Industrial DataOps Solution for Smart Manufacturing

HighByte expands edge-to-cloud connectivity, provides scalable data infrastructure for customers with latest release of HighByte Intelligence Hub 

DataOps is the current cool thing in the IT world. My last trip to an IT conference included an extended stay at the stand where it was discussing its DataOps solution. IT usage sometimes lacks specific connectors for specifically industrial use cases. The field was open for a company to come along in the “Industrial DataOps” market. And here is HighByte—a company composed of former Kepware industry veterans. I waited until I could view the demo before commenting. I like what I see. What’s the biggest challenge for digital transformation after we’ve learned how to control and visualize industrial processes along with building out IT infrastructure? That would be moving data along to the right place. Check out DataOps. You can view the demo of the latest version of HighByte’s product here.

HighByte has announced the release of HighByte Intelligence Hub version 1.3. The latest release provides simple, configurable connections to IT systems through direct SQL and REST integrations and native connectivity to Microsoft Azure IoT Hub, Microsoft Azure Event Hubs, and AWS IoT SiteWise. These new connections make it faster and easier for manufacturers to merge industrial data with enterprise systems and deliver ready-to-use information to the Cloud.

“While our customers span a variety of industries from biotechnology to packaging to industrial products, they all recognize that data infrastructure is foundational to their digital transformation initiatives,” said HighByte CEO Tony Paine. “The new connections in HighByte Intelligence Hub enable operations technology (OT) to curate, merge, and model production data with enterprise systems data and deliver it to the Cloud in real time. We’re providing a solution capable of bridging the data divide between OT and IT applications.” 

HighByte Intelligence Hub is an Industrial DataOps application designed to run at the Edge. The latest release adds additional edge-focused capabilities by supporting deployment in Docker and other containers and increasing data reliability through Store and Forward. The release also makes it easier for users to manage high volumes of data and work with complex data. The new drag and drop reference browser simplifies the user experience and accelerates deployment.  

AVEVA achieves Microsoft Gold Application Development Competency

Microsoft has positioned itself as a premier platform provider for manufacturing applications for a long time. It lists as partners just about every industrial/manufacturing application developer. Recently, AVEVA announced it has reached a new level of competency within the Microsoft ecosystem.

AVEVA has attained a Gold Application Development competency and Silver Cloud Platform, Data Analytics, and Data Center competencies, demonstrating a ‘best-in-class’ ability and commitment to meet Microsoft customers’ evolving needs in today’s mobile-first, cloud-first world and distinguishing itself within a small percentage of the Microsoft partner ecosystem. A portfolio of competencies showcases that AVEVA is committed to focusing on on-demand, business solution areas, along with ensuring it can meet the evolving needs of our mutual customers.

To earn a Microsoft competency, partners must successfully complete exams (resulting in Microsoft Certified Professionals) to prove their level of technology expertise and, for Gold competencies, designate these certified professionals uniquely to one Microsoft competency, ensuring a certain level of staffing capacity. Partners must also submit customer references that demonstrate successful projects and pass technology and/or sales assessments. For gold competencies, partners must also implement a yearly customer satisfaction study and, for many competencies, meet a revenue commitment.

“AVEVA is enabling industrial organizations to embrace innovative digital platforms that will allow them to deploy faster, reduce energy consumption and emissions, and work more collaboratively,” commented Steen Lomholt-Thomsen, Chief Revenue Officer at AVEVA. “These Microsoft competencies not only showcase our technology expertise, but also demonstrate our commitment to supporting customers and embracing innovation. By deploying our solutions, customers can be empowered to deliver better business outcomes, which will in turn help to accelerate their own success.”

“By accomplishing a portfolio of competencies, partners demonstrate true commitment to meeting customer technology needs today and into the future,” said Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president, Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft Corp. “These partners’ proficiency and expertise of Microsoft technology is instrumental in helping our mutual customers continue to drive innovative solutions.”

All 17 Microsoft technology competencies differentiate a partner’s specific technology capabilities, helping customers find qualified solution providers with expertise in discrete areas quickly and easily.

Earning the Application Development competency helps partners differentiate themselves as a trusted expert to their customers through development and deployment of commercial or custom applications built using core Microsoft technologies like Windows Server and Windows 8 operating systems, the Windows Azure platform, Microsoft Visual Studio 2012 development system, Microsoft BizTalk Server and emerging cloud-based and web business models. By gaining access to a comprehensive set of benefits through the Application Development competency, partners can acquire new customers and help them be more productive and profitable through deployment of business applications, advanced web portals or rich client user interfaces that run on premises or in the cloud.

The Cloud Platform competency is designed for partners to capitalize on the growing demand for infrastructure and software as a service (SaaS) solutions built on Microsoft Azure. Differentiate your company with the Cloud Platform competency, and you will be eligible for Signature Cloud Support, Azure deployment planning services, Azure sponsored credit, direct partner support, eligibility to deploy certain on-premises, internal use software on Microsoft Azure, and access to the cloud platform roadmap.

The Data Analytics competency recognizes partners who demonstrate expertise in specific aspects of Microsoft BI solutions to deliver, deploy, and support BI projects. Differentiate your company with this competency and receive access to internal use software licenses, technical and presales support, training for your IT professionals, developers, incentives, and marketing through the Partner Marketing Center and Pinpoint. Strengthen relationships with your customers by becoming a provider of SQL Server deployment planning services or SharePoint deployment planning services.

The Datacenter competency recognizes partners who are transforming data centers into more flexible, scalable, and cost-effective solutions. Partners can deepen customer relationships by becoming a provider of Private Cloud, Management, and Virtualization Deployment Planning Services. Differentiate your company with this competency and receive access to internal use software licenses, technical and presales support, training for your IT professionals, incentives, and access to the Microsoft Partner server and cloud site with exclusive content and resources to help you win new deals to deliver projects successfully.

The Microsoft Partner Network helps partners strengthen their capabilities to showcase leadership in the marketplace on the latest technology, to better serve customers and to easily connect with one of the most active, diverse networks in the world.

TwinCAT IoT Now Supports MindSphere

Beckhoff integrates data and communication services efficiently into the cloud with support for third-party IoT technologies

Where these IIoT platforms/ecosystems end up is beyond my power to guess, but this is an interesting partnership of a couple of German control and automation rivals—Beckhoff Automation and Siemens.

Beckhoff has offered diverse IoT communication capabilities with its TwinCAT IoT product family since 2015. Transmitting data to the cloud or between networked machines in this way creates enormous potential for increasing production efficiency. MindSphere, the Industrial IoT as a service solution from Siemens, is now one of the latest solutions that can integrate with TwinCAT.

TwinCAT 3 automation software can communicate with HTTP(S) servers as an HTTP(S) client, for example for exchanging data via a REST API. Establishing a connection with MindSphere is now also possible via this HTTPS communication for exchanging telemetry data. This connection is secured by TLS (Transport Layer Security) and uses MindSphere-specific authentication mechanisms.

The sample implementations of the TwinCAT 3 Function TC3 IoT HTTPS/REST (TF6760) in the relevant documentation show how to establish connections with MindSphere. These examples provide a simple introduction to connecting TwinCAT with MindSphere and help users to adapt the program code to suit individual requirements.

ONF Announces Aether 5G Connected Edge Cloud Platform

Many industry pundits and observers seem to not understand all the ramifications and potentials for 5G. I’ve listened to podcasts from John Gruber at Daring Fireball and the guys at Accidental Tech Podcast talk about how 5G isn’t providing the anticipated boost for data speeds for their new iPhone 12s. But 5G provides for so much more than that.

I’ve had an opportunity to talk with people from the new Open Networking Foundation and check out this open-source community springing up. Here is a recent press release. Open source is burgeoning right now. Cynics say it’s just a way for big companies to cut development costs. I think it goes much deeper than that given licensing protocols and the spread of technology. This one is interesting and poised to take (among other things) Industrial Internet of Things to a deeper level.

The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) announced that ONF’s Aether 5G Connected Edge Cloud platform is being used as the software platform for the $30M DARPA Pronto project, pursuing research to secure future 5G network infrastructure.

DARPA is funding ONF to build, deploy and operate the network to support research by Cornell, Princeton and Stanford universities in the areas of network verification and closed-loop control. ONF will enhance and deploy its open source Aether software platform as the foundation for the Pronto research work, and in turn the research results will be open sourced back into Aether to help advance Aether as a platform for future secure 5G network infrastructure.

Aether – 5G Connected Edge Cloud Platform

Aether is the first open source 5G Connected Edge Cloud platform. Aether provides mobile connectivity and edge cloud services for distributed enterprise networks as a cloud managed offering. Aether is an open source platform optimized for multi-cloud deployments, and it simultaneously supports wireless connectivity over licensed, unlicensed and lightly-licensed (CBRS) spectrum.

Aether is a platform for enabling enterprise digital transformation projects. Coupling robust cellular connectivity with connected edge cloud processing creates a platform for supporting Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT) and Operational Technology (OT) services like robotics control, onsite inference processing of video feeds, drone control and the like.

Given Aether’s end-to-end programmable architecture coupled with its 5G and edge cloud capabilities, Aether is well suited for supporting the Pronto research agenda.

Aether Beta Deployment

ONF has operationalized and is running a beta production deployment of Aether.  This deployment is a single unified cloud managed network interconnecting the project’s commercial partners AT&T, Ciena, Intel, Google, NTT, ONF and Telefonica. This initial deployment supports CBRS and/or 4G/LTE radio access at all sites, and is cloud managed from a shared core running in the Google public cloud.

The University campuses are being added to this Aether deployment in support of Pronto. Campus sites will be used by Pronto researchers to advance the Pronto research, serving as both a development platform and a testbed for use case experimentation. The Aether footprint is expected to grow on the university campuses as Aether’s 5G Connected Edge Cloud capabilities are leveraged both for research on additional use cases as well as for select campus operations.

Aether Ecosystem
A growing ecosystem is backing Aether, collectively supporting the development of a common open source platform that can serve as an enabler for digital transformation projects, while also serving as a common platform for advanced research poised to help unlock the potential of the programmable network for more secure future 5G infrastructure.

At Google Cloud, we are working closely with the telecom ecosystem to help enable 5G transformation, accelerated by the power of cloud computing. We are pleased to support the Open Networking Foundation’s work to extend the availability of 5G and edge capabilities via an open source platform.” 

Shailesh Shukla, VP and GM, Networking, Google Cloud

Cornell is deploying Aether on campus to bring private 5G/LTE connectivity services with edge cloud capabilities into our research facilities.  We expect private 5G/LTE with connected edge cloud to become an important and integral part of our research infrastructure for many research and operational groups on the campus.  We also see the value of interconnecting a nation-wide leading infrastructure with Stanford, Princeton and ONF for collaborative research among university researchers across the country.”

David Lifka, Vice President for Information Technologies and CIO, Cornell University

Princeton University is deploying Aether on campus in the Computer Science Department in order to support the Pronto research agenda and offer it as an experimental infrastructure for other research groups. This deployment will enable private 5G/LTE connectivity and edge cloud services and will complement Princeton’s existing P4 enabled infrastructure on campus. We plan to also explore how some of our mission critical production use cases can be supported on a private 5G Connected Edge Cloud.”

Jay Dominick, Vice President & CIO, Princeton University

Ciena is pleased to be an early collaborator on the ONF’s Aether project.  We have an Aether site running in our 5G lab in Montreal, and we are excited by the prospect of helping enterprises leverage the 5G and edge cloud capabilities of Aether to help build transformative solutions.”

Stephen Alexander, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Ciena

 “Intel is an active participant of the ONF’s innovative Aether project to advance the development of 5G and edge cloud solutions on high volume servers. ONF has been leading the industry with advanced open source implementations in the areas of disaggregated Mobile Core, e.g. the Open Mobile Evolved Core (OMEC), and we look forward to continuing to innovate by applying proven principles of disaggregation, open source and AI/ML with Aether, the Enterprise 5G/LTE Edge-Cloud-as-a-Service platform. As open source, Aether will help accelerate the availability of innovative edge applications. Aether will be optimized to leverage powerful performance, AI/ML, and security enhancements, which are essential for 5G and available in Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors, network adapters and switching technologies, including Data-Plane Development Kit (DPDK), Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel SGX), and Intel® Tofino™ Programmable Ethernet Switch.”

Pranav Mehta, Vice President of Systems and Software Research, Intel Labs

Learn More

The Aether ecosystem is open to researchers and other potential partners who wish to build upon Aether, and we welcome inquiries regarding collaboration.  You can learn more at the Aether website.

About the Open Networking Foundation:

The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) is an operator led consortium spearheading disruptive network transformation. Now the recognized leader for open source solutions for operators, the ONF first launched in 2011 as the standard bearer for Software Defined Networking (SDN). Led by its operator partners AT&T, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Google, NTT Group and Türk Telekom, the ONF is driving vast transformation across the operator space. For further information visit http://www.opennetworking.org

OPC Foundation In The News

OPC Foundation has released a lot of news at the end of 2020. Its working groups have been busy.

  • Cloud Library with CESMII
  • Field Level Communications
  • ECLASS Standard for M2M Communication
  • Update to PLCOpen 61131-3 specification

Cloud Library

The OPC Foundation, in collaboration with CESMII, is pleased to announce the launch of the “OPC UA Cloud Library” Joint Working Group (JWG). The goal of the JWG is to specify how OPC UA information models of machines, SCADA and Manufacturing Execution Systems will be stored in and accessed from a cloud-based database.  Such a database will enable manufacturers to draw from a wide range of OPC UA information models and profiles for use in their pre-built shopfloor and business digitalization applications.

Collaboration between the OPC Foundation and the Smart Manufacturing Institute is a natural fit given their complementary efforts. On one hand, the US government-backed Smart Manufacturing Institute sets out to help accelerate the adoption of Smart Manufacturing by businesses of all sizes by enabling frictionless movement of information (data and context) between real-time operations and the people and systems that create value in their organizations. On the other hand, the OPC Foundation created a globally adopted open data interoperability standard via its OPC UA specification. The specification’s information modeling capabilities and secure, scalable communications made it a cornerstone of Industrie 4.0 and virtually every other national Industrial IoT initiative. By working together, CESMII and the OPC Foundation aim to enable the broadest range of US manufacturers and beyond to innovate and go-to-market in their digital transformation using the right data modeling foundation.

Field Level Communications

OPC Foundation announces today that its Field Level Communications Initiative has accomplished a significant milestone in the ongoing project by completing their initial release candidate with the focus on the Controller-to-Controller (C2C) use case. In addition, a technical paper has been published that explains the technical approach and the basic concepts to extend OPC UA to the field level for all use cases and requirements in Factory and Process Automation.

Peter Lutz, Director Field Level Communications of the OPC Foundation says: “We are happy about the progress that our working groups have made over the last months, despite COVID-19 and the associated restrictions. The initial release candidate is a major achievement because it is used to build prototypes and to create test specifications that will be converted to corresponding test cases for the OPC UA certification tool (CTT). Furthermore, it lays the foundation for specification enhancements to also cover the Controller-to-Device (C2D) and Device-to-Device (D2D) use cases in the next step.”

Since the start of the Field Level Communications Initiative in November 2018 more than 300 experts from over 60 OPC Foundation member companies have signed up for the various technical working groups to create the technical concepts and elaborate the specification contents for extending the OPC UA framework for field level communications, including Determinism, Motion, Instruments and Functional Safety.

Cooperation with ECLASS

An important step for interoperability in the field of M2M communication: the OPC Foundation and ECLASS e.V. signed a cooperation agreement.

The goal of this cooperation is to combine the power of the OPC UA and ECLASS standards to better enable M2M interoperability via seamless communication of data and semantics using a standardized set of interfaces. To serve as the basis for semantic interoperability across full product life cycles in an international application environment, a manufacturer and industry independent standard for product description is needed. Once created, such a standard can serve as a semantic reference for the Internet of Things. The ECLASS standard, developed by ECLASS e.V. meets these requirements in a unique way.

The OPC UA standard enables secure transmission of data and facilitates the definition and dynamic exchange of its underlying structure via robust OPC UA information modeling functionality. Standardized information models implemented using OPC UA are called OPC UA Companion Specifications, which taken together can serve as common libraries of Information Models. Products utilizing OPC UA Companion Specifications enable seamless 3rd party data interoperability in the operating phase in the product lifecycle. Today, ECLASS identifiers are already being used in various Companion Specifications. 

Update to PLCOpen OPC UA for IEC61131-3

The OPC Foundation, in collaboration with PLCopen, announced the release of v1.02 of the “OPC UA for IEC61131-3” specification. Building on the first version of the specification, the joint working group added: 

  • support for all datatypes defined in the 3rd edition of IEC61131-3
  • an optimized, machine-readable version of the information model (i.e. nodesetfile) 
  • compliance with enhanced specification templates to support the tool chain used to generate validated information models
  • inclusion in the global online searchable specification reference 
  • OPC Foundation Compliance Test Tool (CTT)  test cases for validation of vendor implementations of “OPC UA for IEC61131-3”

Founded in 2008, this joint working group has the goal of expressing IEC 61131-3 information models using OPC UA.  By doing so, an IEC6-61131-3 PLC project that is loaded onto different control platforms can be displayed in a standardized form and made available for communication via the controllers’ OPC UA servers.

“This first step harmonizes the access of the project running in the controller” says Eelco van der Wal, Managing Director of the PLCopen organization. “With this an unprecedented transparency is created in the communication in industrial automation, enabling the configuration of the communication much faster and independent of the network and suppliers. For this reason, many suppliers have implemented this, providing their users with the ease of use in communication.”

In addition to the server specification “UA for IEC61131-3” the group also worked very successfully on the “client specification” which was originally released in 2014. The implementation of this functionality on a controller makes it possible to initiate a communication session to any other available OPC UA Server. The controller can exchange complex data structures horizontally with other controllers independent of the fieldbus system used, or vertically with other devices using an OPC UA server service oriented architecture, like an MES/ERP system in order to collect data or write new production orders to the cloud.

How Has Working From Home Affected You

People send a variety of releases speculating about the future of working from home. Will we return to offices? Will we split time? What will offices look like? However, here is information that is like an online survey of how actual people think about all this working from home when they have been used to an office.

On Blind, the largest anonymous professional community with 4M users from big tech, unicorns, and startups, a Microsoft employee asked, “If you’re tired of WFH, why do you want to be back in the office?” 

Here are the things professionals miss the most about the in person office 

  1. Social aspects- missing friends (34%)
  2. The food (19%)
  3. Career Growth (18%)
  4. Mentorship opportunities (13%)
  5. Spouse/ partners getting on nerves (9%)
  6. Dating prospects (7%)

More key learnings:

  • 26% of Twitter professionals miss the food
  • 46% of Cisco professionals miss the social aspects 
  • 29% of Visa professionals miss the career growth 
  • ¼ of Snap professionals miss mentorship opportunities
  • 17% of Oracle professionals’ spouses are getting on their nerves 
  • 15% of Lyft professionals miss the dating prospects 

You can see the raw data here.

An Intuit professional shared, “I miss my office because –

  1. I miss my team
  2. Whiteboard design sessions
  3. Happy hours
  4. Mentor/mentee side of things
  5. Optimism & excitement.

Feels like we are in a dark tunnel.On the plus side, I am enjoying great time with my family & especially kids. I am getting to know & appreciate them more” 

An engineer at Google shared “I hate WFH because I don’t like to do work at home. I miss being able to go to the office, put in a day’s work, and then leave. Separation of domains.” 

The office might look different when we all go back to work, but one thing is certain: It isn’t going away.

I shared some of these with my wife. She was amused by the spouse getting on their nerves comment. I’ve had a home office for 30 years, although I also had an office at “work” for 23 of those. When she retired as a teacher, we had to share the home part of the home office. The saving grace has been my travel schedule. However, my last trip for business was the second week of February. We’re still trying to be civil <smile/>.