OPC Foundation Extends OPC UA With TSN To Field Level

OPC Foundation Extends OPC UA With TSN To Field Level

OPC UA and TSN (Time Sensitive Network). A marriage I was beginning to think was never going to happen. I wrote a preliminary white paper following Hannover Messe 2017. Yes, more than a year ago. (Check it out by clicking the small ad on the sidebar.) This thing has been like a ball in a Rugby match—kicked, going different directions, downed and picked up. People wanting to move before thinking. Getting caught up in legal issues and “politics.” Postponed press conferences.

And, now…”The OPC Foundation launches an initiative to further enable OPC UA adoption throughout industrial automation by extending standardization and harmonization activities for OPC UA including TSN-enabled Ethernet networks.”

The goal of this initiative is to deliver an open, cohesive approach to implement OPC UA including TSN and associated application profiles. This will advance the OPC Foundation providing vendor independent end-to-end interoperability into field level devices for all relevant industry automation use-cases. The OPC Foundation vision of becoming the worldwide industrial interoperability standard is advanced by integrating field devices and the shop floor.

A new set of working groups will identify, manage and standardize the OPC UA relevant topics focused on industrial automation including,

• harmonization and standardization of application profiles e.g. IO, motion control, safety, system redundancy

• standardization of OPC UA information models for field level devices in offline e.g. device description and online e.g. diagnostics

• mapping of OPC UA application profiles related to real-time operations on ethernet networks including TSN

• definition of certification procedures

The working groups will closely align with the TSN Profile for Industrial Automation (TSN-IA-Profile) which will be standardized by the IEC/IEEE 60802 standardization group. This will help ensure that a single, converged TSN network approach is maintained so that OPC UA can share one common multi-vendor TSN network infrastructure together with other applications.

This initiative integrates well with existing joint working groups engaged in ongoing companion specification e.g. description of machines.

Stefan Hoppe, President of the OPC Foundation said “The benefit of membership in the OPC Foundation allows companies to actively engage and influence the direction of the OPC Foundation and includes early access to the specifications and technology. This initiative will grow OPC UA into new markets and I highly encourage all OPC Foundation members to contact the OPC Foundation to participate”.

Thomas Burke, Strategic Marketing Officer of the OPC Foundation, “We are very excited about the initiative to extend OPC UA including TSN down to the field level, and the number of companies that want to actively participate in this initiative bringing the technology into real world products. This set of working groups will pave the way for the broadest, easiest, and fastest market adoption of OPC UA over TSN.”

The OPC Foundation develops and maintains OPC UA as an open and secure communication platform comprised of an information model framework, communication models and underlying protocol bindings. As such, the OPC Foundation works non-exclusively with other organizations on various OPC UA related topics but continues to operate as a platform, technology, use case, and vendor agnostic standardization body.

Easy to Build Reports from Automation Data

Easy to Build Reports from Automation Data

Data are worthless without the ability to put it into a context and present it in a simple way to decision makers—no matter where in the company they reside. Enter Ocean Data Systems (ODS) and its product Dream Report.

Note: Dream Report obviously is an advertiser on this blog. However, I’m not a trade magazine, so writing about advertisers isn’t mandatory. I’ve known the Marketing VP for almost 20 years, and he has always represented quality products. I pass this along not as a reviewer but because I think it’s useful.

Ocean Data Systems (ODS) announced that Dream Report version 4.82 is posted and available for download. Along with a broad array of Customer Software Change Requests (SCRs), this release delivers on a theme of Partner Connectivity. Dream Report is now the official solution for the Aveva – ClearSCADA solution and version 4.82 includes drivers to access historical values, historical messages and real-time values. This release also includes new connectivity for the OSIsoft – PI Historian and Asset Framework. Enhanced connectivity is also delivered for the Aveva – Wonderware Online InSight product and the Dream Report – Advanced ODBC Driver for time series data in SQL Databases.

General features and benefits improvements include an enhanced Automatic Statistic Table to add flexibility for ad-hoc analysis, new access to Table Footer data delivering the ability to enhance report calculations using table footer results and support for .xlsm (Excel File Format) to support macros.

“Each new ‘Purpose Built’ Driver added to Dream Report enables Dream Report to ideally support a new market segment and lets those customers benefit from Dream Report – Compliance Reports, Performance Dashboards and Ad-hoc Analysis,” explained Roy Kok, VP Sales and Marketing for Ocean Data Systems. “We always include enhancements that benefit our entire installed base and this release is no different. The Dream Report release notes, in the documentation directory, will detail all changes.”

Founded in 2004, Ocean Data Systems develops software solutions for industrial compliance and performance; reports, dashboards, and ad-hoc analysis and troubleshooting. Dream Report delivers both local and Internet connectivity to all major HMI/SCADA, Historian and business data sources through either proprietary or industry standard drivers. Dream Report’s markets include process, hybrid and discrete; with special functionality for Life Sciences (Pharmaceutical and Biotech), Water, Wastewater, Heat Treat, Building Automation, Energy Management and Manufacturing Operations.

These are the main features of Dream Report:

1- DATA COLLECTION
Dream Report integrates a robust communication kernel to collect data and alarms from multiple real time and historian sources. It uses OPC, OLE, and ODBC standards to connect and collect Data from different suppliers. Moreover, ODS develops custom drivers to leverage native history from SCADA systems, DCS, RTU and more….

2- DATA LOGGING
Dream Report integrates a powerful historian module to log clean and accurate data in any standard database such as SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, Access…
This unique feature position Dream Report not only as a reporting tool, but also as the ideal solution of field Data integration for enterprise applications.

3- DATA EXTRACTION & ANALYSIS
Dream Report integrates a user friendly object library to extract Data statistics and analysis to be displayed in multiple views like tables, Bars, Pies, Charts and more…

4- REPORT DESIGN
Dream Report’s studio integrates an intuitive graphical editor to create and save state of the art reports as templates.

5- REPORT GENERATION & DISTRIBUTION
Dream Report enables to generate reports manually and automatically. The automatic mode enables to execute report on event and on schedule. When ready, reports can be automatically printed, emailed, stored and published over the web.

The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

How about you? Do you feel like you know everything you need to know? Do you hate asking people for directions?

Whether you are in business or ministry or family–do you have all the answers?

While I usually write about technology, I’ve learned the hard way that people are as important as the technology. I’ve seen my technology implementations fail because of the failure to get people on board. And how often have we seen people in critical situations fail to communicate at the cost of people’s lives? All through failure of asking appropriate questions.

Edgar H. Schein writes in his book, “Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling,” that many people would rather fail than admit their dependency on another person. That is, by asking them a question and admitting that someone else has an answer.

How about succeeding together?

Try Humble Inquiry. Asking questions implies that someone knows something I don’t–even if they are a subordinate, or younger than I, or from a different background. I must humble myself to ask someone placing myself in a position of learner to someone superior to me in this situation. It is the opposite of what we are taught in our culture which places emphasis on telling.

I’ve talked often about the skills of listening. Often we need to ask questions to elicit something to listen to.

Schein says, “The kind of inquiry I am talking about derives from an attitude of interest and curiosity. It implies a desire to build a relationship.”

We must slow down to ask and then listen.

Again Schein says, “I find that the biggest mistakes I make and the biggest risks I run all result from a mindless hurrying. If I hurry, I do not pay enough attention to what is going on, and that makes mistakes more likely. More importantly, if I hurry, I do not observe new possibilities.”

Let’s think about this comment in the context of hazardous situations

He points out in our “Do and Tell” culture, the most important thing we need to learn is to reflect. Before doing something, apply Humble Inquiry to yourself. “Ask ourselves: What is going on here? What would be the appropriate thing to do (Wow, there are hundreds of men right now who wish they had asked themselves that question)? On whom am I dependent? Who is dependent upon me?”

In other words, become more mindful.

“The toughest relearning, or new learning, is for leaders to discover their dependence on their subordinates, to embrace Here-and-now Humility, and to build relationships of high trust and valid communication with their subordinates.”

Schein was an MIT professor and business consultant. You can substitute parent for leader and use the ideas in family.

Read and digest the book. It’s short and not technical. Good read.

Supplementing EtherCAT with TSN for Use in Heterogeneous Networks

Supplementing EtherCAT with TSN for Use in Heterogeneous Networks

Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) defines the future of networking. Most of the specifications have been agreed upon by the IEEE 802 committee, only a few remain to be completed. I have written a White Paper describing OPC UA over TSN for information communication. This corroborates the idea that information is where the new momentum lies within manufacturing and production technologies.

One topic of concern to many regards whether or not TSN will supplant current fieldbus technologies. Indeed, on the surface it appears that TSN can perform most, if not all, of those functions.

Therefore, it behooves the fieldbus groups to figure out how to work with this new technology in order to add value for users.

The EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG) has taken the initiative and supplemented EtherCAT with Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) technologies, expanding the field of possible EtherCAT applications to include heterogeneous network environments. With the help of TSN, industrial controls can contact a number of different EtherCAT segments in real-time through Ethernet networks.

In doing so, no changes to the EtherCAT slave devices are required: the EtherCAT Device Protocol, including all high performance characteristics, is fully preserved. Also expanded by TSN is the EtherCAT Automation Protocol (EAP) for communication between controls, which will result in even more deterministic performance on this level.

The ETG has specified the technology expansion in the form of a profile, which highlights the fact that no changes to the TSN standards are needed. This approach also considerably simplifies the adaptation to the final versions of the TSN technologies, because specification in the IEEE is not yet fully complete.

The ETG has supported the development of TSN from the very beginning through active participation in the IEEE committee, and is coordinating the specifications through a liaison with the IEEE 802.1 Working Group. This ensures that the ETG will also be able to access the IEEE 802.1 specifications that have not yet been adopted. Therefore, the technology can be introduced almost at the same time as TSN.

EtherCAT uses the TSN streams with any data rates for real-time communication above EtherCAT device segments. In the segment itself nothing is changed – the unique performance of the EtherCAT protocol built upon processing on the fly, highly precise synchronization, flexible topology selection, excellent diagnostic capabilities and simplicity through fully automated addressing of devices are all fully preserved. Similarly, the thousands of different EtherCAT devices available worldwide do not need to be modified at all. The stream adaptation feature that connects the EtherCAT segment to the heterogeneous TSN network can be placed either in the last TSN switch or in the first EtherCAT slave device.

Dr. Guido Beckmann, Chairman of the ETG Technical Committee classifies the new specification as such: “The incorporation of TSN standards will significantly improve the real-time characteristics of generic Ethernet. With our technology expansion we make use of TSN in an ideal way, and exactly where TSN can offer significant advantages – in the factory networks. As one frame is sufficient for EtherCAT to communicate with a whole segment, and thus with the entire fieldbus network, EtherCAT is virtually predestined for integration with TSN networks. We achieve this without turning our technology inside out. EtherCAT together with TSN offers the ‘best of both worlds’. Therefore, this prepares EtherCAT for the future perfectly.”

More Communication Options For Industrial Applications

More Communication Options For Industrial Applications

An interesting, and at times intense, discussion has risen over the past couple of years in information communication circles between OPC UA and MQTT proponents. Some see a competition between the technologies while others (me) see complimentary technologies enabling engineers the flexibility to develop the communication application that best suits their needs.

Kepware, a PTC business, is a leading supplier of OPC development tools. Its newly released version 6.4 of KEPServerEX now includes an MQTT Client driver. Inclusion of this new driver enables users to collect data from sensor networks and other devices that utilize MQTT—and make that data available to the industrial automation devices and applications they rely on to run their plants efficiently.

“Many KEPServerEX users are now acquiring industrial data in their operational environments through new intelligent sensors and open-source or lightweight devices,” said Jeff Bates, Kepware Product Manager. “The MQTT Client driver and KEPServerEX seamlessly integrate data from these devices—enabling users to access new real-time data and provide a robust view of their plant floor operations.”

The MQTT Client driver included in KEPServerEX version 6.4 offers users a commercially available out-of-the-box MQTT to OPC UA translator. It uses innovative parsing tools to enable users to create tags from popular devices that utilize MQTT. With this new driver, KEPServerEX is able to securely subscribe to MQTT topics through any MQTT broker, receive updates as new device data is published, and make that data available over a variety of protocols.

“The enhancements in KEPServerEX version 6.4 are extremely valuable to any customer whose devices utilize the MQTT protocol, including customers of Wzzard Wireless Sensing Solutions,” said Mike Fahrion, CTO and VP of IoT Technologies at Advantech B+B SmartWorx. “There are significant benefits to making IoT Sensor data available in traditional industrial automation applications, and that is now possible with KEPServerEX.”

Along with the MQTT Client driver, KEPServerEX version 6.4 includes:

  • Siemens TCP/IP Ethernet Driver Read/Write Enhancements: Enables users of Siemens TCP/IP Ethernet drivers with Siemens S7-400 and S7-1500 controllers to perform read/writes more efficiently by configuring their Packet Data Unit (PDU) size up to the maximum levels supported by the controller. Users can now easily monitor high-fidelity data with high tag counts and high data change rates.
  • Store And Forward Capabilities With The ThingWorx Native Interface: Enables users to reliably transmit data between KEPServerEX and ThingWorx—even in the event of network instability. During communication disruptions between KEPServerEX and ThingWorx, the store and forward service collects data that ThingWorx had been requesting. Upon reconnection, the stored data is automatically forwarded to ThingWorx.
  • CODESYS Ethernet Driver Tag Browsing Capabilities: Users of the CODESYS Ethernet driver now have the option to select and import only relevant tags into their KEPServerEX projects. This enables users to more efficiently connect to and start streaming data from CODESYS devices.
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