Molex Explores the Potential of the Industrial Metaverse

A couple of weeks ago, I moderated a panel discussion on the Web regarding the Industrial Metaverse. This is an interesting topic for discussion. Questions remain:

How much of the term metaverse is simply marketing covering a vacuum?

What are the real use cases (something we care about in industrial applications)?

What are the components of a metaverse?

Or, perhaps as a recent Dilbert cartoon had it when Dilbert asked the pointy-haired boss what color he wanted his metaverse to be?

Wo this press release was interesting. Molex explores the metaverse. What would this company specializing in connectivity see here?

From the release:

  • Manufacturers among first to benefit from convergence of physical and virtual processes to improve product-design cycles and factory of the future initiatives
  • AR/VR, digital twins, robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics poised to fuel adoption of industrial metaverse applications
  • Immediate and long-lasting impact on next-gen IoT creates new engineering opportunities and challenges

Molex released a report examining the emerging world of the industrial metaverse and its impact on next-generation Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructures. 

Molex and Arrow commissioned the development of this report to offer perspective on how the industrial metaverse will transform manufacturing through increased adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR), digital twins, Machine Learning (ML) and predictive analytics. These early enablers already are gaining traction in industrial settings to support manufacturing automation, process optimization, remote assistance, and training, as well as predictive maintenance.

According to the report, a robust industrial metaverse will deliver unprecedented value, starting with the design and ideation phase of product development all the way through manufacturing, sales, service and maintenance.

The report addresses five functional pillars, including speed and bandwidth, signal integrity, form factor, power consumption and electromagnetic interference (EMI). In addition, the report offers guidelines for how companies can get started, as well as advice on integrating core capabilities throughout their internal and external business processes while ensuring secure connectivity and seamless data analysis.

New IoT Services

Two announcements from HiveMQ.

HiveMQ Accelerates IoT Data Ingestion into Google Cloud 

Aligning your IT infrastructure with a major supplier can be not only expensive, but also it can leave you vulnerable to corporate decisions made far away. For example, Google recently announced plans to retire Google IoT Core, leaving customers with less than a year to migrate their IoT applications to a new service.

The latest Rework podcast from 37 Signals features co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson (@DHH) and Operations Director Eron Nicholson discussing leaving the cloud. They address this issue and others.

If you are caught by this shift in Google strategy, there is one possible solution just announced. HiveMQ has developed an MQTT broker that bypasses Google IoT Core to send up to billions of messages per day directly to Google Cloud for advanced analytics.

HiveMQ Enterprise Extension for Google Cloud Pub/Sub, is a new feature that seamlessly integrates MQTT data into Google Cloud. Organizations can now benefit from HiveMQ’s flexible, standards-based platform to send IoT data reliably and securely to Google Cloud enterprise services such as monitoring, advanced analytics and machine learning. 

HiveMQ can replace IoT Core’s MQTT data ingestion service to connect MQTT clients using HiveMQ’s MQTT broker and then map the MQTT message into Google Pub/Sub.

HiveMQ Enables Real-Time IoT Observability from Device to Cloud 

New feature traces MQTT data in real-time to give users better visibility into their IoT applications.

HiveMQ, a global leader in enterprise MQTT solutions, announced the availability of the HiveMQ Distributed Tracing Extension, a new feature that makes it possible to trace and debug MQTT data streams from device to cloud and back. Complete IoT observability requires insight into three pillars: metrics, traces and logs. HiveMQ has added distributed tracing to help organizations achieve end-to-end observability and make their IoT applications more performant and resilient. 

Distributed Tracing is a way to trace events and achieve a high-level overview of a message’s journey through multiple, complex systems. With the Distributed Tracing Extension, HiveMQ is the first MQTT broker to add OpenTelemetry support to provide complete transparency for every publish message that uses the HiveMQ MQTT broker. OpenTelemetry is an open standard for instrumentation that allows for interoperability across all services so organizations can achieve visibility over their entire system.

IoT Bridge Connects OT Data to Microsoft Azure

MQTT is a de facto standard transport protocol in the IT world for communications. Cirrus Link and partners have been expanding the use for IoT in industrial applications. Along the way the Sparkplug information model was developed to assist the communication. This announcement adds Microsoft Azure to the portfolio.

  • Automatically connect MQTT Sparkplug models to Azure to accelerate industrial IoT time-to-value
  • Cirrus Link announced availability of the IoT Bridge for Microsoft Azure available on the Azure Marketplace, which connects standard MQTT Sparkplug data models to Azure Digital Twin and updates data changes to Azure Data Explorer for time series data. 
  • Cirrus Link developed the IoT Bridge, a software widget based on Sparkplug that converts OT data to IT data automatically with zero coding required. 
  • Without the IoT Bridge, companies have typically spent thousands of consulting dollars building customized coded solutions that are not scalable and end in catastrophe as a lost cause.
  • Consumes MQTT Sparkplug data (data model and tags)
  • Auto-creates data models to Azure Digital Twin
  • Auto-discovers data assets
  • Pushes tag data to Azure Digital Twin and Azure Data Explorer
  • Requires no programming or code
  • Customers can download and install the IoT Bridge software and within 30 minutes they can automatically have data in Microsoft Azure. The IoT Bridge takes OT data and points it to IT quickly and easily with an open standard approach.

Ignition Community Conference 2022

With the pandemic mostly in the rearview mirror, Inductive Automation held its Ignition Community Conference 2022 in Folsom, CA  Sept. 20-21.

ICC 2022

The event was sold out, as usual. Sessions were packed and lively with questions. I didn’t pick up much news from the event. It was good to catch up with people I’ve known for years but haven’t seen since 2019. The new Inductive leadership team mingled with customers and took a little time to chat with me.

Two things:

  • An acquaintance from another and non-competitive software company I talked with at the Hannover Messe Chicago the week before told me that his sales people saw Inductive everywhere. “They are crushing it,” he said. Indeed, it is the one company in its software market that has momentum and constant innovation.
  • I met owner/founder Steve Hechtman in 2006 at an ISA event. Everything he told me back then seemed far out—and everything they talked about at this conference confirmed his initial vision. Mostly that was doing SCADA in an IT-friendly way. 

A bonus:

Here is a link to my March 15, 2011 podcast recorded in the conference room at the company’s original headquarters in Sacramento.  This was the 112th episode of my podcast, which back then was Automation Minutes done for Automation World magazine. I expected Steve Hechtman to do all the talking, but he turned it over to the software developers of what is now Ignition—Colby Clegg (now CEO) and Carl Gould (now CTO).

Important Smart Factory KPIs

IoT Analytics performs research and analysis from its base in Germany and with affiliated people globally. I have an affiliation with them. Through Microsoft, I discovered this 59-page IoT Signals Report – Manufacturing Spotlight (August 2022), published by Microsoft and Intel, with research conducted by IoT Analytics. As part of this research, IoT Analytics surveyed 500 decision-makers working in discrete, hybrid, or process manufacturing in April and May 2022 and conducted in-depth interviews with a subset of them.

One of the findings from the research tells us 72% of manufacturers have partially or fully implemented a smart factory strategy today. Similarly, nearly two-thirds (65%) are in various stages of implementing their IoT strategy. Although the pandemic, looming recession, inflation, and global supply chain issues have been prevalent topics in the last year(s), manufacturers are determined to fast-track their digital transformation projects in the next three years.

In short

  • When evaluating the success of a smart factory, operational KPIs are important for manufacturers in all regions and industries and across all company sizes.
  • Companies are ambitious to improve supply chain, safety, and sustainability KPIs in the next three years.

Why it matters

  • For manufacturers: The data provide an opportunity to benchmark against industry peers.
  • For technology vendors: Aligning services and products offered with the KPIs that manufacturers prioritize is important.

1. Most important operational KPI: Increase in OEE

All the top five manufacturing KPIs are related to operational goals. Across all regions and industries, respondents are highly focused on improving operational performance, including overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), labor efficiency, and output. The increase in OEE is the most important manufacturing KPI for measuring the success of their smart factory strategies. This KPI is seen as either important or very important by 86% of manufacturers.

2. Most important supply chain KPI: Increase supply chain resiliency

The increase in supply chain resiliency is regarded as important or very important for 73% of manufacturers. The global supply chain issues that were sparked by pandemic lockdowns and (trade) wars have put this manufacturing KPI in the spotlight of many factories. On average, the ambition of manufacturers is to increase supply chain resiliency by 28% in the next three years. Decision-makers see implementing new IoT based technology as a smart way to safeguard themselves from global turbulences.

3. Most important safety KPI: Decrease in reported safety incidents

A decrease in reported safety incidents is regarded by 67% of manufacturers as an important manufacturing KPI in measuring the success of their smart factory strategy. And decision-makers want to act on it. The average ambition of manufacturers is to improve the KPI by 30% in the next three years. Safer employees are happier and more productive employees—not only during the current environment of labor shortage but also otherwise.

4. Most important marketing and sales KPI: Increase in revenue

For 69% of manufacturers, the increase in revenue is an important manufacturing KPI to measure the success of their smart factory strategy. The introduction of new IoT-based technologies does not only affect the operations themselves but also indirectly affects the revenue. Customers expect vendors in discrete and process industries to deliver high-quality, highly customized products on time.

5. Most important sustainability KPI: Reduction of waste

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of manufacturers see the reduction of waste as an integral part of their smart factory transformation. Although sustainability improvements are not the main driver of smart factory strategies, manufacturers are devoting more attention to the topic and often see it as complementary to the existing operational KPIs. Respondents ranked “decrease in waste” as the manufacturing KPI with the second-highest overall ambition and “carbon footprint reduction” as the fastest-accelerating manufacturing KPI. This indicates that respondents recognize the opportunity for tangible improvements and are likely to boost the importance of sustainability KPIs in the coming years. Moreover, improving a sustainability KPI often correlates with improving an operational KPI and vice versa. For example, a reduction in energy usage or waste may lead to a reduction in costs, while an increase in process efficiency may lead to lower energy use and a better carbon footprint.

Industry IoT Consortium and International Society of Automation Combine For Security Maturity Model

The most optimistic trend I see in our market concerns cooperation and collaboration. There’s a lot of that going on. Here’s one I didn’t really see coming—the Industry IoT Consortium (IIC) and the International Society of Automation (ISA). They recently announced the IoT Security Maturity Model (SMM): 62443 Mappings for Asset Owners, and Product Suppliers, and Service Suppliers.

“This new guidance adds the service provider role. It extends the previously published IoT Security Maturity Model (SMM): Practitioner’s Guide to provide mappings to existing 62443 standards and specific guidance for the asset owner, product supplier, and service provider roles,” said Ron Zahavi, Chief Strategist for IoT standards at Microsoft and IoT SMM co-author.

The IIC IoT SMM helps organizations choose their security target state and determine their current security state. By repeatedly comparing the target and current states, organizations can identify where they can make further improvements.

The ISA99 committee developed the 62443 series of standards, which the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) adopted. The standards address current and future vulnerabilities in Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS) and apply necessary mitigation systematically and defensibly. The ISA/IEC 62443 standards focus on maturity, but only on the maturity of security programs and processes.

“Achieving security maturity targets can be difficult to put into practice without concrete guidance,” said Frederick Hirsch, co-chair of the IIC ISA/IIC Contributing Group. “These 62443 mappings enable practitioners to better achieve security maturity by relating IIC IoT SMM practice comprehensiveness levels to ISA/IEC 62443 requirements. In this way, IACS asset owners and product suppliers can achieve appropriate maturity targets more easily.”

Eric Cosman, co-chair of the ISA99, said, “While standards such as ISA/IEC 62443 are needed to codify proven and accepted engineering practices, they are seldom sufficient. Joint efforts such as this provide the practical guidance necessary to promote and support their adoption.”

Pierre Kobes, a member of both ISA99 and IEC Technical Committee 65, said, “It is not about more security but about implementing the appropriate security measures. IoT SMM: 62443 Mappings for Asset Owners and Product Suppliers helps companies select the adequate security levels commensurate with their expected level of risk.”

You can download IoT SMM: 62443 Mappings for Asset Owners, Product Suppliers and Service Providers from IIC and ISA websites. You will find a complete list of the contributing authors in the document. Work is underway to add the service provider role to the document in a future revision.