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.

Internet of Things Edge Products Unveiled at ARC Forum

Internet of Things Edge Products Unveiled at ARC Forum

I’m tackling Internet of Things Edge computing in the first of many posts as I finally have some time to gather my notes and thoughts after an intense four days in Orlando at the ARC Advisory Group Industry Forum.

Announced during the Monday press conferences and later at a special breakfast presentation, Inductive Automation announced a series of products designed to take more power to the edge of the network. Certainly much work has been done regarding computing at the edge for the past couple of years.

So, Inductive Automation announced a March release for a line of products built on an embedded version of Ignition—Ignition Edge. Inductive Automation was recently in the news with an announcement that growth has been so good that it bought a building to house its growing workforce.

Ignition Edge by Inductive Automation is a line of lightweight, low-cost Ignition products to be embedded into field and OEM devices at the edge of the network. Ignition is designed to work on central servers and deploy to multiple clients, while Ignition Edge products can be installed on devices at the edge. With Ignition and Ignition Edge together, organizations can build scalable and affordable enterprise-wide systems.

Don Pearson, Inductive Automation, discusses Ignition Edge“To truly have IIoT, industrial organizations need a new architecture,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “A big part of that involves collecting data near the source, at the edge of the network. It means polling as close to the devices as possible, rather than from the SCADA system. Ignition Edge is a very affordable way to get data from the edge and into a database so it can be leveraged for analysis and better decision-making.”

One of the products features embedded MQTT protocol. Cirrus Link Solutions is based in Kansas City, Kan. Arlen Nipper, president of Cirrus Link, is a co-inventor of Message Queueing Telemetry Transport (MQTT). MQTT is a lightweight pub/sub messaging transport that’s perfectly suited to the IIoT. MQTT provides fast, bi-directional communication in a very simple manner, so it requires minimal network bandwidth.

Nipper co-invented MQTT with Andy Stanford Clark of IBM specifically for real-time, mission-critical SCADA systems. Ignition Edge capitalizes on MQTT for more efficient, easier access to data. “Having the power of Ignition extend down to edge devices in the field offers a disruptive approach to how industrial network infrastructures are designed, deployed, and managed,” said Nipper.

Ignition Edge Panel enables creation of local HMIs for field devices. It enables edge-of-network HMI functionality with robust Ignition features, including one local client, one remote web client for mobile access, and alarming features including email notification. It includes one week of data buffering for trending and local client fallback for mission-critical applications.

Ignition Edge Enterprise acts as an Agent Gateway in a multi-Gateway Ignition system by leveraging the Ignition Enterprise Administration Module (EAM). So it requires that the EAM be installed on the central Ignition Gateway. It’s got powerful features such as remote backup, restoration management, centralized monitoring of performance and health metrics, and remote alarm notification. Edge Enterprise comes with up to a week of data buffering, and it can synchronize local tag history to a central Ignition historian for store-and-forward.

Ignition Edge MQTT by Cirrus Link was developed by Cirrus Link Solutions, a strategic partner of Inductive Automation. Ignition Edge MQTT enables publication of field device data through MQTT. It turns virtually any field device, such as a touch panel or a client terminal, into a lightweight, MQTT-enabled edge gateway. Ignition Edge MQTT uses MQTT to transmit data to any MQTT broker and supports the Sparkplug data-encoding specification.

Automation Industry Innovation  and Meeting News

Automation Industry Innovation and Meeting News

The Automation Industry (if you wish to call it an industry) has some interesting news of innovation. The ARC Advisory Group Industry Forum is coming up in a couple of weeks. I will be there. If you’re coming, let me know. Maybe we can chat over a coffee or something.

Automation Competition

Meanwhile, the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) has announced a call for startup companies in robotics, machine vision and motion control to enter the Automate Launch Pad Competition. The competition is a chance for the industry’s most innovative young companies to vie for the spotlight at the Automate 2017 Exhibition and Conference—the industry’s largest gathering in North America, taking place in Chicago, Illinois April 3-6, 2017—as well as a $10,000 cash award. The Automate Launch Pad Startup Competition seeks out startup companies looking to generate awareness of their technology and find new sources of funding.

“Investment in the automation and robotics market is rising sharply, with a record 128 companies receiving funding of $1.95 billion in 2016—which is a 50% increase over the previous record-breaking year,” noted Jeff Burnstein, president of A3. “The Automate Launch Pad Competition is a great opportunity for innovative young companies to gain some extra funding and garner the attention of key players in the automation industry.”

Call for submissions and application form for the Launch Pad Competition are now open. Eligible companies include those in the automation space (robotics, vision, motion control, etc.) who were founded in the last five years; raised less than US $2 million since creation; and are not affiliated with a larger group. Eight semi-finalist companies will be invited to participate in the competition at Automate on April 3, where they will have three minutes to pitch their technology to a panel of investors and automation experts. All semi-finalists will also be provided booth space on the Automate show floor, putting them in front of an expected audience of over 20,000 automation professionals, investors, scientists and journalists. The Automate Launch Pad Competition is sponsored by GE and the event is co-produced with Silicon Valley Robotics.

Systems Integrators To Meet

In other news, The Control Systems Integrators Association (CSIA) has announced its spring meeting information.

It is expecting more than 500 control system integrators and industry suppliers from around the globe in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, May 2 – 5 for the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) 2017 Executive Conference. Themed From best practices to transformative business models, the conference will include over a dozen educational sessions, including several presented as part of two separate tracks.

  • Track 1: Small Company SIs and Best Practices
    CSIA’s Best Practices have helped hundreds of system integrators grow from younger, smaller companies into the well-established ones they are today. Attendees will learn how they, too, can use CSIA Best Practices for growth.
  • Track 2: Transformative Business Models
    Technology is creating a very exciting future filled with opportunity for SIs — opportunities that will require a shift away from traditional SI business models. Through a series of presentations, panel discussions and an unconference, SIs will gain an understanding of how to take advantage of these emerging models.

Economist Alan Beaulieu, president of ITR Economics, will open the conference with his latest economic outlook for manufacturing, providing a solid outlook for attendees to use to guide their companies’ into the future.

In addition to the educational sessions included during the conference, CSIA will offer a two-day intensive training workshop on Best Practices implementation on Monday, May 1 and Tuesday, May 2, just prior to the conference.

Those attending the conference will have opportunities for networking, including the annual industry expo, awards banquet and a closing reception. The CSIA Fun Run/Walk will be held again this year, along with other special events and tours.

See complete details and register at the CSIA 2017 Executive Conference website.

Security, Internet of Things Top ARC Forum Topics

Security, Internet of Things Top ARC Forum Topics

Security and Internet of Things rocks. The annual ARC Advisory Group Industry Forum in Orlando maintained its value as a venue for company announcements. Many good ideas floated around the conversations. Since every post goes out as an email, I’m sensitive to how many I send. Therefore, I’m approaching all this news in the traditional “round-up” format. So, scroll down and pick them all up.

Attendance was most likely down slightly. The oil & gas economy undoubtedly cost a number of potential attendees. The thought eventually came to me that the process (asset intensive) industries were well represented as well as various information technology companies. Discrete manufacturing companies were in shorter supply than usual. Don’t know what that means, if anything, but just an observation.

Announcements in no particular order:


honeywell-pulse-image-1-1-HRHoneywell Process Solutions introduced its iPhone app, Honeywell Pulse. It improves efficiency and safety at facilities by remotely connecting plant managers, supervisors, and others needing to have visibility into operations.




Inductive Automation

Don Pearson, Chief Strategy Officer of Inductive Automation and Travis Cox, Co-Director of Sales Engineering, along with Arlen Nipper, President of Cirrus Link Solutions and co-inventor of MQTT, announced and demonstrated the addition of IIoT functionality to the existing HMI/SCADA functionality of the Ignition industrial application platform. Pearson, Cox and Nipper showed how enterprises can set up their own IIoT solution on a secure MQTT Message-Oriented Middleware (MOM) infrastructure by adding the Ignition MQTT Modules by Cirrus Link Solutions to Ignition by Inductive Automation.

The new modules — MQTT Engine, MQTT Injector, and MQTT Distributor —  are the result of a new partnership between Cirrus Link and Inductive Automation. These modules will accelerate organizations’ ability to leverage the IIoT.


Greg Scheu, President, ABB Americas, speaking at the Monday press conference, introduced a new version of IoT and IIoT–IIoTSP (Internet of Things, Services, and People). All need to be connected to deliver tangible results.

Peter Terwiesch, President, ABB Process Automation, discussed some current applications including moving people from danger zone, improving energy efficiency, and increasing output in a mining  application. He concluded, “It is a great time to be in automation, many technology limitations are going away, IoTSP will help us make it.”


Satoru Kurosu, Director and Executive Vice President, Head of Solutions Service Business Headquarters, Yokogawa Electric Corporation, spoke at the press conference on creating customer value beyond the plant. His new role at Yokogawa is leading this new initiative. Simon Wright, CEO of Yokogawa’s Industrial Knowledge business unit, will discuss the introduction of new cloud-based, customer-connected advanced solutions.  (Mr. Wright was formerly CEO of Industrial Evolution, a leading provider of cloud-based plant data-sharing services, which Yokogawa acquired in January 2016).

Yokogawa has established a new business unit, Yokogawa Venture Group, dba Industrial Knowledge. Its role is to accelerate expansion of Yokogawa’s business in asset intensive industries through the provision of cloud-based advanced solutions.

Industrial Knowledge will rely on Industrial Evolution’s secure cloud platform and technologies for the collection, integration, and analysis of real-time process data from firewall protected systems. A prime example is a major process licensor that gathers data in real time from licensees’ plants around the world and provides remote monitoring and support services for plant operations, including start-up assistance, warranty obligation fulfillment, and plant performance guidance.

Bentley Systems

Bentley Systems CEO, Greg Bentley, discussed how the convergence of IT (information technology), OT (operational technology) and ET (engineering technology) is enabling owner-operators to go beyond asset performance monitoring to asset performance modeling, and thereby achieve demonstrable improvements in asset performance. He will also explain why digital engineering models are critical to realizing the benefits of the Internet of Things, and how new breakthroughs in reality modeling—enabled by way of UAVs, digital imaging, and innovative software—are making the continuous creation of as-operated digital engineering models possible for every infrastructure asset.

With businesses squeezing more and more out of their aging assets, today’s asset managers have to be able to prioritize and direct their limited resources towards things that really matter. This latest release of AssetWise APM (v7.4) helps asset managers comply with API 580 risk based inspection guidelines and provides enhanced capabilities for integrity management and process safety.

Bedrock Automation

UPS_09 (2)Bedrock Automation has introduced a cyber secure, standalone Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) for industrial control system applications. The Bedrock UPS.500 features powerful onboard electronics that enhance the performance advantages of lithium ion (Li-ion) polymer battery technology, manage Bedrock’s patented deep authentication cyber protection, and enable secure Ethernet communications.  A sealed NEMA4x aluminum housing provides protection from cyber tampering and enables use amidst the most challenging field installations.


“Interdependencies between applications, servers, and your network facilitate your businesses operational efficiency, or will contribute to its failure”, remarked Frank Williams, Statseeker CEO. He continues by saying “this is quite a challenge and one that is becoming tougher to manage. Using the right network monitoring solution makes the above challenges much easier to manage”.

The new features of Version 4.0 strengthens the already successful Statseeker platform  by providing improved functionality and helping to streamline workflow. The Statseeker solution delivers real-time visibility right to the edge of the network no matter how big the infrastructure. It installs in minutes and delivers value immediately as it discovers a network of more than 600,000 interfaces in less than an hour, keeps data indefinitely in its original granularity and provides total visibility across the entire network infrastructure. Statseeker is the only network performance monitoring technology to seamlessly and successfully combine speed + scale + value .

Indegy-stealth security startup

Indegy, the industrial cyber security company, emerged from stealth mode and announced the first cyber security platform that provides comprehensive visibility into the critical control-layer of Operational Technology (OT) networks to identify threats that place the safety, reliability and security of Industrial Control Systems (ICS) at risk. By detecting logic changes to controllers that manage power grids, gas pipelines and manufacturing facilities, Indegy provides advanced protection against cyber attacks, insider threats and unauthorized modifications.

To gain the visibility needed to detect and respond to unauthorized ICS changes, control-layer activity must be monitored. This includes modifications to controller logic, configurations, firmware downloads and any variations in controller state.


C-Labs Industrial IoTC-Labs Corporation announced its new Factory-Relay Internet of Things (IoT) Software Development Kit (SDK). For manufacturing plants and other industrial equipment sites, the new SDK simplifies the connection of different types of machinery, devices, and sensors and streamlines the development of new applications to collect, store, analyze, and act upon machine data.

The Factory-Relay IoT SDK allows companies to securely connect equipment regardless of age or protocol, and easily develop new applications using tools and technology already familiar to enterprise application developers.

“Customers told us they needed to adapt and extend IoT deployments without sacrificing security or requiring significant training for either operations technology (OT) or information technology (IT) teams,” said Chris Muench, CEO of C-Labs. “Building on the success of our Factory-Relay, this new SDK makes it easier to extend IoT deployments in a way that is compliant with enterprise IT policies, protecting data and ensuring efficient operations. Our patent-pending approach provides a connection point among previously incompatible protocols.”

A New Distributed Control System?

A New Distributed Control System?

The undercurrent talk of the ARC Advisory Group Industry Forum this week in Orlando was how ARC’s Andy Chatha promoted the ExxonMobil/Lockheed Martin initiative to develop a new type of distributed control system.

I have to dash this initial thought off since I have about 20 minutes to get to my plane home. My week has been non-stop meetings from 7 am until at least 11 pm all week. This morning was a bit of a breather. Lots of stuff going on.

However, the ExxonMobil initiative provoked much discussion, rumors, speculation, whatever.

Part of the problem is that the program has just been announced and therefore is not defined.

The basic problem seems to be that Exxon is operating with very old DCS technology and has a great need to upgrade. But “ripping and replacing” would be very expensive. From conversations that I can report without naming names, I gather that they are looking for a software-defined distributed control residing above the current hardware control layer. The further wish is that the hardware layer would include parts interchangeable from supplier to supplier.

It hopes that this would be an industry-wide consortium that would drive standards for the software and the hardware. It has requested cooperation from technology suppliers as well as its peers in the oil & gas industry.

There are pieces of this that look very interesting. And, of course pieces that stand probably the proverbial snowball’s chance.

“Software defined” is of course developing in several industries (think Ethernet switches?).

My experience is that this sort of industry-wide standards development takes so much time that the technology it envisions is obsolete.

I’ll have more later after giving the idea more thought.

Meanwhile, I have announcements from Inductive Automation, Honeywell, Bentley Systems, Yokogawa, ABB, Bedrock Automation, and more coming tomorrow when I get a chance to think and write.

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