Molex Explores the Potential of the Industrial Metaverse

A couple of weeks ago, I moderated a panel discussion on the Web regarding the Industrial Metaverse. This is an interesting topic for discussion. Questions remain:

How much of the term metaverse is simply marketing covering a vacuum?

What are the real use cases (something we care about in industrial applications)?

What are the components of a metaverse?

Or, perhaps as a recent Dilbert cartoon had it when Dilbert asked the pointy-haired boss what color he wanted his metaverse to be?

Wo this press release was interesting. Molex explores the metaverse. What would this company specializing in connectivity see here?

From the release:

  • Manufacturers among first to benefit from convergence of physical and virtual processes to improve product-design cycles and factory of the future initiatives
  • AR/VR, digital twins, robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics poised to fuel adoption of industrial metaverse applications
  • Immediate and long-lasting impact on next-gen IoT creates new engineering opportunities and challenges

Molex released a report examining the emerging world of the industrial metaverse and its impact on next-generation Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructures. 

Molex and Arrow commissioned the development of this report to offer perspective on how the industrial metaverse will transform manufacturing through increased adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR), digital twins, Machine Learning (ML) and predictive analytics. These early enablers already are gaining traction in industrial settings to support manufacturing automation, process optimization, remote assistance, and training, as well as predictive maintenance.

According to the report, a robust industrial metaverse will deliver unprecedented value, starting with the design and ideation phase of product development all the way through manufacturing, sales, service and maintenance.

The report addresses five functional pillars, including speed and bandwidth, signal integrity, form factor, power consumption and electromagnetic interference (EMI). In addition, the report offers guidelines for how companies can get started, as well as advice on integrating core capabilities throughout their internal and external business processes while ensuring secure connectivity and seamless data analysis.

Festo Didactic Takes Its Apprenticeship Program to the Next Level

Festo has made significant investments in education and training over the past few years in Mason, Ohio just outside of Cincinnati. This news notes the next step.

Festo Didactic Learning Systems North America and its partners announced plans for the Mechatronics Apprenticeship Program (MAP) at its Regional Service Center (RSC) in Mason with industry, education, and government coming together.

And a word from a graduate.

“Festo’s side of the apprenticeship provided an affordable, unique, hands-on approach to learning mechatronics. This program taught me the very basics of electrical power up to advanced industrial troubleshooting,” said former Festo Didactic Apprentice, Kenneth Bibb. “I was able to gain more learning and experience with Festo than I would have in a traditional four-year university. Festo has set my life up perfectly by providing the skills I needed through the apprenticeship to begin a successful Mechatronics Engineering career.”

The award-winning mechatronics program has been a growing collaboration among Art Metal Group, Clippard Instruments, E-Beam, MQ Automation, Nestlé, Festo Didactic, and others. At its core, MAP supports manufacturers locally and nationally in training and retaining skilled workers. Heading into its sixth year, MAP will begin accepting apprenticeships on a rolling admission basis instead of a semester schedule. The program will consist of 57 weeks of training instead of five semesters. This transition will allow for more apprentices to enroll faster, train faster, and get to work faster.

My grandfather launched a solid career in manufacturing through an apprenticeship program in the early 1900s. Companies stopped doing that for a long time. I’m happy to see a rebirth.

Nationwide, apprenticeship continues to experience strong growth. On September 1, 2022 the White House launched the Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiative—a national network of more than 200 employers and other organizations who signed on to create almost 500 hundred new registered apprenticeship programs. Through the new federal initiative, companies agreed to build new programs across a wide range of industries and to hire 10,000 new apprentices in the coming year. The Department of Labor also announced plans to invest over $330 million through grants to states, employers, labor organizations, and workforce intermediaries to expand and diversify Registered Apprenticeships.

According to apprenticeship.gov, managed by the Department of Labor (DoL), 93% of apprentices who complete an apprenticeship retain employment, with an average annual salary of $77,000.

Ignition Adds Cloud Edition Plus Many Updates

I think that hybrid might just be the future as IT managers review the costs and constraints of depending too much on cloud vendors (AWS, Microsoft, Google). Customers of Inductive Automation’s Ignition platform must be asking for a public cloud implementation, though. 

I’ve highlighted a blog post by Dante Augello of Inductive discussing some of the reasoning and features of a Cloud Edition coming in 2023. Following that announcement are notes about the latest update to Ignition—8.1.22.

Ignition Cloud Edition

  • Many hybrid architectures have taken advantage of the cloud over the years, allowing controls applications to run on-premise while communicating and sending data to the cloud in order to take advantage of virtually unlimited storage and computing power. 
  • This connection to the cloud also offers better integration with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other cloud-native technologies.
  • The goal of Ignition Cloud Edition is to enable a hybrid architecture that connects one or more on-premise gateways and numerous edge gateways that send information to a Cloud Edition gateway for enterprise-wide data aggregation and monitoring.
  • This new product will differ from the standard version of Ignition in three key ways: distribution, purchasing, and features.
  • Unlike standard Ignition, Ignition Cloud Edition won’t be a service provided directly through Inductive Automation, so it won’t be downloaded from the Inductive Automation website. Like other cloud-based applications, it will be made available through your preferred cloud infrastructure marketplace.
  • Since Ignition Cloud Edition will be purchased through a cloud infrastructure marketplace, there is no need to buy an upfront license as with standard Ignition. This allows for elastic deployments, scalable payment options like pay-as-you-go, as well as the ability to adapt compute size and number of instances as needed.
  • Ignition Cloud Edition will run in the cloud, so it won’t be ideal for direct data acquisition from plant-floor PLCs. For this reason, it won’t have Ignition’s original device drivers built in. Instead, Cloud Edition will have a collection of cloud connector modules for cloud-native technologies such as document databases, message queues, and key-value stores like MongoDB, Kafka, and Redis.
  • A key benefit of Ignition Cloud Edition’s infrastructure is elasticity. If you find that you need more or less computing power than you anticipated, you will be able to scale the infrastructure much more easily than with an on-premise infrastructure.

Ignition 8.1.22: New Configuration Explorer, Enhanced SVG Importer, and CSS Stylesheet Resources

This blog post by Aaron Block gives points about the latest update.

  • Ignition 8.1.22 arrives with major upgrades to Perspective, the Gateway Network, and redundancy, plus improvements focused on general quality of life.
  • Perspective gets the majority of attention in Ignition 8.1.22, with three big updates: a new Configuration Explorer, SVG Importer enhancements, and resources for CSS stylesheets.
  • The Configuration Explorer locates active bindings on any particular Perspective view. Now in Ignition 8.1.22, simply right-click and choose “Configuration Explorer” to display the location, type, and state of all enabled bindings. Embedded views and root containers are also represented in this overview. 
  • In prior versions of Ignition, it was sometimes difficult to import complicated SVGs with intricate shading or other non-supported components within the raw SVG file. 8.1.22 offers more support for these complex SVGs, as well as most common SVG elements.
  • The “convert to drawing” function stays true to its name, allowing users to simply choose the function in the right-click menu and convert existing components into SVGs.
  • Rounding out the trio of major Perspective updates is an advanced project-scoped CSS stylesheet resource and resource editor. Users can now conveniently add their own CSS stylesheets into the Perspective project itself instead of spending time inserting CSS through the gateway’s style directory.
  • And there are many more updates. Check out the blog for more detail.

Bridge Operational Technology and Business Intelligence

Festo engineers continually amaze me with innovations I would never have expected. I first heard of it as a pneumatics company. What new and interesting could come out of that milieu? Then came a visit to the German headquarters followed with many other meetings. Turns out many interesting things.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not the new discovery marketers would have us believe. It does, despite the hype, solve many real world problems. Take Festo Automation Experience (AX). This AI platform provides predictive maintenance, predictive quality, and energy optimization. 

Using advanced analytics, Festo AX maps data to learn a component, machine, product, or energy system’s healthy state. Festo AX provides actionable information to correct anomalies when data begins trending out of normal.

Putting numbers to the innovation:

Festo finds that Festo AX can improve process transparency by 100%. It can lower waste by more than 50% and product rejection costs by more than 45%. Machine availability can improve by more than 25%. Unplanned downtime can fall by more than 20%.

In a predictive quality application for silicon wafers production, Festo AX provided early detection of wafer defects. It improved accuracy for quality assurance sample selection and delivered high positivity in quality observations. Festo AX lowered waste per machine per year by $100,000.

GE Digital’s SCADAs Enable Connected Workers and Centralized Deployment

SCADA software continues life into the IoT age generating benefits to users and profits to some companies. GE Digital’s iFIX and CIMPLICITY products have longevity in the field and are still updated regularly. This update brings some modern technology into the fold and aims to strengthen the connected worker.

• Modern, web-based UI improves transparency, decision making and efficiency by extending HMI to consume analytics and business application data, unifying OT/IT visualization

• No-code / Low-code environment and flexible centralized deployment speed time to value

• New MQTT bridge simplifies connectivity and communication with smart IoT sensors and devices to support data collection and operations optimization

The key technologies include HTML5, MQTT, centralized deployment, and common portfolio configuration.

Proficy Operations Hub no-code/low-code environment is engineered to support easier mobility, responsive design, added value with modern web functionality, security by design, and rich information where and when users need it, on the devices of their choice.

A new MQTT5 client can help to simplify communication and support operations optimization. The new client brings data from smart IoT sensors and devices into the SCADA application and subscribes to MQTT message bus data. 

Emerson Exchange 2022

The control and automation market I’ve been in since the late 90s has definitely become a software market. Yes, the main players that remain do still have their legacy controllers, instrumentation, sensors, and networking. The excitement that remains is mainly software and services. Domain expertise within the supplier community becomes increasingly important. 

I was coming off a vacation (not planned by me) and couldn’t work out the logistics of making it to Dallas. I kept up with things through press releases and reports from social media guru Jim Cahill. I survived missing presentations by the inimitable CTO Peter Zornio. News came through, anyway.

Announcement summaries follow. 

Boundless Automation

This next-generation architecture will empower companies through “boundless automation” to manage, connect and deliver operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) data seamlessly and easily across the enterprise. Moving data freely and securely across OT and IT domains – from the intelligent field to the edge and cloud – will enable operational and business performance optimization across the enterprise.

It really is all about the data.

Check out Jim Cahill’s report.

DeltaV

  • Emerson’s Latest Control System Update Lays Foundation for Software-Driven, Data-Centric Automation Platform
  • DeltaV version 15 helps drive faster, easier digital transformation to accelerate IT/OT convergence, enabling easy upgrades and modernization

Intelligent Field

PlantWeb plus recent acquisition AspenTech = Emerson’s Plantweb digital ecosystem, optimized by AspenTech, enables industrial manufacturers across all industries to “See, Decide, Act and Optimize” their operations. Leveraging a robust suite of sensors, software and control technologies, Plantweb now enables companies to optimize the business and sustainability performance of their plants and enterprise through advanced asset and business optimization software.

SCADA

Movicon.NExT 4.2 is a flexible, modular platform that provides local HMI, supervision and analytics that scale from small IIoT or WebHMI applications on embedded Linux devices to large Windows server systems, allowing users to achieve sustainability and performance improvements, one step at a time, easily and cost effectively.

I/O Interface

Emerson has released DeltaV IO.CONNECT, a new subscription software service designed to help plants simplify modernization with an open architecture pathway that makes it possible to transition to more efficient control schemes without the need to completely overhaul existing infrastructure. In a traditional plant with tens of thousands of I/O points and many controllers, this can save hundreds or thousands of hours of labor and up to 40% of the capital required for a total rip-and-replace upgrade.

Hydrogen Production

Southern California Gas (SoCalGas), a regulated subsidiary of Sempra, has selected Emerson’s digital technologies, software and services to demonstrate the resiliency and reliability of its new [H2] Innovation Experience in Southern California. One of the first microgrid projects of its kind in the United States, the [H2] Innovation Experience is a technology demonstration that aims to show how carbon-free gas made from renewable electricity can be used in pure form or as a blend to fuel clean energy systems of the future.