OPC UA Popular at Iconics Customer Conference

OPC UA Popular at Iconics Customer Conference

Iconics has been a long-time supporter of OPC Foundation and an early adopter of OPC UA. President Russ Agrusa has seen the power and benefits of OPC as an information model for open interchange of data among industrial automation devices.

Thomas Burke, president of the OPC Foundation presented a keynote on the technology and benefits of OPC UA and the status of working with a variety of protocols such as Time Sensitive Networking, MQTT, AMQP, and others. I have written a white paper on TSN and OPC that you can download here.

The company provides advanced web-enabled OPC UA certified visualization, analytics, and mobile software solutions for any energy, manufacturing, industrial or building automation application. OPC is obviously a popular topic with Iconics developers as revealed by the packed session and probing questions.

“Connected Intelligence is our theme at this year’s customer summit and it all about connectivity to every “thing” in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which is critical for today’s manufacturing, industrial, and building automation systems. The OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) is the core standard for Industry 4.0 and IIoT. ICONICS works closely with the OPC Foundation and its technical committees to help create new standards that have applications in many industries.

“As a member of the OPC Board of Directors, I am proud to promote its many specifications and wide-reaching standards for manufacturing, industrial, and building automation,” says Russ Agrusa, President and CEO of ICONICS.

“I have presented at many ICONICS Worldwide Customer Summits over the years and I find meeting the wide variety of ICONICS customers, partners, and integrators from around the world to be rewarding. ICONICS early support and extensive commitment to OPC for over 20 years has helped propel OPC to where it is today,” says Thomas Burke, President of the OPC Foundation.

The ICONICS community of partners, system integrators and customers will learn from top industry experts how the OPC Foundation is driving the next wave of solutions for Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things.

Takeaway: OPC UA has been recognized as an essential standard by Industie 4.0 in Germany and is a central technology for industrial data communication for software applications such as Iconics.

IIC and MESA Agree To Collaborate On Industrial Internet Standards

IIC and MESA Agree To Collaborate On Industrial Internet Standards

Looks like standards and interoperability week at The Manufacturing Connection. I once was pretty active with MESA and lately I’ve gotten to know the IIC. Both good organizations promoting best practices in industry. MESA is not a standards organization, though, but one that promotes Level 3 (MES/MOM) software applications. IIC has taken a leadership roll bringing Internet of Things people and companies together.

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA) International announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to work together to advance their shared interests. Under the agreement, the IIC and MESA will work together to align efforts to maximize interoperability, portability, security and privacy for the industrial Internet. That all sounds pretty vague and something like motherhood, but I applaud all steps toward collaboration.

Joint activities between the IIC and the MESA will include:

  • Identifying and sharing IIoT best practices
  • Realizing interoperability by harmonizing architecture and other elements
  • Collaborating on standardization
  • Collaboration in the areas of industrial analytics and asset performance management (APM)

MESA’s President, Mike Yost, said, “This partnership makes good business sense, with the Industrial Internet Consortium advocating for the broad adoption of industrial Internet technologies and with MESA educating manufacturers and solution providers of all sizes on both how and why to adopt them. Collaborating with the IIC also helps ensure MESA members and IIC members have a common vocabulary and a common understanding of business value.”

“We look forward to working with the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Enterprise Association,” said Wael William Diab, IIC Chair of the Liaison Working Group. “Within the manufacturing vertical, industrial analytics and asset intelligence systems enable manufacturers to realize the value of their industrial IoT systems by analyzing and acting on data to increase asset reliability and availability and reduce maintenance. Collaborating on industrial analytics and asset performance management will help to further advance industrial IoT in manufacturing environments.”

MESA and the IIC have agreed to meet regularly to exchange information and have targeted a joint workshop on industrial analytics and asset performance management for Q4. The IIC Liaison Working Group is the gateway for formal relationships with standards and open-source organizations, consortia, alliances, certification and testing bodies and government entities/agencies.

The agreement with the MESA is one of a number of agreements made by the IIC’s Liaison Working Group.

Here is a little more information about the IIC.

The Industrial Internet Consortium maintains active relationships with standards development organizations, open-source organizations, other consortia and alliances, certification and testing bodies and government entities or agencies involved in the Industrial Internet.

The purpose of these relationships is to generate requirements for new standards from every part of the activities taking place within the Industrial Internet Consortium.

These relationships help eliminate duplication of effort and ensure that new standards and technologies necessary to build and enable the Industrial Internet are brought to market more rapidly.

By establishing a formal liaison with the Industrial Internet Consortium, organizations can engage directly with our Working Groups and gain faster access to developing requirements for standards and technologies required for the Industrial Internet across a spectrum of industries and applications.

The Industrial Internet Consortium itself is not a standards organization; however, it strongly advocates for open standard technologies in order to ease the deployment of connected technologies. Our Liaison Working Group is the gateway for the liaison relationships listed below and new ones forming now.

Internet of Things Sensor to the Cloud Testbed Announced

Internet of Things Sensor to the Cloud Testbed Announced

This is interoperability news day at The Manufacturing Connection with this announcement of an Internet of Things sensor-to-cloud testbed. This announcement also includes SAP (see other news today), along with TE Connectivity, ifm, and the OPC Foundation.

The objective of sensor-to-the-cloud connectivity is to make sensor data available to information technology (IT) systems in near real time, enabling advanced analytics. This is of particular interest to operators of existing manufacturing facilities, as it provides them with opportunities to increase efficiencies, e.g. through reductions in energy consumption.

This type of connectivity and use case has been forming for many years. All the pieces are coming together for a better application.

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has approved an IIC testbed on sensor-to-the-cloud connectivity called the “Smart Manufacturing Connectivity for Brownfield Sensors Testbed.” The testbed, led by IIC member TE Connectivity (TE), a world leader in connectivity and sensors, is being carried out with fellow IIC member SAP, the world leader in enterprise applications in terms of software and software-related service revenue, ifm, a worldwide leader in sensors, controllers and systems for automation, and the OPC Foundation, the foundation of the industrial interoperability standard OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA). The idea for the testbed was publicly unveiled at the Hanover Fair in April of this year.

Unlike new deployments, where the appropriate connectivity may be designed in from the beginning, smart solutions are required for these “brownfield” installations in order to enable easy integration at both the operational technology (OT) and the IT level to reduce downtime and save costs.

The Smart Manufacturing Connectivity for Brownfield Sensors Testbed will:

  • Introduce a retrofit hardware solution (the “Y-Gateway”) that makes use of existing physical connectivity
  • Extract sensor data from the automation system without impacting operations
  • Deliver the sensor data to SAP’s IT platform through a secure OT/IT communication based on OPC UA (IEC 62541)
  • Define and implement a common device model based on an available open standard to allow for the easy integration of an IO-Link sensor with IT, enabling the remote configuration of the sensor

“Testbeds are a major focus and activity of the IIC and its members,” said IIC Executive Director, Dr. Richard Soley. Our testbeds are where new technologies, applications, products, services and processes – the innovation and opportunities of the industrial Internet – can be initiated, thought through and rigorously tested to ascertain their usefulness and viability before coming to market.”

Podcast 153 – OPC, MQTT, Inductive Automation, Industrial Software

Podcast 153 – OPC, MQTT, Inductive Automation, Industrial Software

In this podcast, also viewable in video, I discuss the 2016 Ignition Customer Conference from Inductive Automation–and the pseudo competition between OPC UA and MQTT/Sparkplug. Mostly it’s all about getting the right information into your Industrial Software (HMI/SCADA) application.

It was interesting that spokespeople for the two communication technologies were at the same venue. There was an undercurrent of competition, although many seemed to think there was a place for each.

 

Also available as a podcast download or on iTunes, Amazon and other outlets.

Future of Industrial Software and HMI/SCADA at Inductive Automation

Future of Industrial Software and HMI/SCADA at Inductive Automation

The industrial software market has changed dramatically over the past 13 years. One market disruptor hails from just outside Sacramento, California. I still remember meeting Steve Hechtman at an ISA show probably in 2003. He talked about developing HMI/SCADA industrial software in an entirely new way.

He told me that Inductive Automation was developing software written in Java and using IT-friendly technologies. Not only that, he would have a business model that totally disrupted the prevalent licensing by seats.

steve-hechtman-at-icc-2016Hechtman greeted a capacity audience at the 2016 Ignition Customer Conference Sept. 19. The 430+ attendees exhausted the capacity of the Harris Center in Folsom, CA. The company has experienced double-digit growth every year since it started. It has been profitable every quarter since the launch of its flagship product, Ignition, in 2010. Privately held, it has no debt and no investors.

The company’s mission has been to reduce friction. Reduce friction to use the product, to buy the product, to develop using the product. Or, to quote from the presentation, “Our mission is to create industrial software that empowers our customers to swiftly turn great ideas into reality by removing all technological and economic obstacles.”

The technology allows for a 3-minute installation. It is scalable from a Raspberry Pi to enterprise servers.

Rather than calling Ignition HMI/SCADA software, Hechtman refers to it as a platform. Not only does Inductive Automation build modules to sit on it, the company makes it easy for customers to build, and even sell, modules, too. Part of that removing friction thing.

Hechtman brought up the IIoT and the hype surrounding it. The Gartner Hype Cycle plots a curve from early thoughts to euphoria plummeting to the trough of disillusionment to a partial recovery where 20%-30% of companies use and gain benefit from the technology. He suggested that Ignition builds a bridge over the trough of disillusionment to beneficial application of the IIoT.

don-pearson-at-icc-2016Chief Strategy Officer Don Pearson followed with the other theme of the week—IT/OT convergence. ”We’ve been doing that from the beginning,” he stated.

Most people have talked about driving convergence from the IT side. That’s all backwards according to Pearson. The OT side should drive the convergence partly through adopting IT-friendly technology and learning from IT folks about their strengths such as security.

One last sign of growth—the number of partners exhibiting in the foyer. More than I can list, but start with Opto 22, Bedrock Automation, Cirrus-Link, Seeq. The company has vision and drive. And financial stability.

Summary

Here is a link to an interview I recorded with two of the original developers–Colby Clegg and Carl Gould. Owner/President Steve Hechtman was in the room, but I don’t recall that he said anything. I threw a digital audio recorder on the conference room table in early 2011. The company has grown into new offices and is now looking for more office space since then.

There was a lot of buzz at the conference. There were people from many countries, but many also were from large manufacturing companies. Several large systems integrators brought several engineers. The organizers asked if I would lead a “meet up” or round-table discussion on Monday before the actual kickoff. Wow–there were several really smart people in attendance. It was a great geek discussion.

If you are involved with developing applications with industrial software, you should check out next year’s conference. Even if you are not a customer, it’s worth it just to learn from others who come.

 

OPC Foundation and OMAC Collaborate For IIoT Machine Communication

OPC Foundation and OMAC Collaborate For IIoT Machine Communication

September 14-15 found me back in Chicago for the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) and an IIoT conference sponsored by OMG and IIC. I’ll have several reports even though I fly to Sacramento Sunday for the Inductive Automation Ignition Customer Conference. (I’m writing this on Friday, but it may not get posted.)

Thomas BurkeTom Burke, OPC Foundation President and Executive Director, stopped me as I walked the aisle. He talked about the cool things happening with OMAC. I do not know the technical details, but OMAC wishes to specify (not sure of exact technical term) OPC UA into its PackML as its communications protocol.

Turns out this is much more significant than I gleaned from the press release. By the time I waded through the marketing general statements, I gave up on reading the rest. For some reason, marketing and/or PR people seem to want to hit every buzz word in the beginning of a release in order to show relevance or something and then bury the good stuff almost off-hand in the bottom of the text.

This is a significant advance for interoperability. There remains a stance in the industry for point solutions that may be based on open standards, but are explicitly not interoperable—everything is held within the kimono, so to speak. Interoperability benefits an entire industry. The more that end users buy according to interop, the faster the pace of adoption will be.

IIoT and Pack Expo

Look for OPC Foundation (booth N-4702), PLC Open (booth N-4703), and OMAC (booth N-4800) at Pack Expo the first week of November. Be sure to vote first! Personally, I am torn between going to a single-supplier event or this one. Both are too expensive for the lone entrepreneur. I’ll wind up with one, though.

The OPC Foundation provided a couple of bullet points about its news:

  • the results of joined collaboration between OPCF with OMAC about PackML mapping into OPC UA namespace
  • the results of joined collaboration between OPCF and PLCopen about IEC61131-3 PLCopen Client FB to allow initiating an OPC UA connection from inside the controller

OMAC and IIoT

Here is the news from OMAC. “The Organization for Machine Automation and Control (OMAC), OPC Foundation, and PLCopen are working together to help advance communications protocols necessary for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to succeed.

Interoperability among devices and machines that use different protocols is a significant challenge in realizing the full potential offered by the Industrial Internet of Things. By collaborating on companion specifications to the standards and protocols they’ve already developed OMAC, OPC Foundation, and PLCopen can advance the quality and efficiency of data sharing and communication at the machine and production line and up through the enterprise. Collaborative efforts by standards organizations, such as OMAC, OPC Foundation, and PLCopen, align with the Industrial Internet Consortium’s goal to ultimately identify and define building blocks for interoperability that make smart factories and IIoT possible.

“Standards are needed to support communications from machine-to-machine and from the plant floor to interfaces that will allow large scale data analytics and information transfer,” says John Kowal, a member of OMAC’s Board of Directors, co-chair of the Industrial Internet Consortium’s Smart Factory Task Group, and business development director for B&R Industrial Automation Corp. “It just makes sense for these organizations which have individually done so much to advance automated manufacturing to collaborate and avoid redundant developments.”

Here’s how the three automation standards leaders are bringing their efforts together. One of OMAC’s major initiatives has been promotion of the ISA-TR88.00.02 automation standard commonly known as PackML. The second generation was released last year. Manufacturers and machine builders worldwide have implemented ISA-TR88 on various control platforms to increase speed to production, ease packaging line integration and improve reliability. While PackML defines machine modes, states and tag naming conventions, it does not specify a communications protocol.

The OPC Foundation’s Unified Architecture (OPC UA) is an industrial interoperability framework. It delivers information modeling with integrated security, access rights, and all communication layers to provide plug and play machine-to-machine (M2M) communication inside factories. It is scalable across the plant floor and from sensor to IT enterprise and cloud scenarios. OPC and PLCopen recently worked together to define a set of function blocks to map the IEC 61131-3 global standard for industrial controls programming to the OPC UA information communication model. The latest version was released earlier this year. IEC 61131-3 is the only global standard for industrial control programming and is recommended by OMAC in its Packaging Guidelines document.

To take their efforts to the next level, OMAC and the OPC Foundation have established a taskforce to develop a companion specification for ISA-TR88/PackML and OPC UA by the end of 2016. The task force led by Sari Germanos, open automation manager for B&R Industrial Automation, includes members of OMAC and OPC Foundation from around the world. Participation is open to interested members of either organization.

“A standard communication protocol, used consistently across the industry, is vital for realizing the full benefits of automation standards such as ISA-TR88, which then can be a valuable data source for smart factories and the IIoT,” says Dr. Bryan Griffen, OMAC Chairman and Nestlé Group Engineering Manager. “A companion specification between ISA TR88 and OPC UA fills this need and builds on the work completed with PLCopen earlier this year. The opportunities to transform manufacturing as hardware and software solutions are integrated through consistently applied, standardized protocols are extraordinary. We’re pleased to be a part of those efforts worldwide.”

“Today, there is more reason than ever to believe that communications standards will proliferate, as the IIoT drives the need to flatten network communication architectures,” says OPC Foundation Director Thomas Burke. “Along with organizations like OMAC and PLCopen, we’re actively engaged to do just that.”

“By collaborating and ensuring the standards we’ve developed work together we ensure transparent and fully secured communication right out of the box with standardized access between any OPC client and server via a secure channel, independent from network architecture and protocol or machine type and controls,” says PLCopen Managing Director Eelco van der Wal.

 

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