Family of Wireless I/O Solutions for Industrial M2M Automation and Control

Family of Wireless I/O Solutions for Industrial M2M Automation and Control

Industrial automation networkingTrue to my word about accelerating IoT announcements, here is one about wireless IO. FreeWave Technologies Inc.., a leader in industrial, secure Machine to Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) wireless networking solutions, released the WaveContact product family. The new product family expands FreeWave’s wireless I/O solutions for industrial M2M and IoT applications in remote hazardous locations. WaveContact extends reliable connectivity to sensor networks across wide areas and simplifies the M2M network setup for the Oil and Gas, Factory Automation, Industrial Control, Water/Wastewater, Smart Grid, Government and Defense and Agriculture industries.

“As industrial markets focus more on safety, automation and improving operational efficiencies, the demand for intensive monitoring, measurement and process control has naturally followed,” explained Glenn Longley, senior product manager for I/O and software at FreeWave Technologies. “The WaveContact family of industrial M2M wireless I/O solutions are ruggedized for use in hazardous environments, and offers connectivity with many devices and I/O applications over both short and long distances simultaneously.”

Two New I/O Offerings

Industrial markets require simple, yet dependable monitoring and control of M2M devices over distances to maximize the value of production assets. The WaveContact product family adds to FreeWave’s extensive I/O solutions by providing customers with end-to-end wireless networking capabilities for any environment where process automation is needed.

 WaveContact 10i EndPoint

The WaveContact 10i EndPoint is a Class 1, Division 1 (C1D1) certified wireless I/O solution that delivers a versatile design for enabling multiple process automation and control capabilities for hazardous locations. Designed with a self-contained, explosion-proof enclosure, it combines the versatility of up to six analog voltage inputs and an RS485 interface. The 10i EndPoint includes a rechargeable battery and integrated solar panel, and a 1 watt 900 MHz or 500 mW 2.4 GHz wireless M2M communication module. It is a complete solution designed for easy installation, thus eliminating any significant integration work.

 WaveContact 50i Data Concentrator

The WaveContact 50i Data Concentrator aggregates telemetry from multiple sensors and other wireless M2M devices for simple and flexible connectivity to a data center or SCADA network. With both serial and Ethernet connections over wired or wireless connections, the Data Concentrator serves as an M2M gateway to the 10i Endpoints, other FreeWave wireless I/O modules, and also provides outstanding functionality as a Serial Radio Master for connecting serial devices with existing FGR/FGR2 (900 MHz) or GX/I2 (2.4 GHz) FreeWave networks. It provides a built-in terminal server for hard-wired Ethernet connections, Modbus TCP to Modbus RTU translation and Ethernet I/O.

“As the industrial IoT rapidly expands in usage and complexity, FreeWave remains committed to providing highly reliable, long range M2M connectivity – from remote sensor networks dispersed in the field to the corporate office,” said Ashish Sharma, CMO of FreeWave Technologies. “The new WaveContact family allows our customers to deploy IO anywhere it is needed, thus enabling greater visibility and control of production assets for real-time decision-making.”

What The Industrial Internet Means Now

What The Industrial Internet Means Now

Talk of Internet of Things / Industrial Internet / Connected Enterprise is growing. Consumer applications are partly to blame. Wearables for health and fitness and home automation are major consumer applications attracting attention and investment dollars.

The industrial case dates from at least 1999 when the cellular carriers were looking for new markets to sell data transmission (not foreseeing the smartphone boom). There was something called SCADA that used dial-up modems, FHSS radios and maybe T1 lines to send data from remote locations to a central command. Cellular could carry the data just as well — well, almost, because back in that day cell phone quality and dropped calls were a problem. Not like today. This was called M2M–Machine-to-Machine or Machine-to-Mobile.

The Internet and TCP/IP won. Now we see many companies jumping on the IoT bandwagen. We’re still defining what all the benefits will be, but we are certain that there will be many. GE calls this the Industrial Internet.

The GE Intelligent Platforms Business user conference, an occasional gathering, pops up on the radar in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I will not be there. A one-man shop can’t hit every conference. Especially a bootstrapping startup like this one. An interview with Rich Carpenter, Chief Technology Officer of GE IP became the next best thing to being there.

Rich described a progression that I’m beginning to see more of: collect data–>store data–>analyze (say for predictive maintenance)–>diagnose why things are not 100%–>recommendations that we’ve seen this before and here’s what you need to fix it.

Carpenter told me, “We still feel there’s a lot to be learned. We’re good at collecting data. Good at storing. We even can analyze for future failures. In some equipment, we can be 99.9%. But, we’re at best 30%-50% in diagnosing why. And we are really at 0%-10% on giving a recommendation on we’ve seen this before and here’s what you need to fix it.

He continues, “Our Smart Signal product that does predictive diagnostics has proven to be good. What’s happening these days is we’re changing from pushing it and doing pilots to where customers are saying ‘Wow this works, we have to have it.’ The reason is simple, every company if left on its own goes through this maturity curve. First, a guy goes out to feel asset. But that doesn’t scale. So we begin to remotely monitor, but still have to go out. Then we analyze and set limits for alarms. But those have problems. Then we add more intelligence like Smart Signal looking at the relationship among 20 variables and now you can predict better. Now you can start planning downtime–not wasting time and dollars due to unstable operations.”

Regarding what competencies are required, “First is platforms. We are trying to master cloud development paradigm. With the evolution of hardware power, we have to master massive parallel compute figuring out what it means to have infinite disk space. Second is around big data. That is an overused term. We look at it as volume of data. It also is a data variety problem–written notes, logs, genealogies, need to correlate and at ecosystem level. Third, expertise is needed user experience (not interface). How do you understand what problem customer is trying to solve and not just add new features. We hired 60-70 people to work on that. Then data science. How can we tease out insights from all the data and identify algorithms. Then cyber security–secure by design. Finally machine learning, model based control, sensor analytics.”

Then at last we need to think about the entirety of manufacturing. Carpenter, “We think these systems–ERP, PLM,MES–can no longer operate in silos. We have a close relationship with PTC. We are working to close the loop from design to manufacture. Then we have to look at the supply chain as just a step in the manufacturing process. Have the MES look at the whole chain and avoid things like incoming inspection.

What The Industrial Internet Means Now

Industrial Internet of Things Advances With Partnership Agreement

A client recently discussed the impacts of the Internet of Things on its business. I mentioned that if you look at the entire system, you have to consider both all the inputs from the huge variety of sensors and the data collection, analysis, and presentation that make sense of the whole thing.

Add that idea to GE’s emphasis corporate-wide on what it calls the “Industrial Internet,” and you can understand the basics behind this partnership agreement. I expect to see many more acquisitions, partnerships and collaborations around the IoT in the next two years. If you are a small and innovative company (think ThingWorx and Axeda, for example), this is going to be an ideal time to position yourself for a sweet buy out.

GE’s Measurement & Control business announced a minority equity investment in Meridium. The companies intend to enter into a joint development and distribution agreement that will integrate Meridium’s asset performance management (APM) software and GE’s Bently Nevada System 1 Asset Condition Monitoring (ACM) technology.

From the press release:

GE’s System 1 ACM technology is part of the Bently Nevada product line that produces machine condition sensors, data acquisition hardware and software. Meridium’s APM aggregates data from System 1 and other plant maintenance systems to provide plant engineers with a dashboard of reliability metrics. This new Industrial Internet software offering will enable condition-based maintenance with pinpoint precision, in near real-time, resulting in an estimated 10-30 percent in maintenance cost reduction. This is a critical capability for customers in the Oil and Gas, Power Generation, Hydrocarbon Processing and other asset intensive industries.

“The way we do business is being dramatically altered in the era of the Industrial Internet. We are realizing the increased productivity and efficiency gains from big data and analytics delivered in real-time. The partnership with Meridium will increase value for our customers, allowing them to quantify risk in a near real-time manner. We are unlocking the value of condition-based maintenance, which will lead to reduced maintenance costs, increased mechanical availability and less downtime for our customers,” said Art Eunson, General Manager of GE’s Bently Nevada product line.

“Working with GE across mutual clients over many years taught us that together we could produce additional significant tangible value through collaboration and interfaces,” said Bonz Hart, Meridium’s Founder and CEO. “As we looked at the strengths of each company and our rapidly expanding global markets, working closer together made sense for our clients and to better serve our markets. GE’s Bently Nevada operates in a multi-OEM and multi-system world, as does Meridium, so we’re also tightly aligned on strategy. GE’s minority investment allows Meridium to stay focused on innovation and support our global growth.”

The investment aligns closely with GE’s focus on leading the Industrial Internet by connecting intelligent machines, advanced analytics, and people at work. The combination of ACM and APM will allow customers to derive more value from big data through contextually relevant insight into asset performance and plant operations. By connecting sensors to maintenance management systems, customers also gain the ability to better manage their reliability strategy and operational risk.

What The Industrial Internet Means Now

Internet of Things Market Consolidation Continues

The Internet of Things conversation for industrial/manufacturing application is certainly picking up steam.

Meanwhile, I’m really intrigued by what PTC is up to. It recently acquired ThingWorx, now it has announced acquisition of Axeda.

PTC is a company usually identified as “product lifecycle management” which is usually a term referring to design. The major players include Siemens PLM and Dassault Systemmes. I’ve tried covering each, and I’ve somehow always been impressed but failing to see great relevance in the market areas I typically cover.

This PTC foray into IoT is intriguing. Does this mean it will become more of a factory floor player, as well as encroaching into IT?

From the release:

PTC has signed a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held Axeda Corporation, a pioneer in the development of solutions to securely connect machines and sensors to the cloud, for approximately $170 million in cash. “Axeda’s technology innovation, extensive customer base, and powerful partnerships directly complement the PTC ThingWorx business, and will accelerate PTC’s ability to deliver best-in-class solutions across the entire Internet of Things technology stack.” Subject to satisfaction of customary closing conditions and certain regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to be completed in PTC’s fiscal Q4 2014.

Secure connectivity, and the ability to leverage machine data to create new business value, are critical components of the Internet of Things (IoT) technology stack and are in increasing demand as more companies pursue a smart, connected product strategy. An innovator in the IoT technology market, Axeda currently serves more than 150 customers, processing hundreds of millions of machine messages daily across multiple industry sectors. The company has a broad partner ecosystem that includes leading mobile network operators, edge device and design-in device makers, systems integrators, and business systems/analytics providers and its technology leadership lead to several strategic OEM agreements with leading IoT technology and solution providers.

“The world we live in is changing around us, and the pace of that change is accelerating as more and more machines, sensors, and products connect via the Internet to their makers, to their operators, and to each other,” said PTC president and CEO Jim Heppelmann. “In recent years, products have become tremendous sources of intelligence as they have been increasingly instrumented with sensors. Until now, manufacturers have been constrained in their ability to securely collect that data and make sense of it all. Axeda’s innovative approach to machine connectivity delivers exactly what manufacturers need to capitalize on the massive amounts of data now available from their smart, connected products.”

Core to Axeda’s IoT technology is the ability to enable companies to establish secure connectivity and remotely monitor and manage a wide range of machines, sensors, and devices. The Axeda Machine Cloud Service includes machine-to-machine (M2M) and IoT connectivity services, software agents, and toolkits that enable companies to connect their products to the cloud using virtually any communication channel (e.g. cellular networks, the Internet, WiFi, or satellite). Axeda’s end-to-end security strategy covers all levels of the IoT technology stack, including network, application, user, and data security. Axeda has attained ISO 27001:2005 certification, supporting the company’s focus on delivering the highest levels of security, performance, and availability.

In addition, the Axeda Connected Machine Management application set empowers companies to remotely monitor and service products, including the ability to deliver over-the-air software updates.

“Axeda was early to see the potential of the IoT space and we consider ourselves a true market innovator,” said Todd DeSisto, president and CEO, Axeda. “Our technology solutions enable companies to connect to, and manage machines and the data they generate to create new business opportunities. We share PTC’s vision for the transformative power of smart, connected products and are excited to contribute to PTC’s leadership position in this fast growing market.”

In the IoT era, PTC’s customers are developing increasingly smart and connected products which can generate value in new ways as streams of real-time operational data are captured, analyzed, and shared to deepen a company’s understanding of its products’ performance, use, and reliability. PTC intends to leverage the Axeda technology portfolio to complement its existing ThingWorx® rapid application development platform and its existing service lifecycle management (SLM) and extended product lifecycle management (PLM) solution portfolio.

“In less than a year, PTC has quickly scaled to a position of leadership in helping manufacturers seize the opportunity presented by a smart, connected world,” concluded Heppelmann. “We believe the combination of ThingWorx, Axeda and our existing SLM and PLM solution portfolio, will establish PTC as the only provider of true closed-loop lifecycle management solutions for the Internet of Things.”

The acquisition is expected to add $25 million to $30 million of revenue in FY’15. PTC expects to draw on its credit facility to finance the transaction. Axeda has approximately 160 employees primarily located in the United States.

Marketplace for Internet of Things

Marketplace for Internet of Things

Marketplace for IoT

I think I first met Russ and Rick, the founders of ThingWorx, about 15 years ago at a National Manufacturing Week trade show (remember those?) as they were launching Lighthammer—a data connectivity product that has worked out well for eventual owner, SAP.

They came back with a new start up a few years ago named ThingWorx. This company provides a platform designed to efficiently build and run the applications of today’s connected world. Its model-based design and search-based intelligence reduces application development efforts by 10X, minimizing cost, risk and time to market. The ThingWorx platform combines the key functionality of Web 2.0, search, and social collaboration, and applies it to the world of “things,” including connected products, machines, sensors, and industrial equipment.

This idea of connecting the world of things intrigues me. We’ve discussed it for years, but I think that we as an industry are nearing critical mass where things begin talking with things and humans interact simply to direct processes and make critical decisions.

ThingWorx announced Nov. 18 the immediate availability of the ThingWorx Marketplace. The ThingWorx Marketplace is a global platform that enables developers, hardware and software providers, and systems integrators to build value-added IoT/M2M components and make them available to a broad range of companies.

“The ThingWorx Marketplace is a first mover in an exciting new niche with vast potential,” stated Emil Berthelsen, Principal Consultant at Machina Research. “Through application extensibility, ThingWorx Marketplace aims to deliver a comprehensive and complete apps store that allows developers to integrate with other systems, devices, industries and partners in a quick, seamless, and highly intuitive way.”

The ThingWorx Marketplace offers a wide range of components and services that are required for innovative M2M and IoT applications, including: widgets, analytics, application templates, device connectors, protocol adapters, and integrations to device clouds, provisioning platforms, enterprise systems, and big data stores. These components are built by ThingWorx, ThingWorx partners, independent hardware and software vendors, and third party developers.

“As a ThingWorx Partner, we are excited about the release of the ThingWorx Marketplace,” stated Alicia Asín, Co-Founder and CEO of Libelium. “The Marketplace provides us with a venue for making our sensor products and Meshlium Cloud platform front and center to a global ecosystem of M2M and Internet of Things developers and solution providers.”

The ThingWorx marketplace provides value to all members of the M2M/IoT value chain including:

  • Enterprise Customers – deploy a private instance of the Marketplace, to simplify sharing of internally developed applications, application templates, analytics, visualizations and services.
  • ThingWorx Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) Partners – deploy a private labeled instance of the Marketplace, to simplify sharing of partner specific applications, analytics, visualizations and services.
  • Marketplace Partners – an opportunity to make a company’s intellectual property available to customers on a global basis, offering new ways to promote and monetize their offerings.

“We are excited about the launch of the ThingWorx Marketplace,” stated Russ Fadel, CEO of ThingWorx. “With the predicted 50 billion connected ‘things’ by 2020, we believe there will need to be at least 5 million applications created to drive value. Our Marketplace will provide the next significant improvement in application development efficiency by providing a global market with the building blocks necessary to rapidly assemble these applications.”

Marketplace for Internet of Things

Automation Perspectives of Rockwell Automation

This is day two of my journey into Rockwell Automation land. I attended parts of the Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) yesterday and had many valuable hallway conversations.

Rockwell presents an annual media day on the day before Automation Fair—the huge trade show devoted to Rockwell and its partners. Rockwell executive intend this meeting to present key trends and drivers of manufacturing (and production if you are a semantic purist) to assembled media and analysts. This morning Keith Nosbusch, CEO, presented his vision of the future based on the connectivity inherent in the Internet of Things. Looking at his theme of “The Connected Enterprise,” I could not have chosen a better name for my new business (The Manufacturing Connection, in case you got here by mistake).

Here are few highlights of Nosbusch’s talk.

“We are at an inflection point driven by convergence of control and information technologies including IoT that we call ‘The Connected Enterprise.’ “


* Population growth, 70 million people annually will become middle class adding to consumer spend thus requiring the manufacture of more goods;
* This places increased demand on industrial prodution putting stress on more water, more vehicles, more steel, more energy, commodity scarcity;
* Higher standard of living and quality of life demands a more productive, sustainable enterprise.


* Cloud-traffic will increase 6x in 2 years necessitating more bandwidth, infrastructure developent;
* Mobility-standard IP-based networking facilitates, device and people connectivity and collaboration;
* Big data analysis-to support collaboration, decision-making, note that manufacturing generates more big data than any other sector;
* Smart things-data has been trapped in the assets due to proprietary and closed networks and systems, integrated control and information solutions from Rockwell exist with standard networking protocols to enable analytics and distribution of information;
* Security-common secure network is a key component of the connected enterprise from the plant to business applications.

Analysts think the economy of the Internet of Things could reach $14 Trillion within just a couple of years.

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