I will only be at SPS for a few hours this year to check in with old friends and see some of the latest automation goodies. But I’m glad to be there at all. Thank you to Siemens who is sponsoring a press tour that includes a couple of days of intense cybersecurity briefings and workshops.
Oh, and a trip to Allianz Stadium to see the technology and a Bayern Munchen football match.
Some early SPS news:
- Avnu Alliance Demonstrates New Conformance Test Reference Tool
- OPC Foundation promises much news plus addition of Rockwell Automation
OPC Foundation has sent a couple of emails inviting us to a press briefing at SPS promising much news. I won’t be in Nuremberg on Tuesday, but I’ll catch up with Stefan and Tom for sure on Wednesday.
The mating dance has ended after a few months. Rockwell Automation has rejoined the OPC Foundation and gained a board seat. OPC Foundation has elected Juergen Weinhofer, vice president of common architecture and technology for Rockwell Automation, to its board of directors. Note that Weinhofer is also the Rockwell delegate to the ODVA board.
Weinhofer’s election to the board extends Rockwell Automation’s engagement in the technical work of the OPC Foundation and its technical advisory council.
“OPC UA has become the dominant open protocol for machine-to-software and machine-to-cloud solutions, and it is becoming critical for companies deploying a Connected Enterprise,” Weinhofer said. “I look forward to helping the OPC Foundation become a leader in machine-to-machine applications and helping OPC UA users unlock more value from their production systems.”
This quote is from the OPC news release. We should note that “Connected Enterprise” (capitalized) is the Rockwell Automation theme. I also note while parsing the comment that Rockwell is still firmly fixed in the factory floor area where Weinhofer specifically states “become a leader in machine-to-machine applications.”
“Rockwell Automation is a proven leader in industry standardization and open information technologies,” said Stefan Hoppe, president of the OPC Foundation. “I welcome not just Juergen’s business and political skills on the board but also the increased technical and commercial contribution that the wider Rockwell Automation team will also bring to the foundation.”
Avnu Alliance, an industry consortium enabling open, standards-based deterministic networking, will exhibit at SPS IPC Drives in the University Stuttgart ISW booth. Avnu Alliance, alongside ISW and Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), will showcase the role of conformance test plans, testbeds and test reference tools in ensuring an interoperable ecosystem of Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) devices.
“We are in cooperation with IIC, IEEE, IEC and others in creating an interoperable ecosystem through a common network foundation that stems from industry open standards and testing,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Chair. “The market will continue to require multiple application layer protocols for networked industrial systems. The Avnu Alliance charter is to enable interoperability at the network layer, to ensure ‘One TSN.’ We are the organization focused on providing TSN test plans and reference test architectures to anyone in the industry that wants to test for TSN compatibility.”
As such, Avnu serves to support Fieldbus organizations by providing its TSN conformance tests and procedures to ensure those organizations’ interoperability in the wider Ethernet system.
Leveraging the industry-defined requirements for TSN network interoperability, Avnu ensures there is a universal set of test plans for conformance to guarantee interoperability at the network layer. Avnu has developed a baseline test plan in the industrial market that ensures industrial devices, whether end device, infrastructure component or silicon, conform to the relevant IEEE standards, as well as the industrial automation profile being defined by IEC/IEEE 60802 Joint Project working group.
Starting with Time Synchronization, or 802.1AS as the foundation for all TSN devices, Avnu released the first set of test plans at SPS IPC Drives in 2017. Avnu will soon publish additional conformance test plans for end devices, such as enhancements for scheduled traffic.
At SPS IPC Drives 2018, Avnu Alliance will show a new proof-of-concept (POC) Conformance Test Reference Design that offers a single, streamlined way for vendors to test TSN interoperability. The POC Conformance Test Reference Design is designed to automatically test TSN devices for compliance to 802.1AS. The demonstration features a Linux open-source test tool created by ISW in partnership with Avnu. This tool would also allow other protocol organizations to test application stacks on top of a TSN network in a streamlined way enabling one-stop certification at any test house.
Another group validates standards for industrial communication including FDT and OPC UA.
FDT Group, an independent, international, not-for-profit standards association supporting the evolution of FDT technology (IEC 62453), announced that its Board of Directors voted unanimously to empower the emerging FDT IIoT Server (FITS) architecture with full platform independence. This decision strengthens the FITS architecture to support the diverse array of operating systems to meet industry-driven demands.
In addition to platform independence, key features of the FITS solution include native integration of the OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA), as well as comprehensive Control and Web Services interfaces. With built-in security protecting valuable information and operating data, the FITS platform will enable cloud, enterprise, on-premise, and a single-user desktop deployment method meeting the needs of the process, hybrid and discrete manufacturing sectors.
“The FITS platform is the ‘game changer’ the automation industry has been anticipating,” said Glenn Schulz, managing director of FDT Group. “I’d like to thank our Architecture and Specification Working Group that worked behind the scenes investigating and prototyping the platform independence feature approved by our board.”
Schulz added, “The Architecture and Specification Working Group has been directed to immediately transition FDT Server Common Components to a pure .NET Core implementation, previously built on the Microsoft .NET Framework. This transition will result in a single FDT Server environment deployable on a Microsoft-, Linux-, or macOS-based operating system, which will empower the intelligent enterprise by bridging the current installed base with next-generation solutions supporting the IIoT and I4.0 era.”
The significant decision and direction allows nearly unlimited deployment and application scenarios. For example, cloud-based FDT Servers can enjoy the performance and cost benefits of a Linux operating system. Traditional control system vendors can offer the FDT Server embedded in their hardware, and machine builders can deploy a small Linux-based FDT Server offering a comprehensive preconfigured asset management system for their skid that can be securely accessed remotely or with smart phones or browsers.
MES applications can also incorporate an FDT Server to gain secure, direct access to production data and asset health and availability metrics through OPC UA. In addition, service providers can wrap services around an FDT Server delivered in an industrial hardened Linux box. The opportunities for cost savings and value creation goes on due to the highly flexible deployment options of the FITS standard.
Because of the security, scalability and the ease of deployment of an FDT Server, the solution will simplify entry into the IIoT marketplace as the only open platform standardized integration architecture providing a single interface with cloud-to-plant floor mobile access. The decision to migrate to platform independence will delay the launch of the FITS specification by approximately six months. With the launch planned for the latter half of 2019, alongside Common Components supporting the FITS standard, automation suppliers and service providers will immediately reap the benefits of a quick development and deployment strategy. Common Components create a library of FDT routines and will simplify compliant development of FITS-based solutions such as Servers, Device Type Managers (DTMs) and APPs.
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.
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.
Developing digitalization using standards from plant design engineering through the entire production process and extending to the supply chain remains core to my interests. My past work with MIMOSA pointed to this. Siemens strategic moves are fascinating in this regard.
I started this post just when my project sucked all of my energy and then I went to IMTS. This is significant. Especially competitively. I see Rockwell Automation doing nothing like this—only the investment with PTC gaining a seat on the board and a connection to ThingWorx and Kepware within the company. Meanwhile I just interviewed Gary Freburger and Peter Martin from Schneider Electric process business, and they talked some about the integration with AVEVA along these same lines.
Siemens and Bentley Systems Announcement
In the companies’ latest Alliance Board meeting, Bentley Systems and Siemens decided to further strengthen their strategic alliance. The two companies have decided to extend their existing agreement, to further develop their joint business cooperation and commercial initiatives. Therefore, the joint innovation investment program will be increased from the initial €50 million funding to €100 million. In addition, as a result of the continuous investment of Siemens into secondary shares of Bentley’s common stock the Siemens stake in Bentley Systems now exceeds 9%.
Klaus Helmrich, member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG, said: “I’m very pleased with how strong our alliance started. Now we are investing in the next collaboration level with Bentley, where for instance we will strengthen their engineering and project management tools with Siemens enterprise wide collaboration platform Teamcenter to create a full Digital Twin for the engineering and construction world.”
He added: “Integrated company-wide data handling and IoT connectivity via MindSphere will enable our mutual customers to benefit from the holistic Digital Twins.”
Greg Bentley, Bentley Systems CEO, said: “In our joint investment activities with Siemens to date, we have progressed worthwhile opportunities together with virtually every Siemens business for ‘going digital’ in infrastructure and industrial advancement. As our new jointly offered products and cloud services now come to market, we are enthusiastically prioritizing further digital co-ventures. We have also welcomed Siemens’ recurring purchases of non-voting Bentley Systems stock on the NASDAQ Private Market, which we facilitate in order to enhance liquidity, primarily for our retiring colleagues.”
Industrial Networking Enabling IIoT Communication white paper
Working consortia of companies and individuals researching a technology provide great guidance for users of the technology—usually in the form of white papers. The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has been especially prolific lately. This means many companies and individuals see the importance of donating time and expertise to the cause.
The IIC has announced the IIC Industrial Networking Enabling IIoT Communication white paper. The paper serves as an introductory guide on industrial networking for IIoT system designers and network engineers, and offers practical solutions based on key usage scenarios.
“Industrial networking is the foundation of IIoT,” said David Zhe Lou, Chief Researcher, Huawei Technologies. “There are many choices of networking technologies depending on the application, the industrial network, deployment situation and conditions, but there is no universal or preferred industrial networking solution.”
Industrial networking infrastructure and technologies reside at the IP layer and below, and enable industrial assets, such as machines, sites and environments, to connect to the business professionals supporting applications across a wide range of industry sectors. Industrial networking technologies provide the foundation for applications that enable manufacturing productivity and profitability.
“IIoT applications have different needs depending on the industrial application and therefore demand robust, flexible and secure networks,” said Cliff Whitehead, Business Development Manager, Rockwell Automation. “This white paper will help IIoT system designers and network engineers understand the tradeoffs they can consider when designing an industrial network architecture that will be a strong foundation for current and future IIoT scenarios.”
Industrial networking is different from networking for the enterprise or networking for consumers. For example, IIoT system designers and network engineers need to make decisions about using wired or wireless communications. They have to figure out how to support mobility applications such as vehicles, equipment, robots and workers. They must also consider the lifecycle of deployments, physical conditions, such as those found in mining and agriculture, and technical requirements, which can vary from relaxed to highly demanding.
“Networking technologies range from industry-specific to universal, such as the emerging 5G, which meets diverse industrial needs,” continued Jan Höller, Research Fellow at Ericsson. “Industrial developers need guidance when devising solutions to select the right networking technologies, and this white paper is the first step to providing the missing methods and tools.”
The Industrial Networking Enabling IIoT Communication white paper sets the stage for the Industrial Internet Network Framework (IINF), which will complement the Industrial Internet Connectivity Framework (IICF) by detailing requirements and best available technologies for the lower three layers of the industrial internet communication stack.
The full IIC Industrial Networking Enabling IIoT Communication white paper and a list of IIC members who contributed can be found on the IIC website:
The Industrial Internet Consortium is a program of the Object Management Group (OMG).