Controlled Flying Birds and Workforce Development Highlight Festo Hannover Announcements

I remember the first trip I made to Festo in Germany many years ago. I thought, this is “just” a pneumatics company. What could be interesting about this trip? Then I witnessed what their R&D engineers did with pneumatics. And saw that the company if far deeper than “just” pneumatics.

Even though we could not experience in the flesh, so to speak, this year’s press conference and demonstrations did not disappoint. The company discusses financial results, strategy, general information, an application – assembly of insulin injection pen, workforce issues, and the always delightful demonstration of pneumatic/electronic far-out thinking with this year being a bionic swift (bird).

Most companies I work with have an education and training component. Festo has a division that is dedicated to education from children to adults. Check out the Festo Didactic information below. Maybe you can purchase a bionic bird education kit for your local school’s science and technology program (see information below). I’m living in a new community, but I’m looking for local contacts to help out.

Financial years 2020/2021

Festo’s results were stable despite the pandemic. The Festo Group had to cope with a 7.5% decline in turnover in the 2020 financial year due to the pandemic. Turnover was 2.84 billion euros (previous year 3.07 billion euros). Overall, however, thanks to forward-looking cost-cutting measures and employment protection, the operating result in 2020 was slightly higher than in the previous year.

“This has enabled us to guide our workforce safely through the crisis year and to create a good basis for being ready for the global economy to pick up again. At the same time, it gives us the financial freedom to invest in our future now as well,” said the Chairman of the Management Board, Dipl.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Oliver Jung.

As in the previous year, the company’s R&D ratio was 8% of turnover. 

For 2021, the company expects a catch-up year. “We started the year well, with strong growth in the first quarter. Nevertheless, the end of the pandemic cannot yet be estimated. We are therefore continuing our savings course. At the same time, we continue to invest in our growth and innovation strategy,” Jung affirmed.

Strategy 2025+

Digitalisation and AI determine the product roadmap with smart and intelligent products as enablers for energy efficiency and sustainability in customer solutions.

Festo is focusing on the capability shift upgrading employees’ skills in the digital transformation.

The need for home schooling and virtual training (Digital Education) is growing rapidly in the pandemic. In the lockdown, Festo Didactic successfully launched its new digital learning platform, Festo LX, for technical education and provided a free homeschooling version for mechatronics courses in schools.  

The LifeTech business segment with medical technology and laboratory automation is experiencing a real boom with growth rates of over 100%. Festo is continuously expanding its Technical Engineering Center for LifeTech in Boston, which opened in 2018 and is one of the world’s most important development locations for life science, in order to further develop this promising growth market.

Festo’s products make an important contribution to the fight against COVID 19. In particular, laboratory automation enables high throughput in COVID 19 tests.  Automation is also key in vaccine development and production.

Sustainability needs automation and education

“As a company and society, we have to manage the balancing act in the pandemic of simultaneously finding ways out of the crisis and focusing our future activities on sustainability. Automation and technical education are a key to this. We also have a high social responsibility for sustainable development here,” said Jung. The goal is to gradually develop production in the direction of a circular economy.

“At Festo, we are convinced that pneumatics in particular offers massive advantages over electrics in many areas, and that no other technology can match it. We are currently developing this further in the direction of smart and digital pneumatics. There is still a lot of potential here,” confirmed Jung.

In 2020, Festo has also made great progress internally in climate protection and thus towards its climate target of saving at least 30% CO2 by 2025 (Scope 1 and 2).

Festo has the greatest leverage for climate protection with its customers, through the appropriate product selection of pneumatics and electrics (Scope 3). This is because around 90% of CO2 emissions are generated during product operation and only around 10% during production. Smart products and services, digitalization and AI are giving new impetus to energy efficiency on the way to CO2-neutral production.

As a family-owned company, Festo thinks and acts responsibly and with a long-term perspective. Festo stands for clear values, utmost quality and customer-oriented innovation. It has set standards in industrial automation technology and technical education ever since its establishment, thereby making a contribution to sustainable development of the environment, the economy and society.

Festo is advancing digitalisation in all its corporate divisions. Festo is leading its customers and employees into the digital future. To this end, the company is developing new future-oriented concepts founded on the triad of innovative and energy-efficient technologies, intuitive human-machine collaboration, and education and further training.

Productivity – Festo’s core competency

Innovation for the best possible productivity, a global presence and close, long-term partnerships with its customers are the hallmarks of Festo. In the 1950s, Festo became the first company in Europe to use compressed air as a drive medium in automation. The company now offers over 30,000 products and system solutions for pneumatic and electrical automation technology which, thanks to a large variety of modular systems, can be tailored to specific customer applications in many different factory and process automation industry segments.

Added value through digitalisation
Smart products, connectivity, the mining and interpretation of data, including via the cloud, and dashboards for visualisation, already offer added value for customers. Products like the energy efficiency module E2M, IO-Link-capable components, the CPX-IOT gateway or interfaces like OPC-UA contribute to this process. Another basic requirement for successful and consistent digitalisation is mechanical, electrical and intelligent connectivity through software solutions, enabling all customers to find their bearings quickly and intuitively. 

Festo is promoting this with an open automation architecture and a large product portfolio made up of axes, motors and controllers. Standardised software tools are also being developed: configurators for smart engineering, the Festo Automation Suite for easy commissioning and the digital maintenance manager Smartenance for reliable operation. Digitalised pneumatics such as the Festo Motion Terminal VTEM makes pneumatics more flexible than ever before. The reason: apps define the function, the hardware remains the same.

In addition, data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence are shaping the agile product development of the future. Since 2018, the competence in the field of AI has been strongly expanded. The Festo AX (Festo Automation Experience) software platform is an AI-based software solution that allows production processes to be improved, e.g. with preventive maintenance of assets and machines, monitoring of quality in production or energy consumption.

With AI-based solutions for operations and maintenance processes, the overall equipment efficiency (OEE) of customers is to be improved.

Qualification in the digital transformation

As a leading provider of technical education and training, Festo Didactic is responding to current megatrends such as digitalisation and the energy transition. Because these trends are changing industry and production processes. Festo Didactic supports its customers with learning solutions and supports them to ensure the employability and productivity of employees and companies.

Festo Didactic offers a comprehensive range of learning solutions. Learners acquire technology knowledge and soft skills both in team-oriented and practical training on physical learning systems with industrial components, but also location- and time-independent through digital online learning opportunities. The new digital learning portal Festo Learning Experience (Festo LX) creates individual learning experiences for learners and teachers.

The fast way to a safe insulin pen

Syntegon’s assembly system for medical technology with the Festo automation platform 

Diabetes is on the rise worldwide with around 10 million people being diagnosed with the disease every year. This pushes up the demand for insulin pens for self-injection. Syntegon’s Danish subsidiary has developed an automated system for assembling these pens using the Festo automation platform.

“I have a dream,” says Michael Andersen, Sales Director of Syntegon Technology Sandved in Denmark. “I have a dream of our machines doing on-the-fly format changes. That would be the culmination of our philosophy of flexibility and agility that we strive for in our company,” adds the automation expert.

Flexibility and agility

“By using the Festo automation platform, which includes the servo press kit, we are already very close to making this dream come true,” says Andersen. In fact, Festo’s servo press kit YJKP – a preconfigured modular system consisting of software, controllers and standard electrical drives – can be easily integrated in the plant and offers a high degree of flexibility thanks to the preinstalled software. This means that the modular press system with servo drive for electric pressing and joining up to 17 kN is ready for immediate use and, compared to similar solutions on the market, is both intuitively to parameterize and cost-effective.

“We have installed more than a 100 servo press kits in the automated assembly lines for insulin pens,” says Ulrik Keldke, Head of Syntegon’s engineering department in Sandved. The precisely adjustable pressing and joining forces ensure consistent quality and low reject rates. “What we particularly like about the Festo servo press kit is that it’s quick and easy to commission, and the machine operators don’t need to be trained to use it,” explains chief engineer Keldke.

Quality and safety

“Automating the assembly line is a prerequisite for meeting the requirements for the end product: the insulin pens must be safe and user-friendly,” says Andersen. The pens must not break when used by the patients, as that would put them at risk. The Servo Press Kit keeps the tension and pressure constant. “The glass of the syringes should never be subjected to irregular pressure as they would break,” Keldke says. The automated systems ensure that the insulin pens are always in order and can deliver the exact amount of insulin.

Depending on the machine type, Syntegon’s assembly lines produce up to 300 pens per minute. The degree of automation is scalable according to requirements and can also be adapted at a later date. The machine concepts are based either on a rotary table for low to medium outputs or on a linear transport system for high outputs. The system can be expanded with automatic feeders and stations to increase output and the degree of automation.

Consistency and reliability

Syntegon Technology, formerly Bosch Packaging Technology, sees itself as a provider of integrated solutions. The assembly line for insulin pens can be expanded into a complete line with other systems from the company. Pharmaceutical manufacturers can thus be provided with machines for all process steps, from filling, capping, assembly, testing, to labelling and packaging – preconfigured and from a single source.

The machine control system is based on electrical and pneumatic components and modules from the Festo automation platform. This ensures a consistency of supply since Festo products are available worldwide and offer open interfaces to higher-level controllers. The CPX-E-CEC module from Festo establishes the connection to the process control level, allowing it to be used with Profinet or, for other customers in Europe, with EtherCat. Especially for North American customers, however, the system could also be supplied with an Ethernet/IP module.

Bionic Swift: A Bionically Inspired Robotic Bird

So, the cool demonstration this year was the Bionic Swift. This year’s engineering innovation has been incorporated into the “Bionics4Education” program. Its target market is high school education and also industrial training. 

It is one of the oldest dreams of mankind: flying like a bird. The lift and propulsion of birds have been ingeniously achieved by nature. Birds measure, control and regulate their movements continuously and completely autonomously. The inspiration for the development of the Bionic Swift educational kit came from the Bionic Learning Network, a research association with universities, institutes and development companies whose goal is to produce novel technology carriers through the application of bionics. In 2020, the BionicSwift was presented to the public for the first time. Festo Didactic wants to bring the world of bionics together with the education sector in order to promote working in interdisciplinary project teams as well as problem-oriented learning and creativity at schools.

The Bionic Swift is a robotic bird inspired by the bird world. Festo based its development on the natural model of the swallow. With the experimental set, scientific and technical correlations as well as the fascination of bird flight and the topics of lightweight construction, energy efficiency and aerodynamics can be impressively conveyed in STEAM lessons using a project-based approach.

The mechanisms of action of the flap of the wings can be explored in a playful way by students in class. Weighing less than 45 grams, the ultra-light flying object Bionic Swift shows particularly agile flight behaviour. Due to its extreme manoeuvrability, even tight turns can be realised. The Bionic Swift experimental set is recommended for up to three learners and from the age of 15. 

The references to biology and technology that can be taught in STEAM lessons or at extracurricular learning venues are numerous and reach from the structure of tubular bones to wing take-off and landing to the basics of movements in the air. This allows teachers to teach technical learning content via a new, cross-curricular educational learning path. Accompanying teaching material, as well as the assembly manual, can be downloaded free of charge from our website

Cognitive Internet Technologies for an Agile, Innovative and Competitive Industry

My first Hannover interview was with Tobias Steinhäußer of the Fraunhofer Institute. I have just begun learning about the Dataspace Connector organizations and work, and Tobias mentioned its relevance to what this particular center at Fraunhofer is up to. This organization sits at the cutting edge of technology and standards for Industrie 4.0. Following is its news release.

The Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Internet Technologies CCIT will showcase key technologies for an agile, innovative and competitive industry at the digital Hannover Messe (#HM21) from April 12 to 16, 2021. The scientists will present cognitive systems for future-proof assembly and production, the Dataspace Connector as a basis for sovereign data exchange through participation in GAIA-X and International Data Spaces, and transparent machine learning methods for industry.

Cognitive Internet technologies combine the physical world of things with the digital world of data and learning algorithms to create highly intelligent applications. They collect data from different sources, learn to understand them and optimize existing applications or open the door for new business models. 

“At Fraunhofer CCIT, more than 20 Fraunhofer institutes are pooling their expertise to develop cognitive Internet technologies for the industry of the future. In doing so, the researchers are taking the next step in the development of Industrie 4.0 and the Internet of Things: they are combining the strengths of people and digital technology. We look forward to presenting specific application scenarios and solutions at the Hanover Messe 2021,” says Christian Banse, head of the Fraunhofer CCIT office.

Trustworthy electronics and intelligent sensor technology

In an agile and flexible industrial production, trustworthy electronics and intelligent sensor technology record and communicate data in real time. Fraunhofer CCIT shows examples at its digital #HM21 booth: With the intelligent screw connection, which permanently monitors hard-to-reach places and areas by means of a thin-film sensor system, screw connections, e.g. on bridges, wind turbines or also on machines in production lines, can be monitored wirelessly and energy-autonomously. This combination of different Fraunhofer technologies and their integration in a screw/clamp connection is already available as a product-ready technology solution.

Fraunhofer CCIT is also developing a scalable sensor network that can integrate different sensors and the associated data communication for condition monitoring tasks, e.g. even directly in rolling bearings or in machine-to-machine communication. This means that these systems can be adapted to each individual case with different measurement variables for a wide range of meaningful damage characteristics. With intelligent sensor technology, radio technology and autonomous energy supply, the condition of machine tools can also be continuously monitored. This is a key element, for example, in forming and also in machining, in order to optimize processes. Among the indicators are the tightening forces and temperatures on the tool surface.

The self-measuring localization system FlexLoc allows mobile machine tools to be placed or networked easily, flexibly and in real time in the hall infrastructure or tools in the human-machine interaction. For example, by attaching sensor nodes, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) can also interact with a person carrying an associated tag.

Secure data rooms

A controllable, sovereign and traceable exchange of data across company boundaries is essential in order to survive or even lead the market in digital competition with agile, intelligent service offerings. This requires software solutions that enable the safeguarding of complex processing chains by covering a wide range of security and interoperability requirements while being easy to integrate into existing IT infrastructures.

The Dataspace Connector (DSC), which will be presented at the Fraunhofer CCIT booth, meets these requirements: It has an extensible architecture that enables companies to exchange data in a sovereign manner and can be adapted flexibly, easily and comprehensibly to the companies’ individual business processes and requirements through appropriate configurations. 

Companies can integrate the Connector solution, which is available as open source, into an existing container infrastructure, for example. Since the data is protected before it is exchanged via connectors and provided with usage rules, the data provider retains control over his data even after the exchange and thus an overview of what happens to the data. Through appropriate extensions, the DSC also supports the three security levels specified in DIN SPEC 27070. This means that companies can easily and efficiently start using the European GAIA-X data infrastructure. The DSC is licensed under Apache 2.0 and freely available. 

Fraunhofer CCIT is continuously developing offers for securing business processes so that conditions of use can be enforced in a comprehensible manner. These solutions enable trust in distributed business processes even with increasing complexity of processing chains and thus address the requirements of industry. 

Machine Learning for Industry 4.0

Industrial companies can apply the data gained through digitization in innovative artificial intelligence solutions. “Informed Machine Learning”, which was also shaped by the Fraunhofer CCIT, enables companies to transparently track the decision-making processes of learning systems and to intervene at the right points – an important prerequisite for assessing quality, reliability and risks. The research teams will be demonstrating examples of specific application scenarios in industrial production, including quality control at their digital trade fair stand.

An intelligent system consisting of a conventional image recognition process and innovative AI methods detects damage and defects such as paint inclusions or hail damage on reflective surfaces (e.g. car body parts) and automatically categorizes the defects found. Another technology combines voice and gesture control to create a multimodal dialog assistant for industry. The system enables completely digital defect documentation in production directly on the component with very little time expenditure. Users can choose between intuitive pointing gestures and a laser pointer as input method and mark defect locations on a component quickly, precisely and intuitively. Another exhibit shows cognitive tools that digitally assist workers, for example during the maintenance process on a forming press. The module attached to the screwdriver recognizes individual work steps and compares them with the target process. An additional localization system (QR code tracking) ensures that the work steps are performed at the correct location. The worker receives live feedback on the progress of his work via an app.

Manufacturing Executives Say Real-time Data Key to Innovation and Competitive Advantages

The results of a recent survey. Where do you fit on their maturity index? Hopefully you are using the technologies and obtaining positive results.

Analog Devices, Inc. announced a newly commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Analog Devices, that shows that industrial manufacturers who have made investments in connectivity technologies (“high maturity”) are better positioned to drive innovation and gain a competitive advantage compared to firms that have been slower to implement connectivity (“low maturity”) across the factory floor. 

The study, based on a survey of more than 300 manufacturing, operations, and connectivity executives across the globe, found that 85% of high maturity firms are currently using Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies across much of the factory floor, compared to 17% of low maturity organizations. Over half (53%) of low maturity organizations report that their legacy equipment is unable to communicate with other assets.

“This past year was a true catalyst for digital transformation and many businesses needed to navigate and adopt connectivity strategies that helped them to become more agile and lay the groundwork for future innovation,” said Martin Cotter, SVP Industrial, Consumer & Multi-Markets at Analog Devices. “We see significant opportunity in the adoption of connectivity solutions, including 5G, to help organizations get data more quickly, enabling end applications.” 

Findings from the research include: 

  • Connected firms believe that improving network reliability (including adding 5G networks) will create significant opportunity: 68% of high maturity firms say this will enable them to make better use of existing cloud infrastructure and 66% believe their industrial data and IP will be more secure. Conversely, only 21% of low maturity firms believe that improving network reliability will help improve security. However, all respondents agree that improving network reliability will improve efficiency by freeing up employees who are constantly resolving downtime issues. 
  • Low maturity firms struggle with security risk: 54% say that their lack of sophisticated cybersecurity strategy puts their business, customer, and employee safety at risk. 
  • The human element continues to pose challenges: Almost half (47%) of low maturity firms say they lack the expertise to understand which connectivity technologies to invest in, indicating a skills gap. Even high maturity firms report that it is not easy for them to access the insights they need to make labor planning and safety decisions.  
  • Real-time monitoring of equipment and productivity demonstrates an acute awareness of the high cost of unscheduled downtime: High (5%) and medium (17%) maturity firms reported much lower occurrence of unscheduled downtime of their industrial technology or equipment each week than low maturity companies (53%). These interruptions, lead to higher cost of holding inventory and labor per unit, loss of production and customer confidence and decreased work capacity.

This research shows us that while many firms are benefiting from the promise of industrial connectivity, others have significant legacy and talent-related hurdles to overcome. Innovation is hindered by both a shortage of in-house expertise and interoperability of systems and data, two major hindrances to manufacturing modernization.

Methodology: For this study, “Seamless Connectivity Fuels Industrial Innovation” (March 2021) – commissioned by Analog Devices – Forrester Consulting conducted a global online survey of 312 industrial connectivity strategy leaders. Survey participants included decision-makers in IT, operations, cybersecurity, and general management manufacturing roles. The study was conducted in October 2020.

For the full study click here.

OSIsoft To Deploy PI to the Google Cloud

Looks like we have a serious new entrant for cloud services for manufacturing software—Google Cloud. For the past many months, AWS and Azure have been the cloud infrastructure partners of choice. Google Cloud has begun making some inroads. Any thoughts on how this will shake out?

I thought I was getting a press release. This looks to be more like a blog post by Dominik Wee, Managing Director Manufacturing and Industrial of Google Cloud.

Across the industrial sector, many digital enablers and disruptive technologies are transforming businesses to be more efficient, profitable, nimble, and secure: smart factories with connected machines, the rise of the industrial internet of things (IIoT), proliferation of sensors and data, and new cloud strategies, to name a few.  

Our work with the PI System is designed to help industrial companies modernize their data and take it beyond the operational space to Google Cloud, deriving more insights and business value. Thanks to our partnership with AMD and OSIsoft, now part of AVEVA,customers can effectively, safely, and easily deploy a fully functioning PI System to Google Cloud. Together, we assist customers along that transformational journey through the launch of GCP deployment scripts for PI Core. 

The PI System is the market-leading data management platform for industrial operations in essential industries such as energy, mining, oil and gas, utilities, pharmaceutical, facilities, manufacturing, and more. The PI System automatically captures sensor data from every relevant source, refines and contextualizes the data, and delivers it to a broad ecosystem of people, tools, and applications for analysis and strategic planning. It also serves as a single source of truth for consistent decision making.  

With the PI System, industrial companies can generate insights from their data, including: 

  • Analyzing seasonal trends  
  • Determining if utilities are meeting the demands of production  
  • Comparing the performance of different lots of raw material  
  • Determining when maintenance is required on equipment  
  • Optimizing the utilization or performance of a production line  

The new deployment scripts are a natural addition to PI Integrator for Business Analytics, which integrates Google Cloud withPI Core, the on-premises portion of the PI System. PI Integrator for Business Analytics can deliver critical operational data directly to Google Cloud destinations like Cloud Storage, BigQuery, and Pub/Sub. It can also be deployed either on-prem or on Google Cloud.  

The solution allows customers to take time-series data from one or many of their PI Core deployments and move it ontoBigQuery, Google Cloud’s enterprise data warehouse for analytics. Customers can take advantage of exabyte-scale storage and petabyte-scale SQL queries in this high-speed, in-memory BI engine, enabling cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools that provide deep insights like anomaly detection and predictive maintenance from that data.

Through our partnership, PI Core-based solutions for industrial customers are further protected by Google Cloud’s robust security features, like encrypting cloud data at rest by default, that keep data safe and more secure. What’s more, PI Core is aligned with real-time mission-critical industrial applications, avoiding delays in time-sensitive process automation or discrete manufacturing processes. 

Serving a new slice of PI (System) on Google Cloud

GCP deployment scripts for PI Core are the latest achievement in our partnership. We developed these deployment scripts for PI Core on Google Cloud using Infrastructure as Code (IaC) with PowerShell and Terraform technologies. With PI Core on Google Cloud, customers can generate business insights through the power of Google Cloud’s Smart Data Platform with AI/ML combined with other contextualized data. The scripts accelerate an industrial customer’s digital transformation and support quick and iterative testing and prototyping. They’re also designed for customers who are considering moving their on-prem system to Google Cloud, or customers who would like to deploy PI Core as an aggregation system to bring diverse on-prem data from multiple PI Systems into one place. 

These deployment scripts automate the provision of the PI Core components running on Google Cloud N2D VM instances powered by hardware such as 2nd Gen AMD EPYC processors. GCP deployment scripts for PI Core include recommended practices for both platforms by delivering automation to deploy test and development environments.  

The scripts are offered in non-high availability (non-HA) configuration, with an HA version providing failover capabilities for PI Core coming soon. These scripts are open-sourced, and the non-HA version is now available on Google’s GitHub. 

By running PI Core on Google Cloud, the industrial sector has an easy and efficient path to business insights, generating more value from their collected data in a safe and managed environment. Enabling PI Core deployment on Google Cloud through scripts is just one of the solutions that we’re building together. Stay tuned for more updates.  

Learn more about PI Core and the overall PI System for the industrial sector. Learn more about Google Cloud instances powered by AMD. Ready to get started with our deployment scripts? Visit the GCP deployment scripts for PI Core on our Github.  

HighByte Rolls Out Support for Complex Data and Cloud-to-Edge Integration

The team that started HighByte picked an open spot called DataOps in the OT/IT pantheon that I felt was today’s sweet spot. The IT companies introduced me to DataOps (the next thing past DevOps, I guess). The application looked, shall we say, useful. HighByte is up to version 1.4 just released and has many applications in the wild already. It is well worth your time checking out.

HighByte announced the release of HighByte Intelligence Hub version 1.4. HighByte Intelligence Hub is an Industrial DataOps solution enabling manufacturers to streamline their data architecture and reduce time to deploy new systems. The software supports open standards and provides Operations Technology (OT) teams with the flexibility to merge, prepare, and deliver industrial information to and from IT systems without writing code. With its latest release, HighByte Intelligence Hub now supports complex, multi-value sets of data, a broader range of disparate data sources, flow consolidation, and additional security features.

“HighByte Intelligence Hub enables me to easily model data—adding context, segmenting, and publishing data to the unified namespace”, said Tim Burris, a software architect at Ectobox. Ectobox is an industrial intelligence solutions company specializing in data-driven manufacturing, ISA-95, and software consulting and development for their clients. “The time HighByte Intelligence Hub has saved me is incredible. I’m using the flow capabilities, updated SQL connecter, and REST input to reduce custom code and deliver a maintainable integration solution to our clients. It’s a game changer.” 

HighByte works with a network of system integrators and international distributors to take HighByte Intelligence Hub to market, serving customers in a wide variety of vertical markets including biotechnology, packaging, industrial products, and academic labs. “This release focused on meeting the needs of our customers and partners with a more sophisticated solution that can handle complex data,” said HighByte CEO Tony Paine. “HighByte Intelligence Hub is ready to support Edge-to-Cloud and Cloud-to-Edge use cases.”

HighByte Intelligence Hub is an Industrial DataOps application designed for scale. The latest release includes support for complex data sets that can be processed through HighByte Intelligence Hub’s modeling engine, transforming and contextualizing information at high volumes. The release also includes new codeless connections for CSV files and JDBC drivers, significant improvements to existing SQL, MQTT, and OPC UA connectors, multiple flow inputs and outputs, array handling, and REST templates. Security enhancements include secure connections over MQTT with SSL encryption as well as payload encryption and usernames and passwords for OPC UA connections. 

To learn more about the release and see a live demonstration of the software, please register for the “Unified Namespace and Cloud-to-Edge: New Use Cases for Industrial DataOps” webinar on April 14, 2021 at 11AM ET. 

I copied the information below from the HighByte blog written by Aron Semle to add more context and user ideas to the product news:

Highlights & Use Cases

  • Use Multiple Flow Inputs and Outputs. Let’s say you’ve created a “boiler” model to model the ten boilers you have at your facility. Now you can create a single flow that sends data for all ten of the boilers to an AWS IoT Core topic or all the boiler data to multiple outputs, like a REST endpoint for debugging and Azure IoT Hub for production.
  • See Your Data. Now you can easily create and test any input in the UI, allowing you to see what data and schema the input returns. Not sure where that “amps” attribute was in that JSON payload? Simply expand the input in the expression builder and see all the data and schema right in the UI.
  • Work With Arrays.  Arrays are everywhere, from OPC UA arrays representing set points in the PLC, to an array of JSON objects representing motor running hours from a maintenance system. HighByte Intelligence Hub now supports inputting and outputting simple and complex array types. You can index arrays in expressions, slice them, dice them, and even build arrays out of primitive OPC UA tags.
  • Read CSV Files. Many older industrial devices, especially testing equipment, write their data to a CSV file. This new input makes it easy to read one or more CSV files from a directory. Files can be static, or the input can index files, reading them in chunks and moving them to a completion directory when done.
  • Get More From Your OPC UA Connections. OPC UA now supports encryption and username and password. The connector also supports outputting a model to a tag group (i.e., multiple tags), making getting modeled data into an OPC UA server even easier.
  • Move SQL data Into and Out of Your UNS. You can now read multiple rows from a SQL table, run them through a model to do things like change the column name or add in new data, and output them to MQTT as an array of JSON objects representing each row. This makes getting SQL data into your UNS easy. The SQL connector output also now supports table creation, so you can connect an MQTT input into the UNS, subscribe to a topic, and output the data model directly to a SQL table to review data locally. SQL outputs can also call stored procedures or log data as JSON in cases where the model schema isn’t finalized.
  • Leverage REST Templates. Do you need to get data into InfluxDB using their line protocol? Or Elastic Search? The REST output now allows you to transform the default JSON output to any format you need, including XML. This makes integration with REST based interfaces easy and flexible.
  • Enable Cloud-to-Edge with MQTT. MQTT now supports inputs and secure (TLS) connections, allowing you to connect to MQTT brokers like AWS IoT Core. This enables “Cloud-to-Edge” use cases, where machine learning alerts generated in AWS can be sent back down to HighByte Intelligence Hub, transformed via modeling, and then output to protocols like Sparkplug, making the data immediately available in any Sparkplug-enabled SCADA system like Ignition. Another common use case with a similar data flow is streaming sensor data to AWS IoT Core from third-party sensor providers (i.e. LoRa sensors). This data can be pulled in, modeled, and output to the SCADA system using HighByte Intelligence Hub.

New Services Offerings from GE Digital

The rush to improve bottom lines and build closer relationships to customers through adding a valuable services portfolio has progressed from novel to commonplace. I’ve seen major IT companies pivot to a services-first strategy. This announcement of new services from GE Digital is a nice step forward.

GE Digital announced the availability of new Professional Services offerings. Quick Start for Industrial Advanced Analytics, Quick Start for Proficy Operations Hub, and Quick Start for OEE allow industrial companies to partner with GE Digital to deploy the company’s software with action plans for rapid digital transformation and continuous improvement. 

“The market is moving fast, driving our customers to manage more SKUs, shorter production runs and more line change overs. Our solutions can scale from plant to enterprise-wide and then beyond the four-walls, from Plant Operations to Enterprise execution across many industries,” said Richard Kenedi, General Manager of GE Digital’s Manufacturing and Digital Plant business. “This requires accelerated pilot projects based on more than a million deployment hours of experience that provide faster results and a template for global visibility, orchestration, and optimization.” 

The Quick Start for Industrial Advanced Analytics enables an industrial organization’s process engineers in AI and machine learning to accelerate problem detection, reduce variability, and optimize equipment and processes so that factors that are impacting process variability are identified quickly. GE Digital’s Professional Services team deploys Proficy CSense and provides a path for root cause analysis, early warning monitoring, predictive and proactive actions, process Digital Twin simulations, and process setpoint control and optimization. 

With the Quick Start for Industrial Advanced Analytics, organizations can unlock the hidden potential within data to significantly improve operations in a way that simple trending or traditional analytics cannot. GE Digital’s Professional Services team develops behavioral models to identify abnormal conditions that might indicate problems such as faulty or inefficient uses of assets or systems, causes for variation in production rate or quality based on external factors or equipment, or root causes that could be resolved using advanced process control. Modelling the behavior of existing processes can enable new awareness and drive predictive behaviors for improvement in quality, maintenance, and production planning. 

The Quick Start for Proficy Operations Hub helps industrial organizations to not only modernize their UI but also to merge data coming from different systems related to production KPIs, environmental health and safety, maintenance, and more. Teams across all levels in an organization can visualize their processes and make better decisions based on real-time and historical plant-wide application data, including historian, MES, and third-party solutions. 

With the Quick Start for Proficy Operations Hub, users can monitor, control, provide data entry, and perform analysis all through Proficy Operations Hub using a desktop, laptop, or any mobile device. The Quick Start service provides a path for modernizing visualization and transitioning reports and dashboards to a thin client based on the latest Web-based UI interactions. With this Quick Start, companies can economically transition to a modern front-end without back-end or production changes, as part of a critical step toward digital transformation. 

The Quick Start for OEE allows plant production managers, shift leaders, and line operators to rapidly deploy a targeted MES solution for one production line and measure benefit realization in weeks. OEE, a widely acknowledged best practice KPI, measures manufacturing productivity according to three standard perspectives: Quality (good production), Performance (fast production), and Availability (no downtime). Manufacturing teams can increase the effectiveness of their continuous improvement approach through the application of OEE via automatic data collection from automation systems, scaling by first focusing on a pilot line to quickly assess benefit realization, followed by defining a path to full enterprise visibility. This Quick Start helps manufacturers track losses with real-time integration, perform root-cause analysis, and solve the most impactful issues by identifying and implementing countermeasures.