Automation and Industrial Innovation Funding News

Automation and Industrial Innovation Funding News

Automation, Innovation, Funding news from Rockwell Automation, IoT Partners Research, Dell EMC IoT, Schneider Electric Ventures

Rockwell Automation

I started going to Automation Fair in 1997. This is the first year I have missed. I could be in any of four different venues this week. Used to be that Rockwell had the week to itself. No longer. I am not there because I don’t like Rockwell. Business considerations are taking me a different direction. Tomorrow I’ll be speaking on IoT, data, solving business problems at the Industry of Things World-East forum in Orlando. I thought about a huge tour of three cities. Then I thought again.

I posted news from Rockwell Automation yesterday about its recent collaboration with PTC. I haven’t seen anything newer coming out yet from my sources.

ABI Research

In its recent analysis ranking 547 companies on their IoT service capabilities, ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies, finds that partner programs and their member companies are continuing to mature in their IoT offerings while simultaneously decreasing the average number of members per partner program.

In fact, 65% of listed organizations received a high IoT maturity grade, which is nearly 2½ times the number of organizations that received a high maturity ranking when ABI Research first analyzed these IoT ecosystems back in September 2015. Partner program parents such as Amazon Web Services, Dell, and IBM are aligning themselves with fewer, higher-value partners who can better help end-users navigate the convoluted IoT ecosystem.

Partner program parents need to ensure that their partners can effectively address the current major needs of the market while also addressing high-growth niche vertical markets, with companies like Dell and AWS showing that it’s possible to address these changing market dynamics without being encumbered by hundreds of partners. AWS’ IoT Competency program ensures that its partners have a high-depth of IoT expertise to meet end-user needs, while Dell’s IoT Solutions Partner Ecosystem is focused on having both technology and services partners who can address specific use cases.

The three most targeted verticals within these partner program ecosystems have consistently been healthcare, manufacturing, and energy applications, but over the past three years, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of partners offering solutions targeting the digital signage, wearable, and smart building markets due to end-user demand.

FogHorn Partners With Dell EMC OEM Solutions

Speaking of partnerships, this came in today. FogHorn, a developer of edge intelligence software for industrial and commercial IoT applications, announced a collaboration with Dell EMC OEM Solutions to deliver end-to-end Industrial IoT (IIoT) edge computing solutions. This collaboration allows industrial and commercial customers to leverage the power of the edge quickly with an out-of-the-box solution for their Industrial IoT (IIoT) deployments – providing real-time insights to streamline operations and improve business outcomes.

By integrating FogHorn’s Lightning edge computing technology to solutions from Dell EMC, industrial and commercial customers now have access to preconfigured gateways and other devices that simplify IoT deployments. These “edgified” solutions allow clients to deploy edge computing at various end-point locations quickly, wherever the power of edge computing is needed.

Schneider Electric Ventures

Schneider Electric, who also has an event this week, has announced “Schneider Electric Ventures”, which identifies, nurtures and supports innovations that will make a major contribution to future sustainability and energy efficiency. Several major projects are underway and ready to be deployed.

‘Schneider Electric Ventures’ nurtures tomorrow’s transformational and disruptive technologies according to the press release.

The company spends €1 billion a year on R&D; and EcoStruxure, its IoT-enabled, plug and play, open, interoperable, architecture and platform is at the cutting edge of connected energy management and industrial automation.

A few months ago, the company created “Schneider Electric Ventures”. The mission of this initiative is to identify, support and nurture companies and entrepreneurs whose innovations will transform the way we live and work, how we produce and consume energy, and how we run buildings and factories.

Schneider Electric Ventures supports innovation through:

  • Funding
  • Incubation
  • Partnerships

At its Innovation Summit North America, Schneider Electric announced some projects developed by “Schneider Electric Ventures”. These projects include:

  • eIQ Mobility, a start-up and spinoff from Schneider Electric Incubator, which enables and accelerates electric mobility at scale by providing “Electric Fleet as a Service ” to large commercial fleets.
  • Clipsal Solar, a business venture for on-grid and off-grid solutions for residential and commercial applications in Australia, where 1.8 million homeowners have installed solar panels to help manage their energy bills. The market is forecasted to grow with additional 134,000 homes by 2021.
  • Greentown Labs Bold Ideas Challenge in partnership with Greentown Labs, focused on fast-tracking entrepreneurs with the mentors, team members, grants of $25,000, and business and technical resources they need to launch successful ventures.

Through its different investment vehicles, Schneider Electric also made equity investments in six companies:

  • Sense, the leader in load disaggregation technology
  • Element Analytics, a leader in industrial big data analytics
  • Habiteo, a 3D specialist for new residential housing
  • QMerit, the “Uber” for contractors & MRO spend
  • KGS, a predictive engine for just-in-time maintenance
  • Claroty, the leading Cybersecurity company for industrial OT networks

Schneider Electric has committed to invest between 300 and 500 million euros in the coming years, in incubation projects, partnerships with entrepreneurs, and specialized funds, and welcomes ideas from innovators and entrepreneurs eager to turn their ideas into reality.

Advantech Quietly an Internet of Things Leader

Advantech Quietly an Internet of Things Leader

Advantech has been appearing on a variety of lists of prominent Internet of Things suppliers. The Taiwanese computer company with a US office in Cincinnati, OH and intellectual leadership, supplies intelligent I/O, a variety of computing devices, and HMI devices.

Several years ago I was privileged to be invited to Suzhou, China to attend Advantech’s user conference. It was an impressive event. This year they called it the “first IoT Co-Creation Summit.”

More than five thousand Advantech clients and partners from around the world attended the summit. Here Advantech introduced its newest IoT platform structure WISE-PaaS 3.0 and 32 IoT solution ready packages (SRPs) co-created with software and industry partners.

The event in itself will aid in the software/hardware integration for various industries, connect and build a complete industrial IoT ecosystem and value chain, and allow Advantech and partners to officially step into the next IoT stage.

Advantech Chairman KC Liu stated that in view of IoT application characteristic’s diversity and fragmented market, Advantech has assisted industries in integrating and connecting existing hardware and software and regards creating a complete industry value chain as its primary task in IoT industry development.

Advantech is introducing new features for its WISE-PaaS 3.0 and sharing a number of IoT solution ready packages (SRPs), based on WISE-PaaS, developed with numerous co-creation partners. The company is also outlining future co-creation strategies and schedules for the upcoming year.

Allan Yang, Chief Technology Officer at Advantech said, “While IoT is currently flourishing and many companies have invested in connectivity and data collection equipment, we are still in the early stages of generating value from IoT data. Since WISE-PaaS launched in 2014, Advantech has continued its integration and improved connectivity with open source communities. Our IoT software modules are developed to create operational cloud platform services oriented around the commercial value generated by data acquisition. Data-driven innovation has thus become the main target for our WISE-PaaS evolution.

WISE-PaaS 3.0 offers four main function modules:

  • WISE-PaaS/SaaS Composer: a cloud configuration tool with visible workflow. WISE-PaaS/SaaS Composer supports customized component plotting for simple and intuitive 3D modeling application and interaction. It updates views at millisecond rates and, together with WISE-PaaS/Dashboard, presents critical management data in a visually intuitive display to help extract valuable data and improve operational efficiency.
  • WISE-PaaS/AFS (AI Framework Service): an artificial intelligence training model and deployment service framework. The WISE-PaaS/AFS provides a simple drag and drop interface that allows developers to quickly input industrial data. When combined with AI algorithms, the service builds an effective inference engine with automatic deployment to edge computing platforms. AFS offers model accuracy management, model retraining, and automated redeployment. It simultaneously controls multiple AI models in the application field; offering automated model accuracy improvements and life-cycle management services.
  • WISE-PaaS/APM (Asset Performance Management): an equipment network connection remote maintenance service framework. WISE-PaaS/APM connects to a wide array of on-site industrial equipment controls and communication protocols. It supports the latest edge computing open standard, EdgeX Foundry, and includes built-in equipment management and workflow integration templates. Jointly with the AFS, APM accelerates Machine to Intelligence (M2I) application development.
  • Microservice development framework: WISE-PaaS contains a micro service development framework to help developers rapidly create program design frameworks while reducing development requisites. Micro service functions, such as service finding, load balancing, service administration, and configuration center, all offer built-in flexible support mechanisms.

Advantech recently established a water treatment system, jointly developed with GSD (China) Co., Ltd., and a CNC equipment remote operation service, jointly developed with Yeong Chin Machinery Industries Co. Ltd. Both partnerships demonstrate how industrial digital transformations, led by Advantech and its partners through the co-creation model, offer innovative win-win IoT solutions.

Advantech’s IIoT iAutomation Group has launched a broad selection of rackmount GPU Servers from 1U to 4U. The SKY-6000 GPU server series are powered by Intel Xeon scalable processors and each of these highly scalable GPU-optimized servers support up to five NVIDIA Tesla P4 GPUs. IPMI management functions and smart fan control ensure better temperature control and thermal management environments. Every GPU pair includes one high-speed PCIe slot for highly parallel applications like artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning, self-driving cars, smart city applications, health care, high performance computing, virtual reality, and much more.

AI Deep Learning GPU Solution

With support for up to five pcs of half-length half-height (HHHL) GPU cards or one full-height full-length (FHFL) double deck card, plus one full-height half-length (FHHL) GPU card, the SKY-6100 series are designed for NVidia Tesla P4 HHHL GPU cards, making it the best choice for deep learning applications.

IPMI Server Management

With IPMI 2.0 support, the SKY-6000 series allows users to monitor, manage, and control servers remotely and receive alerts if any sensors detect device or component faults. In addition, event logs record important information about the server which can be controlled remotely using the IPMI KVM.

Smart Fan Control

The optimized thermal design separates the CPU and GPU fan zones, making sure the GPU card is not preheated or thermally affected by any other heat source. Also, with the smart fan control mechanism, fan speeds are controlled based on different CPU and GPU workloads and ambient temperature. This feature lowers the acoustic noise of GPUs that have heavy loading but not CPUs. Advantech’s SKY-6000 server series are available for order now.

FDT IIoT Server Standard to Empower Platform Independent Deployment

FDT IIoT Server Standard to Empower Platform Independent Deployment

Another group validates standards for industrial communication including FDT and OPC UA.

FDT Group, an independent, international, not-for-profit standards association supporting the evolution of FDT technology (IEC 62453), announced that its Board of Directors voted unanimously to empower the emerging FDT IIoT Server (FITS) architecture with full platform independence. This decision strengthens the FITS architecture to support the diverse array of operating systems to meet industry-driven demands.

In addition to platform independence, key features of the FITS solution include native integration of the OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA), as well as comprehensive Control and Web Services interfaces. With built-in security protecting valuable information and operating data, the FITS platform will enable cloud, enterprise, on-premise, and a single-user desktop deployment method meeting the needs of the process, hybrid and discrete manufacturing sectors.

“The FITS platform is the ‘game changer’ the automation industry has been anticipating,” said Glenn Schulz, managing director of FDT Group. “I’d like to thank our Architecture and Specification Working Group that worked behind the scenes investigating and prototyping the platform independence feature approved by our board.”

Schulz added, “The Architecture and Specification Working Group has been directed to immediately transition FDT Server Common Components to a pure .NET Core implementation, previously built on the Microsoft .NET Framework. This transition will result in a single FDT Server environment deployable on a Microsoft-, Linux-, or macOS-based operating system, which will empower the intelligent enterprise by bridging the current installed base with next-generation solutions supporting the IIoT and I4.0 era.”

The significant decision and direction allows nearly unlimited deployment and application scenarios. For example, cloud-based FDT Servers can enjoy the performance and cost benefits of a Linux operating system. Traditional control system vendors can offer the FDT Server embedded in their hardware, and machine builders can deploy a small Linux-based FDT Server offering a comprehensive preconfigured asset management system for their skid that can be securely accessed remotely or with smart phones or browsers.

MES applications can also incorporate an FDT Server to gain secure, direct access to production data and asset health and availability metrics through OPC UA. In addition, service providers can wrap services around an FDT Server delivered in an industrial hardened Linux box. The opportunities for cost savings and value creation goes on due to the highly flexible deployment options of the FITS standard.

Because of the security, scalability and the ease of deployment of an FDT Server, the solution will simplify entry into the IIoT marketplace as the only open platform standardized integration architecture providing a single interface with cloud-to-plant floor mobile access. The decision to migrate to platform independence will delay the launch of the FITS specification by approximately six months. With the launch planned for the latter half of 2019, alongside Common Components supporting the FITS standard, automation suppliers and service providers will immediately reap the benefits of a quick development and deployment strategy. Common Components create a library of FDT routines and will simplify compliant development of FITS-based solutions such as Servers, Device Type Managers (DTMs) and APPs.

The final standard will be delivered as three documents: the FDT 2.5 specification, which builds on FDT 2.1 to include HTML5 and JavaScript graphical user interface features; the FITS Web Services Technical Specification, which describes the Web Services interfaces and requirements for an FDT Server; and the OPC UA Annex detailing the OPC UA Server mapping for an FDT Server.

OPC Foundation Extends OPC UA With TSN To Field Level

OPC Foundation Extends OPC UA With TSN To Field Level

OPC UA and TSN (Time Sensitive Network). A marriage I was beginning to think was never going to happen. I wrote a preliminary white paper following Hannover Messe 2017. Yes, more than a year ago. (Check it out by clicking the small ad on the sidebar.) This thing has been like a ball in a Rugby match—kicked, going different directions, downed and picked up. People wanting to move before thinking. Getting caught up in legal issues and “politics.” Postponed press conferences.

And, now…”The OPC Foundation launches an initiative to further enable OPC UA adoption throughout industrial automation by extending standardization and harmonization activities for OPC UA including TSN-enabled Ethernet networks.”

The goal of this initiative is to deliver an open, cohesive approach to implement OPC UA including TSN and associated application profiles. This will advance the OPC Foundation providing vendor independent end-to-end interoperability into field level devices for all relevant industry automation use-cases. The OPC Foundation vision of becoming the worldwide industrial interoperability standard is advanced by integrating field devices and the shop floor.

A new set of working groups will identify, manage and standardize the OPC UA relevant topics focused on industrial automation including,

• harmonization and standardization of application profiles e.g. IO, motion control, safety, system redundancy

• standardization of OPC UA information models for field level devices in offline e.g. device description and online e.g. diagnostics

• mapping of OPC UA application profiles related to real-time operations on ethernet networks including TSN

• definition of certification procedures

The working groups will closely align with the TSN Profile for Industrial Automation (TSN-IA-Profile) which will be standardized by the IEC/IEEE 60802 standardization group. This will help ensure that a single, converged TSN network approach is maintained so that OPC UA can share one common multi-vendor TSN network infrastructure together with other applications.

This initiative integrates well with existing joint working groups engaged in ongoing companion specification e.g. description of machines.

Stefan Hoppe, President of the OPC Foundation said “The benefit of membership in the OPC Foundation allows companies to actively engage and influence the direction of the OPC Foundation and includes early access to the specifications and technology. This initiative will grow OPC UA into new markets and I highly encourage all OPC Foundation members to contact the OPC Foundation to participate”.

Thomas Burke, Strategic Marketing Officer of the OPC Foundation, “We are very excited about the initiative to extend OPC UA including TSN down to the field level, and the number of companies that want to actively participate in this initiative bringing the technology into real world products. This set of working groups will pave the way for the broadest, easiest, and fastest market adoption of OPC UA over TSN.”

The OPC Foundation develops and maintains OPC UA as an open and secure communication platform comprised of an information model framework, communication models and underlying protocol bindings. As such, the OPC Foundation works non-exclusively with other organizations on various OPC UA related topics but continues to operate as a platform, technology, use case, and vendor agnostic standardization body.

Industrial Internet of Things Easier to Access and More Secure

One of the most important technologies for successful implementation of an Industrial Internet of Things program involves moving more computing and storage power to the edge.

GE has been in the news more often than it would like over the past year—my broker just called and in our discussion I mentioned writing an article about GE and he groaned.

However, GE Digital despite rumors to the contrary still lives and released some new products. One is an edge solution and the other an on-prem server solution.

Predix Edge aims at simplifying edge-to-cloud computing. GE Digital also introduced its Predix Private Cloud (PPC) solution, an on-premises deployment of the Predix platform, which gives customers the privacy, security, data sovereignty, and data isolation provided by a private cloud infrastructure.

“More than 70 percent of industrial companies are stuck in pilot purgatory – that is, they are either still at the start or unable to further advance their IIoT initiatives,” said Eddie Amos, Corporate VP, Platform & Industrial Applications, GE Digital. “Companies often face unexpected complexities in the solution design or integration, steep costs or security vulnerabilities. The custom, one-off solutions that tend to grow out of pilot projects further burden companies with ongoing maintenance, patching and upgrading over time. Realizing the full impact of IIoT requires moving beyond the pilot stage with scalable, interoperable solutions – and GE Digital helps lead them through that journey.”

The offerings GE Digital unveiled help companies bridge this gap – and offer businesses flexibility when and where they operate.

Predix Edge securely captures, processes, and analyzes data that can be managed locally or pushed to the cloud, executing the most demanding workloads at the edge and producing insights in near real time. With new functionality to help businesses accelerate the IIoT, Predix Edge provides:

Simple deployment and management capabilities out of the box, allowing users to remotely monitor and manage all their edge devices and heterogenous industrial data from a centralized management console.

Rapid time to value by supporting edge application development for almost all programming languages – such as Java, C++, Go and Python – and coming pre-integrated for use with GE Digital’s leading industrial apps like Asset Performance Management (APM) and Operations Performance Management (OPM).

Support for data storage and analysis online, offline or with intermittent connectivity in remote environments, such as offshore oil rigs or disconnected use cases where internet connectivity is never available. Predix Edge then transfers key data back to the cloud when re-connected.

Edge-to-cloud security and compliance to protect data and operations. The hardened, embedded edge operating system helps manage connected devices and remotely deploy patches, giving users the ability to control security at a deeper level.

Low latency application deployment closer to the originating data, to enable companies with limited connectivity, regulatory requirements or other constraints a way to accelerate time to value.

Processing data and applying analytics close to the device can dramatically reduce downtime, optimize maintenance schedules, and add operational value, all while reducing network and cloud costs. Predix Edge and the Predix platform work seamlessly together to provide distributed IIoT processing and analytics where they’re needed most.

To further help simplify the IIoT process, GE Digital also unveiled Predix Private Cloud (PPC), an on-premises deployment of the Predix platform and portfolio, that offers companies maximum levels of security and privacy.

Already commercially available, PPC enables IIoT connectivity, data, analytics and applications – such as Predix applications or custom applications – to be hosted on-premises, providing customers with multiple ways to deploy the Predix platform. The on-premises offering helps companies operating in high data volume scenarios access data securely in near real time and also manage edge and disconnected environments. PPC is specifically designed to meet privacy, security, data sovereignty anddata isolation requirements based on a customer’s industry, region or country.

Open Marketplace for IoT Edge Computing

Open Marketplace for IoT Edge Computing

News from EdgeX Foundry including an open marketplace for IoT Edge Computing. This is an interesting extension to the platform. Also, Intel has joined the consortium.

At a glance:

  • EdgeX Foundry Seeds an Open Marketplace for IoT Edge Computing with New Developer Kits and Smart Building Automation
  • Community Demo at IoT Solutions World Congress
  • Intel, Redis Labs, ZEDEDA and five other tech influencers commit to IoT interoperability and join EdgeX’s mission to create a unified edge ecosystem

EdgeX Foundry, an open-source, vendor-neutral project that enables an ecosystem of plug-and-play components to unify the IoT edge computing marketplace, announced the availability of EdgeX-enabled developer kits and a Smart Building Automation Community Demonstrator that will debut at IoT Solutions World Congress on October 16-18 in Barcelona.

Hosted by The Linux Foundation, the EdgeX platform is architected to run on any hardware or operating system and unify components coded in any programming language to accelerate time to market and simplify the deployment of secure IoT solutions. The framework serves as a de facto standard to bring together any mix of existing connectivity protocols with an ecosystem of heterogeneous value-add applications.

Developer kits are important tools for building new applications and solutions. A variety of dev kits are already on the market; however, the majority of these kits lock the developer into a particular back-end platform or cloud. In comparison, dev kits based on the EdgeX framework will provide developers with the freedom to choose from an ecosystem of components bound together by the EdgeX interoperability APIs.

“With the emergence of these dev kits, developers will have the opportunity to prototype with their choice of ingredients while taking advantage of plug-in components from EdgeX’s growing vendor-neutral ecosystem,” said Jason Shepherd, EdgeX Foundry Governing Board Chair and Dell Technologies IoT and Edge Computing CTO. “This allows them to focus on innovation rather than reinvention, in addition to being able to add and exchange components at any time to optimize their solution throughout the development and deployment lifecycle.”

There will be two different kinds of dev kits – community and commercial. For options in the community track, the bill of materials will be purchased independently online, the code will be downloaded straight from a special repository on the project GitHub, and questions will be answered through forums like the EdgeX Rocket Chat. The first kit is based on the Samsung Artik with Grove sensor, and options will grow through community contributions over time.

The commercial track for the dev kits will provide EdgeX members with the ability to seed the emergence of an open marketplace for IoT edge computing. These kits will offer end users with attractive options to get started with professional support so they can focus on their preferred value-add rather than supporting open source code. Commercial options will include kits based on supported versions of the EdgeX framework itself (neutral to any plug-in value add), kits based on specific IoT platforms, and microservice plug-ins for value-add such as analytics, data orchestration and security.

EdgeX Foundry is debuting a new community demo at IoT Solutions World Congress that will highlight the platform’s ability to bring together heterogeneous solution components. This first community demo showcases how EdgeX can bring together a real-world, smart flexible office space environment based on components from a variety of vendors leveraging numerous connectivity standards, operating systems and hardware types.

The growth and diversity of the EdgeX ecosystem over the last year has helped the technical community hit major milestones including the “California” release, which made the switch to Golang for the baseline reference implementation. Since the release in April, EdgeX Foundry unique code contributions from members and non-members alike have more than doubled to 70 on a regular basis.

These contributors have played a major role in the upcoming “Delhi” release, which offers major enhancements including the first management features, more security functionality such as access control and improved security bootstrapping, C and Golang-based Device Service SDKs and a reference GUI for demos and simple deployments. Projected to launch in November, the Delhi code will be well-suited for end users to begin developing commercial offers and production deployments. To find more details about Delhi or the EdgeX roadmap, visit the wiki here.

Intel joins the EdgeX Ecosystem

“Today’s announcement represents one more step in Intel’s open source journey and increased role in the advocacy, use and contribution across the ecosystem,” said Stacey Shulman, chief innovation officer for Retail Solutions at Intel. “Intel’s involvement in EdgeX Foundry will help drive scale and accessibility of solutions for both our customers and businesses of all sizes.”

Other new EdgeX Foundry project members include Basking Automation GmbH, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (BUPT), DATA AHEAD, CertusNet, Redis Labs, the Federal University of Campina Grande (UFCG) /Embedded Lab, Windmill Enterprise and ZEDEDA.

“We’re standing at a critical point for digital transformation,” said Shepherd. “The massive volume of devices coming online represents a huge opportunity for innovation and is making edge computing a necessity. We need an open, cloud-native edge ecosystem enabled by EdgeX to minimize reinvention and facilitate building and deploying distributed, interoperable applications from the edge to the cloud. We’re thrilled to welcome these new member organizations into our already strong community that shares the same commitment to open collaboration and innovation.”

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