OPC Foundation’s continuous improvement program extended with the addition of new Chair for its Board of Directors. I haven’t had an OPC Foundation conversation since April. Based on conversations with numerous leaders in Hannover, I think this is a great step forward by the Foundation’s board of directors. I’m not sure what precipitated the addition, but I’ve met Schmid-Lutz and she’ll do an excellent job of bringing cohesiveness and direction to the organization.
OPC UA is solid technology used by most automation and IoT companies. These moves to strengthen the organization can only be positive.
This from the original press release—In this key position, the Chair manages the strategic and tactical directives of the Board of Directors and ensures the marketing, technical, and overall business activities of the OPC Foundation consistently align with its vision and objectives. In addition, the Chair organizes and calls the Board of Directors meetings and engages directly with the organization’s infrastructure. The Chair position requires a dynamic leader who can navigate the political, business, and technical challenges associated with a standard setting organization.
Veronika Schmid-Lutz was honored by the trust and confidence placed in her by her fellow board members and noted that “being elected as the Chair of the OPC Foundation’s board is a great honor for me. My focus will be to strengthen and pursuing all aspects that make interoperability between devices, machines, and business systems as simple and as secure as possible.”
Thomas J. Burke, President of the OPC Foundation commented on the importance of the Chair position and why Ms. Schmid-Lutz was the right person to fill it, “Veronika clearly demonstrated her excellent leadership and business skills as a member of the OPC Foundation Board of Directors. Based on this I believe she is well suited to now serve as the Board’s Chair. With Veronika at the helm of the business, I look forward to see her facilitate and successfully drive the OPC Foundation vision into the next era.” Mr. Burke concluded saying “It’s a great honor to have Veronika accept this important leadership role. We look forward to see her oversee communicating the importance of OPC UA into the IT world.”
Recognizing the value of both the organization and its deliverables, Veronika Schmid-Lutz emphasized the importance of OPC UA by noting: “Easy interoperability is an important enabler for intelligent systems leveraging new technologies in software and hardware. SAP strongly supports OPC UA as it simplifies and accelerates information exchange between heterogeneous systems and devices which is why Platform Industrie 4.0 has made OPC-UA a key component of its RAMI architecture. The board looks forward to continue enhancing the value of both the organization and its deliverables.”
Something good can come from the wastes of dirty coal mining in West Virginia. West Virginia University researchers are opening a new facility to capture valuable materials from acid mine drainage from coal mining – turning the unwanted waste into critical components used in today’s technology-driven society.
Through a collaborative research and development program with the National Energy Technology Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, WVU is opening the Rare Earth Extraction Facility to bolster domestic supplies of rare earths, reduce the environmental impact of coal-mining operations, reduce production costs and increase efficiency for processing market-ready rare earths.
Additionally, the technology could create jobs, helping to revive economies that have been historically dependent on the coal industry.
“Research on rare-earth extraction is one way that our University is fulfilling its most important mission—which is the land grant mission—to advance the prosperity of the people of this state,” President Gordon Gee said.
Representatives from WVU, NETL, DOE, representatives from West Virginia’s congressional delegation and others gathered July 18 in the High Bay Research Lab at the WVU Energy Institute’s National Research Center for Coal and Energy on campus to tour the new Rare Earth Extraction Facility and mark the start of this exciting new phase of research.
Brian Andson, director of the WVU Energy Institute, hosted the event and conveyed statements of support from the members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Rep. David McKinley and Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito.
In addition, WVU welcomed keynote speaker Steven Winberg, DOE assistant secretary for fossil energy.
“It’s a pleasure to be in West Virginia, because West Virginians understand what it really means to have an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy,” he said.
WVU is partnering with Rockwell Automation to facilitate market readiness through use of their sensor and control technologies in the new WVU facility.
Paul McRoberts, regional industry mining, metals and cement manager at Rockwell Automation, a 30-year veteran of the industry, said that this is one of the most exciting projects he has been a part of during his career and is excited to see the results of the new facility.
The facility is the researchers’ phase two project, worth $3.38 million, funded by NETL with substantial matching funding from WVU’s private sector partners. It follows on an earlier, phase one project, worth $937,000, to study acid mine drainage as feedstock for rare-earth extraction. The goal of the pilot facility is to test the technical and economic feasibility of scaling-up the technology to commercialize the separation and extraction process.
In addition, the team will be working to define a U.S.-based supply chain including the sludges created during acid mine drainage treatment and upstream to the acid-mine drainage source.
Brian Anderson holding a sample of dried acid mine drainage sludge containing rare earth elements. Photo by: M.G. Ellis
Neither rare nor earth
The name “rare earth elements” is a misnomer for important chemical elements that are actually neither rare nor earths.
A collection of 16 elements that hang off the bottom of the periodic table, they are moderately abundant but well dispersed in the Earth’s crust. They are identified as rare because it is unusual to find them in large concentrations.
The elements are all metals that carry very similar properties. In rare cases they are found in deposits together. Unlike an element such as gold, natural rare earth deposits never occur as pure metals, but are bonded in low-value minerals, making extraction challenging.
Conventional rare-earth recovery methods require an expensive, difficult and messy extraction process that generates large volumes of contaminated waste. China has been able to provide a low-cost supply of rare earths using these methods, and therefore, dominates the global market.
The conventional mining and extraction processes require mining ore from mineral deposits in rock, which is crushed into a powder, dissolved in powerful chemical solutions and filtered. The process is repeated multiple times to retrieve rare earth oxides. Additional processing and refining separates the oxides from their tight bonds and further groups them into light rare earths and heavy rare earths.
In usable form, these elements are necessary components of modern technologies. They are used in cellular phones, computers, televisions, magnets, batteries, catalytic converters, defense applications and many more segments of modern society.
Members of the WVU rare-earth research team from L to R: Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute; Chris Vass, facility operator; and Xingbo Liu, professor and associate chair of research, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, in the new Rare Earth Extraction Facility at the WVU Energy Institute/National Research Center for Coal and Energy. Photo by: M.G. Ellis
Aaron Noble, associate professor of mining and minerals engineering at Virginia Tech, is a co-investigator on the project working with the WVU team.
Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute and principal investigator on the project, is an expert in acid mine drainage. He found that acid mine drainage, a byproduct of coal mining, “naturally” concentrates rare earths. Active coal mines, and in many cases state agencies, are required to treat the waste, which in turn, yields solids that are enriched in rare earth elements.
“Acid mine drainage from abandoned mines is the biggest industrial pollution source in Appalachian streams, and it turns out that these huge volumes of waste are essentially pre-processed and serve as good rare earth feedstock,” Ziemkiewicz said. “Coal contains all of the rare earth elements, but it has a substantial amount of the heavy rare earths that are particularly valuable.”
Studies show that the Appalachian basin could produce 800 tons of rare earth elements per year, approximately the amount the defense industry would need.
“Currently, acid-mine-drainage treatment is a liability, an environmental obligation,” Ziemkiewicz said. “But it could turn into a revenue stream, incentivizing treatment and creating economic opportunity for the region.”
Ziemkiewicz, Xingbo Liu, professor of mechanical engineering in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, and Aaron Noble, associate professor of mining and minerals engineering at Virginia Tech, have designed the processing facility from the ground up using advanced separation technologies. Chris Vass, PE, is the operator of the new facility and a Summersville, West Virginia, native.
The researchers are using a two-step process to separate the rare earths from acid mine drainage: acid leaching and solvent extraction, which they call ALSX.
Researchers will dissolve the sludge in an acid. That solution will then be transferred to glass mixers and settlers that will make an emulsion that allows the oil phase and its extractant chemical to grab rare earths from the water, leaving the non-rare earth base metals like iron in the water
When that process is completed, the rare-earth-laden organic liquid enters another series of mixers and settlers that will strip the rare earths out as a concentrated solution and precipitate the rare earths as a solid, creating a concentrated rare earth oxide that can then be refined and further concentrated into pure rare earth metals to supply the metal refining industry.
The goal of the project is to produce three grams of rare earth concentrate per hour.
“For example, scandium, one of these rare earths, is worth about $4,500 per kilogram as an oxide, the form that it will leave this facility,” Anderson said. After refining, it would be worth $15,000 per kilogram.”
Unused materials will be returned to the acid mine drainage treatment plant’s disposal system, resulting in a negligible environmental footprint.
“This process uses an existing waste product that is abundant in our region,” Ziemkiewicz said. “It is also much easier to extract and requires much milder acids and has negligible waste materials when compared to conventional rare-earth recovery methods.”
A team, led by John Adams, assistant director of business operations at the WVU Energy Institute, is also defining the supply chain, moving upstream to the source and working with coal-industry partners. By producing a purified product at the mine, researchers could reduce transportation and waste handling costs.
“This could go a long way toward creating new economic opportunity for West Virginia and the region and make treating acid mine drainage a financial boon instead of a financial burden,” said Anderson.
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Platforms that serve to expedite the interaction and collaboration of apps in the Internet of Things (IoT) are sort of the next new thing. There are several that some of the IT analyst firms are following. Trouble is the term allows for a wide variety.
One I’ve written about several times here and here and here is open source developed under the auspices of the Linux Foundation with major leadership and contributions by Dell Technologies. It’s called the EdgeX Foundry. The initiative includes 47 member companies.
The second major release of the platform (California) has just seen the light of day. I picked up information from a blog post by Jim White, Vice Chair of the Technical Steering Committee and Distinguished Engineer and Project Lead of the IoT Platform Development Team within Dell Technologies IoT Solutions Division.
Following is a lightly edited version of his blog concerning the announcement.
While EdgeX is only a year old, our community is demonstrating its staying power with the second major release in its first year. The California release, which follows Barcelona, shows the commitment and dedication of many who see the importance and potential of developing a flexible, open source, IoT software platform for the edge that provides connectivity and interoperability while still allowing value add.
So, what is new with the California release? A lot! But before we get into the details, I want to highlight that the biggest focus of this release was to introduce a few key security capabilities and to make EdgeX smaller and faster.
EdgeX began its existence without security and organizations wanting to leverage the platform had to add their own security capability. Today, EdgeX incorporates some of the first security elements. These initial elements, while useful on their own, are essential building blocks to additional security features in the future.
The first security elements include a reverse proxy that helps protect the REST API communications and a secrets store. With the EdgeX reverse proxy in place – as provided by incorporating an open source product called Kong – any external client of an EdgeX micro service must first authenticate themselves before successfully calling on an EdgeX API.
The secure storage facility was provided by incorporating the open source Vault (Hashicorp) product, and it allows items such as username/password credentials, certificates, secure tokens, etc. to be persisted and protected within EdgeX. These types of “secrets” will allow EdgeX to, for example, encrypt data, make HTTPS calls to the enterprise, or connect EdgeX to a cloud provider in a secure manner.
Performance and Scalability
The EdgeX Foundry Technical Steering Committee decided early last year in the project’s formation that we would release twice a year – once in April and once in October. You probably noticed that it’s not April.
Last year, we decided that EdgeX needed to be smaller and faster to better function effectively at “the edge”, which the largely-Java code from the seed donation was going to make difficult. To do this, we needed to rebuild the EdgeX microservices in Go Lang – and do so by our spring 2018 release. This was not a small endeavor and it was made at a time when the EdgeX Foundry developer community was just coming on board. We knew it would take a bit more time, but we were committed to this, and added two more months to this release cycle.
The extra time was well worth it! With the California release, we’ve dramatically lowered the footprint, startup time, memory and CPU usage. Take a look at the statistics below, which compares services from our first community release last October (Barcelona) to our current release (California).
We still have work to do, but it’s now possible to run all of EdgeX on something like a Raspberry Pi 3.
In addition to the initial security capabilities and reducing the size and latency of the platform, this release includes other work – some visible to the user while some features are more hidden but improve the overall quality of EdgeX.
• Several additions were made to the export services to provide additional “northbound” connectivity, to include connectors for XMPP, ThingsBoard IoT, and Brightics IoT
• We improved the documentation and now have documentation stored with the code in Github – allowing it to be maintained and updated more like code by the community
• Arm 64 is now fully supported. In fact we worked with the Linux Foundation to add external environments and tools to create native Arm 64 artifacts.
• We added blackbox tests for all the micro services. These are now kicked off as part of our build and continuous integration processes.
• Other improvements were made to our continuous integration – to help streamline developer contributions
On to Delhi
Our next release, named Delhi, will come out in October 2018. Due to the extended release cycle for California, the Delhi release cycle is going to be short. The significant features planned for Delhi include:
• Initial manageability services and capability
• Device Service SDKs (Go/C) and at least one example device service
• The next wave of security features to include access control lists to grant access to appropriate services and improved security service bootstrapping
• Better/more unit testing and added performance testing
• Adding the last of the refactored and improved Go Lang microservices
• Outlining options and a potential implementation plan for alternate or additional database support
• An EdgeX UI suitable for demos and smaller installations
Claroty has been busy. Following the news of investments and partnership with Rockwell Automation, Claroty and Siemens announced a global partnership. Siemens will leverage Claroty’s advanced behavioral analysis technology in Siemens’ recently announced Industrial Anomaly Detection solution.
Siemens, through its global venture firm Next47, also invested in Claroty, joining a global syndicate of industrial giants that invested $60 million in the company’s Series B round, bringing the company’s total investment to date to $93 million.
Siemens initiated the Charter of Trust in February 2018, gaining the support of other giant companies in the global fight against the rising cybersecurity threat to industrial systems. Siemens also continues to expand its cybersecurity portfolio, debuting at the 2018 Hannover Messe industrial automation conference a new Industrial Anomaly Detection solution, which will deliver significant value for both operations and cybersecurity teams. Operations teams receive a detailed inventory of industrial assets and changes to the network. Cybersecurity teams can continuously monitor these critical networks for vulnerabilities, malicious activity, and high-risk changes, across distributed industrial sites.
Claroty was selected by Siemens following an intensive technical evaluation. “In selecting our security partner for Industrial Anomaly Detection, we reviewed the market, conducted a detailed evaluation, and rigorously tested possible technology in our industrial lab environment,” said Dr. Thomas Moser, CEO of the Siemens Customer Services business unit. “Claroty’s advanced behavioral analysis provides a significant advantage to our customers in reducing risk to their OT environment.”
“Our mission is to help our customers secure industrial networks so they can avoid costly operations downtime, and maintain the safety of people and expensive assets,” said Amir Zilberstein, Claroty Co-founder and CEO. “Siemens’ selection of Claroty as a strategic partner and their investment in our company is further validation of our technology, our team, and our ability to deliver world-class, enterprise-level protection.”
Siemens uses Claroty in a pre-packaged offering enabling customers to quickly and safely deploy anomaly detection in their operations. Siemens brings the offering to the market based on pre-installed packages on Siemens IPC. In the future, it is planned to also offer this based on Siemens switches with an Application Processing engine provided by the Ruggedcom RX1500 series.
Siemens, as owner and operator of nearly 300 factories, heavily leverages digitalizing for efficiency gains. Responsible digitalization must go hand in hand with cybersecurity. Therefore, Siemens is implementing a defense-in-depth security concept in its factories. Industrial Anomaly Detection is an important element of this concept.
The Claroty Platform is comprised of multiple integrated products, built on Claroty’s advanced CoreX technology. The products provide the full range of cybersecurity protection, control, detection, and response. Claroty has received multiple industry awards in recent months. It was recently named an Energy Innovation Pioneer at CERAWeek 2018, and the company’s flagship Continuous Threat Detection product won the ICS Detection Challenge during the S4x18 conference in Miami.
This story is all about partnerships and collaboration. I started to write it yesterday morning, but then I saw a tweet, no not from the “big guy” but from PTC about the Rockwell Automation investment. I wanted to talk about the current trend of partnering.
It begins Roy Kok and DreamReports. We’ve chatted a little about how a company with a somewhat narrowly defined product and market can grow. He’s out in San Diego this week at the Rockwell Automation TechEd event. Rockwell is an important partner. All that data from IoT and analytics isn’t worth the storage if the information can’t be parsed and displayed. Enter Dream Reports. Kok assures me that there will be more partnerships in the future. It’s no doubt his best potential.
Another Rockwell Investment
Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to speak with Patrick McBride the CMO of Claroty about another Rockwell Automation investment. Once again a somewhat narrowly defined market—cyber security—using partnerships to grow. In this case, Claroty attracted $60M of Series B investment, bringing its total funding to $93 Million. He told me that the investment funds will be used to make the appropriate hires to expand sales and projects globally and to support its new partners.
The round was led by Temasek and included Rockwell Automation, Aster Capital (born out of Schneider Electric Ventures), Next47 (Siemens-backed global venture firm), Envision Ventures, and Tekfen Ventures. Original Claroty investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Team8, Innovation Endeavors, and ICV all participated in the round.
Founded in 2014 and exiting stealth mode in late 2016, this investment comes on the heels of a breakout year for Claroty capped by a 300% year-over-year growth in bookings and customer base. Claroty now has large-scale customers with production installations across six continents in nine market segments, including electric utilities, oil and gas, chemical, water, manufacturing, food and beverage, mining, and real estate (building management systems, data centers, warehouses).
“Our unparalleled investor syndicate, which includes some of the most important industrial companies in the world, is a ringing endorsement of Claroty’s technology and the progress our team has made,” said Amir Zilberstein, Claroty Co-founder and CEO. “Our mission is to protect the most critical networks on the planet and our comprehensive platform provides our customers with the capabilities they need to accomplish this vitally important task.”
This rapidly expanding cybersecurity market segment is the result of a “perfect storm” that has placed industrial networks running critical global infrastructures in the spotlight. Old and insecure industrial control networks, which used to be “air-gapped,” are now being rapidly connected to networks and exposed to a range of risks. Because of their criticality, these networks are increasingly targeted by advanced nation-state adversaries who are determined to harvest information and gain a persistent presence for potential future attacks. In 2017, industrial networks also became collateral damage in ransomware attacks like WannaCry and NotPetya costing companies billions in losses.
“A perimeter defense to cybersecurity in today’s connected world is not enough. An end-to-end approach, with solutions that provide deep visibility into operational technology and industrial control systems, is critical for the security of heavy processing environments,” said Hervé Coureil, Chief Digital Officer at Schneider Electric. “Leading the digital transformation of energy management and automation, Schneider Electric takes cybersecurity very seriously and the partnership with Claroty complements the cybersecurity layer of our IoT-enabled EcoStruxure architecture.”
“Protecting the critical automation systems our customers operate against cyberattacks remains a top priority for the company,” said Frank Kulaszewicz, SVP, Architecture & Software at Rockwell Automation. “Claroty has been a partner since 2016 and their advanced technology is a key element of our real-time threat detection and monitoring service. Our investment in Claroty is a logical extension of our ongoing strategic partnership.”
Claroty’s comprehensive cybersecurity platform provides extreme visibility into industrial networks and combines secure remote access with continuous monitoring for threats and vulnerabilities – enabling industrial control system operators to protect these important networks. The company will use investment proceeds to grow the Claroty brand globally, extend its sales and customer support footprint, and continue its rapid pace of product innovation.
T.J. Rylander, Partner at Next47, the Siemens-backed global venture firm said, “The recent increase in scale, scope, and frequency of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure has led to an uptick in demand for new solutions from companies around the world. Claroty has the team, technology, and market traction to deliver the kind of lasting impact that we are looking for at Next47.”
Security comes first to mind whenever we begin discussing connecting things in an industrial setting. And, of course, nothing connects things like the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). One place we often fail to consider in our security planning is at the endpoint of the network. Organizations and companies have been providing valuable assistance to developers by releasing best practices white papers. Here is one from a leading Industrial Internet organization.
The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) announced publication of the Endpoint Security Best Practices white paper. It is a concise document that equipment manufacturers, critical infrastructure operators, integrators and others can reference to implement the countermeasures and controls they need to ensure the safety, security and reliability of IoT endpoint devices. Endpoints include edge devices such as sensors, actuators, pumps, flow meters, controllers and drives in industrial systems, embedded medical devices, electronic control units vehicle controls systems, as well as communications infrastructure and gateways.
“The number of attacks on industrial endpoints has grown rapidly in the last few years and has severe effects. Unreliable equipment can cause safety problems, customer dissatisfaction, liability and reduced profits,” said Steve Hanna, IIC white paper co-author, and Senior Principal, Infineon Technologies. “The Endpoint Security Best Practices white paper moves beyond general guidelines, providing specific recommendations by security level. Thus, equipment manufacturers, owners, operators and integrators are educated on how to apply existing best practices to achieve the needed security levels for their endpoints.”
The paper explores one of the six functional building blocks from the IIC Industrial Internet Security Framework (IISF): Endpoint Protection. The 13-page white paper distills key information about endpoint device security from industrial guidance and compliance frameworks, such as IEC 62443, NIST SP 800-53, and the IIC IISF.
Equipment manufacturers, industrial operators and integrators can use the Endpoint Security Best Practices document to understand how countermeasures or controls can be applied to achieve a particular security level (basic, enhanced, or critical) when building or upgrading industrial IoT endpoint systems, which they can determine through risk modeling and threat analysis.
“By describing best practices for implementing industrial security that are appropriate for agreed-upon security levels, we’re empowering industrial ecosystem participants to define and request the security they need,” said Dean Weber, IIC white paper co-author, and CTO, Mocana. “Integrators can build systems that meet customer security needs and equipment manufacturers can build products that provide necessary security features efficiently.”
While the white paper is primarily targeted at improving the security of new endpoints, the concepts can be used with legacy endpoints by employing gateways, network security, and security monitoring.
The full Endpoint Security Best Practices white paper and a list of IIC members who contributed can be found on the IIC website.