EdgeX Foundry Reaches 1 Million Platform Container Downloads

EdgeX Foundry Reaches 1 Million Platform Container Downloads

Many engineers and programmers like open source projects combined with open APIs. Some open source catches on and quietly becomes widely used. Others languish. The Linux Foundation’s Edge project, especially EdgeX Foundry, keeps quietly growing. What are the odds that this becomes a widely used Internet of Things tool?

Today’s news in brief:

  • EdgeX’s fifth release offers more scalable solutions to move data from devices to cloud, enterprise and on-premises applications
  • The first LF Edge project to achieve Stage 3 ratification, EdgeX hits widespread adoption and production-level maturity
  • EdgeX and LF Edge onsite at IoT Solutions World Congress with demos from Dell Technologies, Home Edge, IOTech and Project EVE

EdgeX Foundry, a project under the LF Edge umbrella organization within the Linux Foundation that aims to establish an open, interoperable framework for IoT edge computing independent of connectivity protocol, hardware, operating system, applications or cloud, announced the availability of its “Fuji” release. This release offers additional security and testing features on top of the production-ready “Edinburgh” release launched this spring.

“EdgeX Foundry has experienced significant momentum in developing an open IoT platform for edge-related applications and shows no signs of slowing down,” said Arpit Joshipura, general manager, Networking, Edge and IoT, the Linux Foundation. “As the only Stage 3 project under LF Edge, EdgeX Foundry is a clear example of how open collaboration is the key to an active community dedicated to creating an interoperable open source framework across IoT, Enterprise, Cloud and Telco Edge.”

Launched in April 2017, and now part of the LF Edge umbrella, EdgeX Foundry is an open source, loosely-coupled microservices framework that provides the choice to plug and play from a growing ecosystem of available third-party offerings or to augment proprietary innovations. With a focus on the IoT Edge, EdgeX simplifies the process to design, develop and deploy solutions across industrial, enterprise, and consumer applications. As a Stage 3 project under LF Edge, EdgeX is a self-sustaining cycle of development, maintenance, and long-term support. As an example of the rapidly accelerating use of the code, EdgeX hit a milestone of 1 million platform container downloads, which almost half of these took place in the last few months.

“The 1M container download isn’t our only milestone,” said Keith Steele, EdgeX Foundry chair of the Technical Steering Committee and LF Edge Governing Board member. “The development team has expanded with more than 150 active contributors globally and the partner ecosystem of complementary products and services continues to increase. As a result, we’re seeing more end-user case studies that range from energy and utilities, building automation, industrial process control and factory automation, smart cities, retail stores and distribution and health monitoring.”

The Fuji Release

As the fifth release in the EdgeX Foundry roadmap, Fuji offers significant enhancements to the Edinburgh 1.0 release, which launched in July, including:

  • New and improved security features to include PKI infrastructure for token/key generation.
  • Application services that now offer full replacement capability to the older export services provided with previous EdgeX releases. These application services offer more scalable and easier to use solutions to get data from the EdgeX framework to cloud, enterprise and on-premises applications.
  • Example application services are provided with this release to allow users to quickly move data from EdgeX to the Azure and AWS IoT platforms.
  • A new applications function Software Development Kit (SDK) also provides the EdgeX user community with the ability to create new and customized solutions on top of EdgeX – for example, allowing EdgeX to move edge data to legacy and non-standard environments.
  • Unit test coverage is considerably increased (in some services by more than 200 percent) across EdgeX core and supporting microservices.
  • New device service connectors to BLE, BACNet, IP camera, OPC UA, GPS, and REST device services.
  • Choices for commercially-supported EdgeX device connectors are also starting to blossom with offerings for CANopen, PROFINET, Zigbee, and EtherCat available through EdgeX community members.

Inaugural EdgeX Open

The EdgeX Foundry community recently kicked off a series of hackathons, titled the EdgeX Open. More than 70 attendees participated in the first event on October 7- 8, 2019, in Chicago. Hosted by LF Edge and the Retail Industry Leader Association (RILA), and sponsored by Canonical, Dell Technologies, Deep Vision, Intel, IOTech, IoTium and Zededa, the event featured five teams that competed in retail use case categories. More details on the event, including the winning use case from Volteo, are available in this blog post.

The next hackathon will coincide with the Geneva release, targeted for Spring 2020. It will be centered on the Manufacturing vertical and held in a location in Europe.

EdgeX Foundry Reaches 1 Million Platform Container Downloads

How To Avoid Pilot Purgatory For Your Projects

This is still more followup from Emerson Global Users Exchange relative to sessions on Projects Pilot Purgatory. I thought I had already written this, but just discovered it languishing in my drafts folder. While in Nashville, I ran into Jonas Berge, senior director, applied technology for Plantweb at Emerson Automation. He has been a source for technology updates for years. We followed up a brief conversation with a flurry of emails where he updated me on some presentations.

One important topic centered on IoT projects—actually applicable to other types of projects as well. He told me the secret sauce is to start small. “A World Economic Forum white paper on the fourth industrial revolution in collaboration with McKinsey suggests that to avoid getting stuck in prolonged “pilot purgatory” plants shall start small with multiple projects – just like we spoke about at EGUE and just like Denka and Chevron Oronite and others have done,” he told me.

“I personally believe the problem is when plants get advice to take a ‘big bang’ approach starting by spending years and millions on an additional ‘single software platform’ or data lake and hiring a data science team even before the first use case is tackled,” said Berge. “My blog post explains this approach to avoiding pilot purgatory in greater detail.”

I recommend visiting Berge’s blog for more detail, but I’ll provide some teaser ideas here.

First he recommends

  • Think Big
  • Start Small
  • Scale Fast

Scale Fast

Plants must scale digital transformation across the entire site to fully enjoy the safety benefits like fewer incidents, faster incident response time, reduced instances of non-compliance, as well as reliability benefits such as greater availability, reduced maintenance cost, extend equipment life, greater integrity (fewer instances of loss of containment), shorter turnarounds, and longer between turnarounds. The same holds true for energy benefits like lower energy consumption, cost, and reduced emissions and carbon footprint, as well as production benefits like reduced off-spec product (higher quality/yield), greater throughput, greater flexibility (feedstock use, and products/grades), reduced operations cost, and shorter lead-time.

Start Small

The organization can only absorb so much change at any one time. If too many changes are introduced in one go, the digitalization will stall:

  • Too many technologies at once
  • Too many data aggregation layers
  • Too many custom applications
  • Too many new roles
  • Too many vendors

Multiple Phased Projects

McKinsey research shows plants successfully scaling digital transformation instead run smaller digitalization projects; multiple small projects across the functional areas. This matches what I have personally seen in projects I have worked on.

From what I can tell it is plants that attempt a big bang approach with many digital technologies at once that struggle to scale. There are forces that encourage companies to try to achieve sweeping changes to go digital, which can lead to counterproductive overreaching. 

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) suggests a disciplined phased approach rather than attempting to boil the ocean. I have seen plants focus on a technology that can digitally transform and help multiple functional areas with common infrastructure. A good example is wireless sensor networks. Deploying wireless sensor networks in turn enables many small projects that help many departments digitally transform the way they work. The infrastructure for one technology can be deployed relatively quickly after which many small projects are executed in phases.

Small projects are low-risk. A small trial of a solution in one plant unit finishes fast. After a quick success, then scale it to the full plant area, and then scale to the entire plant. Then the team can move on to start the next pilot project. This way plants move from PoC to full-scale plant-wide implementation at speed. For large organization with multiple plants, innovations often emerge at an individual plant, then gets replicated at other sites, rolled out nation-wide and globally.

Use Existing Platform

I have also seen big bang approach where plant pours a lot of money and resources into an additional “single software platform” layer for data aggregation before the first use-case even gets started. This new data aggregation platform layer is meant to be added above the ERP with the intention to collect data from the ERP and plant historian before making it available to analytics through proprietary API requiring custom programming. 

Instead, successful plants start small projects using the existing data aggregation platform; the plant historian. The historian can be scaled with additional tags as needed. This way a project can be implemented within two weeks, with the pilot running an additional three months, at low-risk. 

Think Big
I personally like to add you must also think of the bigger vision. A plant cannot run multiple small projects in isolation resulting in siloed solutions. Plants successful with digital transformation early on establish a vision of what the end goal looks like. Based on this they can select the technologies and architecture to build the infrastructure that supports this end goal.
NAMUR Open Architecture (NOA)
The system architecture for the digital operational infrastructure (DOI) is important. The wrong architecture leads to delays and inability to scale. NAMUR (User Association of Automation Technology in Process Industries) has defined the NAMUR Open Architecture (NOA) to enable Industry 4.0. I have found that plants that have deployed digital operational infrastructure (DOI) modelled on the same principles as NOA are able to pilot and scale very fast. Flying StartThe I&C department in plants can accelerate digital transformation to achieve operational excellence and top quartile performance by remembering Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast. These translate into a few simple design principles:

  • Phased approach
  • Architecture modeled on the NAMUR Open Architecture
  • Ready-made apps
  • East-to-use software
  • Digital ecosystem

Podcast 185 Beyond IIoT

Jim Collins, writing in Good To Great, “When used right–when linked to a simple, clear, and coherent concept rooted in deep understanding–technology is an essential driver in accelerating forward momentum. But when used wrong–when grasped as an easy solution, without deep understanding of how it links to a clear and coherent concept–technology simply accelerates your own self-created demise.”

Podcast 185: In the beginning there were M2M and Internet of Things. Then came Industrial Internet of Things combining the two. Add a stream coming from standards such as Industry 4.0 and we started talking about Digital Transformation. Gary talks about emphasizing business processes and sustainable profitability using all these technologies and strategies plus people. Going beyond IIoT.

Innovation and Digital Transformation Words Most Heard at ARC Industry Forum

Rockwell Automation produced a couple of press releases at the ARC Industry Forum last week in Orlando managing to work both phrases into its news. During my one-on-one interview during the week, the conversation focused on what I discovered was a product—FactoryTalk Innovation Suite, powered by PTC. (That’s a mouthful.) Merging PTC’s (ThingWorx) connectivity to factory devices with Rockwell Automation’s Factory Talk analytics technology, customers can reap benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things.

The actual show announcement reported that in the last three months a dozen manufacturers across a variety of countries and industries have selected the FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, solution as part of their digital transformation initiatives. The release pointed out the benefits to PTC of expanding its reach into manufacturing resulting from the new partnership initiated by Rockwell’s $1B investment along with a seat on the board for CEO Blake Moret.

An integral part of current IIoT architectural thinking involves edge compute devices. Rockwell Automation didn’t exactly describe its new control product this way, but the way I see it, the Allen-Bradley CompactLogix 5480 controller combines control and edge computing. The controller marries a Logix control engine and the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system in a single platform.

The controller incorporates multiple security functions, including user authentication and authorization, role-based access and digitally signed encryption. “And because the Windows operating system runs independently from the control engine, any disruptions to the operating system will not affect machine or line control.”

This is the second of several planned individual reports from the 2019 ARC Industry Forum. I’m working on a summary document.

What They Don’t Teach You In College But You Need To Know

What They Don’t Teach You In College But You Need To Know

James Altucher made a name for himself as an investor and writer. He is even more on the strange side than I am. He’s been on a rant for a while about how many people waste money on college.

Now, I bet that if you want to be a chemical engineer college is a good way to go. But on the other hand I learned most of the electronics and electrical engineering I know on my own–including the math. And it has served me well.

This image shows 15 things you need to learn that you won’t in college–at least not as part of the normal curriculum. And he is correct. All of these are important to your success in life. And most you have learned because of a mentor.

There were things I picked up in college–especially international studies under a former (?) CIA leader. I would have learned German better by living there six months than through the classes I took, on the other hand. But the ability to think and write were the best legacies I have from college.

Check this out and let me know what you think.

OPC Foundation Released Much News At Hannover Messe

OPC Foundation Released Much News At Hannover Messe

Yes, OPC UA at Hannover. Even though (or because of) I’ve been to two subsequent conferences, I’m still catching up on Hannover news. 

The growth in popularity of OPC UA led to increased interest among members for space at the OPC Foundation booth. For the last few years it had roughly six sponsors with a partner pod. OPC Foundation found itself extending the booth this year to provide enough space for ten companies and organizations. These included AutomationML, BitCtrl, C-Labs, Kepware, MatrikonOPC, ProSys OPC, Softing, Siemens, Takebishi, and Unified Automation.

Not only did Microsoft include a large display wall featuring OPC UA in its booth, SAP also showed integration of information into the SAP cloud for analysis and action for both discrete and process automation featuring OPC UA at a large wall featured prominently in its booth.

German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) Announced Completion of In-depth Security Analysis of OPC UA

My inbox has been overflowing with responses to the recent security hack on the Internet. This just highlights the issue of cyber security. Anyone in the business of communication over a network must provide as much security assurance as possible.

The OPC Foundation has worked with many security validation companies and organizations to provide the highest level of security. One of the most significant of those organizations is the BSI. Due to the relevance of OPC UA to Industrie 4.0 and Germany Industry, the BSI performed an in-depth security analysis of the OPC UA specifications and a selected reference implementation. A video describing their recommendation and analysis is available on the OPC YouTube Channel.

The BSI has published the results of the OPC UA security analysis on its web site, and the OPC Foundation also published a commented version on the OPC web site in both German and English: BSI web site and OPC web site.

Companion Specs

Companion specifications with other organizations is an excellent way to spread the utility of OPC UA. OPC Foundation President Tom Burke updated the press on the status of many companion specs now in process.

• OPC UA & AutomationML—released
• PLCOpen OPC UA Client for IEC61131—released
• OPC UA for Sercos—released
• M2M—started
• MDIS ( Oil&Gas )—First interoperability workshop for companion spec
• PackML—Release candidate
• Dexpi—MoU started; chair is Nikolaos Papakonstantinou VTT Finland
• VDMA Injection molding machine—Release Candidate
• VDMA Machine Vision—Started
• VDMA Machine Robotic—under preparation
• (Also) MIMOSA CCOM & OPC UA—under preparation

VDMA also presented at the press conference. This German machine builders association represents 3200 companies. It’s goals include the integration of components, machines, and plants. It further seeks cross-company interoperability in the factory.

It cited the need of replacing manuals and data sheets by information models as it seeks standardized information about components and machines from different manufacturers.

It prefers OPC UA because:
• It’s an open standard
• Manufacturer independent
• Not a rigid connection, but offers flexible integration by semantic service description
• Plug & Work
• Can be used for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance
• Offers optimization of production

OPC Foundation Members’ News at Hannover Messe

Softing Industrial offers commercial license for OPC UA .NET Standard Stack

Softing Industrial announced a commercial license for the OPC UA .NET Standard Stack. The OPC UA .NET Standard Stack has been developed by Microsoft, and was contributed as open source project to the OPC Foundation GitHub in June 2016.

The OPC UA .NET Standard Stack targets the .NET Standard Library. .Net Standard allows developing apps that run on all common platforms available today, without requiring platform-specific modifications. Furthermore, cloud applications and services are also supported.

Softing Industrial plans to offer a commercial license for the OPC UA .NET Standard Stack in the fourth quarter 2017, making it available for full commercial use to everyone. Preparatory work and technical coordination with the OPC Foundation as well as Microsoft have already begun. Softing support for the currently available Softing OPC UA .NET Toolkits will not be affected and continue to be available.

OPC UA Meets IoT

Unified Automation integrates OPC UA data sources into IoT solutions without programming

The growing number of devices and machines with OPC Unified Architecture (UA) interfaces, as well as the large installed base of “classic” OPC products, can now easily be integrated into cloud and IoT platforms, like Azure IoT Suite. Unified Automation’s UaGateway offers an easy configure-only solution, without changes on installed systems and without time-consuming programming.

Being already a well-established solution for integrating different OPC interfaces into a single common database and “translating” between different OPC standards, UaGateway has now been extended with the IoT protocols Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) and Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT). This allows the publication of any OPC data into cloud and IoT platforms simply by configuration.

“UaGateway now closes the gap between the large installed base of OPC devices and new upcoming products with fully integrated IoT protocols”, said Jürgen Boxberger, CEO of Unified Automation GmbH “The UaGateway provides industrial grade communication infrastructure for multi-vendor Edge Cloud and Analytics applications.”

The UaGateway can be installed on a variety of different hardware platforms ranging from small embedded rail mount device running embedded Linux or headless device running e.g. Windows 10 IoT Core. Installed on a large scale device the UaGateway provides the communication data hub for industrial Edge Cloud solutions and analytics applications. Fully based on OPC UA technology the UaGateway enables secured and authenticated access to plant floor data giving you full control over your data down to each individual data point. Furthermore, the UaGateway will integrate with Microsoft’s Azure IoT Suite Connected factory preconfigured solution.

Comtrol Implements OPC-UA connectivity with MultiLink on IO-Link Master family

Comtrol Corp., a manufacturer of industrial device connectivity products and the official North American IO-Link Competency Center, announced the availability of OPC-UA support with its MultiLink technology on its IO-Link Master family of products.

OPC Unified Architecture (OPC-UA) is a machine to machine communication protocol developed for industrial automation. OPC-UA allows customers to communicate with industrial equipment and systems for data connection and control, freely use an open standard, cross-platform, implement service-oriented architecture (SOA) software and utilize robust security.

Comtrol’s MultiLink technology allows IO-Link Masters to simultaneously provide sensors Process data to PLC platforms, while also sending the sensors ISDU Service and Process data via Modbus TCP or OPC-UA upstream to IIoT/Industry 4.0 Cloud solutions or factory SCADA systems. Comtrol’s IO-Link Masters are available in three industrial Ethernet protocols: EtherNet/IP, Modbus TCP and PROFINET IO, which are all capable of running OPC UA with MultiLink.

C-Labs Releases Fourth Generation IoT Technology

C-Labs Corp., a provider of software for the industrial Internet of Things (IoT), announced availability of the fourth generation of its C-DEngine core software. The patent-pending software provides embedded IoT capabilities for machine makers such as TRUMPF, machine connectivity for application providers such as AXOOM, and industrial IoT cloud connectivity for Microsoft Azure IoT Hub and other cloud services. C-DEngine is also the core technology in C-Labs’ own Factory-Relay and Machine Monitor products for manufacturers.

According to a PwC survey, 65% of US manufacturers are not yet collecting or using IoT data to enhance their operations, despite availability of the technology. In C-Labs’ experience, this is also true among equipment makers and business application providers who need to securely collect and use data from locations where industrial equipment is installed and used on a daily basis. Concerns about cybersecurity and a lack of IT familiarity with industrial IoT requirements are the top challenges to the success of industrial IoT deployments. C-Labs software products provide live access to industrial equipment and IoT data without compromising or side-stepping enterprise IT security, providing complementary benefits to machine makers, machine owners, and service providers.

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