FDT IIoT Server Standard to Empower Platform Independent Deployment

FDT IIoT Server Standard to Empower Platform Independent Deployment

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.

The final standard will be delivered as three documents: the FDT 2.5 specification, which builds on FDT 2.1 to include HTML5 and JavaScript graphical user interface features; the FITS Web Services Technical Specification, which describes the Web Services interfaces and requirements for an FDT Server; and the OPC UA Annex detailing the OPC UA Server mapping for an FDT Server.

FDT IIoT Server Standard to Empower Platform Independent Deployment

More Consolidation in Process Automation Market

An example of further consolidation in the process automation industry, Emerson has announced it has completed the purchase of MYNAH Technologies, a long-time Emerson alliance partner and a leading provider of dynamic simulation and operator training software.

This acquisiton follows Rockwell Automation’s acquisition of Maverick Technologies furthering consolidation in the process automation space as the larger companies seek to add more customer value in house.

MYNAH’s solutions enable plant engineers and technicians to test and improve process control strategies and train plant operators in offline, real-world scenarios before implementing them in live production. The addition of MYNAH will help support Emerson Automation Solutions and its Operational Certainty program designed to help industrial companies achieve top performance.

“Adding MYNAH’s simulation software and expertise allows us to provide customers with more advanced process simulation and training solutions. This will help improve plant performance, safety and profitability by allowing them to fully optimize their human and automation resources,” said Jamie Froedge, president, Process Systems and Solutions, Emerson Automation Solutions.

MYNAH’s Mimic Simulation Software is currently in use at more than 1,400 sites across 68 countries in industries ranging from hydrocarbon production, refining, chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology. The company’s portfolio also has integration solutions that connect Emerson’s DeltaV distributed control system and its production improvement capabilities with additional plant systems, helping Emerson meet customer demands for more integration and related plant performance improvements.

“We are excited to join Emerson in delivering greater operational value to the process industries” said Martin Berutti, chief operating officer for MYNAH Technologies. “By leveraging Emerson’s vast global network we can help more organizations deal with generational shift changes in the workplace, while improving the performance of industrial plants.”

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.

ARC 21st Industry Forum Returning to Orlando in February–Industry in Transition

ARC 21st Industry Forum Returning to Orlando in February–Industry in Transition

It is time to begin planning your trip to perhaps the only automation industry general gathering. Here is a teaser from ARC about its upcoming event.

arcbanner-300x250Presenting the 21st Annual ARC Industry Forum Industry in Transition: Realizing the Digital Enterprise February 6-9, 2017 – Orlando, Florida. How will disruptive technologies change existing products and plants? How will open source solutions impact traditional software and automation domains? Is cybersecurity a threat to digitalization and, if so, how can the risk be mitigated? How ‘smart’ are smart machines, and what benefit will these bring? How do Big Data and predictive and prescriptive analytics enable operational change? How do connected products create opportunities in aftermarket services? What software capabilities are needed to achieve transformational change? Which industries are already changing? What steps can organizations take to foster innovative thinking? Join us at the 21st annual ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, Florida to learn more about how the digital enterprise will be realized and the benefits that this can bring. Discover what your peers are doing today and what steps they are taking in their respective journeys.

I plan to attend for the 20th time. The only industry people not there are competitive analysts. There are representatives from most suppliers, foundations and associations, as well as from forward thinking end users. Most of the industry trade media will also be present. Suppliers began setting up press conferences several years ago. For a while it was quite a marathon where we would see a new presentation every half-hour for more than five hours! Then it was time for snacks and wine.

The sessions are usually interesting. ARC strives to have mostly users talking to users discouraging vendor sales pitches. One problem with that is that the vendors are the technology developers. If they would let their technology people speak, then that would really round things off. But marketing people being marketing people, they just can’t let an opportunity to be in front of prospects and customers go by without a pretty blatant sales pitch. So, ARC cuts that off in order to attract good discussions and quality attendees.

Start setting up appointments soon! Hope to see you there. Maybe we could organize a meet up.

FDT IIoT Server Standard to Empower Platform Independent Deployment

Coding Guidelines For Qualitative and Standardized PLC Programming

Can we bring more discipline to PLC programming in industrial control?

Discussion swirls at every gathering of automation professionals about the new generation of engineers entering (we hope) the industry. One thing for sure, the new generation begins with a much deeper computer science background than any before. Will they want to continue to code programmable logic controllers (PLCs) in the same relay graphical representation as their predecessors? Even the Structured Text language popular in Europe and other places can string together like an old BASIC program.

I am guessing they will bring more discipline to the craft of coding industrial control than ever before. Evidently PLCopen, the organization devoted to developing standards for PLC programming, does also. It has just announced a new set of coding guidelines.

The organization notes in its press release, “Software is becoming increasingly responsible, complex, and demanding. This does not come without its challenges. Due to the greater complexity, programs are more difficult to maintain, more time consuming, and potentially therefore more expensive. This is why quality is taking such an important role these days.”

Continuing, they note, “Unlike in other industries, such as that of embedded software and computer science, there has not previously been a dedicated standard for Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) programs. This has meant that programs were not measured against anything and were often of a poor quality. But that’s where the independent association PLCopen has come in and set the standard with the release of their coding guidelines. These guidelines are a set of good practice programming rules for PLCs, which will help to control and enhance programming methods within industrial automation.”

PLCopen, whose mission is to provide industrial control programming solutions, collaborated with members from a number of companies in different industries to create these coding guidelines. These companies include PLC vendors such as Phoenix Systems, Siemens, and Omron, to software vendors such as Itris Automation and CoDeSys, and educational institutions such as RWTH Aachen. These guidelines were inspired by some pre-existing standards from other domains such as IEC 61131-3, JSF++ coding standard and MISRA-C, and they are the product of three years of work by the working group. PLCopen’s reference standard can be used for testing the quality of all PLC codes, independent of brand and industry.

PLCopen’s coding guidelines are made up of 64 rules, which cover the naming, comments and structure of the code. By following these guidelines, the quality of the code will be improved and there will be greater consistency amongst developers. This will result in greater efficiency, as better readability means a faster debug time, and a program that is easier to maintain. This then results in lower costs as less time is required in order to maintain the program, and the maintenance should be easy enough for both an internal or external programmer as the code will be more straightforward. If the original developer fails to follow certain guidelines when creating a program, this could obstruct other developers and maintenance teams when working with the code during the product lifecycle, thus creating delays and additional costs.

In safety-critical industries, there is the standard IEC 61508 which in 2011 was also extended to PLCS. However, as quality is becoming an ever more important factor across the board, as programs become bigger and more complex, it is generally good practice to follow a set of rules or a standard in all industries. PLCopen’s coding guidelines suggest a standard that can be used across all industries to greatly improve the quality of the code and, as a result, to help companies save time and money. The introduction of such a standard will allow PLC programs to be verified not only from the simple functionality perspective but also from a coding perspective by confirming that good practice programming rules have been followed in their creation. Consistency across PLC programs can only be achieved through the respect of a global corporate or industrial standard, with PLCopen now being the de facto standard in the automation industry.

With quality playing a greater role in industry and with companies always looking for cost saving methods, the answer is to use some sort of standard or set of rules in order to meet these goals. PLCopen have created this standard to improve quality and consistency across PLC programs and so that individual industries and companies don’t have to go to the effort of creating a set of rules themselves. In addition to the internal benefits, this standard will also allow companies to enforce their quality requirements on suppliers, software contractors and system integrators. The only issue for now is that the process for verifying these rules is done manually by most users as they are unaware that some tools are available to do this automatically. But overall, following a standard such as the one proposed by PLCopen, will greatly improve the quality of the program and will save time and money throughout the whole duration of the product lifecycle.

The PLCopen coding guidelines v1.0 are available to download for free from the PLCopen website.