Supporting Deployment of Private Wireless Edge, 4G and 5G Networks

I am not a 5G specialist, nor even attempting to be one. But in my interviewing thus far, I see that there are many attributes to the technology beyond your mobile phone. I’ve already talked with at least one CEO about private networks for industrial applications.

During the course of my career, I’ve seen less dependence in production and manufacturing on specialized proprietary technologies and additional adoption of commercial technologies. Often without extensive morphing by industrial suppliers. Therefore, more often I’m dealing with suppliers whose products and services transcend industry segment. Such as the time I’m spending with IT suppliers. Watch for this trend to increase.

Recently I have communicated with a company quite new to me who has just leased two announcements of interest. Quortus Ltd, a provider of innovative private edge, 4G and 5G network solutions, announced recently it has secured strategic investment from Communications Systems, Inc., a US-based IoT intelligent edge products and services company (CSI), and cellXion Ltd, a UK-based provider of specialist telecoms solutions to drive its ongoing global expansion and technology innovation.

The injection of capital will allow Quortus to accelerate its growth in North America, Europe, and Japan by capitalizing on the growing demand for private wireless networks across all market sectors.

Quortus creates agile and feature-rich private wireless networks for enterprises, industry, and government organizations, supporting many Industry 4.0 applications and bespoke use cases across a wide variety of vertical sectors including manufacturing, retail, and utilities.

In tandem with the funding news, Quortus today also launched a new and complementary product portfolio, supporting the deployment of private wireless networks spanning 5G, LTE(4G), 3G, and GSM.

“These announcements mark a major milestone for Quortus. We have just enjoyed a successful year, signing long-term contracts with some of the biggest technology companies in the world. We now have a fantastic opportunity, working in close strategic partnership with CSI and cellXion, to grow our position in private wireless network solutions,” says Mark Bole, CEO at Quortus. “We are perfectly placed to capitalize on the growing global demand and spectrum availability for private wireless networks and have the product capabilities, working with our channel partner ecosystem, to deliver significant competitive advantage to organizations in our target markets.”

Roger Lacey, CEO of CSI noted, “This strategic partnership with Quortus and cellXion will provide our mutual clients with a range of comprehensive solutions designed to help build their mobile edge capabilities as well as supporting a wide array of industrial IoT initiatives.”

The new product portfolio includes:

  • ECX Core range for private mobile networks targeting Enterprise and Industrial
  • ECX Edge range for private edge (MEC) network deployments
  • ECX Pack range for private mobile networks in Government, blue light and defence sectors
  • ECX Access range for managed access solutions in secure facilities and defined areas
  • ECX Gateway range for optimization of distributed private mobile networks

Bole continues: “The range of our product portfolio highlights the scale of the exciting global opportunity we face. Our technology helps organizations benefit from advancements like mobile edge computing, industrial IoT applications and helps them maximize the benefits of private 5G. We look forward to continuing to bring innovation to market, through our select and highly valued global partner network.”

Industry analysts SNS Telecom and IT expect global spending on private LTE and 5G networks to reach $4.7 billion by the end of this year – a number which it expects to almost double to nearly $8 billion by the end of 2023.

Hitachi Vantara Expands Digital Manufacturing Portfolio

Many companies emphasize their response to the current Covid-19 pandemic and some leave behind the core announcements or benefits. This announcement (and a interview and webinar) from Hitachi Vantara, the digital infrastructure and solutions subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., is an example. The company has brought in another company group, Hitachi Consulting, and has organized expanded offerings specifically relating to manufacturing.

The new consulting and software group within Hitachi Vantara help manufacturers accelerate Manufacturing 4.0 (or Industrie 4.0, or Smart Manufacturing, or name your brand) initiatives. One other strategy I’ve briefly touched on is the difficulty of safely restarting production in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will not be easy and will require thought, planning, and changes to policies, procedures, layouts, and workflow.

Hitachi Vantara’s new manufacturing practice and its expanded portfolio of digital manufacturing solutions, services and consulting services aims to help manufacturers adapt to these immediate challenges. It also promises to help manufacturers lay the foundations for the digitalization of health, safety and environment (HS&E), asset insights, predictive quality, and operations optimization.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing a litany of challenges for manufacturers that highlight how important unlocking data and digital industrial innovation is to the industry’s future,” said James Destro, general manager, Manufacturing Practice, Hitachi Vantara. “With our powerful IT and OT experience, Hitachi Vantara can uniquely inspire, envision, architect and accelerate digital transformation that solves today’s challenges and prepares manufacturers for the challenges of tomorrow.”

Lumada Video Analytics for Smart Spaces Address a Safe Return to Production

Worker health and safety are primary concerns for manufacturers restarting their operations. The expanded portfolio of digital solutions for manufacturing from Hitachi Vantara includes health, safety and environment solutions leveraging Lumada Video Insights technologies which can be configured for safety applications such as elevated body temperature identification and hand washing detection.

Thermal cameras and Lidar technology can detect the temperature of a person from a distance, so that workers can non-intrusively be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 and workspaces can be monitored for compliance with distancing recommendations.

Practice Helps Manufacturers Lay Foundations for Digital Transformation

COVID-19 has revealed many manufacturers’ overreliance on manual processes and operations, and the lack of visibility that many manufacturing line managers and executives have into their supply chains. Modernizing and digitalizing such capabilities will be essential for manufacturers to recover from the pandemic quickly, and to creating the more agile and resilient manufacturing operations needed in the future. This is another focus of Hitachi Vantara’s new manufacturing practice.

Hitachi’s manufacturing innovations, enterprise-class information technology, and intellectual property – coupled with deep, industry-specific consulting expertise and proven methods to accelerate time to value– enable customers to operationalize digital innovation in a secure, deployment-agnostic, and end-to-end approach. Hitachi Vantara’s outcome-focused consulting process breaks down barriers between OT and IT teams to craft comprehensive solutions that deliver transformative outcomes.

Hitachi Vantara Expands Lumada Manufacturing Insights Portfolio

Hitachi Vantara further announced the expansion of Lumada Manufacturing Insights solutions with new domains that help manufacturers address health, safety and environment, supply chain optimization, asset insights, predictive quality, and operations optimization.

Lumada Manufacturing Insights is a portfolio of industrial internet-of-things (IoT) solutions that empowers manufacturers to achieve operational improvements through data-driven insights. The portfolio delivers benefits such as improved overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), superior operations efficiency, and product quality optimization through predictive and prescriptive insights.

The new solutions introduced today, coupled to Hitachi Vantara’s advisory and consulting services, enable manufacturers to connect production floor Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to create a ‘digital thread’ that provides complete visibility into the data of the organization.

Unified View of Data Center Operations

Schneider Electric’s roots are in electrical power. Known in the US through its acquisitions of Square D and APC, which were well known brands in building and IT power respectively. Of course it picked up Modicon a long time ago and more recently Foxboro on the control side. The software parts of its acquisitions were invested with AVEVA giving SE a majority stake in that engineering software firm.

The Schneider Electric and AVEVA ties are pretty strong as I have written before. This latest announcement blends AVEVA’s Unified Operations Center with SE’s EcoStruxure for Data Centers. The goal is to give data center operators a unified view across multiple sites. They will have the ability to connect disparate sites, platforms, and data sets to optimize how they view, operate and maintain their critical environments.

The new integration provides a homogenous view of engineering, operations, and performance so staff can make faster, more informed decisions to increase operation efficiency.

The intent further is to improve workforce productivity by standardizing and de-siloing systems and processes across multiple sites to deliver real-time decision making.

The rationale sees industrial organizations in all sectors producing vast amounts of data and, now more than ever, relying on data centers as the backbone of their operations. At a time when the world’s digital infrastructure is being pushed, a holistic view of all data center sites integrated with engineering, operations, and performance data can become a significant advantage for industrial companies to ensure their economic resilience.

I talked with Rashesh Mody, AVEVA SVP Monitoring and Control, who told me that as data centers are more geographically spread and complex today—with edge, regional, cloud installations—the problem is to connect sites, platforms, data sets in order to view, operative, maintain critical environments. Schneider Electric EcoStruxure for Data Centers are composed of three aspects of monitor and control: electrical power; IT racks, pods, A/C, security; and, building management. AVEVA unified operations center provides “single pane of glass” for all involved.

Schneider Electric seems to have completed it reorganization after several acquisitions—especially that of Invensys (Foxboro, Avantis, Wonderware, etc.) plus the AVEVA investment. Now it stands to reap dividends from gradually getting the pieces to develop together.

EdgeX Foundry Hits Milestone Downloads and Simplified Deployment

I have followed the Development of EdgeX Foundry since right after its inception talking with many of the founders at Hannover Messe three years ago. That’s when Dell (now Dell EMC) was developing an IoT and Edge Computing group—since disbanded. Dell was leading the charge for an open source platform as a way to build an ecosystem for providing value to customers and selling product.

EdgeX has come a long way. Here is the latest information in brief:

  • EdgeX’s sixth release (Geneva) offers more scalable and secure solutions to move more data faster from multiple edge devices to cloud, enterprise and on-premises applications.
  • As one of LF Edge’s Stage 3 Projects, EdgeX Foundry is seeing increased community growth and adoption and deployments.
  • New LF Edge project Open Horizon is building an integration project that will demonstrate automated delivery and lifecycle management of EdgeX Foundry as a containerized application.

EdgeX Foundry, a project under the LF Edge umbrella organization within the Linux Foundation that aims to establish an open, interoperable framework for IoT edge computing independent of connectivity protocol, hardware, operating system, applications or cloud, today announced a major milestone of hitting 5 million container downloads and the availability of its “Geneva” release. This release offers more robust security, optimized analytics, and secure connectivity for multiple devices.

“EdgeX Foundry is committed to developing an open IoT platform for edge-related applications and shows no signs of slowing down the momentum,” said Arpit Joshipura, general manager, Networking, Edge and IoT, the Linux Foundation. “As one of the Stage 3 projects under LF Edge, EdgeX Foundry is a clear example of how member collaboration and diversity are the keys to creating an interoperable open source framework across IoT, Enterprise, Cloud and Telco Edge.”

Launched in April 2017, and now part of the LF Edge umbrella, EdgeX Foundry is an open source, loosely-coupled microservices framework that provides the choice to plug and play from a growing ecosystem of available third-party offerings or to augment proprietary innovations. With a focus on the IoT Edge, EdgeX simplifies the process to design, develop and deploy solutions across industrial, enterprise, and consumer applications.

Currently, there are more than 170 unique contributors to the project and EdgeX Foundry averages one million container downloads a month, with a total of 5 million reached last month, and rising.

“The massive volume of devices coming online represents a huge opportunity for innovation and is making edge computing a necessity,” said Keith Steele, EdgeX Foundry Chair of the Technical Steering Committee. “With at least 50% of data being stored, processed and analyzed at the edge we need an open, cloud-native edge ecosystem enabled by EdgeX to minimize reinvention and facilitate building and deploying distributed, interoperable applications from the edge to the cloud. In 3 short years, EdgeX has achieved incredible global momentum and is now being designed into IOT systems and product roadmaps.”

The Geneva Release

As the sixth release in the EdgeX Foundry roadmap, Geneva offers simplified deployment, optimized analytics, secure connectivity for multiple devices and more robust security. Key features include:

  • Automate on-boarding: simplify, scale and quicken connection of devices by allowing automatic provisioning of devices
  • Improved Performance: A new rules engine that is written in Go for faster performance, a smaller footprint and more memory
  • Connectivity: Improved bandwidth utilization and efficiency through use of new batch and send capabilities provided in the App Functions SDK
  • Secure Authentication: Store and use/authenticate secrets to connect with cloud providers
  • Testing: New integration and backward compatibility testing along with enhanced security and blackbox testing

EdgeX Foundry works closely with several of the other LF Edge projects such as Akraino Edge Stack and new project Open Horizon. During this release cycle, EdgeX was made to work under the Akraino Edge Lightweight IOT (ELIOT) Blueprint and tested under the Akraino Community Lab.

Launched last month, Open Horizon is a platform for managing the service software lifecycle of containerized workloads and related machine learning assets. Open Horizon is building an integration project that will demonstrate delivery and management of EdgeX Foundry as a containerized solution in stages, beginning with a single deployable unit and then progressing to a more modular set of services and alternate delivery targets.

Support from Contributing Members and Users of EdgeX Foundry:

“To further enhance use in production environments, EdgeX Foundry’s Geneva release brings simplified deployments and improved security,” said Tony Espy, Technical Architect at Canonical. “With EdgeX available as a snap, this aligns to the fundamentals of snaps’ core principles which allow developers to benefit from confinement and transactional updates to ensure deployments are secure and with minimal need for manual intervention. As the EdgeX ecosystem continues to see strong traction, we look forward to continuing our contribution to building an open, interoperable framework for edge computing.”

“EdgeX Foundry’s middleware solution is an important component of an open, vendor-neutral pipeline connecting IoT devices and their data to analytics and data management at the on-premise edge,” said Joe Pearson, Engineering Strategy & Innovation Leader, Edge Computing, IBM. “This latest release underscores the importance of working within LF Edge to encourage interoperability as we build a comprehensive open edge computing framework, beginning with Open Horizon.”

“With the evolution of IoT and edge computing, there is a growing realization to deploy and run compute engines near the data source in a truly globally distributed manner. This architecture requires running intelligent AI-based functionality at the edge while processing a significant amount of data at high-throughput and low latency on small form-factor devices,” said Yiftach Shoolman, CTO and co-founder at Redis Labs. “EdgeX Foundry with Redis as the primary data store provides an open-source data platform to meet these expectations by combining in-memory data processing with modern data-models, and can be extended with a serverless engine and AI-serving platform.”

About the Linux Foundation

Founded in 2000, the Linux Foundation is supported by more than 1,000 members and is the world’s leading home for collaboration on open source software, open standards, open data, and open hardware. Linux Foundation’s projects are critical to the world’s infrastructure including Linux, Kubernetes, Node.js, and more. The Linux Foundation’s methodology focuses on leveraging best practices and addressing the needs of contributors, users and solution providers to create sustainable models for open collaboration.

A Different Take on Industrial Cybersecurity

Not too long ago, I received an email from noted cybersecurity guru Eric Byres who told me he was back in the industry after a brief hiatus as an advisor to Verve Industrial. The company didn’t register with me, and I went on to other things.

This week I received a message from an old PR contact who just picked up a new client–you guessed it, Verve Industrial. I agreed to an introductory call to find out more. I didn’t expect to be talking to anyone I knew, so the name didn’t register with me. Should have. I found myself talking with Rick Kaun this week. Now VP Solutions with Verve Industrial, turns out I knew him from previous stints with Matrikon and Honeywell.

The company began life as a SCADA and PLC integrator. The owner progressively noticed security situations and evolved a cybersecurity practice. Considering a way to grow, he took in funding and a new CEO (former McKinsey, but evidently not a bad guy–have to note that, I once worked for a couple of ex-McKinsey guys) and a new CTO. And a new VP Solutions.

The company takes a different strategy for its offering from others. Kaun notes the original solution was to white list devices on the network. To improve on that, many companies went to passive detection solutions.

Verve has an agent-based platform that allows for remote changes to the PLC or SCADA only with a trusted person at the console in the plant. It is compliant with OT topologies yet can talk the security talk with CISO types.

Not only for intrusion prevention, clients who use the system are currently getting 10x production.

I’m not a security expert. It’s just that cybersecurity is a crucial element of good IIoT design. So, here are some bullets to whet your appetite if you are looking for an interesting alternative to your current solution.

Verve Security Center

Benefits:

  • Faster & Lower Cost Deployment
  • Faster Time to Remediation
  • More Efficient Analysis, Reporting, and Audit with Integrated UI
  • Improved Approach to OT Business Risk Management
  • Lower Cost Security Management
  • NO Risk to OT Operations
  • Ability to Leverage Prior Tool Investment

Features:

  • Deeper & more comprehensive asset inventory
  • Faster time to remediation with closed loop vulnerability management
  • Better risk rating with view of vulnerabilities, process criticality plus all user accounts, risky software, network connections in a single risk score
  • Lower security management costs with scaled analysis and playbook development with local OT control over remediation – in same platform
  • Better detection with open-platform data ingestion from multiple OT and IT tool sets

Current solutions do not enable limited OT resources the rapid visibility and response to vulnerabilities and threats they need:

  • Traditional IT tools cannot protect IOT/OT embedded devices with proprietary firmware
  • IT vulnerability scanning tools can damage sensitive IOT/OT systems
  • Tools are siloed by function increasing necessary labor and specialized skills
  • Most OT-specific tools are passive detection only and offer limited remediation capabilities
  • Available solutions are expensive to deploy and manage

A fundamentally different approach to IT/OT security management:

  • Deploy across all IT/OT/IOT systems in minutes with no expensive hardware requirements
  • “Closed-loop” solution from assessment to remediation
  • Faster time to discovery and remediation
  • OT-safe agent/agentless solution for real time vulnerability assessment and end point management
  • Lower total cost of ownership
  • No silos: integrate NIST CSF and other compliance requirements in single platform

Pandemic Becoming a Trigger for Certain Enterprises to Accelerate Transformation

We only need look out the window to understand that the current situation with keeping people apart to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has slowed commerce and manufacturing to a crawl.

Wind River surveyed a set of executives in China and the US to see what they think the impact of the slowdown and then recovery will be. There are many similarities in outlook, although there are some differences. Wind River attributes most of the difference to the timing of the survey. China was beginning to come out from the shutdown, while the US was in the midst of it.

This is an IT-oriented report, but it is also quite relevant to us all given that operations and information areas are working ever more closely aligned.

[Note for my OT readers: DevOps is a set of practices that combines software development (Dev) and information-technology operations (Ops) which aims to shorten the systems development life cycle and provide continuous delivery with high software quality.]

[Note 2: A subset of DevOps relating specifically to data is called DataOps. See my writing on Hitachi Vantara and HighByte for more on this. This is relatively recent.]

Highlights

  • More than 1 in 3 executives in both the U.S. and China are seeing COVID-19’s impact as impetus to digitally transform their businesses
  • COVID-19 is influencing which technologies will receive increased attention, with enterprises desiring transformation placing 50%+ extra focus on investment in areas such as 5G, containers, and cloud-native technologies.
  • 75% of C-suite, IoT, and DevOps leaders are modifying corporate strategies due to COVID-19.

Wind River, a deliverer of software for the intelligent edge, has issued new research investigating how technology executives—specifically, C-suite leaders and senior executives in areas such as IoT, DevOps, security, and embedded development—from both the U.S. and China are realigning their focus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their insights are embodied in the Wind River commissioned report titled “COVID-19 and Corporate Strategies in the U.S. and China: A Seismic Event Demanding Change and Action from Top Executives.”

Seismic events can disrupt our focus and thinking and force reassessment of drivers of future business success. The current COVID-19 pandemic is one of those major events producing a worldwide impact, especially given its reverberations on the two largest global economies, the U.S. and China.

“Prior to the pandemic, the vast majority of corporations were looking toward advancing their digital transformation. However, we’ve entered a different landscape that is triggering leaders in DevOps and IoT development to make profound decisions about the speed and nature of their technology investments,” said Kevin Dallas, president and chief executive officer, Wind River. “As we’ve seen from our study, in this COVID-19–shocked world, those most optimistic about the future of their business and the direction of their technology and development investments are the enterprises viewing this as a time to accelerate and even change the nature of that transformation.”

Looking inside the minds of technology executives in major sectors such as telecommunications, healthcare, automotive, aerospace, and manufacturing/industrial provides a view into how leaders are redirecting their focus and accelerating or delaying investments. The report surveyed 400 senior-level technology executives from the U.S. and China at enterprises with revenues ranging from $100 million to $1 billion.

With COVID-19–related challenges creating new pressures, enterprises are rapidly falling into the categories of simply surviving, pivoting to adapt to new realities, or doing nothing. While the U.S. and China are in different phases of the pandemic, in several aspects the responses from each country split in similar ways. More than 1 in 3 executives—39% of U.S. and 43% of Chinese leaders—are focusing on surviving this crisis, while 35% in the U.S. and 33% in China are spurred to make a transformation due to COVID-19.

The enterprises focused on transforming have a much higher propensity to accelerate key technology investments compared to those who are merely surviving. Those with a desire to digitally transform are placing 50%+ extra focus on key investment areas such as 5G, containers, and cloud native. The research findings among these leaders indicate that they understand the core technology components that will be vital for digital transformation. For these enterprises, executives are increasing spend in the following areas:

  • 5G projects: by 63% in China, 37% in the U.S.
  • Cloud-based application development: by 62% in China, 35% in the U.S.
  • AI: by 61% in China, 37% in U.S
  • Container-based development: by 56% in China, 38% in U.S.
  • IoT: by 60% in China, 33% in U.S.
  • Applications at the edge: by 57% in China, 25% in U.S.

As enterprises have had to implement changes to their business processes due to the pandemic, 98% in China and 90% in the U.S. note that their ability to meet customer demands has been impacted. Given recent needs, the interest in growing DevOps practices has risen across enterprises, with executives now placing more importance on DevOps (46% in U.S., 36% in China).

Regardless of region, most enterprises realize that the road ahead will be tough. Fifty percent of enterprises in the U.S. and 77% in China are seeing heavier workloads across their teams. They also anticipate the need to implement major initiatives such as accelerating new business models (83% in U.S., 89% in China) and building in more agile development (82% in U.S., 86% in China).

To tackle these challenges, there is a clear recognition among leaders that they will require transformative focus and skills. Therefore, in order to successfully lead a digital transformation, C-suite leaders and executives in DevOps/DevSecOps and IoT anticipate increased importance in their roles (ranging from 60%+ in the U.S. to 73%+ in China) as their businesses exit COVID-19.

As the world grapples with the disruption caused by COVID-19 and enterprises begin to understand major gaps and the resources required to deliver on customer needs, they must identify the right strategies and experts to help them accelerate a digital transformation and realize long-term success beyond the pandemic.

For information about Wind River’s efforts to support the battle against COVID-19.

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