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). 

Gartner Disclaimer

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. 

Industrial Internet Consortium Technical Report Defines Framework for Distributed Edge Computing

The trend du jour no doubt includes computing at the edge to enhance the Industrial Internet. This news from the Industrial Internet Consortium shows how companies working together can develop a common set of standard frameworks to assure interoperability.

Moving computing from the cloud to the edge increases the performance, trustworthiness, and efficiency of industrial IoT applications

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) announced the publication of the Industrial Internet of Things Distributed Computing in the Edge Technical Report. Designed for IoT system architects and implementers, the report describes a distributed computing framework that moves the capabilities of data center-based cloud computing closer to intelligent IoT devices at the edge.

“In edge computing, data, networking, storage, and computing are distributed throughout layers of edge computing nodes from IoT devices to the data center – distributing the economies of scale of cloud capabilities throughout the system,” said Chuck Byers, Co-Chair, IIC Distributed Computing Task Group, and Associate CTO of IIC. “The migration of cloud capabilities into the edge allows data, storage, and computation to gravitate to where it can be handled most efficiently, whether in a data center or the edge.” 

The technical report includes: 

  • A structural and functional framework for distributing computing in the edge
  • Definitions of key architectural concepts employed in distributed edge computing 
  • Essential capabilities of an edge system’s elements 
  • Security and management functions 
  • Essential interfaces for these elements 

System architects can use the framework as a template to derive a concrete distributed computing architecture. Operations technologists, information technologists, network and business managers can use the report to learn more about the essential elements and advantages of distributed computing in the edge.

“Distributed computing, and the nodes and edge systems that form its key components are essential to the success of organization’s critical IoT systems and digital transformation plans,” said John Zao, Co-Chair, IIC Distributed Computing Task Group. “By moving to a distributed edge computing architecture, organizations across industries can reduce costs and meet critical performance, trustworthiness, and efficiency requirements for their IoT applications.”

The Industrial Internet of Things Distributed Computing in the Edge Technical Report is free of charge. The technical report and a list of authors who contributed to it can be found on the IIC website

The Industrial Internet Consortium has the goal of accelerating adoption of a trustworthy internet of things. The Industrial Internet Consortium is a program of the Object Management Group (OMG).

Agility is the Key in IIoT

KC Liu, founder and CEO of Advantech, the Taiwan-based electronics company, has always been a sort of philosopher/businessperson. Over the 20 years or so that I’ve followed the company several books have added to my library thanks to him. The company continues to build on its base of Adam I/O modules and industrial computers. But Liu continues to conceive new strategies and technology directions to keep the company fresh and interesting.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, yes, the first day of autumn, I sat in on a global press conference at 6 am my time followed by a few hours of presentations. And, once again, the companies that provide the infrastructure for virtual conferences and the companies that use them deserve commendation for well-planned and executed events.

Data, cloud, app marketplace, ecosystem, partners, Platform-as-a-Service were key concepts as executives explained where Advantech plays in the IoT market—industrial, smart cities, and more.

“Agile innovation in the area of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will be the key in driving forward digital transformation in industrial applications into 2021 and beyond,” said Advantech IIoT President, Linda Tsai, to more than 2,000 delegates at the company’s first ever global IIoT Virtual Summit, entitled ‘Connecting Industrial IoT Innovation’.

Ms. Tsai explained: “Figures from IDC suggest that by 2025, there will be 41.6 billion IoT devices in use worldwide, generating 79.4 zettabytes of data. Connected devices will pervade every aspect of our personal and business lives, and a complex mix of technology and infrastructure will be more crucial than ever to harnessing the power of the data generated by these devices. 

“As a leader in embedded computer systems for industrial applications, Advantech is leading the way in developing more powerful edge computing solutions which are compatible with all types of IIoT devices as well as data centers and cloud providers and can aggregate these vast quantities of data, allowing users to optimize operational effectiveness in their facilities.”

Much of Advantech’s pioneering work in this area centers on its strategy of co-creation: collaborating closely with systems integrators and developers to create edge solution-ready platforms (Edge SRP’s) or IApps (Industrial Applications) to make digital transformation as rapid and simple as possible. Advantech can support optimization in areas from iFactory to industrial equipment manufacturing (IEM), industrial AI, smart automation, transportation, energy & environment and iLogistics.

Ms Tsai went on to identify six key technology trends for 2021: digital transformation, 5G, decoupling, device-to-cloud digitalisation, empowered edge and artificial intelligence (AI).

“According to the GSMA Mobile Economy 2019 Report, 5G will contribute more than US$2 trillion to the global economy up to 2035, of which 35 per cent will go to the manufacturing and utilities sectors. Meanwhile, research from MarketsandMarkets estimates the value of AI in the manufacturing at US$17.2 billion by 2025.

“Advantech has developed an extensive portfolio of AI platforms including edge AI systems, sensors and inference servers, as well as deep learning training servers, to assist customers in exploiting the potential of AI. Meanwhile, in the area of device-to-cloud, we are again at the forefront of innovation, with solutions including private cloud solutions, industrial APP, edge intelligence software and cross-platform middleware – all specifically developed to combining optimised computing with robust and reliable performance in even the most demanding environments.”

“There is no getting away from the fact that digital transformation will impact every manufacturer in the world in the years to come, and harnessing the power of data will be critical to competitiveness as we move from Industry 4.0 and towards Industry 5.0. Our global Summit has brought together partners from across the world to find the best ways to collaborate and exploit the power of new and emerging technologies, to optimise efficiency, performance and commercial success.”

Jash Bansidhar, managing director of Advantech Europe, added: ““The macro strategy of driving Industrial IoT development through the adoption of AI, 5G and edge computing is central to the further adoption and exploitation of IoT technologies. Our mission continues to be to work with ecosystem partners to deliver sustainable success in the post-pandemic era.”

Another Well Done Virtual Conference—Ignition Community Conference

Just to keep my perspective in balance, I attended a national soccer referee instructor virtual training. It was terrible. The presenters were not familiar with the technology and the presentation was incoherent.

Therefore, what a joy to attend another well done industrial technology conference. The Ignition Community Conference sponsored by Inductive Automation was Tuesday Sept. 15, but you can click the link and see the presentations for a while. I attended two other conferences (unfortunately not the Apple one) and therefore ran out of time to watch more today. But, I’ll be back to catch other presentations.

Chief Marketing Officer Don Pearson always has a relevant quote to serve as a theme for the conference. “Let’s stop trying to predict the future; let’s build it!” Stop and ponder.

The Ignition platform has greatly expanded over the years without losing the core ideas founder Steve Hechtman first explained to me in 2003. Built upon IT-friendly technology with a core strategy of unlimited licensing, the result is a robust HMI/SCADA offering that is affordable. [Note: Inductive Automation is a sponsor, but I’ve been a fan since long before that happened.]

They call it a “community conference” because they consider themselves, their customers, and their partners as a community. And when they gather physically (and even virtually), the people all act like a community. I always enjoy the conference feeling.

Hechtman discussed how the executive team met at the very beginning of hearing about the pandemic to begin preparing for remote work. Among other things they bought a lot of laptop computers. As things went along, they discovered that overall everyone was more productive working remotely. This will become a new way of life for most at the company. 

Preparing for business in the Covid environment, they improved the support function and added more people. They improved remote training–and a significant number of customers would prefer to continue remote training although many still wish to return to in-person classes when it’s possible. 

Speakers extolled the stories returning about how people are using the Maker edition unveiled in June. Ignition Perspective is another key new product that serves as a base for the main product Ignition 8.1. 

Key themes included filling out the promise of IoT broached back in 2016, mobility, remote control, large enterprise solutions, and working with AWS and Azure. Inductive has come a long way.

Ignition 8.1 is a release that will be supported five years. Its development them was refining version 8.0 released last year. It’s vision is based on Perspective. They worked to make it the best visualization platform. Perspective makes it easier to create in a variety of platforms–including the new Workstation edition. It’s now not only Web-based, but also has this Workstation edition to enhance speed. They have developed an easier-to-use and improved symbol library. They’ve added first-party Docker support. Plus a Quick Start application to help people new to the platform to get configured and ready to use.

Be sure to visit the ICC website and examine all the use cases and partners.

An IIoT Solution for Smart Manufacturing

I doubt that there exists a useful pure Industrial Internet of Things (IioT) solution. Simply putting a number of devices on an IP network solves little. However, combining IIoT with data analytics and visualization offers useful solutions to managers and engineers. Even better is the current trend toward making these solutions easier to install. This solution says it has all that.

Litmus, the Intelligent Edge Computing company, announced a partnership with Oden Technologies, a company helping manufacturers make faster and better decisions through machine learning and advanced analytics. Together, Litmus and Oden offer a turnkey solution for Smart Manufacturing including out-of-the-box data acquisition from any machine, advanced analytics, and machine learning to drive greater production efficiency.

Litmus Edge data intelligence platform collects, normalizes, and analyzes high volumes of live data from industrial assets making it available to OT and IT systems via edge-to-enterprise integration.  Oden provides big data compute engine and machine learning, real-time, and predictive process metrics.

“We can get customers up and running by connecting to any machine and collecting data in minutes, then integrate that data with Oden so customers can see proven predictive and prescriptive applications to deliver value in under 30 days,” said John Younes, co-founder and COO of Litmus. “Litmus provides intelligence at the edge, and Oden provides the cloud-based analytics and machine learning necessary to predict and prevent problems, then prescribe actions that lead to better business decisions.”

Litmus Edge is deployed at the Edge with more than 250 pre-built drivers to connect to any PLC, CNC, sensor, robotic system, or SCADA/MES/Historian with no programming, then processes and normalizes the data automatically. Litmus feeds clean data to the Oden Industrial AI Platform, which offers real-time metrics and reporting along with predictive quality, performance optimization and other automated insights. Litmus Edge then runs those machine learning models back at the assets for continuous improvement and closed loop control back to the assets.

“With Litmus + Oden, customers can create a complete source of truth for all production data,” said Willem Sundblad, Cofounder and CEO of Oden Technologies. “We are excited to partner with Litmus to deliver increased operational visibility and automated insights that help customers reduce waste, optimize performance and maximize profitability across the factory floor.”

Pricing for Litmus + Oden is based on the number of manufacturing processes and the number of sites deployed.