Emerson Integrates Augmented Reality into Plantweb Optics

Emerson marketing called us together for a virtual press conference and demonstration of its take on Augmented Reality (AR) integrated with it Plantweb Optics asset performance platform. I’ve seen many demos of AR over the past many years. The technology inspires imaginative thinking, but somehow companies have just not managed to make it ready for prime time.

Emerson’s evidently is. Not only could they show a demo, it is due to be released later this summer with the next release of Plantweb Optics software. Better yet, it does not require glasses or other peripheral equipment other than the smart phone or device people are already using.

The tag line from Emerson: Analytics and live remote assistance improve productivity and safety.

What does it do, really? Well, it delivers enhanced access to real-time diagnostics and analytics, as well as live remote assistance, to industrial plant workers responsible for maintaining and optimizing plant equipment. With AR technology integrated into Plantweb Optics, companies can improve productivity, collaboration and operational performance, without being limited by shortages of skilled workers or travel restrictions.

“Successful digital transformation programs that lead to Top Quartile performance have people and work practices as a key focus. Adopting innovative technology like augmented reality and institutionalizing best practices enable workers to add more value than ever to operational and business performance,” said Stuart Harris, group president for Emerson’s digital transformation business. “With these new Plantweb Optics technologies, customers can experience significant improvements in equipment reliability and the safety of their facilities.”

Plantweb Optics leverages artificial intelligence, machine learning analytics, and data contextualization to provide real-time visibility into plant reliability and operational performance. Unlike standalone AR solutions that require custom engineering, AR is integrated into Plantweb Optics, providing immediate access to a wealth of data and translating into easier, less costly implementation and a faster return on investment. For use by manufacturers in the life sciences, food and beverage, chemical, metals and mining, power and water, pulp and paper and energy industries, Plantweb Optics is part of Emerson’s award-winning Plantweb digital ecosystem of technologies, software and services.

Augmented reality for Plantweb Optics transforms the way field technicians accomplish complex tasks through enhanced situational awareness, live remote assistance and analytics delivered in context of the plant. As a field technician walks an industrial plant with a mobile device, Plantweb Optics uses spatial computing technology to map assets and provide technicians with critical maintenance information relevant to their location. Plantweb Optics overlays real-time analytics, equipment health status and technical support documentation on their field of view, so technicians can safely resolve issues sooner.

The augmented and virtual reality market is projected to grow annually at 40% from 2017 through 2025, according to multiple research reports. Much of this spending will come from manufacturers around the globe using AR technology to help upskill their workforce for digitalized operations.

With live remote assistance, field technicians can be virtually shadowed by experts, either on-site or off-site, from Emerson, their own company or another service provider. Experts can talk, type or augment the technician’s mobile display with graphics to guide the next action. Live remote assistance enables technicians and experts to collaborate for safe troubleshooting and repairs, regardless of location and without travel costs. Live remote assistance sessions, best practices and notes from experienced engineers and step-by-step troubleshooting procedures can be logged into a knowledge library for use by all engineers at a site. The knowledge library is a resource for companies to standardize procedures and ensure engineers of all experience levels understand an asset’s history and are using best practices for safe, efficient operations.

People and Data—the Most Important Assets

This week I attended the AVEVA World customer conference sitting on my patio with a bank of computers on the table. It’s always nice to catch up with the latest from technology suppliers, even if we couldn’t meet in person and have all those informative hallway conversations.

Next week I’ll be attending three conferences, something that would have been a physical impossibility only a few months ago. Looks like all of my anticipated conference trips have been cancelled until November.

I must begin with a note regarding the AVEVA/Schneider Electric relationship. If you go back a few years, Schneider Electric made a rather large and significant acquisition. It kept the Foxboro and Triconex (and a few other) brands and used the software parts—Wonderware and Avantis and some others—as an investment into an engineering software company called AVEVA. As a result, Schneider Electric owns just over a majority of the shares in the publicly traded software company. And, therefore, Schneider Electric played a significant minor role in this conference.

Schneider’s chairman and CEO, Jean-Pascal Tricoire, said, “AVEVA should be agnostic. Our customers don’t have just one system but have the problem of integrating the complexity of having more than one system. AVEVA is completely open. We are independent companies working closely with each other.”

Craig Hayman, CEO of AVEVA, noted during his keynote address, “We’ve pivoted to emphasize digital. We recognize that people and data are the two most important assets. We do this technology in order to make people successful. Businesses have the great responsibility to protect employees and customers. We’re seeing the power of data and analytics helping companies respond to incidents as they occur and operate assets as efficiently as possible.” Indeed, digital, data, and people were the keywords of the event.

In further remarks, Tricoire emphasized “Digital Trust and Sustainability”. He shared how COVID-19 has accelerated existing digital trends, encouraging more efficiency, “remote everything,” greater resilience, and for sustainability to mitigate and adapt to primary threats of both the pandemic and climate change. He said, “Faced with a very volatile environment, companies need superior agility, and increased efficiency. This means they need increased capacity on one side, resiliency on the other side. The overall winner is digitalization. And the need for digitalization has been further reinforced by companies new need to operate remotely, for higher efficiency, and ultimately, for much better sustainability.”

Guest customer keynoter, Saad Bashir, CTO of the City of Seattle, speaking on “Digital Agility in the Age of COVID-19” shared his thoughts on what happened in Seattle when the pandemic hit. “Although we had planned for digital resiliency for some time, we didn’t really know how it would go until one morning all 30,000 people in our team decided to stay home and log on.” Although the team’s resiliency plans have held up well, Saad adds, “We’ve already seen opportunities from the lessons learned and one that’s worth highlighting is digital resiliency…with a unified view of our infrastructure with systems that are seamlessly connected so that they can inform decisions.”

Much discussion involved both Cloud and Edge—you must develop both, can’t have one without the other.

Ravi Gopinath, AVEVA Chief Cloud Officer and COO discussed cloud and AI. He noted four areas of investment—new way of engineering; new way of visualization; reliability and safe operations; drive agility. Develop cloud on one side and AI on the other. The cloud strengths—deploy applications easily, low TCO, enable flexible consumption, and enhance collaboration. AI provides—analysis, prediction, guidance, learning. Leading to Digital Twin, Big Data, and Industrial IoT and Edge.

The press release coming from the event focused on Schneider Electric, who announced expanded partnerships with AVEVA, Lenovo and Stratus to address the convergence of IT and OT. This partnership is bringing together system integrators with IT solution providers to build integrated industrial edge computing solutions resulting in the immediate release of three programs to empower system integrators to expand their value to end users, enabling their customers’ industrial digital transformations.

These programs include:

      Industrial edge reference designs: Co-developed with AVEVA, including solutions from Lenovo and Stratus, these reference designs reduce risk and time to market with fully customizable, pre-integrated EcoStruxure Micro Data Center solutions for any edge environment. With secure solutions designed to meet IT standards, system integrators can free up time from the IT architecture to focus on the software and solutions. These reference designs are available in Schneider Electric’s Local Edge Configurator and can be customized to specifications.
      A digital training program for system integrators: Edge computing continues to prove itself as a space for opportunity for system integrators to extend business models and establish their roles as consultants. This learning program includes a comprehensive digital training series for system integrators on Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Micro Data Center and EcoStruxure IT solutions to help address common challenges at the edge.
      The Industrial Edge Exchange Community: Built within Schneider Electric Exchange, the Industrial Edge Community allows system integrators to easily identify and engage with edge-certified IT solution providers. It is designed to facilitate new business and address IT/OT projects, and features a tool that pairs Alliance System Integrators with Schneider Electric’s Edge-certified IT Channel Partners.

    “The smart factory is becoming smarter. Our expanded partnerships and new industrial edge programs empower system integrators to leverage their domain expertise and become IT/OT convergence specialists and meet these needs for their customers,” said Philippe Rambach, Senior Vice President, Industrial Automation, Schneider Electric. “We know that smart manufacturing is driving an unprecedented wave of IT technologies into industrial spaces. As companies leverage AI, robotic processing automation, and more, they will require edge computing solutions to reduce latency and enable resiliency, while ensuring privacy and security, and addressing important data and bandwidth requirements.”

    What is the Industrial Edge?

    For industrial operators to capture the benefits of increased automation, they cannot rely on cloud-technology alone to bring the resiliency and speed demanded by AI, HD cameras, and other Industry 4.0 technologies. Local edge data centers are IT infrastructure enclosures/spaces/facilities distributed geographically to enable endpoints on the network. When in industrial environments such as a manufacturing plant or distribution center, this application is referred to as “industrial edge.”

    Zero-touch Edge Computing Platform Simplifies Deployment

    I remember Stratus Technologies for years as a fault-tolerant server company that was almost alone exhibiting at manufacturing events. It has been an aggressive innovator for the past several years. This was just released today.

    The company now bills itself as a global leader in simplified, protected, autonomous Edge Computing platforms. It today unveiled enhancements to its ztC Edge portfolio, which includes the ztC Edge 100i and ztC Edge 110i. This update delivers an improved and more efficient deployment and provisioning experience to help organizations quickly install the zero-touch Edge Computing platforms across multiple locations. In addition, new manageability, security, and performance enhancements will help partners and customers reduce their cost of operations and maintenance, minimize risk of data loss, and ensure high availability for all business-critical operations.

    The ztC Edge is a secure, rugged, highly automated Edge Computing platform that helps organizations achieve peak performance through increased operational efficiency and zero downtime at the edge. With its built-in virtualization, automated protection, industrial interoperability and more, ztC Edge ensures that customers can quickly and easily achieve higher availability for their essential applications.

    Improved Manageability

    • ztC Edge system settings and user preferences can now quickly and easily be stored to a local drive or the Stratus Cloud. Simplified system backup and restoration will help companies save time by automating certain processes and reducing user error.
    • Different templates can be created and archived for different use cases, workloads, or locations, making commissioning systems more efficient and accurate. Organizations can use these templates to rapidly provision single, or multiple ztC Edge platforms from remote areas. This is especially important for partners who implement and manage multiple platforms across multiple customers’ facilities and properties, making it easier for them to support systems and applications from one off-site location remotely.
    • The latest version of the ztC Edge is Microsoft Azure certified, with integration capabilities embedded in the platform for simple systems management and faster time to value for customers.

    Improved Security

    • The ztC Edge 110i update introduces a new secure, cloud-based file repository, called the Stratus Cloud, for partners and customers to safely transmit, store and retrieve their ztC Edge system preference templates. Unlike other third-party cloud offerings, Stratus Cloud automatically authenticates users and groups using the same credentials as their Stratus Customer Service Portal account, saving partners and customers time and effort.

    Increased Performance

    • The ztC Edge 110i also comes with expanded 64 GB memory capacity to support a broader range of memory-intensive industrial workloads, giving customers more choice and flexibility in consolidating multiple applications (such as SCADA) on one machine – saving costs and increasing agility.
    • ztC Edge 110i platforms are now Class I Division 2 certified, making them safe to deploy in hazardous locations. This certification allows ztC Edge to be implemented in a wider variety of industrial settings with more significant environmental variability.

    The ztC Edge’s built-in virtualization makes applications portable, while the computing platform also provides greater availability, resilience, and data protection than other platforms. Numerous out-of-the-box capabilities improve the security of customers’ ztC Edge platforms, thus upgrading their security posture and mitigating risk. ztC Edge platforms also support common OT and IT protocols, tools, and standards, such as SNMP and OPC UA, which makes them easy to integrate into, and work with, existing environments, saving partners and customers time.

    “One of the biggest threats to customers is adding technology that is undependable and not secure. Customers should never have to worry about these risks when modernizing their Edge Computing capabilities,” said Jason Andersen, vice president of business line management at Stratus. “For some organizations, having highly reliable and protected platforms in place is imperative to the success of their business. They depend on these platforms to be ‘always-on’, secure, and able to run in any environment without human monitoring, maintenance, repairs, or support.”

    “With 40 years of experience protecting business-critical applications and environments, our ztC Edge platform has evolved to address challenges around performance, security, and manageability for computing at the edge,” said Jason Dietrich, chief revenue officer at Stratus. “Stratus partners can trust they are providing customers simple, protected and autonomous Edge Computing solutions that will maximize their operational efficiency while minimizing their operational, financial and reputational risk.”

    LiveWorx My First Virtual Conference of the Pandemic

    I never thought I’d sit at home in front of a screen for most of a day (7 am CDT until 3:45 pm CDT) although part of the time I was on my iPhone driving to an errand still watching. In fact, I answered a survey from my friends at Rockwell marketing with a neutral-to-negative view of these virtual conferences. I was actually hoping for the trip to Boston. My wife and I celebrate one of those landmark anniversaries Friday, and I thought Boston would be a good place to celebrate. <sigh>

    However, PTC assembled a great group of speakers. The internal speakers were professional quality presenters. Even the weakest presenter of the day was superior to many I see live. Of course product enhancements were emphasized, but thought leadership about where both PTC and Rockwell Automation were heading (Rockwell is an investor and CEO Blake Moret got the unenviable final speech slot) formed the backdrop.

    PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann interwove his vision of the company and industry with a variety of product roadmaps and use case examples. To speak “PTC” one had best learn to spell “SaaS”. He enumerated four skills enhanced by cloud-based, or SaaS, applications. Mobility and resiliency; Flexibility–supply chain and production; Bringing digital technology to front-line workers; and, Remote Monitoring (something I’ve been talking to many people about lately).

    Going forward, Heppelmann discussed adding AR to IoT and AI leading to “Spatial Computing” and “Spatial Analytics”. PTC has products and applications going in that direction. Listening to him, I immediately saw possibilities.

    You can follow my Twitter thread (@garymintchell) for other thoughts of the day. Aside from PTC executives laying out product and application roadmaps, presentations relevant to the day and well done were from Rana el Kaliouby, CEO of Afectiva and author of Girl Decoded (excellent story told on Tim Ferriss blog) who discussed emotional intelligence for technology; Kimberly Bryant told the story of Black Girls CODE–powerful; Nir Eyal discussed ideas on product development from his book Hooked (but I preferred his book Indistractable); and Stacey Higgenbotham, who is the IoT journalist. I think I saw seven of the eight presentations. I think I need an adult beverage!

    Moret talked of the many benefits Rockwell Automation has provided to customers through its partnership with PTC and acquisitions of PTC partners. Many years ago, I saw some demos of Rockwell working with CAD/PLM supplier trying to bring that technology and automation together. Siemens did it by acquiring UGS quite a few years ago. That integration seems to have succeeded, but it was rough going for a while. Meanwhile, aside from the important benefits of ThingWorx from PTC, OnShape, the CAD SaaS application, combined with Vuforia products, ThingWorx, and acquisitions in the simulation area potentially make Rockwell extremely competitive in that market.

    I think we are seeing PTC and Rockwell Automation breaking out in a new way that is exciting.

    [Note: I am an independent writer and thinker, not an analyst who it paid by the companies.]

    Software as a Service (SaaS) will revolutionize predictive maintenance in motor driven systems

    Interact Analysis’s new report on the market for predictive maintenance highlights the potential for a new relationship between component manufacturers, OEM machine builders, and end users.

    • By 2024, the market for predictive maintenance in motor driven systems is forecast to reach a valuation of $906.1 million
    • Enhanced demand for remote monitoring as a result of COVID-19 means there will be no slowdown in market growth
    • SaaS is likely to be the main business model for provision of predictive maintenance, and also eases concerns over data ownership

    Interact Analysis, my new favorite market research firm, has announced an in-depth examination of the predictive maintenance market. It forecasts a boom in the sector, propelled by the emergence of smart sensors able to monitor crucial parts of a motor-driven system that are not covered by legacy maintenance devices and methods. Advanced smart sensors will allow delivery of viable cloud-based predictive maintenance service packages using a SaaS business model.

    One reason I like Interact Analysis right now is methodology. In addition to 40+ hours of primary research interviews, Interact Analysis has utilized data from national manufacturing surveys, as well as data developed for other research areas. This data, combined with the information gathered from interviews, is the base at which estimates are developed.

    The report shows that the market for predictive maintenance in 2019 was $117.5 million, largely made up from legacy predictive maintenance products such as portable monitoring devices. Many of these devices will maintain strong growth in the coming decade but will be used in tandem with new technologies such as smart sensors, the latter fueling an expected boom in market value of predictive maintenance technology, up to almost $1 billion in 2024. The significant fall in price of the capacitive based microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) found in Smart Sensors will be one of the drivers of this market.

    I like their methodology and analysis—except for forecasting. Predicting future sales is so fraught with uncertainty that I take it as an interesting guide. Evidently sensor manufacturers reported doubling of sales over the two previous years. Look at the numbers and you can see that Interact assumed that doubling to continue through 2024.

    When I read through the report synopsis, I was struck by the reliance on smart sensing as a foundation to the market growth for predictive maintenance. I missed a point. They have detected the beginnings of a trend that I have not yet seen. Software-as-a-Service applied to these intelligent devices. Selling the data, not the sensor, so to speak. I’m interested in your feedback on this development. And whether it can drive this market to a billion dollars.

    Back to the report:

    Smart sensors, which typically monitor sound, temperature, and vibration, may not provide the depth of data offered by some legacy devices, but they have significant advantages. Whereas most legacy devices are attached to motors, IA predicts that only 53% of smart sensors will be attached to motors by 2024. The rest will be attached to other machine components which are also subject to the wear and tear of daily use. This means that the application of predictive maintenance will be far more widespread in the factories of the future.

    Blake Griffin, lead analyst on predictive maintenance at Interact Analysis, says: “Smart sensor technology coupled with IIoT capabilities give component manufacturers and OEM machine builders the scope to offer end users an anticipatory service package. For most providers of predictive maintenance, the logical business model will be software as a service. A side benefit of SaaS is that it ties all technologies together under a single solution – thereby eliminating concerns regarding data ownership. Additionally, advancements in embedded machine learning will improve the ability for predictive maintenance to be installed in new or non-standard applications that are less well understood, further fueling growth.”

    Adrian Lloyd, CEO of Interact Analysis, adds: “Modern predictive maintenance technology is currently at the beginning of an exponential growth trajectory. Now is a more important time than ever for suppliers to understand key trends at play so they may work at carving out their share of this market – forecast to be worth nearly $1 billion by 2024.”

    Griffin further explained the background in a Blog Post. Following are some excerpts.

    What are Smart Sensors?

    Smart sensors are a fairly new technology that are placed on equipment to gather various data points, most commonly vibration and temperature measurements. Smart sensors then transmit this information wirelessly to a data collector or gateway. When analyzed, this data is particularly useful for assessing the health of equipment as usually the level of vibration and temperature increases as equipment becomes faulty.

    How is this Different from Condition Monitoring?

    In a traditional condition monitoring system, very little effort is made to determine when equipment will fail, instead relying on set parameters to determine when an asset is at risk of failing. The problem with this approach is that it limits the number of applications which can be monitored. If parameters must be set for an alarm to be triggered, those parameters must be well understood. This decreases the reliability of these systems in applications that are not well understood.

    For predictive maintenance to be performed, a level of intelligence must exist somewhere in the plant infrastructure, whether in the form of software, hardware or even application expertise by an experienced operator. A historical log of how the equipment being measured has performed must be utilized to assess if it is trending towards a failure. Increasingly, machine learning algorithms are being utilized to enhance the understanding of the application being measured. This technology utilizes the historical data produced by the smart sensor to better understand and recognize patterns. Having an automated solution for pattern recognition allows for quicker and more reliable detection of anomalies within the data. This not only expands the number of applications able to be monitored beyond just well understood ones, it also increases the amount of time operation managers have to resolve a piece of equipment that is trending towards failure.

    Key Driver: A Push for the Realization of Digitalization and IIOT

    The most important trend impacting industrial automation is the digitalization of these systems and the equipment within. Over the last 6-7 years, remarkable breakthroughs in technologies that help improve plant efficiency, productivity and reliability have been developed, although uptake so far has been challenging due to the cautious nature of end users when it comes to adopting new technologies.

    While these vendors have released software and services aimed at harnessing the benefits of IIoT, it is clear that in order to make use of these solutions, a substantial increase in the number of connected devices is needed. Smart sensors represent an important piece of this puzzle. Since the advent of smart sensors, major automation vendors like ABB, Siemens, WEG, and Nidec have all released their own versions, presumably recognizing the enabling behavior of this technology. We expect this trend to continue as the product is desperately needed in order for manufacturers to begin generating tangible benefits from IIoT technology.

    Hitachi Vantara Expands Digital Manufacturing Portfolio

    Many companies emphasize their response to the current Covid-19 pandemic and some leave behind the core announcements or benefits. This announcement (and a interview and webinar) from Hitachi Vantara, the digital infrastructure and solutions subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., is an example. The company has brought in another company group, Hitachi Consulting, and has organized expanded offerings specifically relating to manufacturing.

    The new consulting and software group within Hitachi Vantara help manufacturers accelerate Manufacturing 4.0 (or Industrie 4.0, or Smart Manufacturing, or name your brand) initiatives. One other strategy I’ve briefly touched on is the difficulty of safely restarting production in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will not be easy and will require thought, planning, and changes to policies, procedures, layouts, and workflow.

    Hitachi Vantara’s new manufacturing practice and its expanded portfolio of digital manufacturing solutions, services and consulting services aims to help manufacturers adapt to these immediate challenges. It also promises to help manufacturers lay the foundations for the digitalization of health, safety and environment (HS&E), asset insights, predictive quality, and operations optimization.

    “The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing a litany of challenges for manufacturers that highlight how important unlocking data and digital industrial innovation is to the industry’s future,” said James Destro, general manager, Manufacturing Practice, Hitachi Vantara. “With our powerful IT and OT experience, Hitachi Vantara can uniquely inspire, envision, architect and accelerate digital transformation that solves today’s challenges and prepares manufacturers for the challenges of tomorrow.”

    Lumada Video Analytics for Smart Spaces Address a Safe Return to Production

    Worker health and safety are primary concerns for manufacturers restarting their operations. The expanded portfolio of digital solutions for manufacturing from Hitachi Vantara includes health, safety and environment solutions leveraging Lumada Video Insights technologies which can be configured for safety applications such as elevated body temperature identification and hand washing detection.

    Thermal cameras and Lidar technology can detect the temperature of a person from a distance, so that workers can non-intrusively be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 and workspaces can be monitored for compliance with distancing recommendations.

    Practice Helps Manufacturers Lay Foundations for Digital Transformation

    COVID-19 has revealed many manufacturers’ overreliance on manual processes and operations, and the lack of visibility that many manufacturing line managers and executives have into their supply chains. Modernizing and digitalizing such capabilities will be essential for manufacturers to recover from the pandemic quickly, and to creating the more agile and resilient manufacturing operations needed in the future. This is another focus of Hitachi Vantara’s new manufacturing practice.

    Hitachi’s manufacturing innovations, enterprise-class information technology, and intellectual property – coupled with deep, industry-specific consulting expertise and proven methods to accelerate time to value– enable customers to operationalize digital innovation in a secure, deployment-agnostic, and end-to-end approach. Hitachi Vantara’s outcome-focused consulting process breaks down barriers between OT and IT teams to craft comprehensive solutions that deliver transformative outcomes.

    Hitachi Vantara Expands Lumada Manufacturing Insights Portfolio

    Hitachi Vantara further announced the expansion of Lumada Manufacturing Insights solutions with new domains that help manufacturers address health, safety and environment, supply chain optimization, asset insights, predictive quality, and operations optimization.

    Lumada Manufacturing Insights is a portfolio of industrial internet-of-things (IoT) solutions that empowers manufacturers to achieve operational improvements through data-driven insights. The portfolio delivers benefits such as improved overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), superior operations efficiency, and product quality optimization through predictive and prescriptive insights.

    The new solutions introduced today, coupled to Hitachi Vantara’s advisory and consulting services, enable manufacturers to connect production floor Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to create a ‘digital thread’ that provides complete visibility into the data of the organization.