A Stronger and Simpler Ignition Edge

One of my 2023 themes has built on paraphrasing Paul Simon’s At the Zoo, “They say it’s all happening at the Edge.” During my brief career as an IT Influencer, I was the “edge” guy. Just as I recently asked about the future of embedded control, I’m also curious about developments at the edge and its implications for data—as in “digital transformation.”

When Inductive Automation CEO Colby Clegg discussed coming attractions at the last Ignition Community Conference, this announcement of rationalizing the Ignition Edge product portfolio drew applause and whistles. Herewith, the new Ignition Edge lineup.

Capturing, processing, and visualizing critical data at the remote edge of the network has never been easier or more affordable. By adding the updated line of Ignition Edge products to field and OEM devices, you can extend your data collection with unlimited tag and device connections, see your data at the edge with state-of-the art visualization tools, run scripts, interface with applications, and extend your system all the way to the edge of your network with data syncing and system management.

The New Edge Product Line

The new Edge product line combines our five previous Edge products into two updated Edge products: Ignition Edge IIoT and Ignition Edge Panel. Don’t worry, the power and functionality of our old products — Edge Compute, Edge Sync Services, and Edge EAM — aren’t going anywhere. Instead, their features are being rolled into the New Edge IIoT and Edge Panel.

In addition to these changes, Ignition Edge products no longer come pre-packaged with Oil & Gas specific drivers for ROC and Totalflow. However, these drivers can be purchased separately and added onto Edge products.

Ignition Edge IIoT

Ignition Edge IIoT turns virtually any field device, such as a touch panel or a client terminal, into a lightweight, MQTT-enabled edge gateway that works seamlessly with Ignition IIoT and other common IIoT platforms, providing remote data acquisition and optional secured feedback and control. It’s ideal for polling data at the device location and publishing data to an MQTT server that business systems and applications can access.

Now includes unlimited tags and device connections for included drivers, the ability to run scripts, create REST APIs, synchronize data to a central server, and act as an EAM Agent Gateway. 

Ignition Edge Panel

Ignition Edge Panel includes everything in Ignition Edge IIoT plus local visualization functionality for your HMIs. Choose between Perspective (2 sessions) or Vision (1 local client, 1 remote client) as your visualization system for Edge Panel. Build future-proof, robust local control systems that are Industry 4.0-compatible. It’s ideal for standalone HMIs and providing a local-client fallback for field HMIs if the network connection is lost.

Now includes unlimited tags and device connections for included drivers, the ability to publish MQTT data, run scripts, create REST APIs, synchronize data to a central server, and act as an EAM Agent Gateway.

Emerson Presentation on Sustainability Efforts Plus Control and Software News

Emerson held a media/analyst presentation on its sustainability efforts. I remembered writing and swore it was for here. After much searching, I found a document that is my monthly column for Automazione Oggi, an Italian automation magazine.

In addition, Emerson also held a user conference called Exchange Immerse. The control and software organization held the event last week. I was not invited—budgetary constraints I was told. So, no report on the conference itself and anything happening there. The company did release a number of news items which I’ve noted briefly below.

Sustainability

Emerson recently gathered assorted media writers virtually to discuss its ongoing efforts with sustainability. Seth Harris, Emerson Director of Sustainability for the Americas, and Gerardo Muñoz, Sr. Solutions Marketing Manager for AspenTech (an Emerson business), discussed how advanced automation ensures integrity across the carbon capture value chain.

Emerson’s Framework includes: Greening Of—how they improve internal performance; Greening By—how they support and enable customers’ decarbonization and environmental sustainability; and Greening With—how they foster collaboration among many stakeholders.

The emphasis of this presentation included energy source decarbonization and energy management.

Carbon capture represents an estimated 15% of total CO2 reductions by 2070. These are achieved through both direct air capture and point-source capture. CO2 is captured from emissions and processed for deep well storage. The process includes four steps. First is separation and purification of complex toxic gas to yield high purity CO2. Next, the gas is compressed and liquified to an ideal stable state for transport. The liquified CO2 is safely transported to its destination for, fourth, stored in stable geologic formations.

My question for all of you inventive chemists out there is can’t this gas be used as a feedstock in order to make something useful?

News Items

This looks to me as Emerson’s response to the user-pushed initiative for Open Process Automation. Emerson has not been active with the Open Group’s work. But obviously they feel the customer pressure for software defined and more openness with connectivity and potential for upgrade. These are significant advancements proving out Emerson’s tagline as a software company. I find that doubly interesting given that a competitor has dropped software from its tagline. One of my more popular podcasts discusses “Software Eating Manufacturing.” Check these out.

Boundless Automation Vision Drives New Technologies for a Next-Generation Automation Platform

Emerson announced the first of a series of new technology releases that build upon its Boundless Automation vision and serve as the foundation of its next-generation, software-centric industrial automation architecture. The new technology releases will transcend a traditional control system, creating a more advanced automation platform that contextualizes and democratizes data for both people and the artificial intelligence (AI) engines.

Emerson’s DeltaV Edge Environment will provide more secure ways to move data from the automation platform to wherever it is needed – data lakes, data scientists, analytics applications in the cloud, enterprise resource planning systems, etc. – without losing valuable operational context.

Emerson also announced the release of technologies supporting the increased bandwidth and intrinsically safe connectivity of Ethernet advanced physical layer (APL). 

Its new DeltaV PK Flex Controller allows users to leverage subscription-based services to use only the technologies they need, with the flexibility to add functionality at any time. Subscription options also enable teams to reduce capital costs and shift expenses to the operating expense budget. As a next phase, Emerson will add more than 16 services to its subscription portfolio to provide customers with more flexible business models, empowering them to drive innovation and growth with ease.

Emerson has also added new software-as-a-service, cloud-hosted solutions to bring data from the edge into the cloud, helping combine cloud data with AI tools to upskill personnel and offset experienced worker shortages. Those AI analytics tools, including AMS Optics and Aspen Mtell, will help teams build models for predictive and prescriptive maintenance strategies that unlock the autonomous plant, while simultaneously creating a new paradigm of centralized operations where highly skilled personnel work in tandem with AI.

As expanded connectivity brings more assets, devices and data into the fold, teams will need more powerful tools to help them manage and use the information coming in from many different sources. Emerson’s Ovation Green solutions, including asset management and supervisory control and data acquisition software, represent a powerful suite of technologies to combine a utility’s renewable energy assets into a single management tool, unifying data and setting the stage for holistic automation across the power grid. Similarly, tools like AMS Data Server unshackle reliability data, making it easier for users to get critical information out of the intelligent field and into cloud-based applications for use by cross-functional teams.

Emerson Forms Life Sciences Executive Board to Advance One-Click Technology Transfer Initiative

Emerson announced a new executive board of key life sciences leaders to help define, review and demonstrate prototypes for Emerson technologies that will safely speed life-saving drugs to market.

Collaborating through Emerson’s One-Click Technology Transfer Board, Emerson customers FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, Merck and Pfizer will lead the development of strategies, solutions and guidelines to convert today’s life sciences manufacturing recipe transfer process into a digitalized production platform. Digitalizing recipe technology transfer will reduce the time, effort and risk of managing, sharing and translating information to help get new drug therapies to patients faster.

Emerson will also open a dedicated research center to accelerate the development of One-Click Technology Transfer software. Located in the Singapore life sciences manufacturing hub that is home to 8 of the 10 global pharmaceutical companies, Emerson’s new research center will design, develop and verify the software and digitalized production platform.

Emerson’s One-Click Technology Transfer capabilities will help digitalize drug recipes and recipe management, from discovery and development to production at scale, providing valuable translations between drug recipe requirements and manufacturing processes while establishing best practices and creating a framework to unify disconnected systems into a holistic platform. The board will define reference data models and objects for one-click manufacturing, create the framework for a centralized recipe transport and translation platform that is scalable and extensible, and define and implement standards for version and quality control while simultaneously ensuring the overall system is easy and intuitive to use.

Emerson’s data scientists and software developers at the research center will use the latest computer software development technologies to perform rapid prototyping to test and verify concepts. The software platform developed through rapid prototyping will be tested and proven, working across the One-Click Technology Transfer Board company supply chains as appropriate.

The new board builds on Emerson’s globally recognized life sciences leadership combined with the industry’s most flexible and integrable solutions. Bolstered by its acquisition of the Fluxa PKM solution and AspenTech’s software capabilities including AspenTech DataWorks industrial information management software, Emerson is well positioned to develop the technologies and standards for a fully integrated end-to-end solution for the drug development pipeline.

New Digital Valve Controller First to Offer Embedded Edge Computing

Emerson has announced the Fisher FIELDVUE DVC7K Digital Valve Controller, a new design improving upon 30 years of field-proven innovation. The DVC7K features Advice at the Device technology with embedded computing and analytics that convert raw data into actionable information locally with Bluetooth capability, within the device. This means maintenance personnel can receive the data via their phone, tablet, or computer wirelessly without having to be in a control room at the plant location. The new valve controller technology improves the performance, reliability, and uptime of both on-off and control valves—and by extension an entire process plant or facility—in a wide variety of process industry applications, and provides the information required to create streamlined work processes.

Previously, digital valve controller data had to go to a host system to be processed and prepared for viewing, however, with the intelligence of this system, data is now accessible without requiring access to the host software. All information can be viewed at the DVC7K’s local user interface, nearby via Emerson Secure Bluetooth wireless technology, or remotely after it is transmitted via a wired digital network to a host, such as a distributed control or asset management system.

The local user interface provides indication of valve health at a glance via LEDs, and users can drill down from the interface home screen to find more information. Emerson Secure Bluetooth enables access to one or more digital valve controllers at distances up to 30 feet from any device capable of supporting Bluetooth, such as a smartphone or tablet. Whether the information is viewed locally, nearby, or remotely, plant personnel can use it to drive awareness of valve health.

Announcements from Inductive Automation’s Ignition Community Conference 2023

I brought two questions along to my visit to Folsom, California and the 11th Ignition Community Conference. How are people using HMI/SCADA software? Why, after all these years, do companies still need to pursue “digital transformation”?

I’ll have a few posts from the event. Plenty of news. And time to write since I wasn’t invited to the user group meeting in Anaheim starting today.

CEO Colby Clegg and CTO Carl Gould made several announcements about enhancements and changes to the existing Ignition 8.1 including expansion of the Ignition Cloud product and  simplifying pricing and SKUs for the Ignition Edge product drawing cheers from its user and integrator audience.

Ignition Cloud Edition Multi-Tenant Licensing

Earlier this year, Inductive Automation released Ignition Cloud Edition, which is a fully hosted enterprise solution deployed on the AWS and Azure cloud platforms. Today, the company announced it will remove the Ignition Cloud Edition license clause that prohibits multi-tenancy.

This change, which is planned to take effect during Q4 2023, will allow customers to use Ignition Cloud Edition to build reusable, commercially viable multi-tenant applications.

“For years, many customers have been interested in building commercial hosted applications on top of the Ignition platform. The flexibility and accessibility of the cloud makes it the most natural place to build these types of applications. Multi-tenancy provides a new economic model for developing exciting and scalable web applications in Ignition,” says Inductive Automation CEO Colby Clegg.

Ignition Edge Product Line Simplification

Inductive Automation announced that it is streamlining its Ignition Edge product offerings while expanding the products’ capabilities with unlimited data. In Q4 2023, the number of Ignition Edge products will be reduced from five to two, which are Ignition Edge IIoT and Ignition Edge Panel. Both Ignition Edge IIoT and Ignition Edge Panel will have no limits on tags or device connections, and both will include MQTT Transmission capabilities.

“Ignition Edge products provide the simplest, most cost-effective way to capture, process, and visualize critical data at the edge of the network. Ignition Edge has been a huge success and, for many of our customers, it has provided the missing piece to make IIoT a reality. Now we’re making Ignition Edge even better by removing limitations and making it easier for customers to choose the right Ignition Edge product for their needs,” says Inductive Automation Chief Technology Officer Carl Gould.

Two additional announcements of import

Inductive Automation Australia

For the first time, Inductive Automation will open an office outside of the United States. Inductive Automation has acquired the assets of its Australian distributor iControls and is opening Inductive Automation Australia PTY as a wholly owned subsidiary of Inductive Automation, LLC.

Brisbane-based iControls will ramp down its operations shortly, and most of its assets, operations, and staff will transfer over to Inductive Automation Australia, which will also hire additional staff in the region.

“The creation of Inductive Automation Australia is a major step toward our goal of providing direct support for Ignition around the world on a 24/7 basis. The team at iControls possesses a wealth of Ignition experience and we’re excited to bring them onto the official Inductive Automation team. Furthermore, Australia is an English-speaking country with a strong technology background, and operating there will position us to expand into key markets in the Eurasian region,” says Inductive Automation CEO Colby Clegg.

Read more about Inductive Automation Australia in this blog post.

Inductive Automation also continues to work with independent international distributors in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and UAE; Brazil; Central America; France; Italy; Norway and Sweden; Sub-Saharan Africa; and Switzerland.

Ignition Community Impact Program

Inductive Automation announced the launch of the new Ignition Community Impact Program, which provides a standardized process for individuals and organizations to apply for a free Ignition license to create a project that benefits their community. The program is intended to support philanthropic and community-service projects such as the Room in The Inn homeless management information system that won an Ignition Community Firebrand Award this year.

Program applications are filed through IA’s website, and licenses are granted after the application is approved. Those interested can learn more and apply.

The Ignition Effect’ Video Series

Inductive Automation announced the release of “The Ignition Effect,” a new video series highlighting the many positive long-term effects that Ignition has on the professionals who use it. The goal of the series is to help viewers more fully understand the role of Ignition in the industry by telling the types of personal stories that are not usually featured in case studies. The series includes interviews with system integrators and end users from the US, South America, the UK, and Europe, and highlights topics such as community, education, career journeys, and more.

The first 5 episodes are available now and more episodes will be released in the future.

Survey Reports Edge Computing Application Plans

Paul Simon wrote that it’s all happening at the zoo. Today, it’s all happening at the edge. ATT Cybersecurity has released its 2023 AT&T Cybersecurity Insights Report: Edge Ecosystem focusing on manufacturing companies worldwide. It explains how edge computing is changing manufacturing to solve operational issues and reduce costs. This report reveals what your peers are planning and doing to embrace edge computing.

The lead and author of the report, Head of Cybersecurity Evangelism at AT&T Business Theresa Lanowitz, states, “In the past, IT typically made technology decisions based on business and computing requirements they understood. Thanks to ongoing advances in computing, things are changing.”

She contends Edge computing is a transformative technology that brings together various stakeholders and aligns their interests to drive integrated business outcomes. The emergence of edge computing has been fueled by a generation of visionaries who grew up in the era of smartphones and limitless possibilities. In this paradigm, the role of IT has shifted from being the sole leader to a collaborative partner in delivering innovative edge computing solutions. In addition, we found that leaders in manufacturing are budgeting differently for edge use cases. These two things, along with an expanded approach to securing edge computing, were prioritized by the respondents in the 2023 AT&T Cybersecurity Insights Report: Edge Ecosystem.

Topline research findings

In 2023, the manufacturing respondents’ primary edge use case is smart warehousing, which involves deploying computing resources close to or on the warehouse floor. The enhanced productivity of warehouse employees, flexible logistics, and better optimization of warehouse space are some benefits of edge computing. This represents a shift from the primary use case in the 2022 AT&T Cybersecurity Insights Report: Securing the Edge, which focused on video-based quality inspection as the primary manufacturing edge computing use case.

Press releases concerning warehousing and logistics up and downstream constituted the majority of my inbox for the past few years. Looks like this is reflected in the research.

As manufacturing has evolved, the need for efficiency and speed is focused on moving goods out of warehouses and onto the next stop of either consumption or integration. The rising cost of labor and customer expectations for next-day or same-day deliveries drive the need for greater investments in rapidly understanding which products are most likely needed to fulfill a sales pipeline or supply chain.

This is AT&T Cybersecurity, after all, so it cites following cybersecurity challenges with the edge: 

  • Potentially more vulnerable data – especially when such devices are at risk of being stolen, lost or damaged. 
  • Legacy 4G threats, when the increased use of sensors and cameras on a production line can benefit from 5G capabilities and its enhanced encryption. 
  • Concerns regarding regulatory compliance, specifically when personally identifiable information (PII) is being transferred from the edge site to a different location.

Arduino Joins the AWS Partner Network 

Are you using an Arduino anywhere? I keep it on my to do list that never gets done. I’ve had all these Halloween ideas that atrophy in my mind. I’ve believed for a long time that there must be many industrial uses for a good edge compute platform at low cost.

Here is news about Arduino joining the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Network as an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) to further democratize embedded hardware for OEMs and Industrial Automation industries.

Arduino Cloud — built on AWS — hit a new milestone of 4 billion data messages per month and is mentioned in Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Infrastructure Platforms.

It has joined the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Network (APN) to deliver enterprise-grade Arduino PRO products that work with AWS for customers in commercial and industrial sectors. The APN is a global community of AWS Partners that leverage programs, expertise and resources to build, market and sell customer offerings.

In addition, the company’s device and data management service, Arduino Cloud, announced that it now processes 4 billion device messages every month from both individuals and businesses. This is a significant milestone from the 3-year-old service built on AWS.

Although companies recognize the immense potential of digital transformation at the edge, many feel the goal is beyond their reach because of a lack of solutions. Arduino Cloud offers both businesses and individuals an easy path to collect data, control the edge and gain insights from connected products without the need to build, deploy and maintain a custom IoT platform.

“Choosing Arduino Cloud for our business application slashed product development time by six months and saved us over $250,000 in engineering services,” said Adam Bishop, co-founder of ABM Vapor Monitoring. “Arduino PRO provides us with an end-to-end commercial platform. Using the Arduino Opta PLC connected to Arduino Cloud, we monitor commercial buildings across America to ensure regulated air quality standards are met. Arduino Cloud has been an instrumental partner in our journey to introduce new products to the market.”

Arduino joins a global network of over 100,000 AWS Partners from more than 150 countries, working with AWS to provide innovative solutions, solve technical challenges, win deals and deliver value to mutual customers. Customers will also experience streamlined support architecting edge-to-cloud integrated solutions, whether choosing Arduino Cloud, AWS cloud services or hybrid architectures.

“Today, industrial hardware and advanced cloud services exist in independent worlds with significant complexity,” said Guneet Bedi, Arduino’s SVP and GM. “By offering integration with the flexibility and scalability of AWS and pay-as-you-go pricing, businesses will be able to greatly reduce complexity and significantly accelerate their go-to-market with the scale of Arduino PRO.”

The open architecture at the core of every Arduino product provides a new preferred path to AWS for all microchips supported by Arduino. In addition, existing Arduino Cloud business customers now have an integration track for scaling to self-managed solutions on AWS, while existing AWS customers now have reference architectures to integrate Arduino products.

Arduino’s Investment to Enable Industrial Innovation

The Arduino PRO product line, introduced in 2020, meets the request from OEMs and industry integrators for a hardware ecosystem that lowers the barrier to entry and accelerates time to market. The Arduino PRO portfolio features 24 industrial-grade products, including the Portenta X8 Linux SOM and UL-certified Opta PLC. Currently, Arduino PRO technology is deployed by more than 2,000 businesses worldwide.

This announcement reinforces the commitment Arduino shared when announcing its Series B funding to chart a new strategic course that emphasized the expansion of its enterprise-scale offerings. More recently, the company named Bedi to head its U.S. operations, with two new offices focused on accelerating its B2B growth.

Open Source Software Gateway to Standardize Industrial Edge Data

Paul Simon wrote that it’s all happening at the zoo. It’s all happening at the edge these days in this market. I just wrote about a new edge orchestration service. This is news from HiveMQ about some more Edge-Optimized technology.

HiveMQ announced the availability of HiveMQ Edge, an open source software gateway with an edge-optimized MQTT broker. HiveMQ Edge helps manufacturing organizations simplify and modernize their Industrial IoT infrastructure by converting proprietary OT protocols like Modbus and OPC-UA into the standardized MQTT format at the edge for easy integration with enterprise and cloud systems.

“We see a clear need for HiveMQ Edge in the market as manufacturers struggle to solve complex edge connectivity challenges on their path to digital transformation,” said Dominik Obermaier, Co-founder and CTO, HiveMQ. “We’re making it faster and easier to connect the edge and reap the full benefits of IIoT with an open gateway that converts proprietary and legacy protocols to MQTT. We added a built-in broker for efficient messaging so users can deploy rapidly, drive costs down, and scale up easily.”

HiveMQ Edge helps companies modernize their IIoT infrastructure with these benefits:

  • Seamless data integration to enable a Unified Namespace
  • Plug-and-play integrations for protocols like Sparkplug and OPC UA
  • An edge-optimized MQTT broker to drive costs down
  • Intuitive UI and API-based operability
  • Open source with a rich SDK for maximum extensibility

HiveMQ invites developers to download the OSS version of HiveMQ Edge on Github, connect it to devices at the edge, run workloads and provide feedback in the HiveMQ Community Forum.

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