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.
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.
A Vice President of Software at Rockwell Automation casually dropped the thought of PLC as an edge compute device during our conversation. Since I spend considerable time talking with people, especially in the IT realm, about the edge, this piqued my interest.
Can a PLC be an edge compute device?
Just prior to my going away on vacation, several Rockwell people met with me to discuss this idea of PLC as the edge. The idea was repeated at least twice, so it’s important. “Our strategy is to use the PLC as a concentrator. We will use technology from the ASEM acquisition to develop a compute platform for the PLC.”
Here is my context leading to seriously asking the question. Before there was Edge, Cloud, Internet of Things, and the rest, several people talked with me about a problem of a large automotive plant. The IT manager required data from a machine to feed his enterprise system. If he went to the control engineer to ask for the data from the PLC, he met considerable resistance. The engineer would be required to get into the control logic and set a few lines of code to send that data. As we all know, any change to a control program can lead to unanticipated downstream situations that are detrimental to operations.
The solution included wiring a sensor around the control system to a small compute device which then communicated to the IT system. IT got its data. Bothering the control engineer was avoided. Win-win as they say.
We did not get that far into the system before we had to end the conversation. But that is the question I still have—can Rockwell engineer the system so that IT can get data without disturbing the control system? That means the PLC-rack-mounted PC can be read the data table but completely outside the control system. Security would also necessitate some similar arrangement.
Using the PLC as the central point of compute for Rockwell Automation makes sense from a corporate strategy point of view. The company has always kept things close. It is seldom open. They would, of course, point to DeviceNet or “EtherNet/IP” as open or its occasional use of OPC, something that has picked up recently. Rockwell has acquired PC talent over the years, so the recent ASEM acquisition probably means that there wasn’t that much further development of the PC product lines, so they went out and obtained more talent.
One of the team was from the analytics group. Yes, Rockwell has had an analytics product for years. This is seen as an integral part of the edge strategy. It sounds like the strategy includes bringing control, compute, and analytics together at the edge. Perhaps this will evolve into service offerings? There was a mention of providing compute as a service (not sure if they meant CaaS).
Sounds like time for an updated training session for the old guy. They discussed the PLC moving from tag-based to object-based. We had no time to go further into that, but it certainly sounds intriguing.
I mentioned that mostly edge to cloud referred to Internet of Things. IoT generally refers to IT rather than control. The Rockwell response it that it is better to take IoT through PLC. Once again, this sounds like a long-held Rockwell strategy of keeping everything as close to the vest as possible. Most people refer to IoT as more open than part of a closed system.
Toward the end of our conversation, enhanced services were mentioned. Time ran out, however. That would not be surprising. Ever since the dawn of M2M, the precursor to IoT, the principal business objective included selling services. That’s the trend everywhere.
If I were a “real” analyst, I’d have a model with a Three-Letter Acronym and conclude that this strategy fits that model. Or perhaps five quadrants and place it somewhere.
Just being a thinker, I’d say that what was discussed in this briefing fits squarely within Rockwell Automation’s established strategy extending that with enough of the latest technology and just enough openness to keep its major customers happy. Whereas much of the world is becoming more open (standards, open-source, and the like), Rockwell has always been as little open as possible. And, by the way, that is not unique. Only one competitor evangelizes open standards, and I’m not sure about it.
Jason Shepherd, Ecosystem VP, has been busy building this edge ecosystem and took time to chat with me about this news from ZEDEDA. The bullet points below summarize. First, I thought I do a reminder about “edge orchestration”, the core of ZEDEDA’s offering. Essentially edge orchestration makes it easier (on the typical engineering scale of easy) to build management and security of hardware and applications as you build out your IoT system.
Partnerships are a growing trend, and this release details several both with commercial companies and with consortia. Google Cloud makes another appearance on my blog, as well. As I’ve said, these enterprise cloud services are getting very interesting. This release focuses on the energy vertical. Look for additional focus industries coming in the future.
- Google collaboration to leverage ZEDEDA’s expertise in distributed edge computing
- Additional partnerships include Juniper Networks, Advantech, Dianomic and the IOTA Foundation
- ZEDEDA joins LF Energy, OSDU and Project Alvarium to advance open collaboration to address industry challenges
The energy industry is undergoing rapid evolution as it adjusts to sweeping changes in everything from aging infrastructure to an imbalance in traditional ways consumers use and produce energy.
To address this complex equation, ZEDEDA, the leader in orchestration for the distributed edge, today announces significant advances in three key areas—partnerships, industry consortiums and a developer program—that position open collaboration as a key enabler for the industrial market, including companies looking to address the macro trends in the energy space.
ZEDEDA will provide its zero-trust, cloud-based orchestration solution for distributed edge computing to help Google Cloud customers securely scale deployments of any edge application, including AI/ML, on choice of hardware. This is in response to the growth of cloud infrastructure in industrial markets for centralized data storage and management, cross-facility analytics and visibility, and hyperscale compute capabilities to augment workloads deployed at the edge.
Together with joint edge application partners like Dianomic, customers will be able to drive new efficiencies through insights derived from edge environments. While the solution is horizontal in nature, the partnership is placing an initial focus on the energy space with target edge assets, including wind turbines, solar farms, and more.
“We see a number of edge use cases for multiple industries, including energy, that can be addressed with this Google Cloud partnership,” said Said Ouissal, ZEDEDA founder and CEO. “Our zero-touch provisioning and simplified lifecycle management enable businesses to start realizing business value with Google Cloud together with choice of edge hardware and applications.”
“As high-speed connectivity grows, organizations with presences at the network edge stand to benefit from low-latency access to business applications and cloud capabilities that can help modernize business processes, manage data, and more,” said Tanuj Raja, Global Head, Strategic Partnerships at Google Cloud. “We’re excited that ZEDEDA will make its edge orchestration capabilities available with Google Cloud, helping enable greater access to these applications and capabilities for customers across industries.”
In addition to its recent partnership with Agora, ZEDEDA has added additional partnerships to support energy customers facing key challenges such as digitizing legacy infrastructure, remotely monitoring critical assets, and balancing the grid with unpredictable renewable energy sources. Those partnerships announced today include:
- Juniper Networks: a joint offering for secure-edge computing with Juniper’s Session Smart Router and the vSRX Virtual Firewall secure networking capabilities on top of ZEDEDA’s zero-trust edge orchestration foundation. Together, ZEDEDA and Juniper provide customers with the simplicity of cloud orchestration and the flexibility of either backhauling data to the cloud or keeping it on-prem.
- Dianomic: an edge application platform for Industrial IoT use cases. ZEDEDA’s edge orchestration solution simplifies secure deployment of Dianomic’s FogLAMP platform and management of the underlying hardware.
- IOTA Foundation: a key collaborator for Project Alvarium, focused on facilitating trust in interconnected ecosystems through its feeless Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). IOTA is leading a number of decentralized, innovative projects in the energy space.
“We are pleased to be working with ZEDEDA to provide advanced solutions for the energy sector,” said Karen Falcone, Sr. Director of Enterprise Marketing at Juniper Networks. “Combining our broad networking experience, including software-defined capabilities with the Juniper Session Smart Router and the vSRX Virtual Firewall with ZEDEDA’s Zero Trust architecture, provides customers with a robust security foundation for any mission-critical use cases within the energy vertical and beyond.”
“Together, Dianomic, ZEDEDA and Google deliver a complete Industry 4.0 edge stack built on an open-source foundation,” said Tom Arthur, CEO at Dianomic. “The energy industry faces new challenges as its generation and storage systems become massively distributed. Combining Dianomic’s FogLAMP for edge application development and data acquisition with ZEDEDA’s secure orchestration solution and Google’s state-of-the-art ML and cloud services delivers a robust and flexible foundation for edge computing challenges in industrial use cases.”
ZEDEDA is also increasing focus with Advantech as a strategic hardware partner for the energy space due to its broad portfolio of edge computing offerings, including models with C1/D2 certification for critical environments and new NVIDIA Jetson-enabled boxes to power edge AI.
“We are always looking for new and innovative ways to make edge computing solutions easier, more efficient, and more secure for customers in an industry that is seeing tremendous change,” said Jeff Brown, Sr. Sales Director for Advantech’s Industrial IoT Group. “Working with strategic, domain-focused partners such as ZEDEDA and Dianomic allows us to do just that. Advantech has one of the broadest hardware portfolios in the market, and our expansive Class 1, Division 2 product line allows for reliable, rugged solutions in remote and hazardous locations. We are thrilled to be a part of this ground-breaking group that’s putting digital transformation into the hands of the energy industry.”
Collaboration with PVHardware
ZEDEDA continues to make great progress with energy customers, recently closing a win with PVHardware. The company is using ZEDEDA’s orchestration solution to deploy and manage edge hardware and applications that aid in tracking the sun to maximize power generation.
“As we looked to leverage edge computing to help maximize power generation, we needed a solution to securely scale deployments in solar plants, including the ability to remotely manage the overall deployment lifecycle,” said Ivan Arkitpoff, CTO at PVHardware, “ZEDEDA provided us with a solution that makes it easy to deploy hardware and applications in the field and perform fail-proof updates from the cloud without having to send a technician out to the plant.”
ZEDEDA Joins Industry Consortium Groups LF Energy, OSDU and Project Alvarium
The emerging trends that face the energy industry are so wide-ranging that they require industry collaboration to address. ZEDEDA has joined several industry consortiums to drive standards via open source:
- LF Energy, a Linux Foundation project, is seeking to accelerate the energy transition of the world’s power and transportation systems through open-source technology. As a member, ZEDEDA will work with the LF Energy community to integrate EVE-OS into its reference architecture.
- The OSDU Forum, part of the Open Group and focused on developing an open, standards-based foundation to accelerate innovation in the energy space. ZEDEDA and Dianomic are assisting in building a proof-of-concept for OSDU’s edge computing reference architecture leveraging EVE-OS and Fledge from LF Edge, with more open-source efforts to be integrated over time.
- Project Alvarium, an emerging project within the Linux Foundation, is focused on enabling data confidence through the concept of trust fabrics. ZEDEDA is collaborating with Dell, the IOTA Foundation, Intel and other industry leaders to formally launch the project, with energy being an initial focus vertical.
“ZEDEDA’s capabilities enable zero-touch deployments of IOTA and Project Alvarium, creating scalable connective fabrics at the edge,” said Mat Yarger, Head of Smart Mobility at the IOTA Foundation. “This can enable a peer-to-peer utility of data in the energy sector, which has massive implications to address critical problems with grid management and oversight. It will also allow new business models around electric vehicles and smart grids to thrive, as well as the realization of new asset structures. All with trust being ingrained in how these systems operate.”
To learn more about how ZEDEDA is partnering with Google Cloud and Dianomic on edge solutions, register for ZEDEDA Transform 2021 on August 18-19. This free online event brings together experts from across the edge computing and IoT landscape to discuss today’s trends, challenges and opportunities. (Shameless self-promotion plug, you might find me among the participants there.)
Juliet justifying her love with a man from a rival family argues, “O, be some other name! What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” A modern manufacturing OT/IT architecture includes some manner of compute and storage at the site close to the operations that contains robust networking to the cloud.
Generally, we call that rose Edge Computing. But we can also call it a “micro data center” if we wish. This news discusses a partnership between Schneider Electric data center business and Stratus Technologies server business that has a positive effect upon the AVEVA software business and the effectiveness of Systems Integrators (Sis). This news popped last month during the flurry of conferences I was attending.
Stratus Technologies, a provider in simplified, protected, autonomous Edge Computing platforms, has announced that Schneider Electric has released EcoStruxure Micro Data Center architectures standardized on Stratus Edge Computing platforms to accelerate the move of traditional data center capabilities to the factory floor.
The new micro data center architectures integrate Stratus’ fault tolerance and virtualization with Schneider Electric’s uninterrupted power to consolidate software workloads and run critical equipment with no downtime. Jointly developed, the micro data centers are fully tested, validated, and available with pre-loaded software to reduce engineering complexity for System Integrators (SI).
Industry 4.0 Micro Data Centers for Automation and Control
The Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Micro Data Center with Stratus ftServer enables end users to move data center operations to the edge, bringing computing power close to critical equipment to solve data latency and bandwidth issues. Stratus ftServer’s virtualization enables end users to concurrently run monitor and control, on-premises historian, manufacturing execution, asset performance management, and automated material handling applications as well as advanced AI and ML applications. Purpose-built for the operational environment, the unit is physically protected in a single enclosure.
John Knorr, VP of Global IT Alliances, at Schneider Electric said, “When partnering with Stratus, we spoke about the many day-to-day responsibilities of a System Integrator and the security and privacy concerns raised with outsourcing IT. We made it our mission to not only bridge the gap of IT and OT but simplify the purchase, deployment and management cycle all together with a one-stop-shop solution.”
Less Engineering Complexity and Faster Time-to-Market
Previously, SIs and end users had to source the compute platform and power components from separate vendors and distributors, align requirements and costs, and then assemble, configure, and test. With the combined solution, teams have a prevalidated solution available from a single source with service and support from both Stratus and Schneider Electric. As a result, organizations are able to deploy an OT-ready micro data center for 40% less field engineering cost and 20% faster time-to-market.
Tim Black, Global SI Program Manager, at AVEVA said, “This Stratus and Schneider Electric collaboration drastically reduces the engineering work and logistical complexity for AVEVA SIs and distributors deploying micro data centers in OT environments. The EcoStruxure Micro Data Center with Stratus ftServer should be the standard fault tolerant platform for Edge-to-Enterprise digital transformation projects, enabling fast deployments for Performance Intelligence.”
EcoStruxure Micro Data Center Configurations and Sizing
System Integrators and customers can order the EcoStruxure Micro Data Center systems in a range of configurations as well as pre-loaded with industrial software such as AVEVA System Platform and others.
The EcoStruxure Micro Data Center with Stratus ftServer is available in 6U, 12U or 42U rack sizes powered by Schneider Electric Secure Power solutions. Each micro data center has integrated cooling and optional environmental monitoring (temperature, humidity, fluid, smoke) and security (door sensors and camera). The 42U enclosure adds NEMA-12 with filters and ventilation fans and is ideal for larger deployments where additional IT gear is required, and dedicated IT space is not available. Schneider Electric’s smart, uninterrupted power supply (UPS) offers protection against electrical hazards, remote support, and “graceful” calculated shutdown.
Stratus ftServer delivers virtualization to run a range of concurrent software workloads and fault tolerance to eliminate downtime and data loss. Each rack size enclosure offers three Stratus ftServer configurations:
- Stratus ftServer 2900 supports up to 10,000 I/O’s and two (2) remote clients. The unit is powered by a 1.5kVA APC Smart-UPS (uninterrupted power supply) with on-line UPS with network management card with additional capacity for lower power devices.
- Stratus ftServer 4900 is ideal for 25,000-50,000 I/O’s and five (5) remote clients. The unit is powered by a 2.2kVA APC Smart-UPS On-line UPS with network management card. The solution offers an additional 6U of rack space for switches, KVM and other IT gear.
- Stratus ftServer 6900 supports up to 100,000 I/O’s and twenty (20) remote clients. The unit is powered by a 3kVA APC Smart-UPS On-line UPS with network management card.