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.

Opto 22 Adds Dev Kit for Node-Red

opto-node-redIndustrial automation manufacturer and Internet of Things application toolset provider Opto 22 announces immediate availability of the Node-RED development environment running on the groov Box industrial appliance, significantly decreasing IIoT application development time and complexity. Node-RED makes it easier to prototype, develop, and deploy applications for connecting physical assets to cloud applications and IT systems.

With the addition of the Node-RED development environment, groov is the ideal toolset for IIoT application developers. groov fuses together an industrially rugged hardware platform, data visualization for mobile and web clients, robust industrial automation protocol support including Modbus/TCP and OPC UA, and advanced data flow processing. Add these to its ability to connect multiple data sources including devices, databases, and third-party APIs (application program interfaces), and groov becomes a single, cohesive, cost-effective, and powerful platform for nearly any IIoT or edge computing application.

“When we first conceived of Node-RED, we were excited about its simplicity and ability to lower the technical bar, allowing people to focus on creating rather than just doing,” said Nick O’Leary, Emerging Technology Specialist at IBM and co-inventor of Node-RED. “Now Node-RED is being adopted by well-established, forward-looking companies in the industrial automation space, like Opto 22. It’s exciting to see the interest in Node-RED in a wide variety of industries.”

Rapid IIoT Application Prototyping

Linking technology assets and services together to build IIoT applications often requires layers of complex software development and long development cycles that quickly erode IIoT application ROI. Node-RED running on the groov appliance enables nearly anyone to rapidly prototype and develop IIoT applications to connect data streams from industrial assets to IT assets, bridging the gap between the worlds of physical equipment and digital computing systems.

Developers now have the ability to prototype applications on maker boards such as Raspberry Pi and then seamlessly deploy them to an an industrial-grade suite of products capable of functioning in mission-critical and harsh industrial environments.

Node-RED for IIoT

Node-RED is an innovative visual wiring tool to connect edge computing systems such as industrial automation controllers to cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) IoT, IBM Watson IoT, and Microsoft Azure in new and interesting ways. Created by Nick O’Leary (@knolleary) and Dave Conway-Jones (@ceejay) of IBM Emerging Technologies (@ibmets), Node-RED is an open-source, cross-platform technology available on GitHub.com and npmjs.org, and is currently available for a variety of platforms, including OS X, Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Raspberry Pi, and cloud offerings like IBM Bluemix and AT&T Flow. Built on the popular Node.js JavaScript runtime, Node-RED benefits from a large Node-RED library—containing over 600 prebuilt and ready-to-deploy nodes—allowing IIoT application developers to leverage existing software code and deploy it directly into their applications.

Node-RED is part of the JS Foundation which is a Linux Foundation Project. The JS Foundation is committed to help JavaScript application and server-side projects cultivate best practices and policies that promote high quality standards and broad, diverse contributions for long-term sustainability.

What is groov?

groov is a zero-programming, web-based way to build, deploy, and view effective, scalable operator interfaces and system dashboards to monitor and control systems and equipment using mobile devices and other computer-based systems. These operator interfaces can be viewed on almost any mobile device or computer regardless of its manufacturer, operating system, or screen size, including smartphones, tablets, PCs, and even smart high-definition televisions. 

For mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, and Android-based smartphones and tablets, a groov View app for iOS and Android is available free of charge on the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. The groov View app provides a native mobile experience for operator interfaces built with groov. These interfaces can also be viewed in the mobile device’s built-in web browser. 

groov can augment existing human-machine interfaces (HMIs) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems by making important information available to authorized users at any time and in any location. Users can also receive event-based email messages, for example when a connected machine or system needs attention. 

groov is available as either the standalone groov Box, an industrially hardened hardware appliance, or the PC-based groov Server for Windows software. In addition to Modbus/TCP networking, groov supports OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) to communicate with a variety of machines and systems on the plant floor, including PLCs, DCSs, PACs, databases, and OPC-DA servers. groov also communicates directly with Opto 22 SNAP PAC System controllers.

Node-RED on groov

Node-RED is securely accessed on the groov system through the authenticated Node-RED admin interface running on the groov Box appliance over HTTPS. The Node-RED admin interface provides a host of helpful features to application developers, including:

● Build and modify Node-RED flows in the Node-RED Editor; install additional nodes such as mysql and weather.

● Add or update security certificates

● Manage the Node-RED runtime

● Monitor resource usage for both Node-RED and the groov appliance.

● View and download Node-RED logs

● View, backup, and restore Node-RED project files

Lowering the Technical Bar

The Node-RED development environment offers a gradual and easily approachable learning curve for users of all levels and requires few or no programming skills. Instead, Node-RED takes advantage of pre-programmed, reusable code blocks called nodes. These nodes make IIoT application development simpler, easier to repeat, and faster to scale. Through a visual browser-based, drag-and-drop interface, Node-RED allows IIoT application developers to focus on identifying an opportunity and developing a solution, rather than building the components of an application from scratch.

Advanced JavaScript functions can also be created within the editor using a Function node. A built-in library lets developers save useful functions, templates, or node flows for re-use. The flows created in Node-RED are stored using the widely known JSON format, which can be easily imported and exported for sharing with other developers and applications, promoting the idea of social application development.

Node-RED nodes for Opto 22 SNAP PAC R-series and S-series controllers are included in the groov appliance’s Node-RED software. They can also be downloaded directly from http://flows.nodered.org/node/node-red-contrib-pac.

Pricing and Availability

Node-RED is open-source and free. Node-RED is offered by Opto 22 in the groov Box at no additional charge. Existing GROOV-AR1 groov Box appliance users simply need to update their groov Box with groov Admin version R1.570.44 to obtain this new technology for data flows and IIoT applications (visit http://manage.groov.com for software updates). For new groov Box appliances, pricing and availability can be found at http://groov.com/get-groov/.