Some years ago Belden was searching for a greater IoT presence in a manner I felt was not strategically aligned. This acquisition makes sense even given the rather garbled marketing justifications in the news release. Although a few companies are investigating other means than Cloud, certainly having a presence in the Cloud is essential for many applications. Belden announces here the acquisition of German-based Industrial IoT (IIoT) specialist CloudRail.
With the acquisition of CloudRail, Belden continues its strategy to deliver the infrastructure that makes the digital journey simpler, more smart and secure. Belden is moving beyond connectivity – from what we make to what we make possible through a performance-driven portfolio, forward-thinking expertise and purpose-built solutions with a leadership position in the evolving IIoT sector.
I found that paragraph a little confusing. They really meant what they said here.
While Belden already had a strong portfolio of products in the areas of data acquisition, edge computing, and security, the industrial automation market also encounters a clear shift from on-premise systems to the cloud.
“CloudRail literally connects the factory to the Cloud. The founders of the company recognized this trend early and gained a unique leadership position. CloudRail complements our solution portfolio by adding sensor data ingestion capabilities to our Belden HORIZON DataOperations Platform and it fully supports the Belden Industrial EDGE strategy”, says Brian Lieser, Executive Vice President at Belden.
CloudRail offers solutions for industrial customers to connect assets to cloud platforms like AWS or Microsoft Azure.
If you’ve been around automation for the past 20 years, you’ve no doubt experienced how the job changed from isolated control connected to I/O to one or more field buses to one or more variety of Ethernet. We’ve now experienced the Internet of Things explosion (at least in hype). That latter is mostly Ethernet-based using IP (Internet Protocol).
If you’ve not been careful, you could be working with a mess of networks right now. I received this document of networking tips from networking infrastructure supplier Moxa. I thought it useful to pass along.
Tip One: Achieve Greater Integration with Unified Infrastructure
Over the years, various devices using different protocols have been deployed on industrial networks to provide diverse services. Under these circumstances, network integration usually costs more than expected or becomes more difficult to achieve. Manufacturers can either choose the status quo, that is, maintain their pre-existing isolated automation networks with numerous purpose-built protocols of the past, or seek solutions to deterministic services and that can integrate these “islands of automation” into one unified network.
If the goal is to be ready for future demands, the choice is obviously the latter. The rule of thumb is to take potential industrial protocols into consideration and ensure you can redesign networks in case any new demands arise in the market. One approach is Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN), a set of new standards introduced by the IEEE 802.1 TSN Task Group as an advanced toolbox. With TSN, you can build open, unified networks with standard Ethernet technologies that reserve flexibility for the future.
Tip Two: Enable Anywhere Access with Hassle-free Cloud Services
Cloud-based remote access offers many benefits to IIoT customers, such as reducing the travel time and expenses of sending maintenance engineers to multiple remote sites. Furthermore, cloud-based secure remote access can offer flexible and scalable connections to meet dynamic, fast-changing requirements. However, operational technology (OT) engineers may find it cumbersome to set up and maintain their own cloud servers for new services and applications. Indeed, there is considerable effort associated with setting up new infrastructure, even in the cloud. Fortunately, OEMs and machine builders can now deliver secure cloud-based services and remote access to their customers, therefore eliminating the need to maintain in-house cloud servers.
One key issue that definitely demands scrutiny is the cloud server license scheme. Often, upfront costs may seem low for limited server hosts. Yet these apparent cost savings on server hosts may actually make a project uneconomical due to a limited scale of connections. Second, you may also need to consider central management capabilities in order to flexibly expand remote connections as your needs change. With this said, carefully weigh the costs and benefits of incorporating secure remote access to industrial networks. Always select solutions that minimize hassles and will help deliver more value to customers.
Tip Three: Use Management Software for Better Visibility of Network Status
When complexity increases due to greater connectivity on industrial networks, it can become very difficult to identify the root cause of problems and maintain sufficient network visibility. Control engineers often have to revert to trial and error to get the system back to normal, which is time-consuming and troublesome.
In order to facilitate and manage growing industrial networks, network operators need integrated network management software to make informed decisions throughout network deployment, maintenance, and diagnostics. In addition, as systems continue to grow, it is important that you pay attention to a number of network integration concerns. First, only managing industrial networks in local control centers may not be feasible three or five years from now, especially when existing systems need to be integrated with new ones. It is therefore important to use network management software with integration interfaces, such as OPC DA tags for SCADA system integration or RESTful APIs for external web services. Furthermore, an interface to facilitate third-party software integration is also a key criterion for ensuring future flexibility.
There was a time when I would take information from OPC Foundation and chat with the MQTT people and then return the favor. It was much like being in the midst of a religious war.
My response was (is) that the market will decide. Individual engineers will choose the solution that best fits their needs at the time. If both technologies have sufficient benefit to enough engineers to form a market, then both will survive. I think there is room in the market for both, since they sort of do the same thing, but actually each provides unique benefits.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while since I’ve had so many other things to digest. The impetus came from a couple of directions—OPC Foundation President Stefan Hoppe’s editorial in the June newsletter and from Stacey Higginbotham’s IoT Newsletter recently that discussed edge.
Hoppe wrote, “Still to this day people only think of OPC UA merely as a secure protocol to move information. It is so much more than that. It is a modeling language in cloud applications and digital twins. It is capable of file transport (since 2009). Most people know that OPC UA started as an initiative in the OT world and expanded from the PLC control plane to SCADA and later to MES and ERP. More and more people are realizing that OPC UA via MQTT is the bridge between OT and IT and is able to push information directly into Microsoft and AWS cloud dashboards without the need for an adapter.”
From Data to Data Sources
Stacey Higginbotham writing in Stacey on IoT Bringing AI to the farthest edge requires new computing.
Stacey writes about IoT generally. Most of her topics are commercial/consumer and chips (her reporting background). She does follow the IoT trail into manufacturing at times. In this newsletter she broaches into something I’ve been expounding for a long time, that is, how edge devices have become smarter with better communications. Then the IT world came up with the term Edge, which is, of course everything manufacturing.
We’re in the midst of a computing shift that’s turning the back-and-forth between cloud and edge computing on its head. This new form of computing has been creeping to the forefront for the last few years, driven by digital transformations and complicated connected devices such as cars.
But the more recent hype around AI is providing the richest examples of this shift. And it will ultimately require new forms of computing in more places, changing both how we think about the edge and the types of computing we do there. In short, the rise of AI everywhere will lead to new forms of computing specialized for different aspects of the edge. I’m calling this concept the complex edge.
As part of this shift in computing, we have to become more nuanced about what we mean when we talk about the edge. I like to think of it as a continuum moving from the most compute and power-constrained devices such as sensors to the most powerful servers that happen to be located on premise in a factory. In the middle are devices such as tablets, smartphones, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), and gateways that might handle incoming data from PLCs or sensors.
Moreover, each of these devices along the continuum might run their own AI models and require their own specialized type of computing to compare the data coming into those models. For example, I’ve written about the need for sensors to get smarter and process more information directly.
Smart sensors turn to analog compute
Cameras or image sensors are popular examples of such devices. This vision sensor from Useful Sensors, which can do person detection on a $10 device, runs a simple algorithm that looks for people and counts them. At a higher level, which requires more processing power, sensors from Sony or chips from CEVA are able to detect specific movements, faces, or other options.
A few weeks ago at the Sensors Converge event, a company called Polyn Technology showed off a version of a chip designed to take raw data and quickly convert it into an insight. To quickly process analog signals from the environment (such as vibrations or sound), the Polyn chip uses analog processing to process the signal and then sends the “insight” to another computer for more processing.
We not only have cameras shooting pictures for QA purposes, but also they are streaming video for applications from industrial engineering to surveillance to predictive maintenance. This is a vast amount of data.
We have tools, but we will need more. Chips with built in communication and analytics are a start.
MQTT is a fast, light-weight protocol for moving data. The origins were with an IBM application. It is now widely adopted in manufacturing and industrial applications when you don’t need the full information modeling of OPC UA. HiveMQ is a relatively new company specializing in MQTT application development. This new product from them is a starter kit for using a cloud-based MQTT solution.
HiveMQ announced HiveMQ Cloud Starter plan, a dedicated, fully-managed, self-service MQTT platform. HiveMQ Cloud allows customers to rapidly procure a production-ready MQTT platform based on hourly usage, with unlimited connections and devices.
With HiveMQ Cloud, companies can develop, test, deploy, and scale production IoT use cases without the large investment and complexity of maintaining their own infrastructure. Customers in any industry from transportation to connected products to manufacturing can get started quickly and easily for free, then scale as use cases expand and require additional features to enable security, observability, administration and data integrations.
“We are proud to be the first and only MQTT platform on the market to offer multiple plans that are not capped by the number of connections to the platform,” said Dominik Obermaier, Co-founder and CTO, HiveMQ. “We feel this will be a game changer for the adoption of MQTT from the developer to the enterprise.”
HiveMQ Cloud offers the following plans:
- Serverless: Community-supported, multi-tenant MQTT broker ideal for experimenting and learning; 100 sessions free.
- Starter: Self-service, single-tenant MQTT platform deployed in a Platform-as-a-Service environment; pay hourly as you grow.
- Professional: Everything in Starter plus access to robust support, observability, security, and integration extensions; pay hourly as you grow or choose an annual subscription.
- Enterprise: Dedicated MQTT infrastructure and custom systems integration for scaling sophisticated, enterprise-grade projects; pricing upon request.
The HiveMQ Cloud Serverless, Starter, Professional, and Enterprise plans address a wide range of customer needs for value-priced, cloud-based MQTT Platform-as-a-Service offerings to fit any deployment stage or budget. Any size customer from start-up to enterprise can start with the Serverless or Starter plans for pilot projects and POCs, and feel confident in their ability to scale to a comprehensive and feature-rich offering on the same platform.
I’ve accumulated a few interesting project news items from ABB.
- Robot automates Amazon Reforestation
- All-electric mine study in Australia
- China Telecom digitization project
World’s most remote robot automates Amazon reforestation project
A pilot project between ABB Robotics and US non-profit organization Junglekeepers is demonstrating the role Cloud technology can play in making reforestation faster, more efficient and scalable.
ABB Robotics is supporting Junglekeepers in their mission to protect 55,000 acres of Amazon rainforest and reverse deforestation. In a first-of-its-kind demonstration, ABB’s cobot YuMi is automating planting tasks in a jungle laboratory, speeding the process and allowing Junglekeepers’ volunteers to focus their valuable time and resources on more impactful work.
Through ABB RobotStudio Cloud technology, ABB experts simulate, refine and deploy the programming required for YuMi’s tasks in the jungle from 12,000 kms (7,460 miles) away Västerås, Sweden – enabling the world’s most remote robot.
“ABB’s collaboration with Junglekeepers demonstrates how robotics and Cloud technology can play a central role in fighting deforestation as one of the major contributors to climate change”, said Sami Atiya, President of ABB Robotics and Discrete Automation. “Our pilot program with the world’s most remote robot is helping automate highly repetitive tasks, freeing up rangers to undertake more important work out in the rainforest and helping them to conserve the land they live on.”
In a jungle lab, located in a remote region of the Peruvian Amazon, a YuMi cobot has been installed to automate essential tasks in the seed planting process, usually an entirely manual effort. The cobot digs a hole in the soil, drops the seed in, compacts the soil on top and marks it with a color-coded tag. YuMi enables Junglekeepers to replant an area the size of two soccer fields every day in zones requiring reforestation.
At the same time, by automating this task, Junglekeepers’ volunteers are able to focus their valuable time and resources on more impactful work, such as patrolling the area to deter illegal loggers, educating locals on the preservation of the rainforest and planting mature saplings.
Creating a fully remote and autonomous cobot installation also overcomes the difficulty of finding people willing to stay and work in the distant jungle location. After its initial installation, YuMi can carry out its tasks autonomously, with only trouble shooting as needed.
“As of right now, we have lost 20 percent of the total area of Amazon rainforest; without using technology today, conservation will be at a standstill,” said Moshin Kazmi, Co-Founder of Junglekeepers. “Having Yumi at our base is a great way to expose our rangers to new ways of doing things. It accelerates and expands our operations and advances our mission.”
The destruction of the Amazon rainforest through human activities such as logging and burning to clear land for agriculture are contributing to the devastating effects of climate change. It is estimated that more than 870,000 km² of the Amazon rainforest have been cleared since 1985, an area larger than France, United Kingdom and Belgium combined. With tens of billions of trees already being gone, the region is warming fast.
“The Amazon is in danger. That’s why we need technology, science and local knowledge to work together in order to save it. Otherwise, we will be too late. The rainforest can be saved, but we must bring together all these elements to make a difference,” said Dennis del Castillo Torres, Director of Forest Management Research at the Peruvian Amazon Research Institute. “It is very important to have a combination of high technology and conservation. There are many technologies that we can use to preserve the forest, and this robot can help a lot to reforest faster, but we have to be very selective. We have to use it in areas of high deforestation to speed up the process of replanting.”
The pilot project is supported by ABB’s RobotStudio Cloud technology, enabling teams all over the world to collaborate in real time. This remote new way of programming enables new levels of flexibility and instant refinement, resulting in greater efficiency and resilience, and no loss of planting time. With more than 25 years of offline programming experience, RobotStudio offers best-in-class digital technology, enabling 99 percent accuracy between simulation and reality. This allows users to reduce time for testing robotic solutions by 50 percent and takes production downtimes to zero.
ABB Robotics’ pilot project in the Amazon furthers its objective to contribute to sustainable transformation through intelligent robotics and automation solutions, supporting businesses to increase productivity, reduce waste and maximize efficiency. In 2022, ABB Robotics collaborated with the Parley Global Cleanup network, a non-profit organization collecting marine plastic waste, to create personalized designer items such as recycled furniture, using 3D additive printing. In accordance with the wishes of Junglekeepers, the pilot scheme in the rainforest with RobotStudio Cloud and YuMi will last for approximately six weeks (across May and June 2023). Following the conclusion of the pilot program, ABB will explore opportunities to assist Junglekeepers on a more extended basis as well as exploring further opportunities for its robotic solutions and cloud technologies to play a central role in driving sustainable transformation.
All-electric mine study from Australian operator IGO
- A team of experts from the three companies will work together to design electrification for the Cosmos Nickel Project
- Study will consider mine hauling operations, power distribution, energy efficiency and power management, with decarbonization and electrification crucial to the future of this industry
- Perenti’s expertise and technical capabilities are combined with ABB’s eMine framework for electrification and automation
- The collaboration setup by ABB and mining services group Perenti has been awarded its first contract by Australian mine operator IGO Ltd. to provide an all-electric mine study for the full underground electrification of IGO’s Cosmos Nickel Project in Western Australia.
Experts from the three companies will work together to provide a pathway for the optimum design of mine electrification at the IGO-owned Cosmos Project. This will include mine design optimization for electric operations, production and operating philosophy, fleet selection, power distribution and electrical infrastructure design, electrification system and battery management, ESG and safety impact analysis, and cost modelling of both Capex and Opex.
The study is a significant step in IGO’s commitment to continuously improving its sustainability performance by trialing new technologies and decarbonizing its operations, helping to create a cleaner energy future. The mine operator’s aspiration is to implement a complete mine electrification solution at Cosmos by mid-2025.
ABB and China Telecom unveil joint digitalization and industrial IoT lab
- The laboratory is a collaboration between ABB Measurement & Analytics China Technology Center and E Surfing IoT, China Telecom’s Internet of Things subsidiary
- The collaboration will explore the extensive integration of process automation solutions and empower multiple industries in China with digital transformation tools
- The lab will support manufacturing industries with end-to-end industrial IoT solutions that help with real-time, data-driven decisions for safer, smarter and more sustainable operations
ABB and China Telecom unveil a joint digitalization and industrial IoT laboratory in Hangzhou, China. The collaboration between ABB Measurement & Analytics China Technology Center and China Telecom’s Internet of Things subsidiary E Surfing IoT will focus on developing end-to-end industrial IoT solutions for industrial companies based in China.
As China transforms its manufacturing industries, the industrial IoT field is developing fast. Currently, China is promoting the green and sustained growth agenda, bringing many new opportunities to areas such as smart manufacturing, digitalization, energy efficiency, and smart cities.
As part of the collaboration, ABB and E Surfing IoT will explore avenues for technology integration and industrial application of new technologies as well as new directions for next-generation industrial IoT solutions. The two teams will focus on comprehensive digital solutions that incorporate ABB sensor technology, China Telecom’s 5G network, industrial IoT and connectivity technology, as well as cloud computing.
Recently, ABB collaborated with E Surfing IoT in the field of smart water networks. As part of the collaboration, Chinese water companies were able to increase the quality of data from their water networks and hence the operational efficiency by an average of more than 20 percent through implementing IoT solutions, achieving energy savings and cost reduction.
Qualcomm’s product development department has been busy extending the chip-maker’s presence in the smart device market. This news release announces what they term to be next-generation IoT devices. The new devices are Qualcomm QCS8550, Qualcomm QCM8550, Qualcomm® QCS4490 and Qualcomm® QCM4490 Processors.
- The new Qualcomm QCS8550 and Q/CM8550 Processors combine maximum compute power, extreme edge AI processing, Wi-Fi 7 connectivity, and vivid graphics and video to enable and quickly deploy performance-heavy IoT applications, such as autonomous mobile robots and industrial drones.
- The Qualcomm QCS4490 and QCM4490 Processors deliver key advanced features such as premium connectivity and next-gen processing to industrial handheld and computing devices. The solutions are equipped with both 5G and Wi-Fi 6E for multi-gigabit speeds, extended range, and low latency, and powerful, efficient processing to handle complex computing tasks. The Qualcomm QCS4490 and QCM4490 Processors are designed with planned support for Android releases through version 18, meaning they can be used in industrial designs through 2030, providing flexibility and longevity for maximizing development time and cost savings.