Open Technologies Part Two from ARC Forum with Schneider Electric

I am not attending the annual ARC Forum this year due to some travel conflicts. News does travel, though.

The first Forum I attended way back in 1998 contained a strong presence of open automation from a group called OMAC (Open Modular Architecture Controller). This movement achieved a standardized HMI, especially for packaging machines and now resides within PMMI.

For the past several years the open initiative has been led by a forum within The Open Group called the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF). Schneider Electric has held a strong presence there along with ABB and Yokogawa. It has really been an industry-led initiative begun by leaders from ExxonMobil. Here is the open technology news from Schneider Electric this year.

In brief:

  • Schneider Electric delivers next-generation, open automation infrastructure in collaboration with Intel and Red Hat 
  • New Distributed Control Node (DCN) software framework to help drive open automation 
  • Solution helps replace vendor-specific hardware with plug-and-produce offer 
  • Interoperability and portability support industrial innovation, reduce obsolescence 

An extension of Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Automation Expert, this new framework enables industrial companies to move to a software-defined, plug-and-produce solution, allowing them to enhance their operations, ensure quality, reduce complexity, and optimize costs. 

“This project is the culmination of two years of co-innovation to create efficient, future-proof distributed control systems,” said Nathalie Marcotte, Senior Vice President of Process Automation at Schneider Electric. “The DCN framework is key to fostering an open automation approach, enabling industrial businesses to grow and innovate for the future. Its interoperability and portability help our customers enjoy the freedom of shaping technology around their business needs – and not the other way around.” 

Red Hat, in collaboration with Intel, recently announced the creation of a new industrial edge platform that helps provide a modern approach to building and operating industrial controls. Since implementing this platform, Schneider Electric has now deployed Red Hat Device Edge in the new DCN software, in addition to Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform and Red Hat OpenShift at the compute layer for DCN deployments, combined with a control infrastructure from Schneider Electric and reference architecture from Intel. 

The framework consists of two main components: an advanced computer platform (ACP), which supervises the control workload by providing the content control and automation capabilities needed to deploy workloads securely and programmatically, along with virtualization and monitoring functionalities; and the DCN, which are low-power, industrial systems using Intel Atom x6400E series processors, dedicated to running controls and designed for workloads f mixed-criticality.

Rockwell Automation Touts Open Technologies at ARC Forum

I am not attending the annual ARC Forum this year due to some travel conflicts. News does travel, though.

The first Forum I attended way back in 1998 contained a strong presence of open automation from a group called OMAC (Open Modular Architecture Controller). This movement achieved a standardized HMI, especially for packaging machines and now resides within PMMI.

For the past several years the open initiative has been led by a forum within The Open Group called the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF). Schneider Electric has held a strong presence there along with ABB and Yokogawa. It has really been an industry-led initiative begun by leaders from ExxonMobil. More on Schneider Electric in my next post. One of two ‘Open’ press releases from this year’s Forum.

This news is from Rockwell Automation. It evidently has decided to get involved with OPAF this year. You may wonder why. This statement from SVP software and control Brian Shepherd provides a clue. “We appreciate and understand our users need for products and systems that integrate well together and allow for collaboration of edge and cloud data sources. Through working with organizations like OPAF and OPC, we will continue to invest in our systems, products and services for market-leading interoperability, longevity and performance.” 

I imagine at some point we may see an open edge device or even controller from Rockwell Automation. For now, the company touts OPC-UA integration into some products along with supporting MQTT and REST. This is a good start.

Here are four examples Rockwell provided of its new emphasis on openness:

  • PlantPAx’s control platform, based on the company’s Logix Controllers, now natively supports OPC-UA, facilitating direct data sharing with edge and cloud applications. Additional connectivity options are available with MQTT and REST.
  • Embedded Edge Compute Module, which provides a compute surface within the Logix environment, enhances plant-wide connectivity through OPC-UA, MQTT, and REST API communication.
  • FactoryTalk Optix, a scalable platform that can be used in PlantPAx to provide native support for OPC-UA to allow operations, maintenance, and plant personnel to visualize various information originating across the enterprise.
  • The combination of PlantPAx and FactoryTalk DataMosaix provides a leading industrial Data Ops platform that supports OPC-UA, provides contextualization of data from multiple sources. The data models can be used to support pre-built Energy, Batch and Asset optimization solutions from Rockwell Automation or to accelerate development of custom solutions.

Siemens and Intel to Collaborate on Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing

Semiconductor manufacturing resides in its own unique niche. I have seldom covered it in detail since it doesn’t translate well to other forms of discrete or process automation. This news is more general showing the potential good from companies collaborating. It’s one way that big companies can keep progressing. This is a Siemens and Intel collaboration on manufacturing.

  • Siemens and Intel to collaborate to advance semiconductor manufacturing production efficiency and sustainability across scopes 1-3 of the value chain
  • Semiconductors are crucial for the global economy and for lowering carbon footprints across economies by enabling sustainable solutions
  • Intel and Siemens will leverage their respective portfolios of cutting edge IoT solutions, along with Siemens automation solutions to enhance semiconductor manufacturing efficiency and sustainability

“Semiconductors are the lifeblood of our modern economies. Few things run without chips. Therefore, we’re proud to collaborate with Intel to quickly advance semiconductor production. Siemens will bring its entire cutting-edge portfolio of IoT-enabled hardware and software and electrical equipment to this collaboration,” said Cedrik Neike, CEO of Digital Industries and member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG. “Our joint efforts will contribute to achieving global sustainability goals.”

The MoU identifies key areas of collaboration to explore a variety of initiatives, including optimizing energy management and addressing carbon footprints across the value chain. For instance, the collaboration will explore use of “digital twins” of complex, highly capital-intensive manufacturing facilities to standardize solutions where every percentage of efficiency gained is meaningful. 

The collaboration will also explore minimizing energy use through advanced modeling of natural resources and environmental footprints across the value chain. To gain more information on product-related emissions, Intel will explore product and supply chain related modeling solutions with Siemens that drive data-based insights and help the industry accelerate progress in reducing its collective footprint.

“The world needs a more globally balanced, sustainable and resilient semiconductor supply chain to meet the increasing demand for chips,” said Keyvan Esfarjani, Intel Executive Vice President and Chief Global Operations Officer. “We are excited to build upon Intel’s advanced manufacturing capabilities by expanding our collaboration with Siemens to explore new areas where we can utilize Siemens’ portfolio of automation solutions to enhance efficiency and sustainability in semiconductor infrastructure, facilities, and factory operations. This MOU will benefit regional and global industry value chains.”

A Peek Under the Covers of ChatGPT and Similar AI Models

This may sound surprising (although it shouldn’t). General media promotes a lot of hype and dire warnings and smoke-and-mirrors about large language models (LLM)—the latest type of augmented (artificial) intelligence. Do you think that if you could even get a peek into the math and technology that you could at least have a better grip on risk and reward?

I have just the book for you. The publicists sent a review copy. I was fascinated.

More than a Chatbot by Mascha Kurpicz-Briki, a professor for data engineering, enables readers to understand and be part of the exciting new development of powerful text processing and generation tools. After reading this book, the reader will be confident enough to participate in public discussions about how new generations of language models will impact society and be aware of the risks and pitfalls of such technologies.

Mascha Kurpicz-Briki is professor for data engineering at the Bern University of Applied Sciences in Biel, Switzerland, and co-leader of the research group Applied Machine Intelligence.

In particular, the book discusses the following questions: How did the field of automated text processing and generation evolve over the last years, and what happened to allow the incredible recent advances? Are chatbots such as ChatGPT or Bard truly understanding humans? What pitfalls exist and how are stereotypes of the society reflected in such models? What is the potential of such technology, and how will the digital society of the future look like in terms of human-chatbot-collaboration?

The book is aimed for a general audience, briefly explaining mathematical or technical background when necessary. After having read this book, you will be confident to participate in public discussions about how this new generation of language models will impact society. You will be aware of the risks and pitfalls these technologies can bring along, and how to deal responsibly when making use of tools built from AI technology in general.

SiLC Technologies Unveils A Leap in Precision LiDAR Technology

CES rolled into Las Vegas this week. Many companies with technologies relevant to the area I cover have significant news. Lately there has been a lot of activity in vision generally. LiDAR has many industrial applications. SiLC Technologies has launched its Eyeonic Vision System Mini (Eyeonic Mini), a “groundbreaking” advancement in LiDAR technology. This system integrates a full multi-channel FMCW LiDAR on a single silicon photonic chip and an integrated FMCW LiDAR System-on-Chip (SoC).

Utilizing the industry’s first purpose-built digital LiDAR processor system-on-chip (SoC), the iND83301 (“Surya”) developed by indie Semiconductor, the Eyeonic Mini achieves an unprecedented level of detail, delivering an order of magnitude greater precision than existing technologies while being one-third the size of last year’s pioneering model. This latest innovation builds upon the success of SiLC’s first commercial FMCW LiDAR system, the Eyeonic Vision System, founded on an integrated silicon photonics chip and designed specifically for machine vision applications.

SiLC’s Eyeonic Vision Chip, central to the system, amalgamates all essential photonics functions into a coherent vision sensor, delivering a compact solution that meets the demands for performance, affordability and low power consumption. The system’s exceptional accuracy is driven by a 4-channel FMCW LiDAR chip, complemented by indie’s innovative Surya SoC, and equips robots with sub-millimeter depth precision from distances exceeding ten meters.

This level of precision opens new doors in automation, particularly in warehouse logistics and AI machine vision applications. For instance, AI-driven palletizing robots equipped with the Eyeonic Mini can fully view and interact with pallets, optimizing package placement and loading onto trucks with efficiency and safety. In the context of the U.S., with its over 13 million commercial trucks, this technology promises to revolutionize warehouse operations and the broader trucking industry, significantly boosting efficiency in loading and unloading processes.

Giving robots the intelligence to see, move, touch, think and learn, Dexterity is working on incorporating SiLC technology into their robot autonomy platform. “At Dexterity, we focus on AI, machine learning and robotic intelligence to make warehouses more productive, efficient and safe,” remarked CEO Samir Menon. “We are excited to partner with SiLC to unlock LiDAR for the robotics and logistics markets. Their technology is a revolution in depth sensing and will enable easier and faster adoption of warehouse automation and robotic truck load and unload.”

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