Industrial Internet of Things Easier to Access and More Secure

One of the most important technologies for successful implementation of an Industrial Internet of Things program involves moving more computing and storage power to the edge.

GE has been in the news more often than it would like over the past year—my broker just called and in our discussion I mentioned writing an article about GE and he groaned.

However, GE Digital despite rumors to the contrary still lives and released some new products. One is an edge solution and the other an on-prem server solution.

Predix Edge aims at simplifying edge-to-cloud computing. GE Digital also introduced its Predix Private Cloud (PPC) solution, an on-premises deployment of the Predix platform, which gives customers the privacy, security, data sovereignty, and data isolation provided by a private cloud infrastructure.

“More than 70 percent of industrial companies are stuck in pilot purgatory – that is, they are either still at the start or unable to further advance their IIoT initiatives,” said Eddie Amos, Corporate VP, Platform & Industrial Applications, GE Digital. “Companies often face unexpected complexities in the solution design or integration, steep costs or security vulnerabilities. The custom, one-off solutions that tend to grow out of pilot projects further burden companies with ongoing maintenance, patching and upgrading over time. Realizing the full impact of IIoT requires moving beyond the pilot stage with scalable, interoperable solutions – and GE Digital helps lead them through that journey.”

The offerings GE Digital unveiled help companies bridge this gap – and offer businesses flexibility when and where they operate.

Predix Edge securely captures, processes, and analyzes data that can be managed locally or pushed to the cloud, executing the most demanding workloads at the edge and producing insights in near real time. With new functionality to help businesses accelerate the IIoT, Predix Edge provides:

Simple deployment and management capabilities out of the box, allowing users to remotely monitor and manage all their edge devices and heterogenous industrial data from a centralized management console.

Rapid time to value by supporting edge application development for almost all programming languages – such as Java, C++, Go and Python – and coming pre-integrated for use with GE Digital’s leading industrial apps like Asset Performance Management (APM) and Operations Performance Management (OPM).

Support for data storage and analysis online, offline or with intermittent connectivity in remote environments, such as offshore oil rigs or disconnected use cases where internet connectivity is never available. Predix Edge then transfers key data back to the cloud when re-connected.

Edge-to-cloud security and compliance to protect data and operations. The hardened, embedded edge operating system helps manage connected devices and remotely deploy patches, giving users the ability to control security at a deeper level.

Low latency application deployment closer to the originating data, to enable companies with limited connectivity, regulatory requirements or other constraints a way to accelerate time to value.

Processing data and applying analytics close to the device can dramatically reduce downtime, optimize maintenance schedules, and add operational value, all while reducing network and cloud costs. Predix Edge and the Predix platform work seamlessly together to provide distributed IIoT processing and analytics where they’re needed most.

To further help simplify the IIoT process, GE Digital also unveiled Predix Private Cloud (PPC), an on-premises deployment of the Predix platform and portfolio, that offers companies maximum levels of security and privacy.

Already commercially available, PPC enables IIoT connectivity, data, analytics and applications – such as Predix applications or custom applications – to be hosted on-premises, providing customers with multiple ways to deploy the Predix platform. The on-premises offering helps companies operating in high data volume scenarios access data securely in near real time and also manage edge and disconnected environments. PPC is specifically designed to meet privacy, security, data sovereignty anddata isolation requirements based on a customer’s industry, region or country.

Awards For Best Application of HMI/SCADA

Awards For Best Application of HMI/SCADA

It’s not the technology; it’s what you do with it. Here are companies (and their engineers) who have done some cool projects with HMI/SCADA software. Inductive Automation has selected the recipients of its Ignition Firebrand Awards for 2018. The announcements were made at the Ignition Community Conference (ICC) in September.

The Ignition Firebrand Awards recognize system integrators and industrial organizations that use the Ignition software platform to create innovative new projects. Ignition by Inductive Automation is an industrial application platform with tools for the rapid development of solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), manufacturing execution systems (MES), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Ignition is used in virtually every industry, in more than 100 countries.

The Ignition Firebrand Awards are presented every year at ICC. The award-winning projects are selected from the ICC Discover Gallery, which features the best 15 Ignition projects submitted by integrators and industrial organizations.

“Once again, we had a lot of variety with the Firebrand Award winners this year,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “Many industries were represented — automotive, oil & gas, food & beverage, water/wastewater, and more. It was great to see quality projects in all kinds of settings.”

“It’s inspiring to see the creative applications people are building on top of the Ignition platform,” said Travis Cox, co-director of sales engineering for Inductive Automation. “Every year, people create some really interesting projects, and this year was no exception.”

These Ignition Firebrand Award winners demonstrated the versatility and power of Ignition:

  • Brown Engineers (Little Rock, Ark.) took a unique approach to improving the filter backwash process for a water treatment plant at the City of Hot Springs. Brown used the Ignition SCADA platform to dramatically improve the automatic backwash, conserve water, improve water quality, and initiate collection of filter data needed to extend regulatory run-time limits. See the video here.
  • ECS Solutions (Evansville, Ind.) and Blentech Corporation (Santa Rosa, Calif.) partnered on a project that brought a unified platform to JTM Food Group’s new state-of-the-art plant in Harrison, Ohio. The result was a SCADA system that included the full spectrum of process automation. The Ignition application includes material management, formulation control, batch processing, and process control. See the video here.
  • Open Automation SRL (Santa Fe, Argentina) improved operations for a Cargill-owned animal nutrition plant. The project used Ignition to increase efficiency, productivity, and traceability without increasing labor. Greater access to data, less paper, and improved product quality were just a few of the benefits. See the video here.
  • Roeslein & Associates (St. Louis, Mo.) helped global automotive supplier Dana Incorporated increase productivity by 30 percent at some of its sites. The project provided real-time statistical analysis and visualization of machine data to enable better and faster decision-making. The flexible solution can be leveraged by Dana in numerous additional plants. See the video here.
  • Tamaki Control (Auckland, New Zealand) created a comprehensive clean-in-place scheduling system for the largest yogurt-manufacturing facility in the world: the Chobani plant in Twin Falls, Idaho. The solution increased visualization and made it much easier for operators to share information. It can also be leveraged for other uses at Chobani plants. See the video here.
  • Weisz Bolivia SRL (Buenos Aires, Argentina) solved weather-related data-communication problems for the largest offshore oil operation in Argentina. Results included better access to data, easier reporting to a government agency, and streamlined processes. See the video here.

Information on all 15 Discover Gallery projects can be found here.

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.

Defining Your IoT Terms Such As Edge and IT/OT Convergence

Defining Your IoT Terms Such As Edge and IT/OT Convergence

Defining terms enhances effectiveness of communication—especially in this new Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) space. The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) leads the way bringing companies and people together to accomplish this sort of work.

I floated a definition of edge a little while ago and got an interesting reaction on Twitter. Let’s see how this one flies.

IIC announced V2.1 of the Industrial Internet Vocabulary Technical Report. Designed to reduce confusion in the marketplace, the report is a foundational document that provides a common set of definitions for IIoT terms used in all IIC documents. It is also intended as a reference for anyone working in IIoT, including those in IT, OT and vertical industries.

The report adds definitions for terms used in data management, edge and edge computing, IT/OT convergence, connectivity, interoperability, brownfield and greenfield.

“People from different backgrounds and different vertical industries will often use different terms to mean the same thing. Additionally, the industrial internet has core concepts that mean different things to different people,” said Anish Karmarkar, Co-Chair of the Vocabulary Task Group, and Senior Director, Standards Strategy & Architecture at Oracle. “Without an agreed upon vocabulary, there’s a lot of room for misunderstandings. For example, we’ve defined IT/OT convergence as a process of interweaving IT and OT in order to create IIoT systems. While IT/OT convergence is a hot topic today, not everyone is on the same page as to what it exactly means.”

The report provides definitions for data management, including data, data at rest, data in motion, data in use, data integrity and many others to make communication on this subject easier for IIoT stakeholders. The report also clears up confusion on “connectivity” and “interoperability,” which IIoT stakeholders often mix up. “Connectivity” means the ability of a system or app to communicate with other systems or apps via networks. “Interoperability” means the ability of two or more systems or apps to exchange and use that information.

“Edge and edge computing are hotly debated topics in IIoT this year,” said Marcellus Buchheit, one of the primary authors of the IIC IIoT Vocabulary Technical Report, and President & CEO, WIBU-SYSTEMS USA Inc. and Co-Founder, WIBU-SYSTEMS AG. “IIoT stakeholders in every industry have been asking ‘where is the edge,’ or ‘what is edge computing.’ The report defines the ‘edge’ as the boundary between pertinent digital and physical entities, delineated by IoT devices, and ‘edge computing’ as distributed computing that is performed near the edge, where the nearness is determined by the system requirements. At the moment, the IIC is the only consortia to provide definitions for ‘edge’ and ‘edge computing.’”

Read the IIC Journal of Innovation September 2017: Edge Computing to learn even more about edge computing. JOI articles show that by moving compute closer to data sources, edge computing allows for faster sense-analyze-response cycles, which is important for running mission-critical, real-time IIoT applications such as equipment monitoring or autonomous machinery.

Eight Transformative Technologies

Eight Transformative Technologies

Everybody has a list of transformative technologies. A news release from an advisory firm, ABI Research, came my way a few weeks ago. Its analysts came together and compiled a list of eight technologies they feel will be transformative in manufacturing and then they fit them with Smart Manufacturing. That latter phrase is one of the descriptors for the new wave of manufacturing strategy and technology.

We will have difficulty contesting the list. Most of these are, indeed, already well along the adoption path. I find it interesting that they refer to IIoT platforms, but they don’t view those as transforming technologies but rather as a sort of sandbox for the technologies to play in.

[This is a Gary aside—when an analyst firm makes a list of suppliers, I’d advise not considering it to be comprehensive. Rather the list is usually comprised of companies that the firm’s analysts get to sit down with and receive in-depth briefings.]

The ABI report identifies eight transformative technologies:

1 Additive manufacturing

2 Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)

3 Augmented reality (AR)

4 Blockchain

5 Digital twins

6 Edge intelligence

7 Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platforms

8 Robotics

From the ABI news release, “The manufacturing sector has already seen increased adoption of IIoT platforms and edge intelligence. Over the next ten years, manufacturers will start to piece together the other new technologies that will eventually lead to more dynamic factories less dependent on fixed assembly lines and immobile assets. Each step in this transformation will make plants and their workers more productive.”

“Manufacturers want technologies they can implement now without disrupting their operations,” says Pierce Owen, Principal Analyst at ABI Research. “They will change the way their employees perform jobs with technology if it will make them more productive, but they have no desire to rip out their entire infrastructure to try something new. This means technologies that can leverage existing equipment and infrastructure, such as edge intelligence, have the most immediate opportunity.”

ABI summary of its research

The transition towards a lights-out factory has started, but such a major disruption will require an overhaul of workforces, IT architecture, physical facilities and equipment and full integration of dozens of new technologies including connectivity, additive manufacturing, drones, mobile collaborative robotics, IIoT platforms and AI.

IIoT platforms must support many of these other technologies to better integrate them with the enterprise and each other. Those that can connect and support equipment from multiple manufacturers, such as PTC Thingworx and Telit deviceWISE, will last.

After decades of producing little more than prototypes, the AM winter has ended and new growth has sprung up. GE placed significant bets on AM by acquiring Arcam and Concept laser in 2016, and Siemens announced an AM platform in April 2018. Other leading AM specialists include EOS, Stratasys, HP and 3D Systems.

ML capabilities and simulation software have made digital twins extremely useful for product development, production planning, product-aaS, asset monitoring and performance optimization. Companies with assets that they cannot easily inspect regularly will significantly benefit from exact, 3D digital twins, and companies that manufacture high-value assets should offer digital twin monitoring as-a-service for new revenue streams. Innovative vendors in digital twins and simulation software include PTC, SAP, Siemens, and ANSYS.

The above technologies have already started to converge, and robotics provide a physical representation of this convergence. Robotics use AI and computer vision and connect to IIoT platforms where they have digital twins. This connectivity and AI will increase in importance as more cobots join the assembly line and work alongside humans. The robotics vendors that can integrate the most deeply with other transformative technologies have the biggest opportunity. Such vendors include the likes of ABB, KUKA, FANUC, Universal Robots, Rethink Robotics and Yaskawa.

“The vendors that open up their technologies and integrate with both existing equipment and infrastructure and other new transformative technologies will carve out a share of this growing opportunity. Implementation will go step-by-step over multiple decades, but ultimately, how we produce goods will change drastically from what we see today,” concludes Owen.

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