Industrial AR as a Service

Mainstream tech media drools all over augmented reality and virtual reality. Which big tech company will introduce what? We’ve written about the benefits of AR in manufacturing for years. It’s still getting here, but closing in. This news comes from a company called RealWear with a new cloud SaaS offering—RealWear Cloud, marking the company’s shift from a hardware-centric company to a fully platform-centric business. The company calls this “assisted intelligence.”

RealWear Cloud is a multi-purpose software offering for IT and business operations. Through the new dashboard, IT and business operations can remotely and securely streamline control of their RealWear device fleet. As companies grow their fleet of RealWear devices, RealWear Cloud allows for convenient low-touch, over-the-air firmware updates, keeping the devices secure and company data protected. Working alongside organizations’ existing EMM or MDM software such as Microsoft Endpoint Manager (InTune), the offering further provides teams more real-time data and metrics to optimize operational efficiency. RealWear Cloud complements existing EMM/MDM solutions and enables device-specific control and configuration capabilities. Also, it is the only way to gain trusted and secure access to certified third-party apps designed for our product portfolio.  

In addition, RealWear is introducing RealWear Cloud Assistance as part of the offering.  RealWear Cloud Assistance provides real-time remote technical support and troubleshooting to frontline workers to quickly identify, diagnose and fix device issues. Reducing device downtime through remote troubleshooting will have a growing impact on company bottom lines. According to VDC research, individual incidences of device failure result in 72 minutes of lost or disrupted productivity for frontline workers. Remote support, firmware updates, and data analytics will not only increase productivity but will be necessary as businesses face ongoing talent shortages, the scarcity of which Gartner notes was exacerbated in 2021. 

RealWear Cloud will provide a two-tier offering: Basic and Pro. Foresight, RealWear’s previous lightweight device management tool, will transition to RealWear Cloud. Current Foresight customers will automatically be enrolled in the Basic plan.

ABB and Red Hat Partner for Scalable Digital Solutions

Much as some of its large industrial competitors, ABB is quickly building out industrial software solutions. A friend who is a financial analyst told me that Wall Street and other investors prize software right now. A company focused on instrumentation and automation platforms doesn’t evoke the same eyes full of longing and desire as when they add software.

In this announcement, ABB and Red Hat, the open source enterprise software company, are partnering to deliver ABB automation and industrial software solutions at the intersection of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), equipping the industrial ecosystem with extended deployment capabilities and greater agility. This is consistent with ABB’s vision of the evolution of process automation.

  • ABB will deliver digital solutions to customers on-demand and at scale using Red HatOpenShift
  • Customers will be better able to harness the potential of data-based decisions by using applications that can be deployed flexibly from the edge to the cloud

The partnership enables virtualization and containerization of automation software with Red Hat OpenShift to provide advanced flexibility in hardware deployment, optimized according to application needs. It also provides efficient system orchestration, enabling real-time, data-based decision making at the edge and further processing in the cloud.

Red Hat OpenShift, the industry’s leading enterprise Kubernetes platform, with Red Hat Enterprise Linux  as its foundation, provides ABB with a single consistent application platform, from small single node systems to scaled-out hyperconverged clusters at the industrial edge, which simplifies development and management efforts for ABB’s customers. 

“This exciting partnership with Red Hat demonstrates ABB’s commitment to meet customer needs by seeking alliances with other innovative market leaders,” said Bernhard Eschermann, Chief Technology Officer, ABB Process Automation. “The alliance with Red Hat will see ABB continue helping our customers improve their operations as they navigate a rapidly evolving digital landscape. It will give them access to the tools they need to integrate plantwide IT and OT, while reducing risks and optimizing performance.” 

Red Hat OpenShift increases the deployment flexibility and scalability of ABB Ability Edgenius, a comprehensive edge platform for industrial software applications, together with ABB Ability Genix Industrial Analytics and AI Suite, an enterprise-grade platform and applications suite that leverages industrial AI to drive Industry 4.0 digital business outcomes for customers. ABB’s Edgenius and Genix can both be scaled seamlessly and securely across multiple deployments. With this partnership, ABB will have access to capabilities like zero-touch provisioning (remote configuration of networks) which can increase manageability and consistency across plant environments. 

“Red Hat is excited to work with ABB to bring operational and information technology closer together to form the industrial edge. Together, we intend to streamline the transition from automated to autonomous operations and address current and future manufacturing needs using open-source technologies,” said Matt Hicks, executive vice president, Products and Technologies, Red Hat. “As we work to break down barriers between IT and the plant level, we look to drive limitless innovation and mark a paradigm shift in operational technology based on open source.” 

Vision Platform Eliminates Manufacturing Blind Spots

ThinkIQ developed a manufacturing software platform focused on the flow of materials through the manufacturing process rather than the health of specific machines. I’ve had several interviews over the past couple of years with executives I’ve known for years from previous gigs.  You can check them out here, here, and here.

I recently conducted an interview with Doug Lawson, CEO, Brian Anderson, CMO, and Rob Schoenthalar, CRO to discuss an added feature to their offering. They have added vision as a sensor attempting to solve a sticky problem for manufacturing management.

The problem? ThinkIQ’s customers are still effectively blind to up to 70% of events on the Factory Floor. Current safety practices are primarily reactive and rather than averting any unfortunate incident in the first place, these procedures only provide solutions to salvage a regrettable situation.

The solution? Enhancements to its Vision Platform.

Locating cameras in strategic locations around the plant facility, Think IQ can look at safety and correlations among activities. Maybe checking events of ship, store, manufacturing, looking for root causes. They offered an example General Mills has publicized where they recorded savings of $40 million out of oats for making Cheerios. They also avoided multiple recalls by detecting gluten entering the process before manufacturing.

An MES or other software may not always record every aspect of a process. Merging cameras with their MES, ThinkIQ can add much more data plus analysis to discover more problems. Their cameras do not do parts inspection. They observe movement and behavior generating what they call “Operational Data Streams.” Now ThinkIQ can combine data about material flow plus what machines are doing plus what people are doing. Operations does not need to ask operators to fill out HMI screen forms about what happened. ThinkIQ’s value add is intellectual property around AI/ML looking for patterns in the data.

From the press release:

The latest version of ThinkIQ Vision now has out-of-the-box abilities to detect and digitize dozens of common manufacturing events including:

  • Vehicle activities in receiving and shipping
  • Material movements and presence
  • Anonymous People presence and activity
  • Machine state and physical events
  • Andon light status
  • Safety violations
  • Values from legacy analog and disconnected digital displays
  • Values from stand-alone displays

HPE Announces GreenLake Modern Private Cloud and New Cloud Services

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced advances to its GreenLake flagship Software-as-a-Service platform at its Discover 2022 user conference. Below are the update summaries:

  • Unified experience across edge to cloud 
  • Deepens security 
  • Extends developer tools 
  • Strengthens capabilities to run workloads at scale
  • Transformed and modern private cloud experience with automated, flexible, scalable pay-as-you-go private cloud for traditional and cloud-native workloads
  • Eight new cloud services including backup and recovery, block storage, compute operations management, data fabric, disaster recovery, hyperconverged infrastructure, as well as industry-vertical cloud services for customer engagement and payments

“Three years ago, at HPE Discover, HPE committed to delivering our entire portfolio as a service by 2022,” said Antonio Neri, president and CEO, HPE. “Today, I am proud to say that not only have we delivered on that commitment, we have become a new company. HPE GreenLake has emerged as the go-to destination for hybrid cloud, and our industry-leading catalog of cloud services enables organizations to drive data-first modernization for all their workloads, across edge to cloud. The innovations unveiled today further build on our vision to provide the market with an unmatched platform to spur innovation and drive transformation.”

You have to give Neri credit. I was in the crowd three years ago when he made this audacious commitment to turn the entire company in a new direction. Not only has that goal been accomplished, but also customers have accepted it. The results reported have been outstanding.

In Q2 2022, HPE reported Annualized Revenue Run-Rate (ARR) of $829 million and triple digit as-a-service orders growth for the third consecutive quarter.

Platform Connects Siloed Engineering

Current trends in software product management mandate new platforms to bring disparate applications together into some semblance of coherence. A few years back the term was “breaking down silos.” That term continues to pop up at times. As well as collaboration and cross-functional.

If any readers of this blog including the tens of thousands in Europe and Asia are still struggling with silos or figuring out how to get people to work together, you’re behind. Get with it. Astute managers have figured out how to get IT and OT to work together for several years.

I say this as context for another reason companies construct these platforms—acquisitions. Hexagon has filled its shopping cart recently with many companies. It is now up to management to find a way to bring coherence to the portfolio. Hexagon’s solution introduced at it’s user conference in Las Vegas in June is dubbed Nexus.

• The platform will connect people, technology, and data across the design, production and manufacturing workflow

• It will empower cross-functional teams with the insights to collaborate instinctively in real time

• Cloud-based technologies, applications, and solutions accelerate new product development

I think cloud-based is the key. Open APIs and cloud technologies such as modern databases enable a new generation of software solutions for customers.

Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division has announced an open platform for smart manufacturing, Nexus, which will revolutionise how technology professionals collaborate and innovate.

Nexus is the foundation for Hexagon’s new solution offerings in the smart manufacturing space going forward. Today, it is capable of leveraging Hexagon data sources from across the portfolio. Visualisations and data management solutions such as HxGN Metrology Reporting and MaterialCenter have been built as cloud-native connected applications, and will be connected through Nexus.

Google Cloud Launches New Data Solutions for Manufacturers

This news is a bit old dating from the first of May. Its relevancy maintains its freshness—another look at the major IT companies looking for market in manufacturing. This holds personal interest in that once again I am not invited back to an IT company user conference because they tried a manufacturing vertical without success. (I could have told them, but that story will hold for another place and time.)

Google Cloud has co-developed Manufacturing Data Engine and Manufacturing Connect. These solutions are said to enable manufacturers to connect historically siloed assets, process and standardize data, and improve visibility from the factory floor to the cloud. Once data is harmonized, the solutions enable three critical AI- and analytics-based use cases–manufacturing analytics & insights, predictive maintenance, and machine-level anomaly detection.

Key points:

  • Ford, Kyocera, and Phononic among early customers to enhance data transparency and optimize production with new manufacturing-specific solutions
  • Cognizant, C3 AI, GFT, Intel, Litmus, Quantiphi, SoftServe, Sotec, Splunk, among partners supporting the new solutions

Manufacturing Data Engine and Manufacturing Connect, available today, help manufacturers unify their data and empower their workforce with easy-to-use analytics and AI solutions based on cloud infrastructure.

This continues the discussion I made yesterday about DataOps. The rapid move to data organizations and technology in manufacturing continues to amaze me.

Manufacturing Data Engine is an end-to-end solution that processes, contextualizes, and stores factory data on Google Cloud’s data platform. It provides a configurable and customizable blueprint for the ingestion, transformation, storage, and access to factory data. It integrates key Google Cloud products, including Cloud Dataflow, PubSub, BigQuery, Cloud Storage, Looker, Vertex AI, Apigee, and more, into a manufacturing-specific solution.

Manufacturing Connect is a factory edge platform co-developed with Litmus Automation that quickly connects to, and streams data from, nearly any manufacturing asset and industrial system to Google Cloud, based on an extensive library of more than 250 machine protocols. Deep integration with the Manufacturing Data Engine unlocks rapid data intake into Google Cloud for processing machine and sensor data. The ability to deploy containerized applications and ML models to the edge enables new dimensions of use cases.

Once data is centralized and harmonized by the Manufacturing Data Engine and Manufacturing Connect, it can then be used to address a growing set of industry-specific use cases.

Data holds no value unless it can be analyzed and visualized.

Manufacturing analytics & insights, which helps manufacturers quickly create custom dashboards to visualize key data—from factory KPIs such as Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), to individual machine sensor data. Integrated with the Manufacturing Data Engine, engineers and plant managers can automatically set up new machines and factories, enabling standardized dashboards, KPIs, and on-demand drill-downs into the data to uncover new insights opportunities throughout the factory. These can then be shared easily across the enterprise and with partners.