NI Introduces Data and Radar Technologies at NI Week

There was an invitation to join NI Week that was held a couple of weeks ago, but I chose to attend another conference. I can’t get to all the places I’m invited even though I’d love to be there. I am not NI’s target audience exactly, but many things it does fits here. I’ve included two products that look interesting.

Radar Target Generation System to Tackle Complexity and Cost

NI announced its newest PXI Vector Signal Transceiver (VTS) Radar Target Generation (RTG) system, which unlocks closed-loop, low-latency, real-time radar test capabilities. The new PXI VST allows engineers to identify and isolate issues before costly open-air range tests, increasing user confidence in radar system performance with accurately calibrated radio frequency (RF) test capability. 

Today, radar test engineers must test realistic scenarios to fully evaluate system-level performance. However, modern radar and their operating environments make adequate test coverage through simulation a complex challenge. Additionally, the application-specific nature of radar systems means test requirements can vary widely from system to system. To meet these nuanced challenges, NI developed the VTS RTG system, which injects independent targets into radar systems during productions tests. This allows users to validate the system performance and provide a final functional check before open deployment. Built on standard, off-the-shelf RF test hardware, the VTS RTG system is an efficient single instrument tool for multiple test requirements. 

The NI Radar Target Generation Driver is an alternative Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) configuration for specific PXIe Vector Signal Transceiver models. The VST configuration is a closed source and license-restricted FPGA build that allows the transceiver to operate as a closed-loop, real-time radar target generator or channel emulator. As a fully validated FPGA configuration, users can confidently add up to four independent targets to their radar or provide four multi-path delay channels for data link systems tests. Since the VST is a calibrated RF receiver and transmitter, its highly accurate response improves the reliability of test scenarios along with user’s confidence in test results.

DataStudio to Break Down Silos, From Design to Test

NI announced the launch of DataStudio. This new design-to-test analytics solution provides the foundation for modern, secure and scalable engineering data infrastructure and applications, accelerating the pace of wireless, semiconductor and electronics innovation. 

Consistent with the need to fast-track product development, DataStudio bridges critical data across the semiconductor design and test workflow. DataStudio Specification Compliance Manager (SCM), the first application in the DataStudio family, manages device specifications, connects to measurement data sources and automatically generates compliance reports. DataStudio SCM provides a comprehensive view of the device’s conformance to target specifications, enabling better decision making and reporting, and leverages data often lost across design, validation and production test silos. By laying the groundwork with comprehensive data infrastructure, engineers gain clear and actionable insights to improve productivity and reduce the manual effort required during chip development. 

In addition, NI is launching the DataStudio Bench Data Connector (BDC) validation bench test library. The BDC library provides a standardized way to store validation data that is automatically compatible with the DataStudio SCM, making it easy to import bench measurement data into the compliance reporting software.

DataStudio takes a modern, software-connected approach to design and test data with engineers’ needs at the center. Available in both on-premise and in-the-cloud deployment, this latest product from NI will help accelerate workflow modernization, from product definition to verification, validation and production test, coupling NI’s rich software heritage with new cloud and machine learning capabilities to support engineers who are rapidly creating what’s next.

Schneider Electric Announcements at ARC Forum

Yesterday was a travel day and I didn’t get anything posted. I’ve been busted back in my airline priority (no traveling during Covid). I’m in the economy seats with no room to pull out the laptop. So, I rest up.

What with a user group week followed by Hannover followed by the ARC Forum, news abounds. I’m also working on essays about data and about open vs. Interoperable. Ideas that have sprung from my reading and conversations.

I had several meetings with Schneider Electric this week at ARC. The really big thing to watch is its work with Universal Automation promoting IEC 61499. The question I asked around the conference with no suggestions of answers forthcoming was “will there be a critical mass of companies and users that upsets the automation and control market?” We will watch and evaluate.

Three pieces of news this week: Digital Twin Software; collaboration on security with Claroty; collaboration with Intel.

Schneider Electric launches digital twin software solution

Short take: EcoStruxure Machine Expert Twin cuts commissioning time by 60% and reduces time-to-market by 50% by revolutionizing the design and build processes

Schneider Electric has launched EcoStruxure Machine Expert Twin, a scalable digital twin software solution to manage the entire machine lifecycle. 

The software enables original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to create digital models of real machines so they can be designed and commissioned virtually before building the machine itself. EcoStruxure Machine Expert Twin’s intuitive environment includes drag-and-drop mechatronic components, VR/AR interfaces, and application-focused libraries, all of which enable the parallel engineering of mechanical, electrical, and control tasks.

EcoStruxure Machine Expert Twin spans the entire machine lifecycle, from sales, concept, and design, to manufacturing and operation. Transforming design ideas into convincing sales animations helps customers to properly visualize the end product, while the in-depth design helps to improve and verify prototypes, reduce risk and quality costs, and speed up time-to-market.

Claroty and Schneider Electric Collaborate to Enhance Industrial Cybersecurity

Short take: Reinforces commitment to industry-leading operational cybersecurity through collaboration

Schneider Electric has announced its collaboration with Claroty, the security company for cyber-physical systems across industrial, healthcare, and commercial environments.

The agreement builds on the existing relationship between the two leading companies and leadership in their respective industries. Schneider Electric will now integrate The Claroty Platform into their offering, enabling them to better address new cybersecurity concerns, including protection, safety and insurance for industrial customers.

Schneider Electric collaborates with Intel to Drive Industrial Innovation

Short take: Project to enhance industry’s first Universal Automation system, EcoStruxure Automation Expert by creating a Distributed Control Node (DCN) software framework

Schneider Electric announced a collaboration with Intel to extend EcoStruxure Automation Expert by creating a Distributed Control Node (DCN) software framework complimented by an associated Intel processor-based DCN hardware offering.

By combining the performance, security and deployment capabilities of Intel Edge Controls for Industrial (ECI) technology with EcoStruxure Automation Expert, the DCN framework can simplify and speed the development of software defined control systems. Additionally, the DCN will enable EcoStruxure Automation Expert – the world’s first software-centric automation system – to scale faster and further in process industries, including energy and chemicals, mining, water/wastewater, pharmaceuticals and hybrid markets.

This DCN development will be based on Universal Automation (UniversalAutomation.org), an organization that manages the implementation of a shared source runtime based on the IEC61499 standard. EcoStruxure Automation Expert represents the first of a new era of automation software based on this shared runtime.

A fundament feature of EcoStruxure Automation Expert is the ability to decouple software from hardware. This allows hardware to be upgraded as required to improve system performance while the application remains the same, thereby protecting the customers intellectual property and investments. The joint effort between Schneider Electric and Intel illustrates the industry’s transition from fixed-function hardware to software-defined, flexible, plug and produce solutions that deliver customers greater operational effectiveness.

Initial results of this joint DCN framework development will be shared at this fall’s Schneider Electric Innovation Summit – Las Vegas (October 12-13).

Mixed Reality Simulator and Updated Process Automation from Honeywell

Honeywell User Group landed in Orlando two weeks ago. Meanwhile, I’ve had several meetings with Honeywell again this week, also in Orlando, at the annual ARC Industry Forum. Two additional items have popped up this week. One relates to worker enhancement and the other fleshes out additional details of the updated Experion PKS process automation system. This topic was broached last week, but there’s a little bit more.

Honeywell Enhances Immersive Field Simulator

Manas Dutta met with me to discuss this simulator product. Mixed reality experiences have often been explained as training applications—and indeed that is a great use. However, Dutta also explained that design engineers can also use the technology to visualize the physical plant. They can see where a scaffolding may need to be erected or where there may be interferences. This is most useful in the usual use case where engineering is done remotely.

Honeywell announced a new version of its Immersive Field Simulator (IFS) offering, a virtual reality (VR) and mixed-reality-based training tool that incorporates a digital twin of physical plant operations to provide targeted, on-demand, skill-based training for workers. With IFS technology, plants can simulate scenarios such as primary failure and switchovers, and cable and power supply failures, that train and test personnel on their skills.

The new version of IFS – R120 – incorporates a simulation engine that enables customers to build field operator training lessons without having to link to a larger panel operator simulator. This provides more flexibility in how they conduct training and alleviates the need to pull multiple operators off shift for sessions. In addition, it reduces the solution’s footprint and allows it to be more accessible for impromptu training or refresher courses.

Furthermore, IFS R120 can facilitate an open platform communications connection to any panel operator simulator that a customer may have.

“Megatrends such as the aging workforce and increased complexity of technology are putting even more pressure on industrial companies and their training programs,” said Pramesh Maheshwari, vice president and general manager, Lifecycle Solutions and Services, Honeywell Process Solutions. “More than ever, they need training and development solutions that empower workers to improve plant performance, uptime, reliability and safety.

He continued: “One of the best ways to do this is by simulating real-world environments and rare but critical plant operation and maintenance scenarios to enable safe, hands-on learning away from the hazards of a plant. This version of Immersive Field Simulator offers increased flexibility to meet any site’s operator training requirements.

IFS R120 will be available at the end of 2022.

Experion PKS Release 520.2 For Next Generation Process Control

Joe Bastone sat down with me at ARC Industry Forum to talk about the next gen process control from Honeywell. As he discussed the “Hive” technology and new features, his excitement and passion for the product was abundant.

However as I’ve discussed previously, an interesting sub-story is that the product contains many of the features requested by ExxonMobil and other end users that has led to the development of the Open Process Automation Forum and standards, but no mention of OPAF is ever made. This story will continue to develop. For sure, significant advances have come to process control.

Honeywell announced Release 520.2 (R520.2) of its Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS), introducing new process automation features and functionality to end users across the industrial sector. 

At the center of R520.2 is Experion PKS Control Highly Integrated Virtual Environment (Control HIVE) functionality, which enables users to integrate individual controllers and have them act as a cluster of shared compute resources. This functionality, combined with the capability to optimize control system resources and input/output modules, significantly reduces the complexity and capital expenditure associated with automation projects and control systems.

Control HIVE also reduces unplanned downtime and shutdowns through unlimited availability and redundancy; provides longevity; and simplifies lifecycle management and support through streamlined maintenance and upgrade activities. Furthermore, Control HIVE provides an open, scalable control platform that can accommodate other types of applications, reducing the complexity of integrating, operating and maintaining third party systems and packages.

Experion PKS R520.2 also expands the functionality of Control HIVE, which allows automation projects to be deployed in a more flexible and resilient manner by decoupling control system elements that are traditionally engineered, configured and deployed in a hierarchal manner. 

Rounding out the updates is side-by-side support for Honeywell’s C300PM and EHPM controllers, which provides more flexibility for migrations; unit operations controller enhancements for Life Sciences, Pulp and Paper, and other vertical end users; PROFINET S2 redundancy; and materials requirement planning support for increased availability and simplified device replacement.

“Building on the foundation forged by Experion PKS R520.1, this new version of Experion PKS incorporates ground-breaking technologies and capabilities that effectively establish the necessary requirements for the next generation of process control,” said Joe Bastone, director of offering management for Experion PKS, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Implementation of R520.2 can truly transform a user’s current installed base, leveraging existing investments while solidifying their operations for a digitalized future.”

New Name And Thinking For Hexagon Division

More than 800 people have gathered for the resumption of the ARC Advisory Group’s annual Forum in Orlando. Yes, that’s right, my second trip to Orlando in three weeks. And there is one more to come.

Based on just a few hours at the conference and one trip around the exhibition hall, the theme this year likely will be the future of process automation Information abounds, but this appears to be the interesting idea. Plus data. Data everywhere. More on that later as I’m working on an essay on data.

Only six companies took advantage of the assembled corps of writers to hold briefings today. Some things I’ve already written up from previous interviews. Some are embargoed until later. Here is an interesting announcement of a new name.

Hexagon AB has been on a buying spree. I don’t know when it will end, but I’m thinking not soon. It has a division called PPM that encompasses asset management. Executives said this change does not signify any portfolio changes, rather a new way of thinking about the newly aggregated companies.

The new division name is Hexagon’s Asset Lifecycle Intelligence division.

Mattias Stenberg, president of the division, said, “This evolution is driven by our customers’ needs to have real-time intelligence about their assets. This divisional name is reflective of our focus and expertise in supporting the entire asset lifecycle throughout the customer’s digital journey.”

The new division includes HxGN EAM (formerly Infor EAM), PAS Global, Jovix, and Innovatia Accelerator.

Honeywell Introduces A “Unified Process Control Platform”

I still have thoughts to wrap up from HUG while compiling news from Hannover plus many other news items due to Hannover or ARC or Automate shows. Not to mention many other projects ongoing. Plus I received my second Covid booster vaccine this morning. No reactions so far just like with the hundred (it seems) other inoculations I’ve taken over the past few months.

First, an introduction. During Honeywell Process Solutions CTO Jason Urso’s keynote, he described a new control platform and future that sounded very much like the Open Process Automation work of decoupling hardware and software, using modularity, the latest networking, open protocols, and the like—except he never mentioned OPAF. A couple of colleagues and myself found this intriguing.

I will pause and let your imagination go to work for a minute.

Here is the news of the C300PM controller that HPS calls a “unified process control system” that  is “flexible and cost effective.”

In short:

• Solution protects existing intellectual property while modernizing current infrastructure

• Provides modern best-in-class control technology in a familiar HPM hardware form

The new controller enables seamless technology evolution for customers seeking to utilize the features of the state-of-the-art C300 process controller while retaining a familiar hardware package.

Addressing the key pain point of OPAF’s instigator, ExxonMobil, Honeywell states, “In today’s competitive environment, an effective strategy of control technology upgrades can help manufacturers reduce asset ownership costs, increase production rates, manage risks, extend the life and performance of systems and improve responses to changing customer demands.”

“The C300PM is intended for industrial operations employing the proven Enhanced High-Performance Process Manager (EPHM), which integrates the control environment of the legacy TotalPlant™ Solution (TPS) and TDC 2000/3000 systems,” said Pramesh Maheshwari, vice president & general manager, Honeywell Process Solutions, Lifecycle Support Services. “The C300PM is ideal for customers who have asked for the EHPM to have the same functionality as the best-in-class C300 when developing their control migration plans, as well as users with a mixture of EHPMs and C300s who want to unify their controller platform.”

With the C300PM, companies undertaking plant renovations or unit expansions can upgrade their controller installed base with a solution that provides a common engineering environment and eliminates the need to completely replace existing hardware.

The C300PM employs Honeywell’s deterministic Control Execution Environment (CEE) to execute control strategies on a constant and predictable schedule. The CEE is loaded into the C300PM controller, providing the execution platform for a set of automatic control, logic, data acquisition and calculation function blocks.

By modernizing to the C300PM, EHPM users no longer need to obtain an additional controller to obtain the same level of performance as the C300 controller in demanding applications such as blending and batch processing. They can take advantage of increased processing speed for their critical control loops. Peer-to-peer communications between different generations of controllers help to optimize overall system performance. In addition, the C300PM utilizes Honeywell’s Custom Algorithm Block (CAB) functionality, which leverages user-defined algorithms and data structures to greatly reduce the effort required to create complex control strategies.

The C300PM also incorporates the Experion PKS I/O Highly Integrated Virtual Environment (IO HIVE). This technology provides a fault-tolerant, high-speed field network allowing the controller to communicate with distributed Honeywell Universal I/O (UIO) and Series C I/O. The controller also supports many leading industrial communication protocols, including Peer Control Data Interface (PCDI), Profinet, EtherNet/IP, OneWireless, FOUNDATION Fieldbus, and Profibus.

Insert another pause. During the time that I haven’t been briefed much from Honeywell, it has become platform agnostic. No more battling our wireless versus theirs or our fieldbus versus theirs. All for the good!

With Honeywell’s assistance, EHPM users can take advantage of a familiar migration technique to C300PM, which allows them to preserve their valuable legacy systems without having to deal with issues such as rewiring, system reconfiguration and graphics migration. Migration can be completed without the need for a shutdown to install new controllers. Conversely, plants that have not installed the EHPM can go directly from the High-Performance Process Manager (HPM) to the powerful and robust features of the C300PM as part of a simple on-process migration.

FDT Group Introduces FDT Unified Environment for Field to Cloud Data Harmonization

The HUG experience in Orlando is barely out of my system when I turned to Hannover Messe. No, I am not eating German food, well, at least not in Germany. Yesterday morning I sat in a 7 am (my time) press conference with OPC Foundation. More on that later. I have worked all afternoon consolidating about 20 press releases and interviews and decided at the end of the day to talk about the press conference / annual general meeting I attended virtually this morning. This from the FDT Group.

Steve Biegacki became Executive Director in January bringing experience with building this type of organization not to mention marketing and sales executive experience with both Rockwell Automation and Belden. Along with the Rockwell role he was a driving force behind ODVA and CIP. 

He pulled off his initial AGM at Hannover with his usual style backed with experienced staff. Pretty much like the organizations I’ve talked with this year, they didn’t let the pandemic slow the work cranking out valuable work. Biegacki will be leading a renewed marketing effort to explain benefits of the FDT 3.0 standard.

From today’s news: Device, system, and end users now benefit from an embedded unified environment unlocking universal device management, IT/OT convergence, data analytics, services, and mobility.

FDT Group, an independent, international, not-for-profit industry association supporting the evolution of FDT technology, introduced the FDT Unified Environment (UE), and developer tools based on the new FDT 3.0 standard to deliver next-generation FDT industrial device management system and device solutions for field-to-cloud IT/OT data harmonization, analytics, services, and mobility based on user-driven requirements for smart manufacturing in the process, hybrid, and discrete markets.

Driven by digital transformation use cases to support new Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) business models, the standard has evolved to include a new distributed, multi-user, FDT Server application that includes built-in and pre-wired OPC UA and Web servers enabling an FDT Unified Environment (FDT 3.x) merging IT/OT data analytics supporting service-oriented architectures. The new Server environment deployable in the cloud or on-premise delivers the same use cases and functionally as the previous generation FDT hosting environment, but now provides data storage for the whole device lifecycle at the core of the architecture allowing information modeling and data consistency to authenticated OPC UA and browser-based clients (tablets and phones) for modern accessibility to address the challenges of IIoT.

“Collaboration and data harmonization are the keys to manufacturing modernization,” said Steve Biegacki, managing director, FDT Group. “FDT UE delivers a data collaborative engineering specification and toolset to enable modern distributed control improving operations and production reliability, impacting the bottom line for new IIoT architectures.  I’m proud to witness our first group of members showcasing their FDT 3.0 WebUI-based DTM prototypes mixed with 2.0 DTMs in the new Server and Desktop environments running IO-Link and HART here at Hannover Messe live and in person. To be present as a guest in the OPC Foundation booth to demonstrate field-to-cloud connectivity, OPC UA enterprise access and services along with mobile field device operation is one for industry history books. I especially want to thank Thomas Hadlich, FDT architecture and specification chairman, for leading the first FDT UE demo project; along with our front runner member companies for participating – Flowserve, Krohne, Omron, Magnetrol, Thorsis, CodeWrights, VEGA, Rockwell Automation, Turck, PACTware and M&M Software.”

FDT UE consists of FDT Server, FDT Desktop, and FDT DTM components. System and device suppliers can take a well-established standard they are familiar with and easily create and customize standards-based, data-centric, cross-platform FDT 3.0 solutions—expanding their portfolio offerings to meet requirements for next-generation industrial control applications. Each solution auto-enables OPC UA integration and allows the development team to focus on value-added features that differentiate their products, including WebUI and App support. FDT Desktop applications are fully backward compatible supporting the existing install base.

FDT 3.0 specification license agreements and developer toolkits are now available on the FDT website.