Supplementing EtherCAT with TSN for Use in Heterogeneous Networks

Supplementing EtherCAT with TSN for Use in Heterogeneous Networks

Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) defines the future of networking. Most of the specifications have been agreed upon by the IEEE 802 committee, only a few remain to be completed. I have written a White Paper describing OPC UA over TSN for information communication. This corroborates the idea that information is where the new momentum lies within manufacturing and production technologies.

One topic of concern to many regards whether or not TSN will supplant current fieldbus technologies. Indeed, on the surface it appears that TSN can perform most, if not all, of those functions.

Therefore, it behooves the fieldbus groups to figure out how to work with this new technology in order to add value for users.

The EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG) has taken the initiative and supplemented EtherCAT with Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) technologies, expanding the field of possible EtherCAT applications to include heterogeneous network environments. With the help of TSN, industrial controls can contact a number of different EtherCAT segments in real-time through Ethernet networks.

In doing so, no changes to the EtherCAT slave devices are required: the EtherCAT Device Protocol, including all high performance characteristics, is fully preserved. Also expanded by TSN is the EtherCAT Automation Protocol (EAP) for communication between controls, which will result in even more deterministic performance on this level.

The ETG has specified the technology expansion in the form of a profile, which highlights the fact that no changes to the TSN standards are needed. This approach also considerably simplifies the adaptation to the final versions of the TSN technologies, because specification in the IEEE is not yet fully complete.

The ETG has supported the development of TSN from the very beginning through active participation in the IEEE committee, and is coordinating the specifications through a liaison with the IEEE 802.1 Working Group. This ensures that the ETG will also be able to access the IEEE 802.1 specifications that have not yet been adopted. Therefore, the technology can be introduced almost at the same time as TSN.

EtherCAT uses the TSN streams with any data rates for real-time communication above EtherCAT device segments. In the segment itself nothing is changed – the unique performance of the EtherCAT protocol built upon processing on the fly, highly precise synchronization, flexible topology selection, excellent diagnostic capabilities and simplicity through fully automated addressing of devices are all fully preserved. Similarly, the thousands of different EtherCAT devices available worldwide do not need to be modified at all. The stream adaptation feature that connects the EtherCAT segment to the heterogeneous TSN network can be placed either in the last TSN switch or in the first EtherCAT slave device.

Dr. Guido Beckmann, Chairman of the ETG Technical Committee classifies the new specification as such: “The incorporation of TSN standards will significantly improve the real-time characteristics of generic Ethernet. With our technology expansion we make use of TSN in an ideal way, and exactly where TSN can offer significant advantages – in the factory networks. As one frame is sufficient for EtherCAT to communicate with a whole segment, and thus with the entire fieldbus network, EtherCAT is virtually predestined for integration with TSN networks. We achieve this without turning our technology inside out. EtherCAT together with TSN offers the ‘best of both worlds’. Therefore, this prepares EtherCAT for the future perfectly.”

Brace Yourself—Here Comes Another IoT Platform

Brace Yourself—Here Comes Another IoT Platform

IoT Platforms are all the rage. All God’s children need a platform, it seems. Most larger companies have a platform. Oh, and all promise it’s “open” to everyone’s connections. Then there is open source—check out Dell, the Linux Foundation, and others who have developed the EdgeX Foundry.

Now we have an Asian developed one—mostly Japanese along with Taiwan-based Advantech—called the Edgecross Consortium. Edgecross evidently refers to a focus on edge computing and cross vendor.

I received the first notice from Advantech who announced it has partnered with Mitsubishi Electric, Omron, NEC, IBM Japan, and Oracle Japan to establish the “Edgecross Consortium” to overcome boundaries between companies and industries in order to realize collaboration between factory automation and IT. The objective is to create new value centered on edge computing.

The Consortium news release states, “In this way, it will contribute to the promotion of IoT, for which demand is increasing on a global scale, as well as Society 5.0, proposed by the Japanese government, and activities of Connected Industries, which tie in to Society 5.0.”

Initial activities of the Consortium will begin with the development of specifications for the Edgecross open software platform and promoting its dissemination for edge computing from Japan to harmonize with FA and IT. This initial work will include providing avenues for supporting companies to cooperate and collaborate beyond the framework of companies and industries. The Consortium will aim to expand applications for various industries in addition to initiating activities in the global arena in the future.

I should note here that in America and Europe, we generally refer to bringing OT and IT together (rather than FA).

The date of founding is scheduled for November 29, 2017, and an exhibition is planned at the System Control Fair 2017, to be held on the same day.

Overview of Edgecross

An open software platform of edge computing area from Japan built by consortium members beyond the boundaries of companies and industries to realize collaboration with FA and IT.

Features

Real-time diagnosis and feedback

Realizing real-time feedback to the production site by analyzing and diagnosing the data at location close to the production sites

Creating models from production sites

Data can be easily utilized by people or by applications by layering and abstracting the Big data of the production sites

Utilization of various applications in the edge computing area

IT applications can be easily applied to FA application

Applications may be selected from an extensive lineup depending on the situation

System construction completed in the edge computing area are available

Collecting all types of data at the production site

Enable data collection from all equipment and devices regardless of vendor or network

Smooth coordination with FA and IT systems

Realizing supply chain and engineering chain optimization by seamless data coordination with IT systems including the cloud

Operates on industrial PCs

Mountable on various manufacturer’s industrial PCs (IPCs)

Here are a couple of executive quotes about the news.

“Partnering with leading global companies in accelerating our global business in Industry 4.0 is Advantech’s key strategy,” stated Allan Yang, CTO of Advantech. “Advantech joined the Mitsubishi [email protected] Alliance this April to foster business opportunities for smart manufacturing in Asia through co-marketing and co-exhibition. Joining the Edgecross Consortium is our next big step to expand global collaboration and business in Industry 4.0. We are very proud to be a part of Edgecross Consortium with these leading global companies; we are looking forward to collaborating with consortium members to develop Industry 4.0 products and solutions to enhance our customer experience.”

Yoshikazu Miyata, Executive Officer and Group President of Factory Automation Systems at Mitsubishi Electric, gave the following statement regarding the new partnership, “The consortium welcomes Advantech as a key member. We are happy to work with Advantech, a worldwide leading innovator for Edge computing and IoT solutions. We are looking forward to co-creating with Advantech to provide innovative IoT solutions to customers.”

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.

Standards Drive Productivity

Standards Drive Productivity

This article appeared in TechCrunch. It’s pretty IT oriented, but the thoughts are relevant for the OT world, too.

The author, Ron Miller, reported that Amazon’s AWS move to join an industry standard on a technology known as containers signals the importance of standards.

Get Smart: Standards develop in a number of ways. Not all of them are ISA or ISO or IEC, although these definitely have a place. An industry leader once told me, “Gary, the best industry standards are de facto standards.” These are the ones that build a critical mass among users and developers and that solve real problems.

When AWS today became a full-fledged member of the container standards body, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, it represented a significant milestone. By joining Google, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat and just about every company that matters in the space, AWS has acknowledged that when it comes to container management, standards matter.

Does this sound familiar to the industrial automation market? AWS has been known to go the proprietary route, after all. When you’re that big and powerful, and control vast swaths of market share as AWS does, you can afford to go your own way from time to time. Containers is an area it hasn’t controlled, though. That belongs to Kubernetes, the open source container management tool originally developed inside Google.

What does it take for standards to win? Once it recognized Google’s dominance in container management, the next logical step was to join the CNCF and adhere to the same container standards the entire industry is using. Sometimes it’s better to switch than fight, and this was clearly one of those times.

The reason for standards. Standards provide a common basis for managing containers. Everyone can build their own tools on top of them. Google already has when it built Kubernetes, Red Hat has OpenShift, Microsoft makes Azure Container Service — and so forth and so on.

As for end users: Companies like standards because they know the technology is going to work a certain way, regardless of who built it. Each vendor provides a similar set of basic services, then differentiates itself based on what it builds on top.

Benefits for all: Technology tends to take off once a standard is agreed upon by the majority of the industry. Look at the World Wide Web. It has taken off because there is a standard way of building web sites. When companies agree to the building blocks, everything else seems to fall into place.

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.

Foxboro Promotes Open Process Automation

Foxboro Promotes Open Process Automation

The future of process automation was front and center of discussions last week at the Foxboro User Group—The Foxboro Company being the process automation arm of Schneider Electric.

During the week I was involved in quite animated discussions with SVP Chris Lyden and VP Peter Martin regarding the future of process automation. These executives are convinced that there is an inflexion point we are reaching where we are returning to the open architecture we started with years ago. The pendulum swung toward centralized, integrated systems. Technology has progressed to a point of realizing the old dream of distributed control, interoperable systems, systems of systems, and open systems based on standards.

Martin used his closing remarks to the group to talk about the Open Process Automation Forum, which is organized under The Open Group. You may recall I’ve written about this group following each of the last two ARC Industry Forums in Orlando.

The spark was provided by a group from ExxonMobil who saw a dire need to upgrade its systems. Leaders looked at the huge upfront cost of the control upgrade plus the likelihood of being locked into a single supplier and then facing huge lifecycle costs during the life of the equipment.

“When we released our first DCS 30 years ago, we tried to make it as open as possible,” said Martin. “We felt for future innovation, the system needed to be as open as possible. But the level of standards necessary just didn’t exist.”

When ExxonMobil said they wanted to build an open platform, “we jumped in” added Martin.

Foxboro’s Trevor Cusworth is co-chair of the OPAF. He asked attendees to consider the benefits of joining in the effort. “We need more end users,” he said, “since we have only about 11 right now.”

The key benefit noted was reducing lifecycle costs, while the key technology is a new type of I/O.

From the OPAF brochure:

Not only can you contribute to the creation and development of a new process automation system, you can also:

  • Ensure your experience and requirements are included
  • Advocate that your industry sector is represented
  • Validate that existing standards important to you are used
  • Sustain the benefits of the standard and subsequent certification programs

Takeaways: This is an ambitious undertaking. The last one of these I saw eventually fell apart due to a “vicious circle”—suppliers got into the discussion hoping for new sales or the ability to knock off the incumbent; end users failed to not only write the system into their specs even if they did they weren’t enforced; suppliers lost interest due to no sales.

One important thing: If this catches on, it will greatly shake up the process automation supplier market.

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