Inductive Automation included a number of partner companies in its Ignition Community Conference last week in Folsom, CA. Among these companies was Bedrock Automation. I’ve written about Bedrock before a few times. This trip I was looking at its display when its CEO in disguise appeared.
Why it matters: Cyber security is at the top of everyone’s mind these days. Bedrock Automation has designed a system to be secure from all parts of the supply chain.
Albert Rooyakkers, founder/CEO/CTO, was wearing a hat and sunglasses and I walked right past him. However, he came over and gave me his usual high energy explanation of the entire Bedrock system.
Bedrock Automation builds an industrial control system (PLC) that was designed from the beginning with security in mind. Not just cyber security, but also security from tampering, lightning, high-energy electromagnetic interference, and more.
Intrinsic Security begins with Strong Cryptography, then adds Secure Components, Component Anti Tamper, Secure Firmware, Secure Communications, and Module Anti Tamper.
The metal construction showcases the secure construction, just as does the design of the I/O modules and communication with the controller (no insecure backplane).
Public Key Infrastructure
Rooyakkers always gives me the deep dive into Public Key Infrastructure which leads to Hardware Root of Trust—the essential element of security in the product.
Use of asymmetric cryptography for authentication and key exchange is the basis of secure e-commerce. In the internet context, there is a critical additional piece, a root of trust at the center of an exchange. This is called Certificate Authority. Key pairs, certificates, a root of trust and interoperable algorithms together form a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) which includes the infrastructure and policies to manage and maintain the trust. Some of the building blocks include:
• Transport Layer Security
• X.509 Certificates
• Certificate Chain of Trust
• Root Certificate Authority
Until now PKI has not been implemented in industrial control systems. Bedrock Automation embeds the Hardware Root of Trust in the control system. It is designed from the ground up with security in mind.
Bedrock Automation has always gone to market with systems integrators—a strategy that fits with Inductive Automation. In many remote control and SCADA systems, the two form a perfect pair.
Here is some news regarding control and networking. Bedrock Automation is a recent entrant into the control and automation space, while Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) holds great potential to be a disruptive force.
I seldom write about automation company “wins”, but this one shows some direction for a new company. Bedrock Automation is a young automation company that has built a new control platform from the ground up for not only the latest in control but also for security.
My curiosity has focused on where it would find a market. I don’t see it displacing Rockwell Automation and Siemens any time soon, but the platform is robust and adaptable. This looks like a perfect application.
Pinnacle Midstream, a Houston-based supplier of storage and processing services for the oil and gas industry, has selected the Bedrock control system as the automation platform for its crude oil receipt and delivery points. The Bedrock system will coordinate flow of product from partners, through the Pinnacle processing facilities and onto refiners and shippers. Pinnacle chose Bedrock system for its scalability, ease of engineering, ruggedness, cost efficiencies and intrinsic cyber security.
“We are expanding to the meet the growing need for midstream services and need a secure way to centralize control of flow amongst our facilities. The Bedrock system provides an economical solution in a small, easy-to-implement system that can coordinate edge control today, while also scaling easily and economically to the full DCS functionality we expect to need in the future. We also liked the rugged Bedrock housing, which will resist the dust that gets into everything around here,” said Mike Hillerman, VP of Engineering and Operations for Pinnacle Midstream.
Avnu Alliance, the industry consortium driving open standards-based deterministic networking through certification, is co-hosting the 2017 Time Sensitive Networks and Applications (TSN/A) Conference with WEKA FACHMEDIEN on September 20-21 at the Mövenpick Hotel Stuttgart Airport in Germany.
The TSN/A Conference is a combination of the “TSNA Conference” and the “Industrial Ethernet TSN Kongress” and offers attendees insights into Time-Sensitive Networks and usage in applications for Automotive, Industrial, Professional Audio/Video and more. The conference spans two days of technical sessions, panel discussions, vendor demonstrations, and participant networking.
“We are excited to bring together experts and thought leaders from around the world to the TSN/A Conference in Germany this year” said Kevin Stanton, Avnu Alliance Chairman, who will also deliver a conference presentation on Time Synchronization on Wired and Wireless Infrastructure. “It’s been a pleasure to join forces with WEKA FACHMEDIEN as the speakers present both the technology of TSN and its implications across our industries.”
On Wednesday, September 20, the first day of the conference, programming will feature two keynotes from Avnu Alliance members. Wolfgang Schenk of Hirschmann Automation and Control will present on “Time-Sensitive Networking: Enabling Technology for the Automation Model of the Future,” analyzing the transformation of the automation pyramid towards an automation pillar and discussing why TSN is the enabling technology for this transformation. Avnu Alliance Member BMW representative Dr. Kirsten Matheus will give a keynote on the “Use of AVB and TSN in the Automotive Industry.” Specifically, the presentation will describe the results of two workshops that Avnu Alliance held to gauge the need in the automotive industry for different Audio Video Bridging (AVB)/TSN functions.
I am happy to see momentum building for the technology. Can’t wait to see applications.
The latest attempt at building an open control platform is driven by ExxonMobil and given some support by the ARC Advisory Group by offering a venue for meetings. I wrote about the meeting during the ARC Forum in Orlando. What I find most interesting is linking this to the Internet of Things.
It will be interesting to see where this leads. I’ve seen attempts in the past to try to get suppliers to ditch their computing or control platforms to go with a generic open system where end users could drive pricing down to commodity levels. Of course, such a system would require lots of engineering—a boon to systems integrators.
Although the dream of complete plug-and-play requiring no integration is a problem waiting a solution. We’ve seen this scenario play out in the computer business. The result was locked down hardware with a measure of interoperability of systems. I think that this is where standards are most valuable.
WindRiver has cast its lot with the ExxonMobil-led Open Process Control initiative and has announced a product in support of the effort. It has announced availability of a software virtualization platform enabling critical infrastructure companies to cost-effectively evolve aging legacy control systems not previously designed to support the connected nature of IoT. Wind River Titanium Control empowers the next generation of on-premise analytics to optimize industrial processes.
“ARC believes the influx of new IIoT technologies now entering the automation market has the potential to be a major disruption to existing business models that have been relatively stable for decades,” said Harry Forbes, research director at ARC Advisory Group, a leading technology research firm for industry and infrastructure. “An excellent example is Titanium Control, which combines Wind River’s long experience in real-time operating systems with on-premise cloud computing technology. This combination enables the virtualization of real-time automation applications that until recently could only be implemented in embedded systems hardware. The implications of this capability for the manufacturing automation market are very far-reaching, and automation suppliers are noticing.”
Because traditional industrial control systems were not designed to support IoT, most are rigid, single purpose, and have a high cost to deploy, integrate, and maintain. Additionally, the obsolescence cycle is driving system updates that require new systems to keep pace with innovation while maintaining or lowering capital costs.
Titanium Control is a commercially deployable on-premise cloud infrastructure that virtualizes traditional physical subsystems using a platform based on open standards. It delivers the high performance, high availability, flexibility, and low latency needed to reduce capital and operating expenses, as well as minimize unscheduled downtime for industrial applications and control services at any scale. Unlike enterprise IT virtualization platforms, it provides high reliability for applications and services deployed at the network edge, for example in fog deployments.
Key features of Titanium Control include:
- De facto standard open source software for on-premise cloud and virtualization, including Linux, real-time Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) and OpenStack
- High performance and high availability with accelerated vSwitch and inter-VM communication, plus virtual infrastructure management
- Security features including isolation, secure boot and Trusted Platform Module enabled through Enhanced Platform Awareness
- Scalability from two to over 100 compute nodes
- Hitless software updates and patching with no interruption to services or applications
“With the emergence of Industrial IoT, companies are looking to deploy next-generation open and secure control systems; Titanium Control addresses this need, and is in active trials with customers in industries ranging from manufacturing to energy to healthcare,” said Jim Douglas, president of Wind River. “Our software has been providing these companies with powerful ways to increase efficiency and bolster safety, security, and reliability for the last 35 years. With the addition of Titanium Control to our product portfolio, Wind River is driving a new industrial era through virtualization, real-time performance and edge-to-cloud connectivity.”
Titanium Control is part of the Wind River Titanium Cloud portfolio of virtualization products for the deployment of critical services from operations to data center environments that require real-time performance and continuous service availability. It is optimized for Intel Xeon processors, and is pre-validated on hardware from the leading providers of Intel-based servers.
Despite the bad press that robots receive these days, I still have a soft spot in my heart for the technology. I first learned to program one in 1985. I’ve seen how robots remove humans from unsafe working conditions and improve product quality.
I have also liked what I’ve seen from Rethink Robotics. However, the press release I recently received was so filled with superlatives, that I was beginning to wonder if there was substance behind the hype. I’m betting there is. (And I removed most of the superlatives so that it reads better. Maybe I’ll see them at Automate and get a deeper dive.)
Rethink Robotics has announced Intera 5, a first-of-its-kind software platform that connects everything from a single robot controller, extending the smart, flexible power of Rethink Robotics’ Sawyer to the entire work cell and simplifying automation with ease of deployment.
Intera 5 fundamentally changes the need for integration, making it substantially easier and more affordable, allowing manufacturers to deploy full work cell automation in a matter of hours, not weeks, according to the press release.
Intera 5 is much more than the latest version of Rethink Robotics’ software; it’s a new way to approach automation that allows manufacturers to control the robots, orchestrate the work cell and collect data.
“With the introduction of Intera 5, we’ve created the world’s first smart robot that can orchestrate the entire work cell, removing areas of friction and opening up new and affordable automation possibilities for manufacturers around the world,” said Scott Eckert, president and CEO, Rethink Robotics. “Intera 5 is driving immediate value while helping customers work toward a smart factory, and providing a gateway to successful Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) for the first time.”
Rethink Robotics’ Intera 5 modernizes the traditional work cell by improving coordination, increasing flexibility and drastically reducing deployment times. Run through the robot’s controller, manufacturers can orchestrate conveyors, equipment and other machines from a central Intera 5-powered robot.
Tuthill Plastics Group, a full-service custom injection molding company, is using a Sawyer robot with Intera 5 to power improved product quality and more efficient production. Operating 24 hours a day, five days a week, Sawyer with Intera 5 is picking parts from a conveyor belt and communicating with a computer numeric control (CNC) machine to precisely place the part into the machine by using Intera 5’s unique force-sensing capabilities. By applying a precise level of force while placing the part, the Tuthill team has been able to improve part quality and consistency, reducing a length defect on the part by 98 percent since implementing Sawyer.
“Sawyer with Intera 5 is a major step forward in manufacturing automation,” said Richard Curtain, president, Tuthill Plastics Group. “Part placement is extremely critical to our machining process. Sawyer is able to effectively ensure product quality and consistency, handle the variability of the production line, and automatically re-register to the environment in the event that any parts move.”
German magnet manufacturer, MS Schramberg, is also leveraging Sawyer with Intera 5 and has substantially improved deployment time. With six robots operating on three machines, MS Schramberg has one robot selecting parts from a series of patterns and loading the part into the machine, while a second robot removes the part from the machine and loads the part into a tray.
With less than a day of training, an MS Schramberg engineer is able to deploy and train the robots in just more than an hour. The robots now run 24 hours per day, six days per week, and can easily configure complex logic tasks, minimizing the need for human interaction and freeing up employees for more complex tasks.
“We’ve cut our deployment times by hundreds of hours with Intera 5, and are able to easily deploy our Sawyer robots on an extremely complex task in just over an hour,” said Norman Wittke, general manager, MS Schramberg. “The ease and speed of deployment is extremely valuable for our company, and is helping make our manufacturing processes more efficient, while improving our ROI.”
With Intera 5, manufacturers will reap the benefits of:
- Industry-leading embedded vision, which will allow the robot to perform tasks just as humans do, reducing the need for expensive part presentation fixturing and additional integration costs.
- Adaptive force-sensing, allowing users to precisely set the amount of force required, or enable the robot to feel and respond to a specific force, so the robot can make adaptive decisions while performing a task.
- Intera Studio, an intuitive and powerful new tool to simply and effectively deploy automation like never before, providing a gateway to the factory of the future.
“Intera 5 is equipping industry leaders like Tuthill Plastics and MS Schramberg to achieve immediate bottom-line improvements in productivity, quality and efficiency on the factory floor,” said Eckert. “By implementing our robots equipped with Intera 5, manufacturers will have unprecedented work cell coordination, greatly reducing the need for complex, time-consuming and outdated automation options.”
Beginning in March, Intera 5 will be available for download on all existing Sawyer robots, and will come standard on all new robots.
I was asked by an Italian magazine, Automazione Oggi, to share thoughts from America about a Trump presidency attitude toward manufacturing. I’m not part of the administration or even involved in politics, but I gave some thoughts. I also had some thoughts on some recent Open Architectures for control.