siri. These bots incorporate Artificial Intelligence (or Machine Learning) and voice interaction. This year, the company expanded on the technology.

These bits of technology will be commonplace in a very short time.

Rockwell’s background discusses how expert data scientists requiring weeks of work plumb reams of data to uncover insights. Rockwell claims that expertise has been boxed in the new Project Sherlock artificial intelligence (AI) module.

This data-driven analytics algorithm is delivered inside a module that fits directly into the controller chassis. Once installed, Project Sherlock AI leverages novel physics-based modeling to “learn” the application that controller manages. The solution scours controller tags to identify the application or allows users to choose what they would like modeled by selecting inputs and outputs via an add-on-instruction (AOI). Project Sherlock AI will then quickly learn from the stream of data passing through the controller to build a model. This process can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. Vast quantities of historical data are not required, nor must the data ever leave the automation layer.

Once the model is built, the Project Sherlock solution continuously watches the operation looking for anomalies against its derived, principled understanding. If it spots a problem, it can trigger an alarm on an HMI screen or dashboard. Future iterations will go beyond diagnostics to direct users on how to remedy the issue or to automatically adjust system parameters to fix the problem without human intervention.

“Project Sherlock brings industrial producers amazingly smart analytics in a package that is easy to implement,” said Jonathan Wise, platform leader for the Control and Visualization Business, Rockwell Automation. “As our customers undergo digital transformation – using production data to help improve business outcomes – they can’t wait on expert-driven analytics. Even if there were enough industrial data scientists out there, not every company has the time or funds to employ them. This machine-learning tool creates powerful analytics from your automation infrastructure, painlessly – delivering value moments after it’s dropped in the Logix backplane.”

Project Sherlock diagnostics offer drastically reduced false-positive alarms as compared to other artificial intelligence solutions due to its physics-based modeling and foundation in industrial applications. For example, Project Sherlock AI can tell if a boiler temperature shift is related to a benign change in upstream operations or an abnormality that requires correction.

The initial version of Project Sherlock AI will include ready-to-use templates for boiler, pump and chiller operations, ideal for process or hybrid applications. Users can model additional applications with guided configuration.

Communications with the module are prioritized by the controller, so users can select how much data is sent and intervals of communication. The module does not add to controller CPU-load nor add to network traffic. Project Sherlock AI pilots have been running and producing results for the past 18 months.

Customers will be able to purchase the module in mid-2018.

This new artificial intelligence engine is part of a larger, expanding ecosystem of analytics offerings from Rockwell Automation that run across the plant floor for devices, machines and systems, as well as throughout the enterprise. Rockwell Automation developers are building connections so users who employ FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices tools will be able to interface with Project Sherlock AI via the Shelby chatbot and action cards. Analytics from Project Sherlock AI will be easily integrated into the FactoryTalk Analytics Platform to integrate plant-floor data into business intelligence strategies.

Data, Devices, Visualization Headline Iconics User Event

Data, Devices, Visualization Headline Iconics User Event

Gathering data, visualization on many devices and screens, and connecting with standards including OPC UA and BACnet attracted a crowd of developers and users to the Iconics World Wide Customer Conference this week in Providence, RI.

“Connected Intelligence is our theme at this year’s summit and it has a dual meaning for us,” said Russ Agrusa, President and CEO of Iconics. “First, it refers to our extensive suite of automation software itself and how it provides out-of-the-box solutions for visualization, mobility, historical data collection, analytics and IIoT. The second point is that Iconics, over the last 30 years, has built a community of partners and customers who will have the opportunity to meet our software designers and other employees and have one-on-one discussions on such topics as; Industry 4.0, IIoT, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and the latest advances in automation software technology. It is truly a high energy and exciting event.”

Key technologies showcased at the Iconics Connected Intelligence Customer Summit included:

1. Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things

2. Unlocking data and making the invisible, visible

3. Secure strategies and practices for industrial, manufacturing and building automation

4. Predictive AnalytiX using expert systems such as FDD and AI Machine Learning

5. Hot, warm and cold data storage with plant historians for the cloud and IIoT

Integration With AR, VR, and Mixed Reality Tech

The recent v10.95 release of GENESIS64 HMI/SCADA and building automation suite includes 3D holographic machine interface (HMI), which can be used with Microsoft’s HoloLens self-contained holographic computing device. This combination of Iconics software with Microsoft hardware allows users to visualize real-time data and analytics KPIs in both 2D and 3D holograms. When combined with Iconics AnalytiX software, users can take advantage of additional fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) and Hyper Historian data historian benefits, providing needed “on the spot” information in a hands-free manner.

“These new hands-free and mixed reality devices enable our customers and partners to ‘make the invisible visible’,” said Russ Agrusa, President and CEO of ICONICS. “There is a massive amount of information and value in all that collected and real-time data. Data is the new currency and we make it very easy to uncover this untapped information. We welcome this year’s summit attendees to get a glimpse at the future of HMI wearable devices such as Microsoft’s HoloLens and RealWear HMT1, HP and Lenovo Virtual reality devices.”

Mobile-Head-mounted tablet-style device

The V10.95 release of GENESIS64 HMI/SCADA and building automation suite includes Any Glass technology, which can be used with self-contained head-wearable computing devices. HMT-1 from RealWear demonstrated the visualization of real-time and historical data KPIs with voice driven, hands-free usage.

Featuring an intuitive, completely hands-free interface, the RealWear HMT-1 is a rugged head-worn solution for industrial IoT data visualization, remote video collaboration, technical documentation, assembly and maintenance instructions and streamlined inspections right to the eyes and ears of workers in harsh and loud field and manufacturing environments.

Support for multiple OSs and devices

Iconics has always been Microsoft Windows application and will continue to do so. However, IoTWorX Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) software automation suite includes support for multiple operating systems including Windows 10 IoT Enterprise and Windows 10 IoT Core, as well as a large variety of Linux embedded operating systems including Ubuntu and Raspbian.

Users can connect to virtually any automation equipment through supported industry protocols such as BACnet, SNMP, Modbus, OPC UA, and classic OPC Tunneling. Iconics’ IoT solution takes advantage of Microsoft Azure cloud services to provide global visibility, scalability, and reliability. Optional Microsoft Azure services such as Power BI and Machine Learning can also be integrated to provide greater depth of analysis.

The following Operating systems are currently being certified for IoTWorX:

• Windows 10 IoT Enterprise

• Windows 10 IoT Core

• Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7

• Ubuntu 17.04, Ubuntu 16.04, Ubuntu 14.04

• Linux Mint 18, Linux Mint 17

• CentOS 7

• Oracle Linux 7

• Fedora 25, Fedora 26

• Debian 8.7 or later versions, openSUSE 42.2 or later versions

• SUSE Enterprise Linux (SLES) 12 SP2 or later versions

Hot, Warm, Cold Data Storage

Hyper Historian data historian integrates with and supports Microsoft Azure Data Lake for more data storage, archiving and retrieval.

When real-time “hot” data is collected at the edge by IoT devices and other remote collectors, it can then be securely transmitted to “warm” data historians for mid-term archiving and replay. Hyper Historian now features the ability to archive to “cold” long-term data storage systems such as data lakes, Hadoop or Azure HD Insight. These innovations help to make the best use of historical data at any stage in the process for further analysis and for use with machine learning.


Among the new analytical features are a new 64-bit BridgeWorX64 data bridging tool, a new 64-bit ReportWorX64 reporting tool, several new Energy AnalytiX asset performance charts and usability improvements. In addition, Iconics has introduced a new BI Server.

• AnalytiX-BI – Provides data aggregation using data modeling and data sets

• ReportWorX64 – Flexible, interactive, drag & drop, drill-down reporting dashboards

• BridgeWorX64 – Data Bridging and with drag-and-drop workflows that can be scheduled

• Smart Energy AnalytiX – a SaaS based energy and facility solution for buildings

• Smart Alarm AnalytiX – a SaaS based alarming analysis product that uses EEMUA

People Are The Key to Digital Transformation According to Emerson

People Are The Key to Digital Transformation According to Emerson

The era of improving plant performance and profitability through efficiency—that is by cutting costs—is over. So stated Emerson Automation Solutions executive president Mike Train while kicking off the 2017 edition of Emerson Global Users Exchange in Minneapolis.

“The past 30 years have brought us fantastic advances in the manufacturing sector, including greater operating efficiencies enabled by automation,” said Train. “But the incremental benefits gained are diminishing. The pressure is on industry leaders to take the next step to the game-changing performance made possible by digitally empowering the workforce.”

Emerson has researched industry performance and drew a profile of Top Quartile industry performers – those in the top 25 percent of performance among their peers – Emerson has identified five essential competencies as critical to realize the value of “digital transformation”:

• Automated Workflow: Eliminate repetitive tasks and streamline standard operations to focus personnel on exceptions and other opportunities that require human intervention

• Decision Support: Leverage analytics and embedded expertise to provide actionable insights that reduce complexity and enable higher quality, faster decision-making

• Workforce Upskilling: Identify approaches that empower workers to acquire knowledge or experience faster and more effectively, to support higher-level and collaborative decision-making

• Mobility: Provide secure, on-demand access to information and expertise regardless of location, enabling collaborative workflows

• Change Management: Combine strategies, processes, tools and expertise that, in the right combination, simplify and accelerate the institutionalization of operational best practices

As always, this is a huge customer conference. There is abundant energy. Informal networking occurred all over the place. At this time, Emerson is the most vibrant of the companies in this area. It’ll be interesting to watch how, or if, business continues to grow from the company’s continued vision of industry.

More coming. Gotta listen to the next speaker.


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