Return of the Large Trade Show

IMTS / Hannover Messe invaded Chicago this week. I drove down a couple of days. It was huge. Booths populated all four halls. I did not see everything. Or even half.

Hannover Messe (in Chicago) has co-located for the past three or four events. As in the past, the automation / Hannover Messe part encompassed a few aisles in the East hall.

I’ll have more news items in the next post.

Best of what I saw:

Nokia. What?! I was approached for an appointment. I said yes figuring on a 5G private network discussion. I was partly right.

Let me back up for context.

  • Enterprises crave data to feed their information systems.
  • Data from industrial / manufacturing operations were bottled in isolated, siloed systems
  • Networking became robust
  • Interoperable protocols grew
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) became a thing
  • Suddenly data could go where and when needed

Solutions.

  • Automation vendors claimed connectivity to enterprise but that fell short
  • IT suppliers, supporters of the enterprise, tried to enter the market with gateways, networking, partnerships and ecosystems to get the data.
  • They couldn’t find the formula to sell to manufacturing (known as OT)
  • We have gateways, databases, networking, but still no enterprise solution

Nokia.

  • Builds off networking technology which has progressed to 5G Private Networks
  • Has added edge compute devices
  • Partnership with PTC (Kepware / Thingworx) for software connectivity
  • Attacking this open market from a new perspective–both the enterprise IT side and the operations OT side

I am not predicting success. I never do. What I love about trade shows is finding this nugget of original thinking cloaked in the mundane. They have the foundation. Can they sell?

Check out this page on the Nokia site.

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.” 

Foundries.io and Arduino Deliver Secure Embedded Linux IoT and Edge

I have been expecting to see Arduino applications pop up like mushrooms after a spring rain. It’s been more like the occasional gold finch gracing the backyard birdfeeder. But advancements do come. This partnership between Foundries.io and Arduino along with the explosion of interest in Edge could tip the scales.

LONDON, March 24, 2022 – Foundries.io, the leader in cloud native development and deployment solutions for secure IoT and Edge devices, today announced its partnership with Arduino to deliver secure, embedded Linux IoT and Edge solutions for the enterprise with the Arduino Pro Portenta X8 (just announced today).

Arduino is an open source electronics company that manufactures open hardware development boards used by millions of developers around the world. It will use FoundriesFactory in its enterprise product to help customers ease development and deployment, reduce costs and accelerate revenue associated with industrial IoT and Edge devices.

“A few years ago, with the legendary Yún, Arduino invented a new category of products by combining microcontrollers and microprocessors on a single hardware platform. Now, we are taking this experience to the next level by providing enterprises the same flexibility, with performance on steroids thanks to the Portenta X8 (4x Cortex®-A53, Cortex-M7 and 2x M4)”, said Fabio Violante, CEO at Arduino. “Today, the world is different: You cannot think about a Linux-based device without anticipating the challenges of securing and maintaining it over time. This requires expertise, commitment and attention to every detail related to security and maintenance. For this reason, we decided to partner with Foundries.io to simplify this approach by providing a ready-to-use solution that can help our customers build systems with confidence. By embedding a FoundriesFactory in the Arduino platform, customers can be sure to choose the best solution on the market.”

The IoT market will more than double in the next five years, and the market for Edge devices will nearly triple with accelerated growth expected in industrial IoT, Electric Vehicle (EV) infrastructure and robotics. Among the challenges to realizing this growth and innovation for businesses are the security of these devices and the expense associated with building and maintaining Linux to support them. FoundriesFactory addresses these challenges with a cloud-based DevOps service to build, test, deploy and maintain these devices. It includes a fit-for-purpose, customizable Linux microPlatform OS built using best industry practices for security and incremental Over The Air (OTA) updates. Developers can build with freedom and ease, while businesses lower costs and reduce time to revenue.

Foundries.io is in a unique position to advance Arduino’s vision for enabling enterprises to more easily deploy and maintain Linux-based products for IoT and Edge applications,” said George Grey, CEO at Foundries.io. “The combination of the Portenta X8 and the FoundriesFactory cloud solution will accelerate customer time to market, increase product security and enable rapid deployment and lifetime OTA management of customer devices and fleets, while giving freedom of choice for connectivity to public or private cloud services. From off-the-shelf to fully customized options, Arduino and FoundriesFactory are providing an industry leading solution for Linux-based IoT and Edge products.”

Users will be able to access a FoundriesFactory for the Portenta X8 hardware platform. This will enable users to immediately connect Arduino Portenta X8-based products to the cloud and start developing container-based applications, leveraging the device management and DevOps capabilities available with FoundriesFactory.

Litmus Expands Enterprise-Grade Smart Manufacturing at the Edge

Many innovations and partnerships occur at the edge of the network today. Edge-to-Cloud is a term often replacing IoT for marketers. Litmus, a relatively new company, focuses on developing an innovative edge platform. I introduced Litmus here and I touched on this announcement here.

These hardware/software/platform edge partnerships constituted the trends of the times. This one links Litmus and Dell Technologies.

Litmus, the Intelligent Edge Platform for Industrial IoT, announced a new validated, end-to-end solution with Dell Technologies to simplify smart manufacturing at the edge. The offering combines Dell Technologies hardware and software with the Litmus Industrial IoT Edge platform for a resilient, scalable edge compute infrastructure that allows manufacturers to rapidly collect, analyze and act on time-critical data to improve operations.

The Dell Technologies Validated Design for Manufacturing Edge with Litmus uses Dell EMC VxRail and Dell EMC PowerEdge servers, which provide high-availability, AI and machine learning and high-speed connectivity for manufacturing edge applications. Litmus adds edge data collection, machine analytics, enterprise data integration and application and ML deployment at the edge. Scale is enabled via a centralized edge management platform that manages all IoT devices and services across all locations from a single point of control.

The Dell Technologies Validated Design for Manufacturing Edge with Litmus offers out-of-the-box connectivity to any industrial asset with more than 250 pre-loaded drivers. Pre-built and custom data visualizations, analytics and KPIs provide immediate insights at the edge, and data can be integrated to any cloud or enterprise system to power applications and feed machine learning models. The solution is integrated with the Dell EMC Streaming Data Platform, which allows customers to use high-speed data persistence and unconstrained data storage at the edge to train machine learning models without needing to send data to the public cloud.

AI and Edge Top Today’s News Stories

I have four news items today. A couple are AI related and a couple more along the Edge. All concern developing products with the latest tech. ABB, Micropsi, IOTech, and ThinkIQ.

ABB to deliver artificial intelligence modeling for data center energy optimization in Singapore.

ABB has signed up to a pilot study with ST Telemedia Global Data Centres (STT GDC) to explore how artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and advanced analytics can optimize energy use and reduce a facility’s carbon footprint.

Singapore-headquartered STT GDC, which is one of the fastest growing global data center operators, is leveraging the digital transformation expertise of technology leader ABB as it bids to become net carbon-neutral by 2030.

ABB is conducting the pilot in two phases, beginning with initial data exploration, modeling, and validation, studying historical data to establish how digital solutions would impact existing operations and energy use. Once proven, it will be followed by AI control logic testing in a live data center environment. STT GDC aims to achieve at least 10 percent in energy savings from its cooling systems, which is the largest consumption of electrical power in a data center after IT equipment.

The ABB team is currently developing AI-based optimization models for the entire data center cooling plant, including the upstream chiller and distribution systems. The AI project is also unlocking new opportunities for efficiency improvement at a granular level within the data center. STT GDC will be able to use AI-generated insights, leveraging cutting-edge ABB Ability™ Genix for industrial analytics and AI, to track and analyze data generated by monitoring systems in the data center, and better facilitate dynamic cooling optimization.

Micropsi Industries’ AI-driven Control System Speeds Complex and Precise Robot Training and Deployment

Industrial and collaborative robots learn to perform camera-guided movements more quickly with the latest version of Micropsi Industries’ MIRAI robot control system. Using artificial intelligence (AI), MIRAI enables robots to flexibly react to variances in their tasks in real time by learning from humans. Variances in position, shape, surface properties or lighting conditions are a common challenge for robotic automation of machine tending, assembly or test applications. With MIRAI’s new “positioning skills” feature, giving examples of quality movements to the robot has become much easier, and the robot will generalize and understand what to do much more quickly.

With the new feature, MIRAI customers will notice quicker set-up times, down from 2-3 days per skill to about three hours. In addition, robot speeds have increased, which also enables shorter cycle times.

Companies wanting to use a robot to perform precise and complex skills—such as gripping and inserting a bendable or soft component, like a cable, into differently arranged sockets—would primarily use the MIRAI controller at the first and last decisive centimeters of a manufacturing step. 

With MIRAI, preparing robots to perform tasks that include variances requires a human worker to guide the robot arm several times through typically occurring scenarios to show the robot to its destination, such as sockets in which freely hanging cables need to be inserted. A machine learning process then derives a motion intuition for the robot from the given examples. For a robot that is not required to follow specific paths to perform its task, MIRAI users can deploy the new positioning skills to teach the robot to find the destination even faster because a human worker needs only to show MIRAI the surroundings of the target with the camera. The robot then independently searches for the shortest path to the object.

IOTech launches Edge Builder to manage edge systems at scale 

IOTech, the edge software company, announced the launch and availability of Edge Builder, its end-to-end management solution for edge systems. Edge Builder provides a comprehensive, flexible and open solution that simplifies and automates the management of edge systems at scale. 

To ensure that Edge Builder addresses the market opportunity, IOTech has been working with a number of key partners and potential customers during the development phase of the product. 

Designed to meet the specific needs of edge systems, Edge Builder provides light touch provisioning and complete lifecycle management for both edge nodes and their applications. Currently it supports the deployment and management of containerized applications at the edge and in the future will also support the deployment of native binary applications.

Edge systems are managed from a centralized Edge Builder controller that can be hosted either on-premise or in the cloud. Platform independence for both the managed nodes and the cloud environment on which the controller is deployed ensures flexibility and choice for Edge Builder users. 

Edge Management at Scale -Solving the Big Problem in the IoT Room

ThinkIQ Enhances SaaS Platform with Stronger Connectivity, Analytics and Visualization

ThinkIQ, a pioneer of digital manufacturing transformation SaaS, announced major enhancements to its SaaS Manufacturing platform. The new offering strengthens the company’s leading Transformational Intelligence Platform and provides more powerful and simplified modeling technology to allow for faster time to solution, better analytics and visualization, and higher performance data processing.

Many transformational intelligence platforms are either pure developments tools or are restricted to the feature set that is delivered with the platform. ThinkIQ’s latest enhancements deliver the best of both worlds with strong model integration combined with an extensible development platform that bridges the gap between traditional, on-premise OT technologies and strong could-enabled analytics.

These capabilities can be applied to any manufacturing and supply chain application and are particularly well-suited for hybrid, continuous and batch processes.

ThinkIQ’s SaaS Manufacturing cloud-based platform simplifies the creation of web-based applications and leverages the strengths of the Internet of Things, Big Data, Data Science, Semantic Modeling and Machine Learning. The platform collects data across the operation (existing and IIoT sensors) to provide actionable real time insights (e.g., identify correlations and root causes, traceability and yield issues, etc.). It creates a new level of capability beyond what independent disconnected operating environments can provide today.

To learn more about ThinkIQ, visit our website.

Taking the Edge of Edge Compute Into Outer Space

We talk about the Edge here. Usually that means taking compute out to the factory or process with connections back to the cloud for more intensive compute. Michael Bird does some informative and entertaining podcasts called Technology Untangled. The latest one discussing taking Edge Compute into space isn’t on the Website, yet, but I’ve linked to my favorite podcast app Overcast for your listening pleasure.