Rockwell Automation Joins Group Developing OPC UA over TSN

Rockwell Automation Joins Group Developing OPC UA over TSN

A small group of companies proposed a marketing initiative promoting OPC UA over a new Ethernet standard called Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) in 2017 at Hannover Messe. I was privileged to sit in a meeting to listen to the proposal and subsequently wrote a white paper about it. I believe this is revolutionary technology for the information part of manufacturing technology.

Meanwhile, Rockwell Automation is beginning to regularly surprise me. They first went out of their twice to talk about truly adopting OPC UA and introduced a module for its control platform using it. The company has a long standing reputation for getting involved in standards it doesn’t directly control for the purpose of delaying adoption. But this seemed like a genuine adoption of interoperability recognizing that customers are demanding freely flowing information from a variety of sources.Just to add to my surprise was an announcement I heard about at Hannover that Rockwell Automation has joined that group of OPC UA over TSN companies, now dubbed the “Shapers”. This group is rapidly moving toward critical mass with rumors swirling about companies not (yet) a part of it.

The press release (I haven’t yet had an interview) states Rockwell Automation is joining industry leaders ABB, Belden, Bosch Rexroth, B&R, Cisco, Hilscher, KUKA, National Instruments, Parker Hannifin, Phoenix Contact, Pilz, Schneider Electric, TTTech and WAGO (collectively known as Shapers) to create a communication solution for real-time and sensor-to-cloud applications in industrial operations.

The solution will be based on the OPC UA protocol, which allows easy and secure sharing of information across different vendor technologies and the time-sensitive networking (TSN) suite of standards, which helps improve latency and robustness in converged industrial networks.

“Connecting technologies across an industrial organization while maintaining multivendor interoperability requires a harmonized, interoperable solution that uses consistent information models, communication and application behavior (together known as application profiles),” said Paul Brooks, business development manager, Rockwell Automation.

“That’s what this group of automation leaders are combining their expertise to create. Our solution will give manufacturing and industrial organizations best-of-breed I/O device control, motion and safety application profiles,” said Sebastian Sachse, B&R Industrial Automation.

To ensure the emerging OPC UA TSN solution supports interoperability of different vendor technologies on the same network, the companies are engaging with industry consortia such as Avnu, IEEE, IIC, LNI 4.0 and OPC Foundation. The companies are also planning an announcement in the coming months on how to achieve unified application profiles, which is the last hurdle to device harmonization. They aim to provide one-stop-shop certification of the overall solution up to the device-profile level.

The companies have already published whitepapers on OPC UA TSN technology, such as an IIC whitepaper on converged traffic types. They have also made significant contributions to the recently released PubSub extension of OPC UA, and plan to set up a collaboration between the IIC and LNI testbeds.

This potentially holds great promise for end user companies and systems integrators. We can only hope it progresses.

Digital Transformation Leads To Digital Reinvention

Digital Transformation Leads To Digital Reinvention

“Digital Transformation is so last year. While many legacy companies around the world are still grappling with “transforming” their digital ecosystems, the true leaders are already on to next hot topic: Digital Transformation 2.0. We’ll call it ‘Digital Reinvention.’ ” Media relations agencies, aka PR agencies, must be under constant pressure to get messages published however they can. I’m flooded with teasers such as this one. And few, if any, take the time to know if their target is a good place for the news. It’s almost like there is no strategy other than send out as many promos as possible and hope some land.

Most I just delete. Then I get the inevitable follow up, when are you going to run my news (that probably doesn’t apply to your coverage but I need numbers)?

I bit on this one. Is Digital Reinvention an attempt to coin a new marketing phrase? Is it a real thing with a real definition? Dr. Google told me that the phrase has been around for several years, but it has not caught on. Maybe Rick Bullotta will catch on with Industry 4.5? (Search on LinkedIn)

The press release introduced me to Alfresco co-founder John Newton. He was quoted, “the whole notion of infinite computing, infinite storage, and resilience is just completely different.” Those changes are having a profound impact on how companies think about their future. Cloud adoption is happening at the speed of light as companies embrace the idea that they are no longer limited by server space. Responsive design and responsive applications are driving not just apps, but the entire business model. Companies like Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit and the behemoth, Amazon, are taking those words to heart and constantly reinventing each day.

So, I talked with Newton. He mentioned they had done a survey on what companies were achieving with Digital Transformation, how fast they were growing—innovative, size, etc. That formed the foundation for his thoughts. He told me to look at platform, design, and business operations. How open are they to connecting to customers and suppliers. Innovators looked at Digital Transformation not as technology only but also as business operations stretching to customers and supply chain.

Newton called out ‘design thinking’ that looks from the users point of view to make technology human. Another type of today’s thinking is ‘open’—open source, open standards, open architecture. “This will trump all other forms. It is naturally attractive to customers. The more profound is platform thinking. This is dominating in the stock market. Five of the top 10 value companies are platform plays, including Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon. They have a long term relationship with customers. In manufacturing think after-service care, maintenance and service relationships. Product is almost a loss leader. Digital twin is part of the platform play, for example, using it to predict failures.

Twenty-five minutes into the conversation, Newton had not tried to sell me on Alfresco. I had looked him up and noted he had founded Documentuum before founding Alfresco. So, I had to ask. Always need to learn about new companies. “We help create and manage documents and processes,” he told me. “We have a different way of thinking—open, open source, architecture, cloud friendly, AWS templates, manage in a matter of minutes.” Sounds interesting. All of my favorite concepts.

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.

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