The Industrial Internet of Things by definition is all about connections. Connecting hundreds of devices which often have differing protocols is a huge challenge. In an attempt to facilitate IIoT deployments, ioTium has announced an alliance with Telit. The agreement allows Telit deviceWISE gateway technology on the ioTium Edge App Store for single-click deployment.
After wading through a couple of paragraphs of marketing generalities, I found the best explanation with this quote. “With the cooperation of Telit, customers can now rapidly connect different communications protocols like BACnet, OPC, Modbus or even proprietary protocols to various IoT cloud offerings such as Azure IoT, Siemens MindSphere or private cloud end points,” said Sri Rajagopal, CTO, ioTium. “All commissioning, data mapping, and contextualization can now be done remotely, dramatically reducing the time and cost of flying technicians and data scientists to the site to remediate in person.”
Then the obligatory quote from the partner. I’ve talked with Fred Yentz for many years about connecting data. Here’s his thought on this announcement. “Our alliance with ioTium establishes a best-in-class approach for digital connectivity in the industrial world,” said Fred Yentz, president Strategic Partnerships, Telit. “Together, we are providing industrial enterprise customers a secure, plug-and-play way to connect any machine to cloud-based applications to capitalize on the benefits of Industry 4.0.”
Solving this problem is mainly what the various platforms are attempting. I would be interested in hearing what is actually working out in the field. Comment or send me an email. Something is working, because engineers are doing this.
The Manufacturing Connection conceived in 2013 when I decided to go it alone in the world from the ideas of a new industrial infrastructure and enhanced connectivity. I even had worked out a cool mind map to figure it out.
Last week I was on vacation spending some time at the beach and reading and thinking catching up on some long neglected things. Next week I am off to Las Vegas for the Hewlett Packard Enterprise “Discover” conference where I’ll be inundated with learning about new ideas in infrastructure.
Meanwhile, I’ll share something I picked up from the Sloan Management Review (from MIT). This article was developed from a blog post by Jason Killmeyer, enterprise operations manager in the Government and Public Sector practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, and Brenna Sniderman, senior manager in Deloitte Services LP.
They approach things from a much higher level in the organization than I usually do. They recognize what I’ve often stated about business executives reading about all these new technologies, such as, cloud computing, internet of things, AI, blockchain, and others. “The potential resulting haste to adopt new technology and harness transformative change can lead organizations to treat these emerging technologies in the same manner as other, more traditional IT investments — as something explored in isolation and disconnected from the broader technological needs of the organization. In the end, those projects can eventually stall or be written off, leaving in their wake skepticism about the usefulness of emerging technologies.”
This analysis correctly identifies the organizational challenges when leaders read things or hear other executives at the Club talk about them.
The good news, according to the authors: “These new technologies are beginning to converge, and this convergence enables them to yield a much greater value. Moreover, once converged, these technologies form a new industrial infrastructure, transforming how and where organizations can operate and the ways in which they compete. Augmenting these trends is a third factor: the blending of the cyber and the physical into a connected ecosystem, which marks a major shift that could enable organizations to generate more information about their processes and drive more informed decisions.”
They identify three capabilities and three important technologies that make them possible:
Connect: Wi-Fi and other connectivity enablers. Wi-Fi and related technologies, such as low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN), allow for cable-free connection to the internet almost anywhere. Wi-Fi and other connectivity and communications technologies (such as 5G) and standards connect a wide range of devices, from laptops to IoT sensors, across locations and pave the way for the extension of a digital-physical layer across a broader range of physical locations. This proliferation of connectivity allows organizations to expand their connectivity to new markets and geographies more easily.
Store, analyze, and manage: cloud computing. The cloud has revolutionized how many organizations distribute critical storage and computing functions. Just as Wi-Fi can free users’ access to the internet across geographies, the cloud can free individuals and organizations from relying on nearby physical servers. The virtualization inherent in cloud, supplemented by closer-to-the-source edge computing, can serve as a key element of the next wave of technologies blending the digital and physical.
Exchange and transact: blockchain. If cloud allows for nonlocal storage and computing of data — and thus the addition or extraction of value via the leveraging of that data — blockchain supports the exchange of that value (typically via relevant metadata markers). As a mechanism for value or asset exchange that executes in both a virtualized and distributed environment, blockchain allows for the secure transacting of valuable data anywhere in the world a node or other transactor is located. Blockchain appears poised to become an industrial and commercial transaction fabric, uniting sensor data, stakeholders, and systems.
My final thought about infrastructure—they made it a nice round number, namely three. However, I’d add another piece especially to the IT hardware part. That would be the Edge. Right now it is all happening at the edge. I bet I will have a lot to say and tweet next week about that.
I didn’t attend Automation Fair this year, but I have been watching for news. Here is a first product release from Rockwell Automation using CIP Security—an extension of the Common Industrial Protocol promulgated by ODVA designed for, well, secure communication as one part of a defense-in-depth strategy.
CIP is the application-layer protocol for EtherNet/IP. CIP Security supports transport layer security (TLS), the most proven security standard in widespread use on the World Wide Web today.
“CIP Security can protect devices and systems that use EtherNet/IP from some of the top risks in connected operations, such as unauthorized PCs,” said Tony Baker, portfolio manager, security, for Rockwell Automation. “It does this in a few key ways. First, it limits device connectivity to only trusted PCs and devices. It also guards against packet tampering to protect data integrity. Finally, it encrypts communications to avert unwanted data reading and disclosure.”
Engineers will be able to implement CIP Security in their systems through new Rockwell Automation products and firmware updates to existing products such as Allen-Bradley ControlLogix controllers, communication modules, and Kinetix servo drives.
In addition, the newly enhanced FactoryTalk Linx communications software allows FactoryTalk visualization and information software running on a PC to communicate to CIP Security-enabled devices. The new FactoryTalk Policy Manager tool within the FactoryTalk software is used to implement and configure security policies between CIP Security-enabled devices.
Rockwell Automation developed this new capability to work with existing industrial control devices regardless of whether or not they were designed to support CIP Security. This allows industrial users to phase in security over time and retrofit existing installations.
In addition, Allen-Bradley ControlLogix 5580 controllers will soon be certified compliant with the IEC 62443-4-2 security standard, building on the IEC 62443-4-1 certification that the Rockwell Automation Security Development Lifecycle has already received.
This latest certification means the controllers will meet the global standard’s robust cybersecurity requirements to help companies secure their connected operations. The ControlLogix 5580 family of controllers is one of the first platforms on the market to achieve this compliance.
I have been wondering about the future of fieldbuses for quite some time. These include Profibus/Profinet, CC-Link, EtherNet/IP (CIP technologies), and even EtherCAT and PowerLink. Even HART, though not technically a fieldbus, fits the application. And the merger of HART’s organization with Foundation Fieldbus hints at the future.
I think that there will continue to be some development work with these technologies, but I also think that the next big advance will be with Time-Sensitive Networking. At some point in the not-to-distant future, TSN with commercially available components, will be the next communications revolution.
In the meantime, we are seeing what I’ve always believed to be the next useful application whether wired or wireless in industrial networking–gateways and connectors. Here is some news I received from the CC-Link Partner Association relating announcements from the SPS show (which I was unable to attend).
This case involves cooperation between the CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) and PROFINET & PROFIBUS International (PI). CLPA unveiled the first working coupler device that implements the CC-Link IE/PROFINET interoperability specification. This will enable easy transmission of information between the two protocols, leading to end users and machine builders benefiting from total transparency between CC-Link IE and PROFINET, the two most prevalent networking protocols in Asia and Europe respectively.
Developed by CLPA and PI partner Hilscher, the unveiling of the device marks another milestone in the on-going cooperation between the two associations. The announcement of the first working coupler on the CLPA stand at SPS/IPC/Drives 2017 less than a year after the completion of the specification underlines the importance that the market ascribes to the cooperation between CLPA and PI.
CLPA-Americas Director Robert Miller comments: “The 2015 fair saw the announcement of the cooperation between CLPA and PI, and at the 2016 fair we announced the completion of the specification to enable seamless integration between the two protocols. Now we have the first operating coupler, demonstrating that CLPA and PI, working with their partners, have delivered on the promise to produce working solutions. Hence the promise of increasing transparency and offering maximum flexibility to end users and machine builders as they operate globally has been realized.”
With the new Hilscher coupler, users can effectively achieve communication between different parts of a line on separate networks, hugely increasing transparency and integration. Hilscher’s NT 151-CCIE-RE coupler transmits data bi-directionally between CC-Link IE and PROFINET, offering simple network integration. The NT 151 works as a CC-Link IE Field Intelligent Device on one side and as a PROFINET IO-Device on the other, allowing both network controllers to communicate with each other. Fundamental mechanisms include a mapping model to map data from both sides, diagnostics for coupler and networks, and a SyCon-based DTM which works as the coupler configuration tool.
Hilscher Business Development Manager Armin Pühringer comments: “The simple bridge between the two networks will dramatically reduce the engineering work that has traditionally been necessary to achieve integration across the heterogeneous network architectures that are a fact of life in numerous plants around the world.”
Pühringer adds: “Hilscher has a long relationship with CC-Link based technologies and PROFINET technologies, and going forward both of these will be essential for our business on a global scale. And by facilitating transparency and ease of integration between these two global leaders we are addressing a primary goal of the transition to Industry 4.0: allowing ever greater connectivity by providing end users with a simple method of achieving interoperability in brownfield applications. And all of this without the effort, cost and complexity of requiring communication architectures to support additional technologies or protocols.”
PI Chairman Karsten Schneider comments: “What CLPA and PI have proven here is that two competing organizations can work together for the good of our users. If you really mean what you say about Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things, then we will need to see more of this sort of collaboration. CLPA and PI are paving the way, with a level of cooperation that has not been seen before.”
Miller concludes: “The cooperation between CLPA and PI really can help many companies make their vision of Industry 4.0 a reality. The introduction of this first coupler from Hilscher gives machine builders and end users the hardware they need to achieve seamless integration. We are also in discussions with other CLPA partners, so we hope the NT 151 marks the start of the arrival of other products onto the market. The delivery of such solutions to meet end user requirements shows just how committed CLPA and PI have been to deliver tangible results from their cooperation, and how partners such as Hilscher have recognized the market opportunity this represents. They also provide ample evidence of the benefits that can be gained when supposedly competing organizations work together to address their users’ needs.”
Data is the new currency.
I heard that somewhere. There is much truth buried in the thought. That makes software and connectivity key technologies. I hear this everywhere. I am thinking through what I learned at the Rockwell Automation event while at an enterprise computing event in Spain. Enterprise IT has discovered Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Silos are collapsing everywhere.
Still, it is surprising that Rockwell Automation, the quintessential hardware company, emphasizes software. This has become the key component of the Connected Enterprise. There must be sales dollars here, also. Theory is nice, but sales are nicer.
By the way, here is proof I was there. A “Robot Selfie” from the Innovation Booth.
The Rockwell software portfolio has been growing a step at a time. This year it looks like it has most of the pieces assembled for a full manufacturing software suite. And this is not only MES. That is a component, for sure. But also there is connectivity, historian, databases. And now what appears to be a robust analytics application.
John Genovesi, Vice President of Information Software, told me during our interview, that the company had made a couple of small acquisitions (in Silicon Valley they call it “aquihiring”) last March and already the new team has written an analytics engine that forms the guts of the new application.
Project Scio (see-oh, from the Latin to know) is the next step. To make decisions when and where they matter most, new capabilities offered through Project Scio reduce hurdles to unleashing information. These capabilities open up access to ad-hoc analytics and performs advanced analysis by pulling structured and unstructured data from virtually any existing source in the enterprise. Project Scio can also intelligently fuse related data, delivering analytics in intuitive dashboards – called storyboards – that users can share and view. Users then have the ability to perform self-serve drill downs to make better decisions, dramatically reducing the time to value.
“Providing analytics at all levels of the enterprise – on the edge, on-premises or in the cloud – helps users have the ability to gain insights not possible before,” said Genovesi. “When users gain the ability to fuse multiple data sources and add machine learning, their systems could become more predictive and intelligent. Scio puts analytics to work for everyone. By its addition to the scalable and open FactoryTalk Analytics Platform, Project Scio gives users secure, persona-based access to all data sources, structured or unstructured. And a configurable, easy-to-use interface means that all users can become self-serving data scientists to solve problems and drive tangible business outcomes.”￼
Key attributes of Project Scio include the following:
- Device Auto-Discovery: Manually mapping software to each plant-floor device can be a time-consuming and error-prone process. Project Scio can auto-discover Rockwell Automation devices and tags, as well as third-party device data, to save time and help reduce risk. Additionally, the auto-discovery process gives users access to more detailed information than is typically available through manual mapping, such as device name, line location and plant location.
- Leave Isolated Analytics Behind: Rather than leave data at its source and take database snapshots, Project Scio brings data into a centralized location and can continually refresh that data. Additionally, connections to data sources only need to be established once. This connection allows users to create custom analytics and refresh them at their preferred rate without the support of a data scientist.
- Flexible Machine Learning (ML): Use the right ML algorithm for the right use case. Project Scio is configurable to support many industry-leading algorithms, including SparkML, MLLib and Python.
- Closed-Looped Analytics:Using either ML or predefined settings, Project Scio includes capabilities that can monitor operations and automatically trigger control adjustments if processes start to fall outside allowable parameters. This can help users optimize control, improve product quality and consistency, and reduce scrap and waste.
- Applications Marketplace: Rockwell Automation will introduce an applications marketplace for applications developed in-house and by third parties. The ability to access any data source and create custom analytics for each user’s application is a central feature. However, users can also take advantage of pre-engineered FactoryTalk Analytics applications from Rockwell Automation. These applications allow users to monitor common KPIs, such as OEE and quality, in a standardized way and without any configuration.
- Open Architecture: Industrial producers cannot be expected to rip and replace all their legacy control and information systems before gaining value from analytics. These scalable and open-architecture capabilities are designed to be extended to a full ecosystem of IIoT data sources. The quick connection to the full range of systems that feed data into a Connected Enterprise includes controllers, MES software and edge devices.
In addition to these Information Solutions, Rockwell Automation offers a range of Connected Services which helps provide customers the ability to ensure network integrity, security, infrastructure design and maintenance, and remote monitoring of equipment including predictive maintenance. These services can help customers with every aspect of their Connected Enterprise journey, including developing an IIoT infrastructure and strategy, and providing remote monitoring and analytics.
New OPC UA Support
Rockwell spokespeople made sure that I understood two things with this year’s message. Scalable. And Open. The company is adopting open, interoperable communications. Notice above that the self-discovery is not only Rockwell’s products, but also those from other companies.
Another interoperable standard that Rockwell has not supported much for years is OPC United Architecture (UA).
Interesting quote from the news release, “We actually helped develop the OPC UA specification, and we’re now adding OPC UA support into our portfolio.”
The initial offering on the software side includes OPC UA client/server functionality in the FactoryTalk Linx software, which it will be launching in early 2018. There also are future product-line extensions planned for both software and hardware portfolios. Second, the FactoryTalk Linx Gateway provides an OPC UA server interface to deliver information collected by FactoryTalk Linx from Logix 5000 and other Allen-Bradley controllers to external OPC UA clients. This permits third-party software to coexist with FactoryTalk software.
For example, custom-built MES applications can interact directly with the control layer to better coordinate production. The FactoryTalk Linx Gateway also will include a new FactoryTalk Linx Data Bridge software service that will transfer sets of tag data from one data source to another at a user-defined rate. This permits movement of data between servers and, more importantly, enables Logix 5000 controllers to indirectly interface with OPC UA servers. Among its many uses, this software could allow Logix 5000 controllers to interact and control a robot, weight scale or similar automation device using OPC UA.