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.

TRUMPF and SICK Develop First Industrial Quantum Sensor

In a continuation of Sensor Day at The Manufacturing Connection, here is an announcement about an Industrial quantum sensor development.

  • Cooperation agreement on development of industrial quantum sensor signed
  • Successful functional test of the world’s first quantum optical sensor for serial production
  • First sensors in industrial use from 2021
  • Experts estimate total market for quantum sensors at about EUR 1.1 bn. by 2023

The wholly owned TRUMPF subsidiary Q.ANT and sensor specialist SICK will in future work together on the development of quantum optical sensors. Representatives of the two high-tech companies signed a cooperation agreement in early November 2020 to make quantum technology for sensors available for industrial use. 

Quantum sensors enable measurements with unprecedented accuracy. The signing was preceded by a successful functional test of the world’s first quantum optical sensor for serial production. 

“SICK is expanding its position as a worldwide technology leader in the sensor sector by embarking on the production of quantum sensors. Quantum sensors are a key technology for the future of industry,” says Robert Bauer, Chairman of the Executive Board of SICK AG. 

As a market and technology leader for industrial sensors, SICK will be responsible for application development and sales of the product. As a specialist in quantum technology, the TRUMPF subsidiary Q.ANT takes on production of the measurement technology – and thus the sensor’s core technology. 

“Quantum technology is an enormous opportunity for German and European industry. This will be the first time that the partnership between our two high-tech companies will involve a product for serial production. The quantum sensor enables highly accurate measurements and will provide insights that will lead to completely new industrial applications,” says Peter Leibinger, Chief Technology Officer at TRUMPF. The first use of the new quantum sensors is planned for 2021.

Highly precise measurements of the smallest of particles 

Quantum sensors have hitherto mainly been used in research. For the first time, Q.ANT and SICK have now successfully completed functional tests for an industrial application. 

“Quantum technology enables, for example, ultrafast measurements of the movement and size distribution of particles. With industrialization of these sensors, not just us but Germany – as a high-tech location – takes a major step towards the commercialization of quantum technology,” says Michael Förtsch, CEO of Q.ANT. 

Using laser light, quantum sensors permit highly efficient measurements that would be impossible with conventional processes. 

“Quantum technology is the next level for sensors because it shifts hitherto firmly established technical limits. Using quantum effects, additional details can be perceived from signal noise where, up to now, no specific signals would have been measureable. This enables the measurement of particles that are about two hundred times smaller than the width of a human hair,” says Niels Syassen, Senior Vice President R&D at SICK and responsible for the project there. The quantum sensors will initially be used for analyzing substances in air.

Industrialization leads to increased market volume

Quantum sensors could in future become everyday equipment in various industries: For example, they could be used in civil engineering to visualize underground structures before construction work begins; in the pharmaceutical industry they could make it easier to determine the best composition of tablet powder; in the electronics sector circuits could be inspected through surfaces; and highly accurate measurements could be made in industry in general. The market for quantum sensors could grow steadily with industrialization. Experts at Germany’s National Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech) estimate the worldwide market volume of industrial quantum sensors at about EUR 1.1 bn. by 2023.

New Series of Cloud-Based, Wireless Sensors

Swift Sensors Launches Series 3 – The First IoT Platform With One-Press Activation, Predictive Alerts and 6-8 Year Battery Life

This is going to be “sensor day” at The Manufacturing Connection. I have two interesting new products. Sensors, of course, form the foundation for the Industrial Internet of Things.

Swift Sensors calls itself a cloud-based wireless IoT company. It has launched its new Series 3 wireless sensor system with improvements in wireless range, battery life, durability and ease of deployment.

Series 3, re-engineered from the ground up, incorporates cutting-edge BLE5 technology with the Nordic nRF52840 SoC’s on-chip cryptography, multiprotocol communication, and power management.

Key features:

  • Three times the sensor range, up to 300 feet, for use in large facilities.
  • Four times the number of sensors (up to 150) that each gateway can securely support, for broader and more detailed sensor coverage. 
  • Extended sensor battery life of six to eight years, five times the previous version, to reduce maintenance and sensor downtime.

“We designed our industrial sensor system from the ground-up to be simple to deploy and use,” said Ray Almgren, CEO of Swift Sensors. “Our new sensors and gateways will drive mainstream adoption of IoT in the industrial markets. Customer feedback over the past several years has also driven configuration, deployment, and durability improvements in the wireless system.”

For example, the first batch of 12 Series 3 sensors includes a predictive vibration sensor that adds peak-to-peak, RMS, and crest factor monitoring. This lowers the entry cost of industrial equipment predictive maintenance (PdM) for customers who want to reduce their downtime and maintenance expenses. 

Other improvements in the Series 3 platform include:

  • A water-resistant (IP 67) sensor enclosure for extra durability in harsh environments. 
  • “Instant On” one-touch sensor activation for immediate measurements with zero configuration needed.
  • “Find My Sensor” console button that blinks a green LED on the deployed sensor to identify it.
  • An internet status LED that shows if the gateway is connected to the internet, connected locally or not connected.
  • Enhanced web app and LED indicators that simplify gateway Wi-Fi setup.
  • An optional USB cellular network module for deployments when ethernet and WiFi are not available. 

“Using advanced BLE5 communication protocols we have developed a world-class data delivery system to optimize range, reliability, and security of the Series 3 sensors,” said Dean Drako, founder and executive chairman of Swift Sensors. “Our cloud-based wireless monitoring system now offers a breadth of common measurements using the latest IoT technology.”

Swift Sensors plans to release additional Series 3 sensors soon to measure sound, light, pressure, motion and the presence of harmful gasses. Swift Sensors Series 3 components are available on the company’s website and through the Swift Sensors global reseller network.

Ignition 8.1 HMI/SCADA/IoT Provides Faster Development, New Features, and Long-Term Support

We saw something of this new release of Ignition HMI/SCADA by Inductive Automation at the Ignition Community Conference in September. The key element of the release is that it’s a long-term support release. But it also expands upon some of the ground-breaking features introduced last year in Ignition 8.

Inductive Automation released Ignition 8.1, which will help users develop Ignition projects more rapidly and use them more effectively. Ignition by Inductive Automation is an industrial application platform with tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), manufacturing execution systems (MES), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Ignition is used in virtually every industry in more than 100 countries and has been implemented at 54 of the Fortune 100 companies. 

Ignition 8.1 can help users future-proof their systems for years to come. It’s a Long-Term Support release, so it will be supported by Inductive Automation for five years. While 8.1 is focused on performance and stability, it also includes several new features.

“Ignition 8.1 is all the innovation and power of the Ignition platform, refined into a high-performing, secure, and reliable package ready for the future,” said Carl Gould, director of software engineering for Inductive Automation.

Ignition 8.1 builds upon Ignition’s unlimited licensing model, cross-platform compatibility, modular approach, and use of open technology standards. Last year’s release of Ignition Perspective brought powerful new capabilities to mobile devices. It saved development time by allowing users to design a single Perspective application that displays properly on screens of any size. And it put full control of the plant floor on smartphones and tablets. 

With Ignition 8.1’s new Perspective Workstation, users can deploy native applications to any HMI, desktop, workstation, and multi-monitor configuration without a third-party web browser. Screens can be displayed in full-screen kiosk mode with no distractions from the underlying operating system.

Perspective Symbols make it easier and faster than ever to create attractive HMIs. Symbols have dynamic data models, so binding them to process values is drag-and-drop. Each Symbol comes in three different styles, so users can customize to their preferences. Users can easily add animation and supporting text.

Perspective Power Chart allows users to easily create runtime-configurable time series charts from Tag Historian data. Users can quickly generate ad hoc charts within a Perspective session. Power Chart also adapts automatically for mobile screens.

Ignition 8.1 also includes several shortcuts to save time in development, a more powerful tag browser, and the ability to work with Docker Hub. For new users, Ignition Quick Start has several tools to help people quickly get going on creating projects. All of these new features save time for developers.

For more information on Ignition 8.1, visit Inductive Automation’s What’s New webpage.

Rockwell Automation Introduces Next Generation Edge Gateway

Rockwell Automation introduced the first capability of its edge strategy with FactoryTalk Edge Gateway, to simplify and accelerate IT/OT convergence.

I have been working in the area of edge gateways for about six years as a marketing consultant, writer, influencer, analyst. I thought I knew what one was when I saw it. After reading this press release several time and visiting the Website (not easy to find on the RA Web, by the way), I see that Rockwell Automation has once again redefined what I thought I knew.

This edge gateway is not a hardware product with compute, storage, networking, and the like. It is a software product designed to connect IIoT data to Rockwell’s analytics engine. Therefore, it “helps converge IT and OT”.

Explaining the reason for the product (and editing out all the superlative adverbs lacing the text), Rockwell Automation writes, “Industrial enterprises struggle to aggregate operational data from heterogeneous sources and add relevant context from the source—such as process conditions, time stamps, machine states and other production states—to the IT layer. This prevents them from uncovering insights at the enterprise level. While traditional gateway solutions fail to address these important challenges, FactoryTalk Edge Gateway goes a step above to not only enrich OT data with critical context where it matters the most—at the edge—but also delivers it in a flexible common information model to IT applications, so that industrial enterprises can derive critical insights for a competitive edge.”

FactoryTalk Edge Gateway is an important foundation of a broader edge platform offering that will include elements of pre-built data analytics models, machine learning, tailored applications, and scalable compute. It is the latest addition to the highly recognized and widely adopted FactoryTalk Analytics suite offering that addresses diverse industries and Industrial IoT (IIoT) use cases. FactoryTalk Edge Gateway is also a key pillar in Rockwell Automation’s strategy to accelerate digital agility across the industrial devices to cloud spectrum with partnerships, including PTC and Microsoft.

A leading Fortune 100 pharmaceuticals manufacturer says, “Legacy systems today are not IIoT enabled and need many different software programs to collect and organize data. With existing methods, the operational attribute values collected have different timestamps, so it is impossible to synchronize the data together. Compared to that, FactoryTalk Edge Gateway automatically stitches the data together and puts it in a payload using pre-configured information model hierarchy. It gives one solution to collect and organize the relevant data.”

FactoryTalk Edge Gateway’s data management capabilities result in up to a 70% reduction in analytics data preparation efforts for data scientists or analysts, while providing quality OT data. The underlying common information data model is orchestrated by the Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk Smart Object capability and can be mapped to on-premises or cloud applications to generate predictive insights across the enterprise. FactoryTalk Edge Gateway is designed to integrate with best-in-class ecosystem solutions like Microsoft Azure and FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, and a variety of big data, IIoT, and cloud applications.

“Industrial businesses need actionable enterprise-level insights to achieve their goals. As customers continue to drive IT/OT integration and leverage operational data to drive insights, they are realizing that having the right OT data context is critical to scale their digital transformation initiatives.,” said Arvind Rao, Director, Product Management for Information Systems at Rockwell Automation. “With FactoryTalk Edge Gateway, we are dramatically reducing the time and effort required to build, maintain and enrich this critical OT context. This provides our customers with the opportunity to realize double-digit operational improvements through analytics.”

Hitachi Named a Leader in 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Industrial IoT Platforms

These analyst ratings don’t often get my attention. However, the recently released 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Industrial Internet of Things Platforms was interesting. There were three companies in the “Leader” quadrant, none in the “Challenger” and a number of companies in the “Niche Player” quadrant.

The news came to me from Hitachi Vantara. That company had excellent companions in the upper right block– Microsoft and PTC.

Hitachi Ltd. and its digital infrastructure and solutions subsidiary Hitachi Vantara announced that Hitachi was named a Leader in the 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Industrial IoT Platforms based on Gartner Inc.’s evaluation of the company and its Lumada IoT software. Hitachi also received the highest placement in the 2020 Leaders quadrant for ability to execute. The company had previously been positioned in the Visionaries quadrant for the past two years.  

“Hitachi is thrilled to be recognized as a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Industrial IoT Platforms, which we feel is a positive testimony to our multi-year effort and investment in Lumada technology, solutions and services,” said Brad Surak, president, Digital Solutions, Hitachi Vantara. “Lumada enables data-driven innovations that connect people, products, and processes for industrial transformation. Today our clients are deploying Lumada in complex industrial environments as a key enabler of their digitalization strategies.” 

“Lumada acts as an engine for Hitachi’s long-term growth strategy to deliver technology and services that create new value from data and improve business and society,” said Hiroyuki Kumazaki, Chief Lumada Business Officer, Services & Platforms Business Unit, Hitachi, Ltd. “We are very proud of the Hitachi team for continuing to expand the Lumada portfolio to serve more customer cases that help our clients. We believe Hitachi’s Leader position demonstrates that our digital solutions are gaining traction and delivering value in a growing industry.” 

Lumada Data and Edge Services provide a flexible, intelligent and composable software foundation to accelerate IoT solution creation for customers. It also powers Hitachi Vantara’s growing portfolio of industry solutions. Its portable architecture makes it ideal for use on premises, in the cloud and in hybrid environments, and it supports industrial IoT deployments.  

Ideal for enterprise-grade data management, Lumada combines the power of artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics and intelligent Digital Twins to streamline and simplify management of connected business and industrial assets. This helps to increase asset utilization and accelerates the time to value of industrial IoT initiatives, driving faster time to actionable insights and high-value business outcomes for industrial and enterprise clients. Outcomes include increased operational efficiencies and cost savings, enhanced operational safety and reliability, improved asset utilization, performance management and product quality, and the creation of new business models. 

Clients looking to further accelerate the time to value of their industrial IoT initiatives with Lumada will also benefit from proven solution cores and co-creation services engagements with Hitachi, which taps them into Hitachi’s expansive industrial, operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) expertise to create customized IoT solutions tailored to their unique requirements. 

Wenco International Mining Systems, a subsidiary of Hitachi Construction Machinery Co., Ltd., has demonstrated success supporting such customers with Lumada components and solutions.  

“Clients have told us that the future of mining depends on standards-based interoperability of systems and the ability to extract actionable insights from data to maximize asset availability and productivity,” said Andrew Pyne, CEO, Wenco. “Hitachi is uniquely able to leverage its many decades of experience in operational technologies such as mining, manufacturing, transportation and energy with the industry-leading machine learning and data analytics of the Lumada portfolio. This helps clients modernize their operations through open systems, data intelligence, digitalization and material movement automation that are shaping the mining industry in the digital age.” 

Download a complimentary copy of the October 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Industrial IoT Platforms at https://www.hitachivantara.com/ext/gartner-magic-quadrant-for-iiot-platforms-2020.html (registration required). 

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