AI Research For Tomorrow’s Production

While at the Hannover Messe Preview last week in Germany, I talked with the representatives of a German consortium with the interesting name of “it’s OWL”. Following are some thoughts from the various organizations that compose the consortium.

Intelligent production and new business models

Artificial Intelligence is of crucial importance for the competitiveness of industry. In the Leading-Edge Cluster it’s OWL six research institutes cooperate with more than 100 companies to develop practical solutions for small and medium-sized businesses. At the OWL joint stand (Hall 7, A12) over 40 exhibitors will demonstrate applications in the areas of machine diagnostics, predictive maintenance, process optimization, and robotics.

Prof. Dr. Roman Dumitrescu (Managing Director it’s OWL Clustermanagement GmbH and Director Fraunhofer IEM) explains: “Our research institutes are international leaders in the fields of machine learning, cognitive assistance systems and systems engineering. At our four universities and two Fraunhofer Institutes, 350 researchers are working on over 100 projects to make Artificial Intelligence usable for applications in industrial value creation. With it’s OWL, we bring this expert knowledge into practice. In 2020, we will launch three new strategic initiatives worth 50 million € to unlock the potential for AI in production, product development and the working world for small and medium-sized enterprises.”

In the initiative ‘AI Marketplace’ 20, research institutes and companies are developing a digital platform for Artificial Intelligence in product development. Providers, users, and experts can network and develop solutions on this platform. In the competence centre ‘AI in the working world of industrial SMEs’, 25 partners from industry and science make their knowledge of work structuring in the context of AI available to companies.

Learning machine diagnostics and ‘SmartBox’ for process optimization

The Institute for Industrial Information Technology at the OWL University of Applied Sciences and Arts will present new results for intelligent machine diagnostics at the trade fair. Using a three-phase motor, it will be illustrated how learning algorithms and information fusion can be used to reliably identify, predict, and visualize states of technical systems. Patterns and information hidden in time series signals are learned and presented to the user in an understandable way. Inaccuracies and uncertainties in individual sensors are solved by conflict-reducing information fusion. For example, motors can be used as sensors. Within a network of sensors and other data sources in production plants, motors can measure the “state of health” and analyze the causes of malfunctions via AI. This reduces scrap and saves up to 20 percent in materials.

The ‘SmartBox’ of the Fraunhofer Institute IOSB-INA is a universally applicable solution that identifies anomalies in processes in various production environments on the basis of PROFI-NET data. The solution requires no configuration and learns the process behavior.

With retrofitting solutions of the Fraunhofer Institute, companies can prepare machines and systems in their inventory for Industrie 4.0 applications without major investment expenditure. The spectrum ranges from mobile production data acquisition systems in suitcase format for studies of potential to permanently installable retrofit solutions. Intelligent sensor systems, cloud connections and machine learning methods build the basis for data analysis. This way, processes can be optimised and more transparency, control, planning, safety, and flexibility in production can be achieved.

Cognitive robotics and self-healing in autonomous systems

The Institute of Cognition and Robotics (CoR-Lab) presents a cognitive robotics system for highly flexible industrial production. The potential of model-driven software and system development for cognitive robotics is demonstrated by using the example of automated terminal assembly in switch cabinet construction. For this purpose, machine learning methods for environ- mental perception and object recognition, automated planning algorithms and model-based motion control are integrated into a robotic system. The cell operator is thereby enabled to perform different assembly tasks using reusable and combinable task blocks.

The research project “AI for Autonomous Systems” of the Software Innovation Campus Paderborn aims at achieving self-healing properties of autonomous technical systems based on the principles of natural immune systems. For this purpose, anomalies must be detected at runtime and the underlying causes must be independently diagnosed. Based on the localization it is necessary to plan and implement behavioral adjustments to restore the function. In addition, the security of the systems must be guaranteed at all times and system reliability must be increased. This requires a combination of methods of artificial intelligence, machine learning and biologically inspired algorithms.

Predictive maintenance and digital twin

Within the framework of the ‘BOOST 4.0’ project, the largest European initiative for Big Data in industry, it’s OWL is working with 50 partners from 16 countries on various application scenarios for Big Data in production. it’s OWL focuses on predictive maintenance: thanks to the systematic collection and evaluation of machine data from a hydraulic press and a material conveyor system, it is possible to identify patterns in the production process in a pilot company. The Fraunhofer IEM has provided the technological and methodological basis. And successfully so: over the past two years the prediction of machine failures has been significantly improved in this specific application by means of machine learning methods. The Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) has already been reduced by more than 30 percent. The Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) is now six times longer than before. A model of the predictive production line can be seen at the stand.

The digital twin is an important prerequisite for increasing the potential for efficiency and productivity in all phases of the machine life cycle. Companies and research institutes are working on the technical infrastructure for digital twins in an it’s OWL project. Digital descriptions and sub-models of machines, products and equipment as well as their interaction over the entire life cycle are now accessible thanks to interoperability. Requirements from the fields of energy and production technology as well as existing Industrie 4.0 standards and IT systems are taken into account. This is expected to result in potential savings of over 50 percent. At the joint stand, Lenze and Phoenix Contact will use typical machine modules to demonstrate how digital twins can be used to exchange information between components, machines, visualisations and digital services across manufacturers. Interoperability proves for the first time how the combination of data can be used to create useful information with added value for different user groups. For example, machine operators and maintenance staff can detect anomalies and receive instructions for troubleshooting.

Connect and get started – production optimization made easy

The cooperation in the Leading-Edge Cluster gives rise to new business ideas that are developed into successful start-ups. For example, Prodaso—a spin-off from Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences—has developed a simple and quickly implementable solution for the acquisition and visualization of machine and production data. The hardware can be connected to a machine in a few minutes via plug-and-play. The machine data is displayed directly in the cloud.

Prodaso has succeeded in solving a central challenge: Until now, networking machines from different manufacturers have been complex and costly. The Prodaso system can be retrofitted to all existing systems, independent of manufacturer and interface. In addition, the start- up also provides automated analysis and optimization tools. This enables companies to detect irregularities and deviations in the process flow at an early stage and to initiate appropriate measures. The company, founded in 2019, has already connected approximately 100 machines at companies in the manufacturing industry.

IMTS 2018 Features Variety of Manufacturing Technologies

IMTS 2018 Features Variety of Manufacturing Technologies

IMTS has been a huge show for many years. As you might expect from a trade show, the theme is broad. Exhibitors are a diverse lot. Things I saw indicating a new wave of technologies including machines designed to work with humans (so-called “cobots”) and various aspects of Industrial Internet of Things. Following are a few specifics.

Formerly the International Machine Tool Show and now the International Manufacturing Technology Show, the South Hall of Chicago’s McCormick Place is still filled with huge machining centers. The North Hall was packed with robotics, components, and other automation products. Much of this flows over to the East Hall where several aisles were devoted to Hannover Messe automation companies—my sweet spot. Even the West Hall was packed.

Beckhoff proclaimed, “Solve the IoT hardware, software and networking puzzle.”

The company introduced ultra-compact Industrial PCs (IPCs). These IPCs are Microsoft Azure Certified and can work just as easily with other major cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and SAP HANA.

Significant updates will span three key areas of the TwinCAT software suite: new HTML5-enabled TwinCAT HMI for industrial displays and mobile devices, important data processing expansions in the TwinCAT Analytics offering, and TwinCAT 3 Motion Designer, which adds a deep set of valuable tools to commission entire motor, drive and mechanical systems in software. Motion Designer can be integrated into the standard TwinCAT 3 software platform or it can be used as a stand-alone motion system engineering tool.

EK1000 EtherCAT TSN Coupler expands the industrial Ethernet capabilities of the EtherCAT I/O system to utilize TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) technology. The EK1000 enables communication among high-performance EtherCAT segments with remote EtherCAT controllers via heterogeneous Ethernet networks.

Ideagen plc, the UK-based software firm, announced the acquisition of American quality inspection software provider, InspectionXpert. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, InspectionXpert currently generates $2.8 million in revenue and will bring more than 1,000 clients including Boeing, Kohler and Pratt & Whitney to Ideagen’s existing customer base.

Speaking at IMTS, Chicago, Ideagen CEO, Ben Dorks, said: “As well as significantly enhancing our manufacturing supply chain product suite, the acquisition of InspectionXpert provides Ideagen with a fantastic opportunity for growth by broadening upsell and cross-selling opportunities, increasing our customer footprint and expanding our geographical reach.”

InspectionXpert’s products, InspectionXpert and QualityXpert, enable organizations in the precision manufacturing industry and associated supply chains to simplify inspection planning, execution and reporting and general quality through digitalization of paper-based processes.

InspectionXpert and QualityXpert will be integrated into Ideagen’s existing software suite, which will enhance Software as a Service (SaaS) revenues and provide excellent opportunities for future growth.

Energid released Actin 5, an update to its robot software development kit (SDK). Called the industry’s only real-time adaptive motion control software, it allows robotic system developers to focus on the robot’s task rather than joint movement and paths. It responds in real time to sensory input and directs the robot on the most efficient path while avoiding collisions. The robot motion is updated dynamically without requiring reprogramming, even in dynamic, mission-critical environments.

Forcam develops software solutions in the area of MES, IIoT, and OEE. It leans into the trend of developing platforms. Its platform is built with open APIs with the latest programming languages and tools. It supports Microsoft Azure Cloud, SAP ERP, Maximo maintenance/asset applications, and Apple iPads for input. The platform helps reduce integration time and expense.

I came across the Dell Technologies booth in the automation hall. The big news was a collaboration with Tridium and Intel for IIoT solutions.

The IIoT solution is built on the Niagara Framework, Tridium’s open technology platform, and combines software and consulting services to help customers begin the digital transformation of their businesses.

The Niagara-based IIoT solution built with Dell and Intel technology will comprise a complete hardware and software stack delivered as a finished solution for ease of adoption, and will encompass consulting services from subject matter experts to support implementation. The application layer of the IIoT solution is being developed and supported by Tridium and will expand over time with solutions designed for the telecom and energy sectors.

More Accurate Location Services

More Accurate Location Services

I met with the representative of an interesting company with a different take on indoor location services. Years ago I listened to a podcast called the Gillmor Gang and a famous (at the time) blogger Robert Scoble was always extolling the virtues of beacons. They will be everywhere and do all sorts of things, he repeated like a mantra.

Things got quiet, then I met Quuppa at Hannover Messe 2018. They have a beacon that has multiple antennas that does a better job of location than trying some of the older triangulation technologies.

The company has just announced a partner event, something that gives me an excuse to point you toward something interesting. I’m assuming that few if any of my readers are heading to Finland any time soon.

Quuppa, a Finnish company that delivers indoor positioning technology, announced its second annual partner event will take place June 5-7 in Helsinki, Finland. With a theme of “Defining the Future,” the event will feature speakers from Quuppa and its partner ecosystem, networking events and a Solutions Showcase Expo that demonstrates the current and future capabilities of real-time, global indoor location services and solutions. The event demonstrates the success Quuppa has had delivering on its go-to-market strategy that centers on providing an open positioning platform both in terms of hardware and software APIs, where each company focuses on what it does best, helping speed time-to-market.

The event will also highlight a day of presentations featuring “success stories,” with case study presentations that showcase the wide range of use cases for Quuppa’s unique indoor location technology. Featured success story topics include improving efficiency and customer experience in retail, asset tracking in large scale, Industry 4.0, manufacturing use cases from Japan, safety in a secure environment, generating business KPIs from location data, and employee safety indoors and outdoors.

Quuppa utilizes a unique combination of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and the Angle of Arrival (AoA) methodologies, as well as advanced location algorithms that have been developed over the course of more than 15 years, to calculate highly accurate indoor positioning.

The Quuppa Ecosystem includes more than 70 best-of-breed companies worldwide that deliver best-in-class software solutions, tags and installation services, as well as system integrators and solution providers that offer end-to-end solutions. Companies across a wide range of industries, including manufacturing and logistics, retail, healthcare, sports, law enforcement and security, government and others rely on Quuppa and its ecosystem partners to unlock the full potential of indoor location-based services without compromising accuracy, compatibility or cost.

“Quuppa’s ecosystem continues to thrive, and our partner event is a place to gather and share expertise and best practices for global indoor location services,” said Fabio Belloni, head of Quuppa’s Partner Ecosystem. “What we are seeing more of as the ecosystem expands is partner companies seeking answers from their peers—not just from Quuppa—on wide-ranging topics such as how to launch a large-scale deployment, how to forge partnerships to grow in new geographic areas, how to best conduct a demo, and more. Companies are realizing they no longer need to develop everything on their own, they can choose best-of-breed solutions from our incredible ecosystem partners. It’s amazing to see how quickly the Quuppa Ecosystem is growing and the unique partnerships that are forming because of it.”

One such partnership that has emerged within the Quuppa Ecosystem is between Japanese motor manufacturer Nidec Corp. and Synapses Lab, an Italian technology design company. The companies work together utilizing Quuppa’s precision location technology, Synapses’ platform for tracking and 3D modeling, and Nidec’s electronics and engineering expertise to develop autonomous solutions that will deliver improved productivity and security in the manufacturing industry.

“Building a solid and reliable ecosystem is essential for our company,” said Domenico Mariotti, CEO and cofounder of Synapses. “Such a system enables us to tackle new challenges and different use cases every day, sometimes beating any expectations we ourselves had for our solutions.”

“In the Japanese manufacturing industry, some early birds are now trying to introduce IoT to their factories,” said Hiroshi Mochizuki, Small Precision Motor and Solutions business unit at Nidec. “They do not allow position data to have jitter, so Nidec decided to select Synapses’ platform utilizing the Quuppa Ecosystem. Synapses has successfully developed its platform, of which the filtering capability and database structure is duly optimized for Quuppa’s technology. Nidec strongly believes that problem-solving requests by its customers will be soon made, and good results in increase of productivity and security are expected to become visible in a short period of time, thanks to the availability of Synapses platform.”

IMTS 2018 Features Variety of Manufacturing Technologies

SAP Introduces Digital Twin and IIoT Solutions at Hannover

Hannover Messe was the place to learn the latest about all things digital—digital twin, Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). SAP was one of the many stops in my itinerary advancing the trend.

My contact at the SAP booth at Hannover wasn’t around when I arrived for my appointment, so I left—only to get a text a half-hour later that he had arrived. But I was off to another appointment by then. However I did glean this information from the company at and following the show.

SAP enters the digital twin era

SAP SE has introduced SAP S/4HANA Cloud for intelligent product design, a new solution for collaborative research and development.

The solution, which is built on SAP Cloud Platform using SAP’s latest digital twin technology, is one of the building blocks for a network of digital twins to enable new business models.

Powered by SAP Leonardo and integrated with business processes in the digital core, SAP S/4HANA Cloud for intelligent product design enables customers to accelerate product design and development with requirement-driven systems engineering and instant collaboration across an extended network of suppliers and partners.

“The solution provides shared views of digital twin information for customers to gain live insights on new products and to store, share and review engineering documents with internal and external participants,” said Bernd Leukert, Member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, Products & Innovation.

SAP’s network of digital twins synchronizes the virtual, physical, conditional, and commercial definitions of assets and products in real time to accelerate innovation, optimize operating performance, predict service requirements, improve diagnostics and enhance decision-making. It enables new levels of collaboration among manufacturers of products, operators of assets, suppliers and service companies. The approach combines digital twins with manufacturing solutions from SAP, cloud networks and SAP Leonardo capabilities, including machine learning, blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT), to optimize the product lifecycle with:

• Digital representation: SAP synchronizes digital twin business data, product information, asset master data and IoT-connected data from both on-premise and cloud solutions enabling companies to represent the world digitally. Solutions including SAP Predictive Engineering Insights, SAP Predictive Maintenance and Service and the SAP 3D Visual Enterprise applications provide access to rich data processing capabilities and live configuration, state, condition and control information.

• Business process: Rich enterprise-grade data processing capabilities allow customers to create, access and update digital twins to support business processes. SAP solutions provide an integrated data model from design, production and maintenance to service, including packaged integration to existing systems for computer-aided design, ERP, and product lifecycle management. Offerings providing end-to-end process support for manufacturers and operators include SAP S/4HANA, the SAP Engineering Control Center integration tool, SAP Hybris Service Cloud solutions, and the SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence and SAP Manufacturing Execution applications.

• Business networks: With leading network offerings such as SAP Ariba solutions, SAP Asset Intelligence Network, and the SAP Distributed Manufacturing application, SAP is uniquely positioned to provide a virtual platform for collaboration on products and assets. The network of digital twins enables secure data access, sharing and governance on a global scale.

• Networks of digital representation: SAP enables twin-to-twin connections in systems within a specific asset and on an asset-to-asset level. SAP solutions such as SAP Asset Intelligence Network provide semantic and industry-standards support in an asset core modeling environment to enable live enrichment during the product or asset lifecycle.

Digital Manufacturing Cloud

SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud helps companies optimize performance, elevate production quality and efficiency, and ensure worker safety.

Drawing on SAP’s expertise in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), predictive analytics and supply networks, the solution enables manufacturers to deploy Industry 4.0 technologies in the cloud.

The new cloud solution extends and complements the digital manufacturing portfolio of on-premise solutions from SAP and is available in different bundles to serve manufacturers of varying sizes in both discrete and process industries and roles within their respective organizations.

SAP customers can choose from the SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud solution for execution, which provides all solutions in the manufacturing cloud portfolio, or the SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud solution for insights, which focuses on performance management and predictive quality.

“Manufacturers in the era of Industry 4.0 require solutions that are intelligent, networked and predictive,” said Leukert. “Our manufacturing cloud solutions help customers take advantage of the Industrial Internet of Things by connecting equipment, people and operations across the extended digital supply chain and tightly integrating manufacturing with business operations.”

SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud includes the following:

• SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud for execution: Industry0-enabled shop floor solution features “lot size one” and paperless production capabilities. It integrates business systems with the shop floor, allowing for complete component and material-level visibility for single and global installations.

• SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud for insights: Centralized, data-driven performance management enables key stakeholders to achieve best-in-class manufacturing performance and operations.

• Predictive quality: This helps manufacturers gain valuable insights to conform to specifications across processes and streamline quality management. It also allows manufacturers to apply predictive algorithms that can reduce losses from defects, deficiencies or variations, and recommend corrective actions.

• Manufacturing network: The network provides a cloud-based collaborative platform integrated with SAP Ariba solutions connecting customers with manufacturing service providers, such as suppliers of 3D and computer numerical control (CNC) printing services, material providers, original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and technical certification companies.

Also at Hannover Messe 2018, SAP announced SAP Connected Worker Safety, a solution designed to reduce risks, costs and protect employees. Information from wearables and other sensor-enabled equipment can help companies react immediately to a hazardous situation or incident while proactively managing worker fatigue and other hazard inducers. Real-time information allows monitoring of compliance at all times against regulatory and other parameters.

IMTS 2018 Features Variety of Manufacturing Technologies

Embedded Computing News From Hannover Messe

Amongst the cloud and manufacturing IT booths in Hannover was a sizable booth nestled in the middle housing Arm, the processor company. Here Ian Ferguson, Vice President, Ecosystem Development, met with me to discuss some of the latest embedded computing news.

Arm licenses chips which are optimized to the OS for customer companies to use and customize.

Its software business includes a device manager for small device apps for provisioning and connecting. It has also announced a bridge to IBM Watson.

Its software product, Embed, runs on ARM. Among the areas of focus is smart meters and tracking of small assets. Ferguson also mentioned smart buildings–especially lighting.

Security is a key focus working at the chip level to detect intrusions, “device health”.

News briefs:

• Rapid industry adoption of Mbed Platform with more than 300,000 developers (>30% growth over the past year) and 80 partners

• Arm expands integration with IBM Watson IoT, and partners with Cybertrust and GlobalSign to deliver BYOC (Bring-Your-Own-Certificate) flexible IoT security authentication

• Mbed drives IoT business value for logistics, utilities and smart cities as organizations shift to Industry 4.0

Help organizations take advantage of the opportunities offered by IoT data and combine this with their business data to create valuable business outcomes. However, in talking with these organizations, many feel that pursuing opportunities to achieve these business outcomes through IoT opens themselves up to more IT complexity and greater security concerns.

Security and complexity of integration are legitimate concerns that addressed with Arm Mbed Platform. This platform provides the necessary IoT building blocks including, connectivity, device management, security and provisioning with the support of a 300,000+ strong developer community that has grown more than 30% in the past year.

It’s also supported by a growing ecosystem of 80 contributing partners such as IBM, which is bridging the Mbed Cloud with IBM Watson IoT Platform. We’ve integrated Mbed Cloud with Cybertrust and GlobalSign to provide more flexible security authentication for IoT devices.

Mbed Cloud and Mbed Cloud On Premises were designed to provide device management, connectivity and provisioning that customers demand, supported across multiple public and private clouds, on-premises and hybrid environments.

IoT security should be easy to implement, not an inhibitor. The new integrations between Mbed Cloud and Cybertrust and GlobalSign enable customers to BYOC (Bring-Your-Own-Certificate) for flexible and secure IoT authentication, leveraging the public key infrastructure they already use. Security should also be built into development, which is why Arm is planning to make its free open-sourced development platform, Mbed OS, the first OS to support PSA-Compliant trusted boot, storage and opaque cryptography.

However, even when security is built-in, software updates are often needed to maintain a strong security posture, which is a challenge when there are millions of devices already deployed out in the field. Through an expanded integration with IBM Watson IoT Platform, its users can now manage, provision and update firmware over-the-air for their IoT devices through Mbed Cloud.