Software Platform for Open Control Systems Emphasizing IoT

Software Platform for Open Control Systems Emphasizing IoT

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.

Software Platform for Open Control Systems Emphasizing IoT

Dell Joins Internet of Things Market

When Michael Dell turned the focus to new products and initiatives during his Dell World keynote last week, the first product mentioned was an Internet of Things (IoT) device.

Dell provides servers (for cloud storage), software, and analytics engines that provide the end point for the IoT ecosystem. This device, Edge Gateway 5000 series, takes Dell’s offering to the other side of the ecosystem—closer to the edge device.

Companies in the automation software space have talked for years about having meetings with operation technology (OT) professionals and bringing in information technology (IT) professionals—often the first time the two groups have met.

Dell is spinning the same story. It is strong on the IT side, but it is not a stranger to OT. Well, it is also trying to be the catalyzing force to bring IT and OT to the same table.

Some highlights:

• Edge Gateway 5000 Series delivers purpose-built gateway with analytics capabilities, expansive input/output (I/O) options, and ability to operate in extreme environments
• Solution designed for rigors of building and factory automation sectors; signals Dell’s deep partnerships with operational and information technology organizations, including OSIsoft
• Dell Edge Gateway adds to industry’s broadest portfolio of IoT assets, spanning newly revamped Dell Statistica advanced analytics, hardware, digital services and security and manageability software

Dell announced the launch of the new Edge Gateway 5000 Series purpose-built for the building and factory automation sectors. Composed of an industrial-grade form factor, expanded input and output interfaces, and with wide operating temperature ranges, the product, combined with data analytics capabilities, promises to give companies an edge computing solution alternative to today’s costly, proprietary IoT offerings.

Making good decisions using data generated by sensors is the central objective of IoT. Yet the rich data generated by IoT devices presents its own set of challenges. Harbor Research estimates that by 2020 smart systems will create over 194 petabytes of data. The sheer volume and complexity of managing this new decentralized, localized data can quickly overload traditional environments and analysis tools. Edge analytics, carried out with the help of versatile gateways, will help with this data overload by determining what data needs to be acted on quickly and then filtered or stored.

The Dell Edge Gateway sits at the edge of the network (near the devices and sensors) with local analytics and other middleware to receive, aggregate, analyze and relay data, then minimizes expensive bandwidth by relaying only meaningful data to the cloud or datacenter. Thanks to new Dell Statistica data analytics also announced today, Dell is expanding capabilities out to the gateway. This means companies can now extend the benefits of cloud computing to their network edge and for faster and more secure business insights while saving on the costly transfer of data to and from the cloud.

“Organizations are struggling to make the best decisions regarding the data volume and complexity created by the vast numbers of sensors, embedded systems and connected devices now on the network,” said Andy Rhodes, executive director, Commercial IoT Solutions, Dell. “As more of the data is processed in real time at the edge of the network, the gateway becomes the spam filter for IoT.”

Dell’s end-to-end portfolio

The Edge Gateway 5000 is the newest addition to Dell’s end-to-end portfolio of IoT-enabling solutions and services, which provide customers with choice and flexibility to architect IoT ecosystems with analytics at the edge, the cloud or the data center. The gateway is available for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to build into their solutions or for building and factory automation customers to use as part of their IoT strategy which can span data center solutions, advanced analytics and digital services. Additionally, customers’ can take advantage of Dell’s global availability, trusted security options, and Dell Support and Deployment services including ProSupport which provides end-to-end hardware support throughout the entire product lifecycle, helping customers maximize their gateway environment and minimize time spent on maintenance.

For example, ELM Energy is already using Dell gateways to make a difference in securing a more sustainable energy future. ELM’s FieldSight Controller automates decision structures that toggle between the use of distributed energy sources such as solar, wind and backup generators and traditional utility grid sources. The systems also help customers make decisions about the most effective times to broker surplus energy back to the open market.

“Through the power of technology, ELM Energy and Dell are enabling real-time decision making that is optimizing and balancing power generation and maximizing the use of renewable energy,” said James Richmond, president, ELM Energy. “For example, if the renewable energy being generated exceeds demand, our technology is able to automatically decide if the excess should be fed back to the grid or stored for later use when the renewable sources are unavailable. The new Dell Edge Gateway 5000 Series is the perfect platform for our FieldSight Edge software to perform computing functions close to the source, at a fantastic value.”

Additional Dell Edge Gateway 5000 Series benefits include:
• Ability to be mounted on the wall and to operate in locations with extreme temperatures like boiler rooms and deserts
• Expansive I/O structure designed to bridge both legacy serial connections (RS-422/485, CAN bus) and modern wireless networks (Wi-Fi, 802.15.4 mesh) to the internet with expansion capability for future options [they tell me that they are investigating a range of other connectivity]
• Operating system flexibility with choices that include Ubuntu Snappy, Wind River Linux, Windows 10 IoT Enterprise
• Security foundation including TPM, secure boot and BIOS level lockdown of I/O ports
• Manageability with Dell Command|Monitor for Linux and Dell Cloud Client Manager
• Dell is working with innovative independent software vendors and system integrators like SAP, OSIsoft, Eigen Innovations and Lucid to add domain expertise
• Standard Dell lead times allowing customers to receive hardware quickly, a rarity in the OT industry today
• Consulting, strategy and integration from Dell Services to help information-intensive enterprises like healthcare and insurance customize IoT approaches for their industry
Dell and Intel are also launching the “Connect What Matters” contest for innovative IoT solutions built on Dell Edge Gateways. The contest is open to commercial companies and solutions can be developed for any vertical. Participants will compete for the Best IoT Design, and the deadline for submissions is March 31, 2016.

Software Platform for Open Control Systems Emphasizing IoT

IoT Testbed For Condition Monitoring to Predictive Maintenance

IBM_NI_Test BedRepresentatives of National Instruments (NI) and IBM recently discussed their collaboration on a test bed demonstrating the possibilities for using Internet of Things (IoT) technologies for taking companies from Condition Monitoring to Predictive Maintenance.

Chris O’Connor, IBM General Manager of IoT who works with divisions such as Maximo told me this is a new business unit that is built around IoT. There are about 6,000 clients. The explosion of data coming from devices means that industry must change from data centers to IoT. “For us, this entails the analysis of sensors information, aggregating the information, then constructing lifecycles. This will help world adopt IoT.”

The collaboration from condition monitoring and analytics changes questions manufacturers can answer such as, can I gain competitive advantage, can I offer better warranty, change frequency of maintenance.

Jamie Smith, NI’s Director of Embedded Systems, said the test bed project will roll out in multiple phases. It demonstrates the interoperability between two industry leaders including edge computing capability from NI to IBM’s cloud technology and analytics. Therefore, users can progress from condition monitoring to predictive maintenance.

The test bed consists of a motor and a couple of fans. Various failure modes are introduced. The first go consists of NI CompactRIO communicating via MQTT to IBM. Now that the proof has been completed, other companies in the Industrial Internet Consortium have been invited to join the collaboration. “All they need to do is contribute time and resources to it,” added Smith.

The next step according to Smith is insuring that it’s end to end secure. They are working with IIC to do security assessment. They will then look at more robust assets—most likely power generation assets—hoping to work with someone with large turbines or pumps to continue to demonstrate the technology and benefits.

Following is a description from the statement on the Web.

The Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance Testbed (CM/PM) will demonstrate the value and benefits of continuously monitoring industrial equipment to detect early signs of performance degradation or failure. CM/PM will also use modern analytical technologies to allow organizations to not only detect problems but proactively recommend actions for operations and maintenance personnel to correct the problem.

Condition Monitoring (CM) is the use of sensors in equipment to gather data and enable users to centrally monitor the data in real-time. Predictive Maintenance (PM) applies analytical models and rules against the data to proactively predict an impending issue; then deliver recommendations to operations, maintenance and IT departments to address the issue.

These capabilities enable new ways to monitor the operation of the equipment – such as turbines and generators – and processes and to adopt proactive maintenance and repair procedures rather than fixed schedule-based procedures, potentially saving money on maintenance and repair, and saving cost and lost productivity of downtime caused by equipment failures.

Furthermore, combining sensor data from multiple pieces of equipment and/or multiple processes can provide deeper insight into the overall impact of faulty or sub-optimal equipment, allowing organizations to identify and resolve problems before they impact operations and improve the quality and efficiency of industrial processes.

Through this testbed, the testbed leaders IBM and National Instruments will explore the application of a variety of analytics technologies for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance. The testbed application will initially be deployed to a power plant facility where performance and progress will be reported on, additional energy equipment will be added and new models will be developed. It will then be expanded to adjacent, as yet to be determined, industries.

Software Platform for Open Control Systems Emphasizing IoT

Connecting the Internet of Things

The big talk now in the Industrial Internet of Things centers on how to get all the devices to talk the same language.

There is much work going on in the area of interoperability–using a set of a few standards to allow disparate devices and applications to talk.

Here is a company announcing this week at the Embedded Systems Conference in Germany a caveat–since there is no standard, just use our proprietary system.

It “has all the building blocks” to construct a system. Note that this company is not expressly industrial manufacturing. We do have some interoperability standards now, but it is true that getting information from sensor to application can be trying.

At any rate, check out the Connect One system.

Connect One has introduced iChipNet, an Internet of Things (IoT) end-to-end platform that helps customers get their IoT products to market faster.

Connect One’s iChipNet includes all the building blocks – hardware, software, and connectivity – required for IoT product design. Since industry IoT standards are not yet in place, end-to-end solutions from a single vendor can ensure interoperability among IoT functions so that components seamlessly “talk” to each other. Such interoperability enables reliability and maintainability of products once they’re being used in consumers’ homes, building control, or medical devices, and beyond.

Connect One’s iChipNet platform incorporates the following building blocks:

  • Embedded technology—Internet Controller chips, Ethernet modules, Wi-Fi modules for embedding inside IoT products
  • Gateway/Hub—an optional gateway or hub to connect IoT products to the local network and to the Internet with a zero-configuration feature
  • Cloud solution—Server software or service to manage deployed IoT products
  • Smartphone app—An app library and example that make it easy for customers to provide a smartphone app with their IoT product

It’s All About Interoperability

The IoT comprises smart devices connected to the network and services that, for example, manage energy usage, provide doctors with real-time medical information, or monitor a baby or child remotely. Such services require a complete IoT platform that can efficiently manage data and ensure fast and reliable delivery to the consumer.

When developing such solutions, customers need an IoT technology vendor that can provide all the building blocks, and confidence that these building blocks work seamlessly together. Over time, by using a single vendor, customers protect themselves from software updates or upgrades that apply to a single part, rather than the whole system, and cause unnecessary system failures.

“In the absence of IoT standards, Connect One is making it easy for anyone to design an IoT device and service and get them to market quickly,” noted Erez Lev, General Manager for Connect One. “By providing all the building blocks needed, we assure customers of ongoing interoperability of our technology as their product evolves in the market. We believe IoT products should be simple and we have designed our technology to provide this.”

Connect One’s IoT Platform: Already Proven in Other Markets

Connect One has provided IoT chips and modules to market segments like home automation, medical, security, point-of-sale, asset management, smart energy, and more since long before the market was called IoT. Building on its M2M expertise, Connect One is tailoring these market-proven chips and modules for the IoT era and consumer space.

Connect One’s new IoT building blocks include everything product designers need to develop, deploy, and manage their IoT products securely and reliably. iChipNet embedded technology, available in many form factors and configurations, recognize the gateway/hub and seamlessly connect to it without end-user intervention.

The cloud solution keeps in touch with the iChipNet-based products, enabling a simple and robust management solution for products in the field. The IoT module connects to the iChipNet cloud solution automatically and its I/O ports can be controlled and managed via the cloud interface. The module has an embedded web server that enables the developer to configure and name the I/O ports according to function in a simple and intuitive manner. Finally, the smartphone app libraries and examples make it easy to build and promote a smartphone app as part of the solution or service provided by the customer.

Security Platform for Industrial Internet of Secure Things

Security Platform for Industrial Internet of Secure Things

industrial security platformSmallThere remains some unfinished business from the ARC Forum held last week in Orlando. Security as a key component of the Industrial Internet of Things was a recurring theme. Mentor Graphics held a press conference to highlight advances in embedded computing. Later, I met with Alan Grau, CEO of Icon Labs, to talk about security.

Building security directly into embedded control is a burgeoning trend. Expect to see more—and demand more from your suppliers—about building in security at the embedded level.

From the press release:

Icon Labs, a provider of embedded networking and security technology, has announced the integration of Icon Labs’ Floodgate security products with Mentor Graphics’ Nucleus RTOS and Mentor Embedded Linux. The integrated solution creates a secure platform for industrial automation and extends the Internet of Secure Things initiative into industrial control systems.

IOT Secure FrameworkSmallIcon Labs’ Internet of Secure Things Initiative defines a platform for developing secure, connected devices. The platform is designed to ensure that security is intrinsic to the architecture of the device itself and incorporates security management and visibility, device hardening, data protection and secure communications. These capabilities provide the foundation for the Industrial Internet of Secure Things. Natively securing the devices simplifies protection, audit, and compliance independent of the secure perimeter, reducing the need for expensive and complicated security appliances.

“Security is a top priority for our industrial automation and critical infrastructure clients. Partnering with Icon Labs allows us to provide an integrated solution that enables security and regulatory compliance,” stated Scot Morrison, general manager of Embedded Runtime Solutions, Mentor Graphics Embedded Systems Division. “Icon Labs Floodgate product family provides a comprehensive security platform for developing secure, embedded devices using Nucleus and Mentor Embedded Linux.”

The integration of Icon Labs’ Floodgate products and Mentor Graphics’ embedded OSes provides:

  • Security policy management
  • Event and command audit log reporting
  • Integration with the McAfee ePolicy orchestrator (ePO)
  • Integrated embedded firewall
  • Firmware and data anti-tamper support
  • Integrated solution on both Nucleus and Mentor Embedded Linux

“Today’s modern industrial automation devices and systems are complex connected devices charged with performing critical functions,” says Alan Grau, CEO of Icon Labs. “Including security in these devices is a critical design task. Security features must be considered early in the design process to ensure the device is protected from the advanced cyber-threats they will be facing now as well as attacks that will be created in the future. By partnering with Mentor Graphics, we are able to offer a solution in which critical security elements are integrated into the operating system, ensuring security is a foundational component of the device.”

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