TwinCAT IoT Now Supports MindSphere

Beckhoff integrates data and communication services efficiently into the cloud with support for third-party IoT technologies

Where these IIoT platforms/ecosystems end up is beyond my power to guess, but this is an interesting partnership of a couple of German control and automation rivals—Beckhoff Automation and Siemens.

Beckhoff has offered diverse IoT communication capabilities with its TwinCAT IoT product family since 2015. Transmitting data to the cloud or between networked machines in this way creates enormous potential for increasing production efficiency. MindSphere, the Industrial IoT as a service solution from Siemens, is now one of the latest solutions that can integrate with TwinCAT.

TwinCAT 3 automation software can communicate with HTTP(S) servers as an HTTP(S) client, for example for exchanging data via a REST API. Establishing a connection with MindSphere is now also possible via this HTTPS communication for exchanging telemetry data. This connection is secured by TLS (Transport Layer Security) and uses MindSphere-specific authentication mechanisms.

The sample implementations of the TwinCAT 3 Function TC3 IoT HTTPS/REST (TF6760) in the relevant documentation show how to establish connections with MindSphere. These examples provide a simple introduction to connecting TwinCAT with MindSphere and help users to adapt the program code to suit individual requirements.

Emerson Virtual Exchange Discrete and Industrial Automation Day

The conferences I have attended over the past five or six years have changed since my early days as a customer or sales engineer of industrial technology. While the automation companies have been changing with the trends in technology and application, IT companies have generated much energy and thought with advances in compute platforms, storage, memory, virtual machines, and the like.

I’ve tried to stir up, maybe not controversy, but at least conversation regarding using these powerful compute platforms for both control and data. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connectivity has progressed to a point where networked I/O is not a problem.

That leads me to what I learned from today’s sessions about implementing IIoT and digital transformation and Edge Control from Emerson Virtual Exchange. This was discrete and industrial automation day. 

Emerson’ Global User Exchange went virtual this year, and thinking outside the proverbial box, stretched it out over about six months. There are sessions January 5 (which you can see on demand) and January 7, as well as next week on January 12 and 14. These are well done as the platform companies continue to improve and provide better service. Emerson has always worked hard to present professionally done sessions. Virtual did not change things.

The opening “keynote” was introduced by Hakan Erdamar, Group President for Discrete & Industrial. Zach Gustafson, VP of Business Development for Machine Automation and Derek Thomas, VP of Strategy & Marketing for Machine Automation, discussed IIoT and digital transformation, and then introduced Warren Pruitt, VP of Global Engineering Services, Colgate-Palmolive, who related the recent digital transformation journey his company has been traveling.

The key messages include using IIoT connectivity for data, starting small with scalable components, and using local (on-prem) compute. Use cloud for longer term analysis.

The blurb you’ll see online goes like this: Zach and Derek  go beyond the obstacles of the  “new normal” that manufacturers face are the ongoing challenges of production pressure, operational efficiency, and sustainability measures. In this unique moment in industry the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the digital transformation it enables is poised to help unleash a new era of manufacturing that is more reliable, more efficient, more connected and more sustainable than ever before. Join Zach Gustafson and Derek Thomas to gain insight into how manufacturers are getting started with unlocking trapped data in individual machines and processes to identify quantifiable savings and benefit that can then quickly scale on global levels. 

Warren’s presentation promo goes, A global consumer products leader, Colgate Palmolive is leveraging the power of Digital Transformation to help meet its aggressive global sustainability and operational performance goals. Not waiting for a silver bullet solution, Colgate’s approach is to “get started” with a test an learn mindset and scale successful lessons learned across their global footprint. Warren Pruitt shares Colgate’s implementation approach and lessons learned from the Digital Transformation efforts the organization has made to achieve the company’s objectives.

Thomas took us through a data path in his presentation going through the start small and scale theme and then landing on the latest “PACSystems” edge controller. This is a compute device that runs Linux, is open, makes extended use of Node-RED, also runs PLC control in the same processor/box, has extended open connectivity, and utilizes most standard industrial protocols.

Edge control is redefining the traditional control model by bringing together OT and IT technology in a single solution capable of logic, data management and analytics. This incredible evolution and transformation of PLCs and Industrial PCs is creating new possibilities for tackling today’s IIoT and digital transformation challenges by enabling customers to start small at a machine, scale to plant-wide analytics, and make manageable investments with a single platform. Learn how Emerson’s PACSystems RX3i CPL410 Edge Controller can operate as either an IIoT-enabled PLC or an advanced supervisory controller for your manufacturing operations. This industry leading controller combines the powerful PACSystems runtime, PACEdge IoT platform and Movicon WebHMI to deliver unmatched capability and possibilities for customers. Derek Thomas, Vice President, Marketing & Strategy, Emerson.

Siemens Year-End Releases for IoT and Robot Integration

Several Siemens news items have accumulated in my blog folder. Speaking broadly of Industrial Internet of Things applications, Siemens has added to its Industrial Edge portfolio and released a 5G router. It also has evolved its integration of robot libraries into its Totally Integrated Automaton (TIA) Portal.

Despite reports to the contrary, Siemens continues to innovate on its platform in order to stay abreast or even ahead of its smaller competitors. But it does confirm the idea that competition keeps companies on their toes ready to innovate in new directions.

Ready-to-use industrial edge platform for data processing on the production level

  • Industrial Edge V1.0 comprising the Edge Management system, edge apps, and edge devices with container-based runtime
  • Edge Management system provides central management for edge devices and apps over the entire lifecycle
  • Apps that increase productivity can be integrated into industrial environments quickly, with little effort and minimal risk

Siemens is expanding its offer for industrial IoT solutions, adding to its Industrial Edge portfolio a central and company-wide scalable infrastructure for managing connected edge devices and apps. With the new Industrial Edge Management system, users can remotely monitor the status of every connected device and remotely install edge apps and software functions on distributed edge devices. 

In combination with existing hardware and software products, this Industrial Edge V1.0 open platform provides users with a ready-to-use and seamless solution for data processing on the production level with integrated device and app lifecycle management.

With the new Industrial Edge Management system, distributed edge devices and their states can be monitored centrally, diagnosed, and managed by IT administrators and manufacturing engineers. This means that new software apps can be rolled out company-wide and securely on all connected Industrial Edge devices. Central software management minimizes or even completely eliminates the effort involved in maintenance and updates for distributed software instances. 

Existing, already containerized software (Docker) can be used applied to Industrial Edge. In addition, users can always develop their own edge apps to meet company-specific requirements. Functional and security-related updates are provided by Siemens via the Edge Management system, which can then be scheduled for roll-out to connected edge devices to meet the security requirements of an industrial IoT solution. With this ready-to-use management platform, IT administrators can roll out edge apps highly automated and reliably in manufacturing and manage them over the entire lifecycle. In addition, the freedom from retroactive effects between automation and edge systems helps them to ensure high system availability of the automation solution. 

The Edge Management system can be operated in Version 1.0 within the company infrastructure, for example in manufacturing, and is specifically tailored to the requirements of users who particularly value data security. In future, it will also be possible to operate the Management system in cloud infrastructures.

With the Siemens Industrial Edge V1.0 offer, Siemens is simplifying the collection and analysis of machine data and bringing IT standards such as container-based apps (Docker), high-level language-based data analysis and processing, and central software and device management directly to manufacturing – integrated in automation systems.

Siemens presents first industrial 5G router 

  • Growing demand for remote access via public 5G networks for remote maintenance 
  • Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to the public 5G network 
  • Sinema Remote Connect management platform provides secure access to remote plants and machines 

Siemens presents the first industrial 5G router for connecting local industrial applications to a public 5G network. The device will be available in spring 2021. Using the newly developed Scalance MUM856-1, industrial applications such as machines, control elements, and other devices can be accessed remotely via a public 5G network, providing a simple remote maintenance option for these applications using the high data rates offered by 5G. The Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections can be used to provide easy and secure access to these remote plants or machines – even if they are integrated in other networks. 

In industry, in addition to the need for local wireless connectivity, there is increasing demand for remote access to machines and plants. In these cases, communication needs to bridge long distances. Public mobile networks can be used to access devices that are located at a considerable distance, for example in other countries. In addition, service technicians can connect to the machines they need to service via the mobile network while on the go. 

Public 5G networks are therefore an important element of remote access and remote maintenance solutions. They can be used, for example, to provide users with very high bandwidths in urban areas with small radio cells and high frequencies. In rural areas, radio cells have to cover a large area, which is why lower frequencies are used. Particularly at the edges of radio cells, for example for LTE or UMTS, there are often significant losses in terms of both the bandwidth and stability of the communication connection. And it is exactly in these remote areas where stable bandwidth transmission is required for remote maintenance or video transmission, for example for water stations. With innovative 5G communications technologies, considerably more bandwidth with greater reliability is available at the edges of radio cells and the average data rate for users within a radio cell increases. 

The new Scalance MUM856-1 also supports 4G so that operation is possible even if a 5G mobile network is not available. The device can also be integrated in private local 5G campus networks. Siemens is testing this use case in their own Automotive Test Center in a private standalone 5G test network, which is based on Siemens components. There, automated guided vehicle systems are connected using 5G in order to test current and future industrial applications and to drive forward the use of 5G technology in industry.

Cooperation for the multi-vendor integration of industrial robots into the TIA Portal

  • Simatic Robot Integrator with Simatic Robot Library makes engineering easy for robots in the TIA Portal
  • Universal interface supports integration by all robot manufacturers
  • Re-usable program codes thanks to standard programming language
  • Time savings of up to 30 percent for engineering

Siemens presents the Simatic Robot Library for the Simatic Robot Integrator – a new universal robot library for the TIA (Totally Integrated Automation) Portal, which replaces the previous manufacturer-specific libraries. The specification has been developed in close cooperation with robot manufacturers ABB Robotics, Comau, Epson, FANUC, Kawasaki Robotics, KUKA, Panasonic Industry, STÄUBLI, Techman Robot, Yamaha, and YASKAWA. 

In future, users will be able to program most of the robots available on the market in the TIA Portal using the Simatic Robot Library and make use of standard operating concepts based on the Simatic Robot Integrator and Simatic HMI. This means that created program codes and program packages will be re-usable, saving both time and money on a change of robot manufacturer. 

Integration into the TIA Portal also offers the option of easily combining robots with other technologies such as Simatic technology, cloud services, Edge data analyses or AI-based automation. Thanks to the standard environment in the TIA Portal, users achieve time savings of up to 30 percent when engineering new complete systems. The improved handling also increases efficiency, while identical faceplates for different manufacturers simplify operation. With the Simatic Robot Library, users do not require specific programming knowledge for a robot type; they only need to have knowledge of the TIA Portal.

Simatic Robot Integrator is a ready-to-use application, which is directly integrated into a TIA Portal machine project. Combined with the new Simatic Robot Library, it enables users to download programming examples for operation and to control robots immediately after configuration. Simatic HMI offers popular online programming functions – regardless of the robot manufacturer – for inching, teach-in or path creation.

IoT Services Suite to Enable Digital Transformation of Smart Cities and Smart Connected Spaces

In the interest of lateral thinking, try these innovative ideas on for size. When Qualcomm called with an invitation to a press event, my first thought was, “Me??” I attended, and I was glad I did. Many ideas worthy of pondering.

Qualcomm Technologies Inc. today announced the Qualcomm IoT Services Suite, which delivers comprehensive, end-to-end, IoT as a Service (IoTaaS) solutions to enable the digital transformation of smart cities and smart connected spaces globally. The Qualcomm IoT Services Suite also demonstrates the continued momentum of the Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program, which has brought together ~300 members since its launch in April 2019 and showcased a tangible example of what can be achieved with the launch of the Qualcomm Smart Campus in San Diego. 

Adopting smart connected spaces often requires sourcing, developing and integrating a variety of fragmented technologies. In response, the Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program offers streamlined, comprehensive solutions that address the complexities and challenges around developing secure, smart, connected spaces across industries worldwide. Qualcomm Technologies’ newly announced Qualcomm IoT Services Suite is engineered to deliver a comprehensive, end-to-end solution for plug-and-play deployment, from silicon to modules to devices to software and platform integration. 

When companies and municipalities utilize the Qualcomm IoT Services Suite and other solutions offered by members of the Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program, they can bypass common fragmentation –making it easier, quicker and more cost-effective to manage and deploy smart connected spaces. 

“The Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program was designed for plug-and-play deployment of connected devices to enable the proliferation of smart cities and smart connected spaces,” said Sanjeet Pandit, senior director, business development and global head of Smart Cities, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “To directly address the fragmented nature of the IoT industry, our Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program and Qualcomm IoT Services Suite bridge the gap for IoT service providers and entities looking to quickly deploy smart solutions. We’re confident that our unique ecosystem of innovative program members will continue incorporating emerging IoT partners to accelerate the transformation of city infrastructure and services to help enrich people’s lives.”

Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program ecosystem member Infinite Computer Solutions provides support for the Qualcomm IoT Services Suite platform layer with its Zyter SmartSpaces Platform. This platform seamlessly integrates Qualcomm Technologies’ chipset-enabled subsystems to support middleware, data operations, cloud services, enhanced security, user experience, analytics, collective intelligence and artificial intelligence (AI). Commercial device enablement is then achieved through pre-integration and pre-certification on the platform. 

With the comprehensive Qualcomm IoT Services Suite, Qualcomm Technologies enables ecosystem members to create and deploy smart applications as a service across verticals, including:

•Smart Cities and Spaces as-a-Service delivers solutions for smart lighting, signage, parking and more–all easily deployed with the Zyter Smart Spaces platform–for the accelerated development of smart cities and smart spaces.

•Education as-a-Service allows school districts across the United States direct access to ecosystem members, OneScreen and HoverCam, to enablesmart classrooms and hybrid learning settings. 

•Construction Management as-a-Service prioritizes construction safety and digital management of construction sites, focusing on worker safety with ecosystem members Everguard and Guardhat.

•Logistics as-a-Service enables digital, end-to-end logistical chain management from teams to inventory with Cloudleaf, Inc. and Tag and Track. 

•Healthcare as-a-Service provides direct access to ecosystem members Zyter, Lucid Act Health, VeeMed, and Ceiba for remote patient monitoring and tele-ICU capabilities.

To exemplify IoTaaS and bring to life a tangible proof point of the Qualcomm IoT Services Suite, today Qualcomm Technologies also launched the Qualcomm Smart Campus in San Diego, which exhibits a real-life use case of commercially available, end-to-end solutions. Replicating a city environment in a campus the Qualcomm Smart Campus includes a 5G network, and a variety of intelligent capabilities, including smart parking, lighting, transportation, logistics, trash cans, and edge-AI cameras for security. The Qualcomm Smart Campus is equipped with intuitive and user applications and corresponding command and control center that serves as the “nerve center” of the campus, providing complete operational visibility across entire networks of connected sensors and IoT devices in real-time –viewable from a comprehensive dashboard. These solutions can be reimagined and replicated across multiple industries to address challenges and needs for particular spaces and communities.

MindSphere World Establishes North American Chapter To Promote IoT Platform

The Profibus International office for North America has been a strong marketing arm supporting the spread of Prifibus/Profinet technology and products in the region. I’ve been wondering about what the future would be with the maturity of these networks. I did not know about Siemens’ work establishing a similar organization for its IoT platform—MindSphere. Here is news about a new chapter.

MindSphere World is a global community of companies and research institutions to jointly shape the future of IoT. Joining forces and sharing experiences enables members to keep pace with the rapidly changing digital world. MindSphere World was founded in 2018 by Siemens along with 18 partner companies to expand the ecosystem around MindSphere, the leading industrial IoT as a service solution. It has since expanded into a broad IoT community including the development of business models, proposals on requirements as well as recommendations to create uniform rules for the use of data. The association also promotes science, research, and education around the Industrial Internet of Things. MindSphere World comprises seven regional associations in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and North America.

Following is the specific news. I wonder where this will go.

In partnership with leading manufacturers and technology firms, MindSphere World has announced the formation of its newest chapter in North America. Founding Board of Directors members for this new chapter include representatives from Deloitte, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), IBM, Siemens, and Valiant TMS. Further founding member companies BEET, Edge2Web, Pure Precision, Gleason Corp, GROB Systems, Hardinge, MAYA HTT, Patti Engineering, TÜV SÜD, the University of Georgia, the University of South Carolina, and Wunderlich Malec Engineering form a powerful initial ecosystem of North American manufacturing interests. As one of the world’s premier IoT user associations, MindSphere World has expanded its scope to include the United States, Canada, and Mexico in order to help accelerate the adoption of Industrial IoT and drive the digital transformation of manufacturing in the region. 

MindSphere World’s mission is to create an environment in which thought leaders, research institutes, and manufacturers representing all sizes and markets can come together to network, develop standards, and explore best practices. The organization aims to create a platform for all North American manufacturers to convene, learn, and grow throughout their digital transformation.

“FCA is enthusiastic about our membership in MindSphere World North America. We are known for our technological strength and know that IoT is the next frontier of productivity, quality, and innovation. We believe that MindSphere World will help us to identify and implement standards and best practices more effectively,” said Steve Burris, Powertrain Controls Center of Competency, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.   

“As we move into a more digitalized manufacturing era, manufacturers must embrace the concept of acting in ecosystems. Siemens is committed to making this the preeminent industrial IoT organization in the world, powered by the best and brightest minds from North America’s industrial companies,” said Raj Batra, President of Siemens Digital Industries U.S.

“Over the past 10 years, Deloitte has been committed to narrowing the gap of how humans and machines work together, connecting data and driving innovation across every stage of the product lifecycle,” said Adam Mussomeli, principal and Supply Chain & Network Operations lead, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “The creation of MindSphere World North America is an important next step to continue that conversation and explore the endless potential of IoT and digital threads as we look to create the next frontier of digital transformation together.” 

As localized manufacturing efforts in the United States, Canada, and Mexico continue to grow, companies are struggling with how to start their digital journey and how to leverage digital tools most effectively. Part of that struggle includes the lack of standards or networks of like-minded organizations. MindSphere World offers the manufacturing industry a mechanism within an ecosystem to determine typical IoT business models and how to leverage them, identify industry-specific use cases, share best practices, and develop and implement more efficient digital solutions.

MindSphere World North America aims to create a platform for all manufacturers to convene, learn, and grow throughout their digital transformation.

Rockwell Automation Unleashes Automation Fair at Home

I have to admit, I’m much less tired than I’ve been this week relative to every other year beginning in 1997 at my first Automation Fair by Rockwell Automation. I sat in on a few Rockwell sessions and even squeezed in a robotic press conference from a different supplier. Busy day.

Bear with me a moment. One of my favorite philosophers is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He was a French Jesuit priest and a paleontologist. In one of his books, he used the metaphor of an ascending spiral to describe the history of evolution. Or, if theology is your hobby, try outlining John’s First Letter (from the Christian New Testament). It won’t come out Roman Numeral I with A, B, C and then Roman Numeral II, etc. That outline will also look like a spiral with each new idea ascending above the earlier one.

The reason I bring this up is that I listened to all the presentations and, with one filter in place, it sounded much like the same words as seven years ago. In fact, many of the ideas could date back 20 years. On the other hand, remove that filter and look at the presentations with a different filter, we see that everything is the same, but at a much higher level.

Each year, both the technologies and business contexts have grown over the year before until you realize that the seven-years-ago-me would not recognize much of the today-me.

The constant theme of several years returned in force this year—Connected Enterprise. And the Connected Enterprise does not work for customers unless the supplier brings partners. Rockwell Automation spokespeople prominently displayed this year’s premier partners—Microsoft, PTC, Emulate3D, Ansys, Kalypso.

Cloud is accepted as commonplace. It’s just one of the gang. Not a lot of discussion of Edge except for a short introduction of Microsoft Azure Edge technologies. Ethernet is now so commonplace that it was not mentioned. However, MES (the manufacturing execution software) received more mentions that a center midfielder in the English Premier League gets touches of the ball. Almost every case study mentioned it.

I went to the Milwaukee headquarters for the first time in the mid-90s for a week-long training class. It was brutal, by the way. But those of us smart enough to wait until we finished homework before we got our beer finished high on the list (I think I was 3rd in my class). One of the features was an automated manufacturing line for the new IEC-style contactors. Guess what? Featured this year was a brand-new automated assembly line making—contactors. It looked pretty good.

The contactor line was part of a Rockwell supply chain tour of plants in the US, Mexico, Singapore, and Poland exhibiting how Rockwell uses its own products plus those of its partners to maintain a robust internal supply chain.

The company has come a long way from the controller and contactor company I knew 30 years ago. They proved to me (not that I don’t have many other questions) that they are serious about the Connected Enterprise. It has progressed up the spiral.

Not to mention, this year I don’t have to travel on my Birthday, which is this week.