OPC UA and TSN (Time Sensitive Network). A marriage I was beginning to think was never going to happen. I wrote a preliminary white paper following Hannover Messe 2017. Yes, more than a year ago. (Check it out by clicking the small ad on the sidebar.) This thing has been like a ball in a Rugby match—kicked, going different directions, downed and picked up. People wanting to move before thinking. Getting caught up in legal issues and “politics.” Postponed press conferences.
And, now…”The OPC Foundation launches an initiative to further enable OPC UA adoption throughout industrial automation by extending standardization and harmonization activities for OPC UA including TSN-enabled Ethernet networks.”
The goal of this initiative is to deliver an open, cohesive approach to implement OPC UA including TSN and associated application profiles. This will advance the OPC Foundation providing vendor independent end-to-end interoperability into field level devices for all relevant industry automation use-cases. The OPC Foundation vision of becoming the worldwide industrial interoperability standard is advanced by integrating field devices and the shop floor.
A new set of working groups will identify, manage and standardize the OPC UA relevant topics focused on industrial automation including,
• harmonization and standardization of application profiles e.g. IO, motion control, safety, system redundancy
• standardization of OPC UA information models for field level devices in offline e.g. device description and online e.g. diagnostics
• mapping of OPC UA application profiles related to real-time operations on ethernet networks including TSN
• definition of certification procedures
The working groups will closely align with the TSN Profile for Industrial Automation (TSN-IA-Profile) which will be standardized by the IEC/IEEE 60802 standardization group. This will help ensure that a single, converged TSN network approach is maintained so that OPC UA can share one common multi-vendor TSN network infrastructure together with other applications.
This initiative integrates well with existing joint working groups engaged in ongoing companion specification e.g. description of machines.
Stefan Hoppe, President of the OPC Foundation said “The benefit of membership in the OPC Foundation allows companies to actively engage and influence the direction of the OPC Foundation and includes early access to the specifications and technology. This initiative will grow OPC UA into new markets and I highly encourage all OPC Foundation members to contact the OPC Foundation to participate”.
Thomas Burke, Strategic Marketing Officer of the OPC Foundation, “We are very excited about the initiative to extend OPC UA including TSN down to the field level, and the number of companies that want to actively participate in this initiative bringing the technology into real world products. This set of working groups will pave the way for the broadest, easiest, and fastest market adoption of OPC UA over TSN.”
The OPC Foundation develops and maintains OPC UA as an open and secure communication platform comprised of an information model framework, communication models and underlying protocol bindings. As such, the OPC Foundation works non-exclusively with other organizations on various OPC UA related topics but continues to operate as a platform, technology, use case, and vendor agnostic standardization body.
The company that organizes the successful Industry of Things conferences in the late winter in San Diego has launched Industry of Things East to be held in Orlando November 14-16. I will be speaking at a break out session on Thursday afternoon that week. Come and heckle me.
The event will include more than 40 interactive sessions and case studies, as well an IIoT Bootcamp. Here are all the formats you will be able to take part to:
IIoT Bootcamp: our partner MESA will take you on the journey towards Smart Manufacturing on November 14
4 Icebreaker sessions round tables on the evening before the first conference day
A Panel session on Society 4.0 – Engaging industry, policy makers, educators and institutions for a harmonious technological future
Over 25 Case studies from MIT, Monsanto, Continental, Siemens, Praxair and many more
12 World Cafés moderated by experts from Covestro, Merck or The Internet Association
2 co-located events: Pharma MES USA and Pharma TRACKTS! USA will gather 300 Manufacturing experts from the Industrial IoT, Pharma MES and serialization communities in one place.
Make sure to have a look at the event program to tailor an agenda fitting to your needs.
I have attended all three of the events in San Diego including participating as a moderator and table leader. This is the premier Internet of Things conference in the country. They also organize events in Berlin, Germany and Singapore.
The company is offering a special rate: simply sign up online before October 24* to take advantage of the $995 special.
Last week was where industrial automation and information technology met along with my vice–soccer.
Emerson Automation Solutions–Digital Transformation, IT/OT collaboration, corporate acquisitions (GE Intelligent Platforms, once known as GE Fanuc, joins the fold), WirelessHART applications expand, flow control data becomes an integral part of digital transformation.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)–Refinery of the Future tour of the Texmark refinery that I’ve written about before and CenterPoint Energy where digital boosts the electrical utility industry.
Marketers may still talk of IT/OT convergence as something coming. In many forward thinking plants it is here. Texmark CEO Doug Smith talks freely about the kick in the pants delivered by his insurance carrier that propelled him and his team toward finding innovative solutions to operations challenges.
I sometimes joke that “I’m the point of convergence of IT and OT”, or at least my blog and writing are.
Don’t believe hype or nay-sayers. The collaboration is real–among suppliers, partner ecosystems, managers, engineers. And real benefits are accruing.
Have you joined the 21st Century?
This week is Emerson Global Users Exchange week in San Antonio—with a quick side trip to Houston and a tour of some refineries implementing IoT applications with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The theme of the week is Digital Transformation just where I reside—at the convergence of OT and IT.
Emerson Automation Solutions (new-ish name for Emerson Process) continues to flesh out its drive to help customers achieve “Top Quartile” performance through Digital Transformation.
It doesn’t just talk digital transformation. The company builds out its offering through product development, services / engineering, and acquisitions. Similar to other major suppliers, it has been making strategic acquisitions rather than taking minor stakes in companies.
Mike Train, Executive President, set the themes and talked about his optimism in the business and industry. Train was recently promoted to COO of Emerson Corporation and introduced Lal Karsanbhai as the new Executive President of Emerson Automation Solutions.
My friends at Putnam Publishing are doing the show daily this year. Flash back to 8 years ago when I was still at Automation World nursing a torn quadraceps muscle doing the show daily in San Antonio. You can see the news from the team here.
Peter Zornio laid out the logic of an “Actionable Roadmap” at a subsequent press conference. The company’s PlantWeb ecosystem continues to grow and develop becoming the key element of Emerson’s Digital Transformation strategy. Below is from the press release.
The Digital Transformation Roadmap includes consulting and implementation services to help companies develop and execute a tailored digital transformation plan to reach Top Quartile performance.
“Our customers have different starting points and levels of maturity when it comes to evaluating and implementing digital transformation strategies,” said Lal Karsanbhai, executive president of Emerson Automation Solutions. “Emerson’s proven digital transformation approach provides the ultimate flexibility while pinpointing the optimum path for each customer, based on their objectives, readiness and overall digital maturity.”
In an Emerson study of industry leaders responsible for digital transformation initiatives, merely 20 percent of respondents said they had a vision, plus a clear and actionable roadmap for digital transformation. Additionally, 90 percent stated that having a clear roadmap was important, very important or extremely important. Absence of a practical roadmap was also cited as the No. 1 barrier for digital transformation projects; cultural adoption and business value round out the top three barriers to progress. While all respondents were actively conducting pilot projects, only 21 percent had moved beyond that stage into new operating standards.
Leveraging customer engagements with successful digital transformation programs, Emerson defined a structured, yet flexible approach to help customers focus on priority areas with a practical roadmap tailored to their business needs and readiness. The goal is to help companies use technology to reach Top Quartile performance, measured by optimized production, improved reliability, enhanced safety and minimized energy usage.
“There is a clear global urgency among executives to harness innovation to improve performance, but many companies feel stalled for lack of a clear path,” Karsanbhai said. “Customers who engage with our operational certainty consultants quickly gain clarity on their best bets for digital transformation and a realistic implementation plan to accelerate time to results.”
Digital Roadmap Combines Technology with Industry Expertise
Emerson’s Digital Transformation Roadmap has two focus areas: business drivers and business enablers. Business drivers look at capabilities and performance relative to industry benchmarks in key areas: production management, reliability and maintenance, safety and security, and/or energy and emissions. The business enabler focus looks at capabilities in organizational effectiveness and systems and data integration. For each, Emerson has identified detailed criteria to measure customer performance along the digital journey – from conventional to best-in-class to the highest level: digitally autonomous operations.
Companies can start the digital transformation journey wherever they are, from starting small in one facility to address key issues, such as pump health or personnel safety mustering; to exploring companywide programs across an entire business driver, such as reliability of critical assets; to driving enterprise-wide adoption of cloud-based technologies and analytics for overall business transformation.
Emerson’s Operational Certainty Consulting Group provides a host of services, from Digital Transformation Jumpstart workshops to deep-dive change management to deployment and adoption of new digitally enabled toolsets. Customers partner with Emerson not only for its consulting expertise, but also to implement its Plantweb™ digital ecosystem, which offers a robust software, data analytics, and product technology and services portfolio to solve real-world problems while improving plant performance.
Emerson’s proven capability is bolstered by a global implementation team that includes more than 80 solutions architects and analytics integration engineers, backed by a project and service engineering workforce that exceeds 8,400. Important foundations for digital transformation have been established with producers around the world. For example, Emerson has collaborated with customers to deploy more than 37,000 wireless network installations and over 175 integrated reliability platforms and applications, to name a few.
Two Polish software developers engage in conversation weekly on The Podcast. One wrote the original version of Nozbe the Getting Things Done app I use. Michael Sliwinski talked of using open source software to help him write his app and start his company. His Apple developer Radek Pietruszewski in episode 157 discussed how they wrote a piece of database code they dubbed WatermelonDB and released it into open source on GitHub.
I talk about the benefits of open source as an introduction to things I gleaned from last week’s annual trip to the Sacramento, CA area and the Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference. Community was the operative word as the gathering of several hundred (I never heard an exact count, but the rumor was there were more than 600) integrators and users crowded into the Harris Center in Folsom for conversation, training, and updates.
On a side note, I’ve been unusually swamped with my annual project of assigning referees to high school and US Soccer youth contests. It seems as if half of the preliminary work I put in assigning before the season were washed away in an unusually wet late summer. Rescheduling is hell. Referees are tired of hearing from me. But I have only 2.5 weeks left in the high school season and two weeks beyond that will close the club season. Then I take a six-month break. Therefore, my energy level for writing has been sapped and the frequency here and on my podcast have suffered.
Founder and CEO Steve Hechtman betrayed his usual laid back demeanor talking about company growth and especially the latest release—Ignition 8—to be released in a few months. I have few details, but developers solved many platform problems caused by integrators pushing the envelop of HMI SCADA software.
Chief Strategy Officer Don Pearson told how the company has always embodied the OT/IT convergence meme with Hechtman coming from an OT background as an integrator and co-developers and now co-directors of software engineering Carl Gould and Colby Clegg were trained in IT technologies.
Pearson began the discussion of open source that continued throughout the conference. While Inductive Automation has always been a proponent of open standards—it still fully supports OPC UA, for example—it is also an open source user and contributor. The technologies strongly promoted at the conference were MQTT (a transport protocol) and Sparkplug (an information carrier in this case used to communicate Ignition tag information from source to consumer). Developer Cirrus Link has placed Sparkplug in the open source Eclipse Foundation.
Speakers talked with assurance about open source, but there was a thread of defensiveness in the discussion, too. Pearson quoted Maeterlinck, “At every crossroad on the way that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past.” Eclipse Foundation Executive Director Mike Milinkovich proclaimed, “Software is eating the world, and open source is eating software.”
I like both open source and open standards. They both have propelled industry enabling innovation and limiting lock-in. I remember downloading the first Java JDK in the 90s and trying out the eclipse platform in early 2002. All pretty cool stuff. The Inductive Automation adoption of open source is refreshing in the industry.
Here are a few bullet points from the Carl-Colby show introducing Ignition 8:
- Building on the past, but with a new beginning
- New platform:
- Revamped tag system to reduce memory overload
- New scripting app
- Subscription and data model
- Dynamic writable UDT parameters
- Deployment architecture, true project inheritance
- Project resource management
- Ignition perspective, new mobile module, built up from ground new
I really should add that while Ignition is very good software, most of the people at the conference told me that they were enticed into the system by the pricing. From the beginning, Inductive Automation decided to upset the software pricing model prevalent in the industry. It is a growing company…
Inductive had acquired an MES company, integrated with Ignition, and has now spun it off into a separate company run by Tom Hechtman, brother to Steve. Its modular software includes many typical MES applications such as track and trace, workflow, OEE, recipe management, and more. Hechtman discussed a Lean Six Sigma tool kit. He noted the staff has doubled in the nine years since acquisition. It is an ISA 95 and B2MML solution. And also now a MESA International member.
Other notes from the conference
Table top exhibits from the conference sponsors were always packed with curious engineers seeking solutions.
Opto 22’s VP Marketing Benson Hougland told me they can’t build the Groov EPIC PLC fast enough for demand. That product combined with Ignition is a powerful control and SCADA platform—as sales attest.
Albert Rooyakkers, founder/CEO of Bedrock Automation told me that his sub-$1000 controller is selling well. Bedrock specializes in secure and hardened controllers—ideal for power, pipeline, and other such applications. He told me, “Secure SCADA with Ignition is coming.” His key word is secure.
IMTS has been a huge show for many years. As you might expect from a trade show, the theme is broad. Exhibitors are a diverse lot. Things I saw indicating a new wave of technologies including machines designed to work with humans (so-called “cobots”) and various aspects of Industrial Internet of Things. Following are a few specifics.
Formerly the International Machine Tool Show and now the International Manufacturing Technology Show, the South Hall of Chicago’s McCormick Place is still filled with huge machining centers. The North Hall was packed with robotics, components, and other automation products. Much of this flows over to the East Hall where several aisles were devoted to Hannover Messe automation companies—my sweet spot. Even the West Hall was packed.
Beckhoff proclaimed, “Solve the IoT hardware, software and networking puzzle.”
The company introduced ultra-compact Industrial PCs (IPCs). These IPCs are Microsoft Azure Certified and can work just as easily with other major cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and SAP HANA.
Significant updates will span three key areas of the TwinCAT software suite: new HTML5-enabled TwinCAT HMI for industrial displays and mobile devices, important data processing expansions in the TwinCAT Analytics offering, and TwinCAT 3 Motion Designer, which adds a deep set of valuable tools to commission entire motor, drive and mechanical systems in software. Motion Designer can be integrated into the standard TwinCAT 3 software platform or it can be used as a stand-alone motion system engineering tool.
EK1000 EtherCAT TSN Coupler expands the industrial Ethernet capabilities of the EtherCAT I/O system to utilize TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) technology. The EK1000 enables communication among high-performance EtherCAT segments with remote EtherCAT controllers via heterogeneous Ethernet networks.
Ideagen plc, the UK-based software firm, announced the acquisition of American quality inspection software provider, InspectionXpert. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, InspectionXpert currently generates $2.8 million in revenue and will bring more than 1,000 clients including Boeing, Kohler and Pratt & Whitney to Ideagen’s existing customer base.
Speaking at IMTS, Chicago, Ideagen CEO, Ben Dorks, said: “As well as significantly enhancing our manufacturing supply chain product suite, the acquisition of InspectionXpert provides Ideagen with a fantastic opportunity for growth by broadening upsell and cross-selling opportunities, increasing our customer footprint and expanding our geographical reach.”
InspectionXpert’s products, InspectionXpert and QualityXpert, enable organizations in the precision manufacturing industry and associated supply chains to simplify inspection planning, execution and reporting and general quality through digitalization of paper-based processes.
InspectionXpert and QualityXpert will be integrated into Ideagen’s existing software suite, which will enhance Software as a Service (SaaS) revenues and provide excellent opportunities for future growth.
Energid released Actin 5, an update to its robot software development kit (SDK). Called the industry’s only real-time adaptive motion control software, it allows robotic system developers to focus on the robot’s task rather than joint movement and paths. It responds in real time to sensory input and directs the robot on the most efficient path while avoiding collisions. The robot motion is updated dynamically without requiring reprogramming, even in dynamic, mission-critical environments.
Forcam develops software solutions in the area of MES, IIoT, and OEE. It leans into the trend of developing platforms. Its platform is built with open APIs with the latest programming languages and tools. It supports Microsoft Azure Cloud, SAP ERP, Maximo maintenance/asset applications, and Apple iPads for input. The platform helps reduce integration time and expense.
I came across the Dell Technologies booth in the automation hall. The big news was a collaboration with Tridium and Intel for IIoT solutions.
The IIoT solution is built on the Niagara Framework, Tridium’s open technology platform, and combines software and consulting services to help customers begin the digital transformation of their businesses.
The Niagara-based IIoT solution built with Dell and Intel technology will comprise a complete hardware and software stack delivered as a finished solution for ease of adoption, and will encompass consulting services from subject matter experts to support implementation. The application layer of the IIoT solution is being developed and supported by Tridium and will expand over time with solutions designed for the telecom and energy sectors.