Edge Computing and IIoT Platforms and More At ARC Forum

Edge Computing and IIoT Platforms and More At ARC Forum

Let me try to summarize a number of other news items gleaned from the ARC Forum featuring edge computing, IIoT Platforms, and technology. When ARC’s Paul Miller told me it would be the best ever, he turned out not to be exaggerating. More people, more news.

Stratus Technologies, known for years for secure servers, released an edge computing device. Interest in computing at the edge of the network has blossomed lately, with many companies releasing products. Lots of choices for users.

Integration Objects, firmly within another important trend, introduced an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Platform. I’m beginning to see articles about users latching on to these platforms rather than building their own ad hoc connections among IoT devices and applications.

UL discussed standards with me during the show. The company known for developing safety standards and then testing for compliance has developed also a security standard. And it tests to it for compliance.

HIMA is another company combining safety and security technologies. There is so much in common between the two–especially thought processes and planning.

Yokogawa has extended and rebranded its process automation offering, now called Synaptic Business Automation. Among other things, it has refined the dashboard into a “karaoke” style.

Bentley Systems discussed the combining of engineering design tools with digital photography and other digital technologies to better represent the engineering and design of a plant. This is the most cutting edge technology I saw during the week, but I cannot do it justice in a paragraph. I encourage a tour of the Website.

Production Optimization and Process Automation In ARC Forum Spotlight

Production Optimization and Process Automation In ARC Forum Spotlight

Today’s news from the ARC Forum concerns AspenTech and Emerson as we focus on process systems and asset optimization.

Only a few years ago it appeared that AspenTech was destined for some sort of demise—sold for parts or something. It has rebounded nicely since and last week announced enhancements to its production optimization solution and this partnership with Emerson. Collaboration being one of the sub-themes of the conference.

Emerson and AspenTech have teamed up to deliver asset optimization software solutions along with global automation technologies and operational consulting services.

AspenTech’s asset optimization supports Emerson’s Project Certainty and Operational Certainty initiatives. “Emerson’s global footprint, automation engineering services and software, extensive large-scale project execution and consulting capabilities complement AspenTech’s technology footprint. Collectively, these capabilities can be deployed as solutions in both conventional and cloud-based architectures.”

“Emerson and AspenTech are both highly focused on digital technologies and services that deliver measurable improvements and value to our customers’ bottom line,” says David N. Farr, chairman and CEO of Emerson. “Together, we are well positioned to help our customers navigate the best path in this era of digital transformation and achieve Top Quartile performance.” Top Quartile is defined as achieving operations and capital performance in the top 25 percent of peer companies.

The alliance will initially focus on three key areas: engineering software, including high-fidelity simulation to help validate project design and train operators before start-up; manufacturing and supply chain software, including advanced process control software designed for highly complex operations; and asset performance management software to improve plant reliability.

“Working with Emerson, we will help more organizations drive higher total shareholder returns with a relentless focus on operational excellence,” says Antonio Pietri, president and CEO of AspenTech. “We look forward to helping make the best companies even better by optimizing the design, operation and maintenance lifecycle with software and insight to run assets faster, safer, longer and greener.”

Emerson Updates

Meanwhile, Emerson hits themes of security, close to the edge (of the network), and OPC UA among many updates to its process automation system. It is expanding its Plantweb digital ecosystem with the launch of DeltaV version 14, a cybersecurity-certified control system designed to deliver new value in capital projects and make plant operations more connected and productive. The latest release provides significant innovations to the entire DeltaV architecture and was built with customers’ digital transformation initiatives in mind.

This major update to the DeltaV automation system includes several enhancements to eliminate costs and reduce complexity in capital projects, plus improve productivity during operations through enhanced access to production and equipment data, improved usability and greater security.

“More than ever, an integrated plant data environment is essential to achieve digital transformation. With DeltaV, we’re reducing the engineering effort required to securely connect plant, operational and information systems,” said Jamie Froedge, president of Process Systems and Solutions, Emerson Automation Solutions. “Our customers will have more capabilities in their distributed control and safety systems to help them successfully execute capital projects and optimize operations.”

Capital Project Flexibility

Continuing to advance the impact of DeltaV Electronic Marshalling with CHARMs on capital project engineering, CHARM I/O Block takes CHARMs—which achieved more than one million deployments at more than 1100 sites in only five years—closer to the field. Small enclosures with up to 12 CHARMs can now be installed closer to field devices, significantly reducing wiring and overall installation costs by as much as 60 percent and providing more engineering flexibility.

Smart Commissioning, launched in 2016, took one of most engineering intensive operations off a project’s critical path. Traditionally, commissioning has been a manual task that requires more than two hours per device for thousands of devices. Smart Commissioning reduced commissioning time to 25 minutes. Emerson is now expanding these capabilities and reducing device commissioning time to as little as 10 minutes, a nearly 93 percent reduction in costly commissioning time that could save several hundred-thousand dollars in engineering costs.

Mobility and User Experience

DeltaV Live Operator Interface is a modern, built-for-purpose operations experience that is easy to understand and modify. The HMI comes pre-engineered with the industry’s best practices for user experience including ISA 101.01 and is based on research with the Center for Operator Performance, a consortium of vendors and academia focused on human factors engineering. The HTML5 interface enables scalable graphics and gives operators the flexibility to adjust their displays to focus on process data that is most important for each situation. The new operator interface helps improve overall situational awareness and decision-making speed. Emerson is helping companies prepare for the shift to mobility with DeltaV Live by building a foundation for graphics to be transferrable across desktops, laptops, and mobile devices—all without additional engineering or custom scripting.

A Secure, Connected Plant

DeltaV will offer its users a new level of confidence and protection from cybersecurity threats by being one of the only systems to have a top-to-bottom cybersecurity certification. DeltaV v14 will be certified ISASecure SSA Level 1 by the International Society of Automation (ISA), signifying that Emerson developers are trained to write secure code and the system as a whole is hardened against cyber threats.

Emerson is making connecting a plant’s OT systems with IT systems seamless by expanding OPC UA access in its DeltaV hardware and software offerings. DeltaV is the pathway for most plant data and now using the IIoT’s most prevalent protocol, OPC UA, DeltaV applications and servers can securely share data to cloud analytics applications, remote monitoring solutions, and third-party technologies.

Embedded and Edge Capture Attention At ARC Forum

Embedded and Edge Capture Attention At ARC Forum

I was so busy during the ARC Advisory Group Industry Forum last week, that I just couldn’t find time to write coherently. The keyword was digital supplemented by embedded, edge, IIoT, security, and transformation.

The Forum attracted perhaps not only its largest attendance but also its largest attendance of end users. The things that appeal to me are those that fit into the Industrial Internet of Things the most. Here are two related new product releases. The first one involves embedding HMI/SCADA software and the second involves using that embedded software in addition to many other technologies for an edge device.

First is the announcement from Inductive Automation concerning the creation of its Ignition Onboard program. The program involves device manufacturers embedding Ignition and Ignition Edge software in the devices they manufacture.

The program includes Ignition Onboard and Ignition Edge Onboard. Ignition by Inductive Automation is an industrial application platform with tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Ignition Edge is a line of lightweight, limited, low-cost Ignition software products which empower solutions designed for edge-of-network use.

“Device manufacturers have joined Ignition Onboard in response to their customers’ demands for an all-in-one solution that contains hardware and software at a reasonable price,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “These are companies that understand the importance of building a strong IIoT, and we’re very happy to be collaborating with them.”

The other announcement came from Opto 22. This is a significant advance in edge devices for industrial and SCADA applications.
The new groov EPIC system from Opto 22 combines I/O, control, data processing, and visualization into one secure, maintainable, edge-of-network industrial system. groov EPIC lets engineers and developers focus on delivering value, not on triaging loosely connected components.

“We are a company of engineers inspired and driven to create products that unleash our customers’ imaginations,” says Mark Engman, Opto 22 CEO. “groov EPIC is a culmination of that mission, a response to industry requests to more wholly integrate IT and OT technologies, simplify development and deployment, and provide a platform for long-term growth now and well into the future.”

Combining reimagined intelligent I/O with an embedded Linux real-time controller, gateway functions, and an integrated display, groov EPIC offers field-proven industrial hardware design with a modern software ensemble, to produce the results that visionary engineers want today.

Connecting legacy systems, controlling processes and automating machines, subscribing to web services and creating mashups, acquiring and publishing data, visualizing that data wherever it is needed, and mobilizing operators—all of these are now within reach. In addition, groov EPIC simplifies commissioning and wiring and helps engineers develop rapidly and deploy quickly.

“The groov EPIC system incorporates in one unit everything needed to connect and control field and operational devices and data, through on-premises IT databases, spreadsheets and other software, to cloud storage and services—and back again,” says Benson Hougland, Opto 22 vice president of Marketing & Product Strategy. “This ability to easily exchange data and use it where needed opens opportunities automation engineers have not had until now. This is a truly new system that builds on the past but looks fundamentally to the future of our industry.”

Of particular interest to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will be optional access to the Linux operating system through secure shell (SSH). This access, along with toolchains and interpreters for Java, C/C++, Python, JavaScript/Node.js, and more, allows OEM developers to execute their own custom developed applications on this ruggedized, edge processing control system.

The main point of discussion between Benson and me lately is whether Sparkplug (from the developer of MQTT) is adequate for IoT applications. He favors the lightweight (technical, not pejorative) protocol or I tend to favor OPC UA over MQTT as a better overall solution due to its interoperability. But that’s OK. He and I have had these technical discussions for almost 20 years now. I love pushback, and I think Benson does as well. It raises the energy level.

Companies Discover IoT Applications Boost Performance

Companies Discover IoT Applications Boost Performance

I am still stung by a comment and ensuing discussion made by a maintenance manager during a talk I gave a few years ago. The talk was an early IoT description of networks, data, information, and the like. The guy raised his hand and said, “The engineers in my plant tell me that this stuff doesn’t work. So just forget about it!”

Emerson Automation developed a strategy called Top Quartile Performance and a service plan called Operational Certainty in order to operationalize Industrial IoT to benefit customers. This report comes from Covestro, one of the world’s largest polymer companies, which has selected Emerson to provide Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to help achieve its goals of minimizing risk and improving uptime at nine high-utilization plants.

As part of the $14 million, five-year contract, Emerson will provide remote monitoring and predictive maintenance to help Covestro optimize these manufacturing facilities for improved production, safety and reliability.

The Emerson program is a tenet of Covestro’s comprehensive digitization program called [email protected] that considers and implements new Industrial IoT strategies and operating procedures to deliver improved performance and meet defined financial targets. Covestro’s reliability program will leverage strategies, solutions and technologies in Emerson’s Operational Certainty program designed to help manufacturers achieve Top Quartile performance. Emerson data shows that Top Quartile companies spend half as much on maintenance compared to average performers and operate with an additional 15 days of available production each year.

Emerson will remotely monitor and maintain 40 of its DeltaV distributed control systems at Covestro plants in China, the United States and Germany. Remote teams at Emerson’s Innovation Center in Austin, Texas, will monitor and provide best practices-based maintenance strategies for local Emerson teams to implement at each Covestro plant. “By collaborating with Emerson to stay proactive about plant availability, we can drive toward always-on production and continue to satisfy customers in our high-demand market,” said Klaus Schaefer, chief technical officer, Covestro.

The Emerson-Covestro agreement reflects an emerging business model in industry, where manufacturers rely on a strategic supplier’s software solutions and deep automation expertise to monitor and execute maintenance, equipment health or energy management programs, allowing customers to focus their attention on critical operating functions that drive plant performance.

“Covestro and Emerson have a shared focus on driving Top Quartile operational performance,” said Jamie Froedge, president of Emerson’s Process Systems and Solutions business. “Connecting Covestro’s global product manufacturing expertise with our remote and local service capabilities allows the right expert to be available, real time, to ensure reliable operations.”

Open Platform and Digital Twin

Open Platform and Digital Twin

I am a sucker for open platforms. When the PR agency wrote with a teaser about discussing open platforms with Marc Lind, SVP Strategy at Aras, a PLM supplier, I bit. They threw in “digital twin” and “digital thread” as the topping and cherry atop the sundae, and the appointment was made.

We talked just before Christmas, but I’ve had such a crazy January that I’ve just now gotten to this in my pile of things to write.

PLM is often thought of as an enterprise application and covered by analysts who also watch such areas as ERP. I’ve talked with suppliers for years as a magazine editor, but they didn’t really seem to fit well within the magazines and they most likely were not advertising prospects, so there wasn’t pressure to write much. I’m saying that I’m not an expert in the area like some of my friends.

But I’ve followed the technology for many years. I’ve seen it coming—this coordination of digital and physical. As soon as the digital folks could get it all together—especially better databases and interfaces—then I knew we’d be much closer to the realization of digital manufacturing.

Lind told me something about the Aras platform. First, he said, was the attempt at doing away with silos where you might have your mechanical CAD, then have your electrical CAD, then perhaps your MES, and your ERP. He said not only was there a problem within manufacturing, think about the next step, say connected cars and other systems of systems, where things really need to interact across boundaries.

Check out the Aras platform. It’s interesting. And once again as I’m seeing more often, it is exploring a different business model that can make its platform and products available to a wider customer base. For other writing I’ve done on open platforms, click the small “ad” on my site to download the MIMOSA white paper.

Digital Twin

We also talked digital twin, one of the foundation concepts for digital manufacturing.

He said the term Digital Twin was coined back in 2002 by Dr. Michael Grieves while at University of Michigan. Effectively, the Digital Twin is an exact virtual representation of a physical thing. It’s as if the physical product or system was looking in a virtual mirror.

Grieves describes it as a mirroring (or twinning) of what exists in the real world and what exists in the virtual world. It contains all the informational sets of the physical ‘thing’ meaning its cross-discipline – not just a mechanical / geometric representation, but also including the electronics, wiring, software, firmware, etc.

Many people talk about Digital Twins in the context of monitoring, simulation and predictive maintenance which are all incredibly valuable and potentially transformative in their own right, however, there would seem to be much more to it.

“As products of all types move to include connectivity, sensors, and intelligence we can’t just think about the data streaming back from the field.”

Without accurate “Context” – Digital Twin – time series data generated during production and ongoing operation is difficult or even impossible to understand and analyze.

In addition, the ability to interpret and act upon these data often require traceability to prior information from related revisions – Digital Thread.

“To complicate matters further as artificial intelligence / cognitive computing is introduced the necessity for the Digital Twin becomes even greater. If Knowledge = Information in Context, then without a Digital Twin, machine learning won’t work as intended, will be rendered ineffective or worse… potentially leading to risky misinterpretations or misdirected actions.”

Finally, Lind warns, “Because without Context – Digital Twin – the IoT-enabled value proposition is severely limited and could introduce real liability.”


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