Non-cellular 5G Networks

Several sources for networking keep me informed about progress and applications of 5G cellular, especially the ability to construct private cellular networks just for your plant. Then came an inquiry for an interview and news around a new IoT standard using noncellular 5G. The teaser, “with the promise to transform the way enterprises can scale, monitor, and track their businesses.” How could I resist?

From the press release,  ABI Research, in conjunction with Wirepas, has just announced a new 5G IOT Standard. The first mesh, non cellular technology of its kind, these new standards hold the promise of democratizing the deployment of massive IOT networks across industrial segments like manufacturing, warehousing, energy, and commercial buildings. 

I talked with Teppo Hemiä who has been the CEO of Wirepas since the beginning of 2014. Before joining Wirepas, Teppo held positions at Nokia, STMicroelectronics and ST-Ericsson. Wirepas is a Finland-based company that develops networking software that is embedded in radio chips. He was a main contributor to this new DECT-2020 NR Standard and the only manufactures of the mesh connectivity solution. The European standardization organization ETSI released its first set of DECT-2020 standards in June 2020 and updated them including addition of a fifth section published in December 2021.

Wirepas’ mesh connectivity solutions have made this new standard possible.

He told me that there is effectively no limit to the scale of this new network. They have networked a million smart electrical meters in Oslo, Norway with no network planning, no vase station. For every 300 nodes there was a cellular node to connect to the Internet. This network utilizes the 1.9 GHz spectrum that is free everywhere. It is the old standard for wireless phone headsets. It is not a high bandwidth network but perfect for IoT applications such as condition monitoring in factories. 

Another key is democratizing access. You don’t have to go through a supplier’s cloud. Any enterprise can set up and manage its own network. He says this is a tenth of the cost of cellular solutions. Companies are enabled to operate without middlemen or subscription fees.

This is from the preamble of the standard, These new standards hold the promise of democratizing the deployment of massive Internet of Technology networks across industrial segments like manufacturing, warehousing, energy, and commercial buildings. DECT-2020 NR has been designed and optimized for low-cost, low-power, and decentralized operation, providing opportunities for new applications across multiple industries.

OMAC Launches Data Governance Initiative

The Organization for Machine Automation and Control (OMAC) continues to reinvent itself as new technologies and applications appear. I could say the same about Mark Fondl, whom I first met as he explained how Ethernet was going to be the only sensible control network some 24 years ago. About the time I first met OMAC. This initiative comes because of all the data-intensive technologies we’ve added in manufacturing over the past few years. We have cloud, analytics, digital transformation, data-driven, and the entire panoply of use cases and tech.

OMAC’s latest initiative, led by ei3’s Mark Fondl, aims to establish a framework and guidelines to protect precious proprietary information while enabling secure data sharing for efficiently solving problems, mining insights, and capturing the highest value from data-supported capabilities. 

The workgroup will elaborate on the following topics to help organizations boost employee collaboration and productivity and support continuous innovation through practical data-sharing approaches. 

  • Categorizing types of data and methods of segmentation
  • Identifying the sources of data 
  • Clustering data usage – from control and optimization to service and support
  • Understanding data ownership and constraints – especially concerning the use of insights arising from the data
  • Architecting data hierarchy for distribution 
  • Reviewing security regulations concerning the transfer and storage

Participating organizations include leading manufacturing companies such as Cargill, Pepsico, and Corning; well-known OEMs including Mettler-Toledo, Milacron, Barry-Wehmiller, and Nordson; system integrators like Rovisys and Martin CSI, and groundbreaking technology companies like the ei3 Corporation, Siemens, General Electric, Rockwell, Cisco, Mitsubishi Electric Europe B.V. amongst others.

The workgroup will meet virtually, with the kick-off meeting being planned for May 18, 2022. (Sorry, I’m a bit late to the party due to the allergy attack.) A face-to-face workshop will take place in December 2022 to allow active members to review the developed content and enable an easy and free flow of suggestions in advancing this topic.

If you would like to participate and contribute your knowledge, skill, and experience, please complete the Expression of Interest Form, and the workgroup administrator will reach out to you.

Tenable CEO Testimony To Congress on Cyber Security

Getting a spot at the table before a US Congressional Committee where you’re not getting raked over the coals for nefarious practices probably sounds like a great thing. Perhaps a chance to influence legislation. Although getting a bill through Congress over the past 40 years more or less has been a trip harder than a trek across Antarctica.

That obstacle did not deter Tenable CEO Amit Yoran from giving characteristically blunt assessments of the state of cybersecurity before the House Committee on Homeland Security about the need to protect OT and critical infrastructure against Russian cyber threats and how it should happen.

Take a look at some of his talking points:

  • IT and OT sides of infrastructure move at different paces. OT needs to be more deliberate to avoid outages or other service disruptions.
  • Mandating air-gapping of IT and OT systems is dangerous from both a business and operational standpoint.
  • We need legislation that requires reporting of incidents and reporting of ransomware payments to CISA.
  • It should be illegal for private industry and private citizens to hack back.

And a few quotes from his testimony today:

Unless we make a stand, unless we show our resolve, unless we demonstrate our commitment to a more secure future, there will be a hearing like this one, decades from now, wondering why responsible action wasn’t taken.

LAPSUS$ has shown that with only $25,000, a group of teenagers could get into organizations with mature cybersecurity practices. Consider Russia — with much deeper pockets, focus, and mission, targeting critical infrastructure. That should be a sobering, if not terrifying, call to action.

Government policy should not allow for “learned helplessness” by government agencies or private industry. There is too much at stake for individuals and organizations to remain negligent, not taking even the basic steps to improve their cyber posture and manage cyber risk proactively.

CISA has already recommended best practices that organizations can implement to prepare themselves from a cyber perspective through its Shields Up Initiative. These recommendations align strongly with the best practice recommendations of numerous security advocacy groups, industry associations, working groups and regulatory bodies. Organizations that fail to implement these basic steps should be held accountable.

The SEC’s Proposed Cybersecurity Risk Management, Strategy, Governance and Disclosure and the recently passed Cyber Incident Reporting legislation for timely and transparent notification of cyber breaches are the two actions that would most dramatically improve our cybersecurity preparedness as a nation. Requiring greater transparency of cyber risk practices and oversight forces companies to treat cybersecurity risk as business risk, and will lead to stronger cybersecurity governance and accountability among corporate leaders and boards. This results in more effective cybersecurity. Period.

Avnu Alliance Releases Market Requirements Research for Wireless TSN

Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) news kept reporters and analysts busy a few years ago. Then the news stream slowed to a trickle. TSN is still an important networking technology for a number of use cases—especially in the audio/visual realm. That is the area of the Avnu Alliance. This month, its working group released a white paper exploring expected capabilities and network design.

“Time sensitive networking feature sets and profiles are still evolving,” says Dave Cavalcanti, chair of Avnu’s Wireless TSN (WTSN) working group and principal engineer at Intel. “No network or device, wired or wireless, implements every single TSN feature. With this white paper, the WTSN Working Group is aiming to offer a first look at the application requirements and expected wireless networking capabilities to meet those needs. It is intended to facilitate both discussion and alignment in the industry in this early phase of technology development, trials and testing.”

Created with input from TSN market leaders including Intel, L-Acoustics, Cisco, and Keysight, the new paper identifies the capabilities that wireless TSN-capable networks must implement, including features to enable time synchronization, bounded latency, reliability, security and efficiency. It also offers estimated KPIs for these capabilities by vertical market, including industrial automation, professional audio and video, and AR/VR (Augmented and Virtual Reality).

“It was critical for us to understand how the needs and network configurations will differ across markets,” says Genio Kronauer, executive director of electronics and network technologies at L-Acoustics and one of the paper’s contributing authors. “Live sound and industrial automation talk about their networking needs differently, so it was fascinating to see the synergies across markets. Through collaboration and certification, WTSN is going to be able to serve a wide range of industries.”

For network managers, the white paper also provides models for various WTSN configurations including Wi-Fi, 5G, and hybrid networks across wired and wireless TSN segments.

“This white paper is an important next step towards an ecosystem,” says Greg Schlechter, president of the Avnu Alliance and technology manager at Intel. “It begins to form a roadmap for the industry, including makers of devices and network components, to meet the market expectations for time sensitive networking applications that require wired and wireless mediums.”

The white paper, Wireless TSN: Market Expectations, Capabilities & Certification, is now available for download via the Avnu website

Open Process Automation Forum Discusses Progress

We’re just six weeks into the year and more events than usual have crowded my daily time—trips, funeral, swim meets, surgery for the wife’s broken arm. I’m behind. Thankfully I don’t put out a monthly magazine and all the peripheral (stuff) that goes with that. In order to divert my mind, I have been reading through (in order of course) the complete Nero Wolfe series from Rex Stout. If you have never been introduced to the genius private detective who settles his seventh-of-a-ton body into a custom desk chair and eats gourmet meals, you’ve missed a treat.

I did take an hour out yesterday morning, getting back to work, to listen in to the media update of the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF). Introduced at the ARC Forum in February 2017, this effort to forge a standard of standards for process automation interoperability has made progress.

The standards document is well along with six parts. The attempt is not to design a DCS but to harness standards such that interoperability is enhanced making life easier for owner/operators when necessary upgrades are specified.

Most impressive are the five owner/operator test beds authorized for completion in the next year. Companies working on these are ExxonMobil, Georgia-Pacific, BASF, Saudi Aramco/Petronas, and Dow Chemical. Note that these are not all only oil & gas.

Interoperability only works if it can be proved. The conformance working group paces with the standards working group to assure standards and ways to test for conformance develop hand-in-hand.

Not every DCS supplier was thrilled with this project at the beginning. Even if all are on board, I’m not sure how many are whole-heartedly behind it. Even so, this effort will move the entire industry forward toward the owner/operator goal of interoperable technology.

Standardization Advances From OPC Foundation

OPC Foundation held a virtual SPS press conference combined with annual general meeting last month. The most profound news comes from the group working on Field Level Communications. That seemed to be a bit of a political football when the idea was broached several years ago. It now has momentum. A couple of other items of interest relate to work with other associations. OPCF will take ownership of the MDIS Sub-Sea Standard. Meanwhile, John Dyck continues to be busy building relationships as CESMII and OPCF have launched a UA Cloud Library.

OPC Foundation’s Field Level Communications Initiative reaches significant milestone and celebrates premiere

Three years after its launch, the OPC Foundation’s Field Level Communications (FLC) initiative has completed the second release candidate of the OPC UA FX (Field eXchange) specifications and has started the review and release process for them.  In addition, a multi-vendor demo with controllers and network infrastructure components of 20 companies – among them the world’s largest automation suppliers – has been realized to showcase the cross-vendor interoperability of automation components for the most diverse use cases in Factory and Process Automation.

The release candidate of the Field Level Communications Initiative consists of four specification parts (Parts 80-83) and focuses on communication between automation components to exchange process data and configuration data using OPC UA Client/Server and PubSub extensions in combination with peer-to-peer connections and basic diagnostics:

  • Part 80 (OPC 10000-80) provides an overview and introduces the basic concepts of using OPC UA for field level communications.
  • Part 81 (OPC 10000-81) specifies the base information model and the communication concepts to meet the various use cases and requirements of Factory and Process Automation. 
  • Part 82 (OPC 10000-82) describes networking services, such as topology discovery and time synchronization.
  • Part 83 (OPC 10000-83) describes the data structures for sharing information required for Offline Engineering using descriptors and descriptor packages.

Peter Lutz, Director Field Level Communications of the OPC Foundation says: “We are happy about the progress that our working groups have made over the last months, despite COVID-19 and the associated restrictions. The completion of the second release candidate and an impressive multi-vendor live demo is a major achievement because the specifications are now mature so that the member review process could be started.”

Since the start of the Field Level Communications Initiative in November 2018 more than 320 experts from over 65 OPC Foundation member companies have contributed to generate the technical concepts and elaborate the specification contents for extending the OPC UA framework for field level communications, including Determinism, Motion, Instruments and Functional Safety.

The OPC Foundation Takes Ownership of the MDIS Sub-Sea Standard 

The OPC Foundation (OPCF) announced that it consolidated and took over the MCS-DCS Interface Standardisation (MDIS) specification ownership.  Effective immediately, as with all OPCF Companion Specifications, MDIS is freely available for adoption by all interested parties at no additional cost. The OPCF MDIS working group, co-chaired by Markus Koenig from SubSea, Tim Fortin from Honeywell, and Paul Hunkar from DS Interoperability, now oversees the ongoing maintenance and expansion of the standard. Original MDIS network group members will continue working in the OPCF working group. The OPC Foundation invites all members interested in helping shape the future of the MDIS specification to join the MDIS working group.

MDIS was formed with a vision to optimize and standardize communications between subsea Master Control Stations (MCSs) and topside Distributed Control Systems (DCSs). A standardized MCS-DCS interface simplifies the implementation of data communications and increases data quality.

The OPC Foundation and CESMII launches the UA Cloud Library

The OPC Foundation announced the launch of the globally available UA Cloud Library co-developed with the Clean Energy and Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CESMII). With its multi-cloud architecture, the UA Cloud Library saw contributions from all major cloud vendors leveraging open interfaces and is available for sharing, finding, and collaborating on OPC UA Information Models. Today, the UA Cloud Library already contains over 65 OPC UA Information Models created by individual companies as well as international standards organizations like AutoID, DEXPI, MDIS, MTConnect, and over 30 VDMA working groups as part of their OPC UA Companion Specification work.

While shop floor (OT) components routinely discover and use data structures and services of other OPC UA components, direct access to such semantic information has not been readily available to cloud-based applications due to security considerations. The UA Cloud Library eliminates this gap by providing IT and cloud-based applications access to semantic information directly from the cloud instead of manually getting it from the OT systems

“The UA Cloud Library is the missing link that makes OPC UA information models available in the cloud on a global scale without requiring a connection to physical machines,” said Erich Barnstedt, Chief Architect Standards & Consortia, Microsoft Corporation, and chair of the UA Cloud Library working group. “It enables OPC UA Information Models – used as blueprints for industrial digital twins – to be looked up and matched against time-series machine telemetry data provided by cloud-based analytics software, which is a common requirement in Industrial IoT projects.”

“It was an honor to partner with the OPC Foundation in this strategic initiative,” said John Dyck, CEO of CESMII. “The UA Cloud Library is truly an important step on the journey to Smart Manufacturing Interoperability and will pave the way for dramatic simplification and cost savings for manufacturing systems!”

Stefan Hoppe, President and Executive Director of the OPC Foundation, said, “The value of what the OPC Foundation and CESMII joint working group created cannot be overstated because it equips us with the mechanism needed to facilitate access to all known OPC UA information models via an open, global, single-source of truth.” Mr. Hoppe continued, “Beyond the value the UA Cloud Library brings to applications, it will help with global OPC UA information model coordination and harmonization efforts by making it easy to search and cross-reference the latest OPC UA companion specifications in real-time. Finally, the UA Cloud Library will serve a crucial infrastructure role in Smart Manufacturing initiatives that depend on interoperability.”