GE Digital Ends Not Invented Here Syndrome

GE Digital Ends Not Invented Here Syndrome

GE Digital initiates a huge turnaround in its attitude toward software and Industrial Internet development. GE invested large sums to build a Silicon Valley presence for its software. Hired many engineers. Took its industrial software base up a notch or two with its Predix platform. Tried to build its own cloud infrastructure. The mantra—not invented here.

[Late Breaking News: I was wrong. There will be another Minds + Machines. San Francisco, October 30-31. That’s an expensive trip. Anyone want to fund me? 😉 ]

During the last Minds+Machines conference in San Francisco new CEO John Flannery, barely two months into the job, said that GE Digital needed to work more closely with partners. Soon thereafter came the axe.

That is the context for this major announcement (this one came from Microsoft, so within it may be a bit of its bias) of a partnership. Following report is based upon a media blog from Microsoft.

GE and Microsoft announced an expanded partnership, bringing together operational technology and information technology “to eliminate hurdles industrial companies face in advancing digital transformation projects.” GE Digital plans to standardize its Predix solutions on Microsoft Azure and will deeply integrate the Predix portfolio with Azure’s native cloud capabilities, including Azure IoT and Azure Data and Analytics. The parties will also co-sell and go-to-market together, offering end customers premier Industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions across verticals. In addition, GE will leverage Microsoft Azure across its business for additional IT workloads and productivity tools, including internal Predix-based deployments, to drive innovation across the company.

GE also plans to leverage Azure across the company for a wide range of IT workloads and productivity tools, accelerating digital innovation and driving efficiencies. This partnership also enables the different GE businesses to tap into Microsoft’s advanced enterprise capabilities, which will support the petabytes of data managed by the Predix platform, such as GE’s monitoring and diagnostics centers, internal manufacturing and services programs.

According to Microsoft, leveraging Azure enables GE to expand its cloud footprint globally, helping the companies’ mutual customers rapidly deploy IIoT applications.

The global IoT market is expected to be worth $1.1 trillion in revenue by 2025 as market value shifts from connectivity to platforms, applications and services, according to new data from GSMA Intelligence. Note: I find this a very interesting comment.

As part of this expanded partnership, the companies will go-to-market together and also explore deeper integration of Predix IIoT solutions with Power BI, PowerApps and other third-party solutions, as well as integration with Microsoft Azure Stack to enable hybrid deployments across public and private clouds.

Time Sensitive Networking or TSN Now Embedded In a Product

Time Sensitive Networking or TSN Now Embedded In a Product

Time Sensitive Networking, or TSN, extends and amplifies standard Ethernet as defined by the IEEE. The complete suite of specifications lacks a couple of areas, yet, but it is complete enough to begin using. NI (National Instruments) has been an early proponent of the technology participating in a testbed assembled by the Industrial Internet Consortium.

I’m a TSN believer. When the complete set of specs if finished and we see commercial-off-the-shelf chipsets, this high speed, deterministic network will be a game changer for the Internet of Things and indeed industrial control and automation. The amount of murmuring I’m hearing from suppliers confirms in my mind the potential.

NI has announced new CompactRIO Controllers that include NI-DAQmx and Time Sensitive Networking (TSN). These controllers offer deterministic communication and synchronized measurements across standard Ethernet networks to increase performance and help improve productivity in addition to flexibility. NI was the first to market with industrial embedded hardware supporting TSN, the next evolution of the IEEE 802.11 Ethernet standard, and provides these controllers as part of its continued investment in TSN. Engineers can use TSN to synchronize distributed systems across networks, which eliminates the need for costly synchronization cables.

As industries such as automotive, oil and gas, research and aerospace continue to implement the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), acquiring accurate, reliable and synchronized data across distributed nodes has become more challenging. As a result, companies must keep pace to ensure their systems are ready to meet these evolving requirements.

In the research space, A.M.S. Software GmbH is already taking advantage of the flexibility of CompactRIO with NI-DAQmx. “We are excited about the new CompactRIO Controller because of the flexibility it offers us,” said Klaudius Pinkawa, CEO of A.M.S. Software GmbH. “We needed to set up several experiments in a lab and then perform them on an aircraft in zero gravity. CompactRIO with NI-DAQmx allowed us to perform any experiment using the same hardware in both environments, which saved development time and reduced risks to the experiments.

The new CompactRIO Controllers feature:

  • Submicrosecond synchronization with TSN over standard Ethernet for tightly synchronized, distributed measurements and control
  • Shorter time to measurement than previous CompactRIO Controllers because of intuitive NI-DAQmx driver software
  • Open and secure processing at the edge of the IIoT with the NI Linux Real-Time OS
  • High-performance data analysis and control with an industrial-grade processor and onboard FPGA, programmable with LabVIEW FPGA
  • Reliable operation in harsh environments with -40 °C to 70 °C operating temperature range, shock resistance up to 50 g and vibration resistance up to 5 g

With the addition of NI-DAQmx to the CompactRIO Controller family, engineers can access I/O directly from ready-to-use functions, which have made working with this driver the preferred data acquisition method for over 15 years. This intuitive driver coupled with the openness of the NI Linux Real-Time OS means users can continue to leverage the vast ecosystem of IP available for Linux, like Security Enhanced Linux (SE-Linux).

IIC and NIST Present IIoT Energy Forum

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has been busy over the past few months. I receive a steady stream of interesting news. This one concerns a joint Forum (which I cannot make) with  National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) presenting the IIoT Energy Forum on February 9 in McLean, Virginia.

This one-day forum hosted by the MITRE Corp. will focus on the impact of IIoT on the energy industry.

This public event will showcase industrial internet technologies and IIC and NIST activities in the energy sector. It will feature experts from both the IIC and NIST and shine a spotlight on smart grids, industrial analytics, cybersecurity and standards.

“The Global Event Series is a crucial part of IIC’s industry outreach program bringing industry stakeholders and end users together,” said Wael William Diab, Chair of the IIC Global Event Series and Senior Director at Huawei. “Many industries are turning to IIoT to monitor the efficiency of their assets and the energy and utility sector is no exception.”

“IIoT-enabled assets present new vectors of vulnerability across connected systems and distributed devices in the energy and utility industry,” said Bob Martin, Senior Principal Engineer, Trust & Assurance Cyber Technologies, The MITRE Corporation. “Trustworthy IIoT will have an impact not only on cost optimization but also on energy regulations, policy and standards.”

The agenda includes:

  • Guest speakers from The Department of Energy, MITRE and NIST who will discuss requirements, gaps and opportunities for leveraging the data that is building up within and around energy systems, and how to use that data to increase production and decrease costs.
  • A panel of testbed experts from Xilinx, Wipro Digital, NIST and InterDigital Communications, Inc. who will discuss emerging technologies and applications based on testbed examples, including smart grids.
  • Panels on Standards & Architecture and Security, moderated by IBM and Intel respectively, both with a focus on energy.

MITRE is a secure facility and pre-registration is required. Registration for non-US citizens closes on January 24 at 5pm EST and registration for US citizens closes January 31 at 5pm EST.

Avnu Alliance Plus Partnerships Plus TSN Yields Internet of Things Advances

Avnu Alliance Plus Partnerships Plus TSN Yields Internet of Things Advances

2017 marks the year of Avnu Alliance, the consortium driving standards-based deterministic networking, making its name in the industrial Internet of Things space. I’ve caught up with news from other trips, now it’s news from SPS in Nuremberg that I missed this year.

  • Avnu Alliance and Edge Computing Consortium
  • Avnu Alliance and OPC Foundation
  • TSN Conformance Testing

Avnu Alliance and the Edge Computing Consortium

Avnu Alliance and the Edge Computing Consortium (ECC) announced a liaison agreement to partner on shared interests of advancing industrial networking and edge computing. Under the agreement, the consortia will work together with the shared goal for interoperability across the industrial control industry.

Joint activities between Avnu Alliance and the ECC will include:

  • Identifying and sharing IIoT best practices
  • Collaborating on test beds
  • Collaborating on standardization and conformance testing

“We are very excited about the cooperation between ECC and Avnu Alliance,” said Mr. Haibin Yu, Chairman of ECC. “We believe that Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) technology will enable edge computing to better meet the industrial customers end-to-end needs and promote the global industry digitization transformation.”

“Edge computing is a key enabling technology to the industrial IoT. The liaison with the Edge Computing Consortium enables Avnu to broaden the scope for creating an interoperable foundation of Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) for the industrial IoT in alignment with our organization’s goal to build coalitions within the networking space,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Chair.

Avnu Alliance and ECC conducted a joint presentation at the ECC Summit in Beijing on November 29, 2017 to announce their agreement and the opportunities ahead for Edge Computing and Time Sensitive Networking.

Avnu Alliance and OPC Foundation Combined IT-OT Leadership

Avnu Alliance (Avnu), Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), and OPC Foundation announce their collaboration with IT-OT industry leaders to advance industrial device interoperability and to show the progress made in bringing the open, unified communication standard OPC UA over Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) to market.

Leading companies active in these groups have pledged their commitment to ensuring the interoperability of deterministic industrial devices and have made significant investments in achieving this goal. Rapid developments of these technologies have been made over the last year.

“With the rapid adoption of TSN as a foundational technology for automation, the community is increasingly relying on an interoperable set of network services and infrastructure. Today, 17 market leaders are reinforcing their commitment to complete a unified communication technology,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Chair. “By leveraging the liaison agreements of Avnu, IIC and OPC Foundation, we’re creating a faster process for the creation of an open, interoperable ecosystem of devices that take advantage of secure, guaranteed latency and delivery for critical traffic. It is exciting to see the fruits of our labor in these milestones.”

The pillars of this announcement are:

Conformance testing advances: Avnu TSN conformance test plans for time synchronization of industrial devices are ready and available to test houses. At last month’s Avnu IIC Interoperability Workshop, more than 20 companies came together to demonstrate interoperability in the IIC TSN Testbed and to advance the conformance tests with the assistance of University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab, an Avnu-recognized test facility.

Standards evolved, more vendors, more devices: The Publish Subscribe extension for OPC UA is now available in release-candidate form, enabling the exchange of OPC UA over UDP connections. This is the prerequisite for running OPC UA TSN.

“OPC UA over TSN adds additional capability to the OPC Foundation portfolio, including enhancing controller-to-controller and machine-to-machine communication and information integration. OPC UA addresses the complex requirements of initiatives like Industrie 4.0 and the IIoT, providing information integration between devices, applications and the cloud, truly providing the foundation for the much-demanded seamless communication and information integration between IT and OT networks,” said Thomas Burke, OPC Foundation President.

Demonstrated interoperability between different vendors: Interoperability testing via the IIC TSN Testbed is rapidly progressing with eight hands-on plugfests taking place in the US and Europe over the past 18 months. More than 20 companies have participated in these face-to-face events to test and demonstrate interoperability between devices from various manufacturers and vendors – both collaborative and competitive.

“Our TSN Testbed stands as a showcase for the business value of TSN. The work coming out of the TSN Testbed is already having a direct impact on suppliers and manufacturers who see the technology as a value-add for their system structures,” said Paul Didier, IIC TSN Testbed Coordinator, Cisco Solution Architect. “Companies are invited to participate in our plugfests to test their own TSN devices for interoperability, including OPC UA Pub-Sub TSN devices.”

Avnu Alliance Delivers First TSN Conformance Tests for Industrial Devices

Avnu Alliance announced the first set of Avnu TSN conformance test plans for time synchronization of industrial devices are ready and available now for test houses to implement.

Avnu Alliance has built a rich set of conformance and interoperability tests with a defined procedure for certification in various markets. Leveraging that multi-industry experience, Avnu defined a baseline certification in the industrial market that consists of robust and comprehensive test requirements based on the market requirements for industrial automation devices and silicon. These conformance tests ensure that the device or silicon conforms to the relevant IEEE standards, as well as additional requirements that Avnu has selected as necessary for proper system interoperability.

“Time Synchronization, or 802.1AS, is the foundation for all TSN devices, hence it is the first set of conformance tests that are ready and available,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Chair. As the standards and networks continue to evolve, so does Avnu’s work to define and certify the standard foundation. In the future, Avnu will also be able to test and certify other traffic shaping mechanisms, frame preemption, redundancy, ingress policing, strict priority, and security. “Our work with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), OPC Foundation and other industry organizations drives the industry closer toward achieving an interoperable ecosystem,” added Walter.

Avnu is committed to speeding up the path to an interoperable foundation. To this end, Avnu members have made open source code available for 802.1AS timing and synchronization in the OpenAvnu repository on GitHub.

To encourage and enable multiple industry groups, vendors and protocols to share a TSN network, Avnu has outlined the system architecture and requirements for this industrial model built on an Avnu certified foundation in a document entitled “Theory of Operation for TSN-enabled Industrial Systems,” which is available for download. This document introduces the fundamental mechanisms needed for a system architecture to build on, including time synchronization, quality of service using scheduled transmission and network configuration and walks through the requirements of several industrial use cases including how to enable and integrate non-TSN technologies where needed.

Avnu Alliance members have created this document to help designers and engineers in the industry understand the real-world application context and build a TSN network that is configured for multiple vendor and industry groups. Avnu’s defined foundation will continue to support additional capabilities, including support for multiple IEEE 1588 profiles, guidelines for scaling to very large network architectures, centralized and distributed configuration for the network, and aggregation/composition of multiple networks into a single TSN-enabled network domain.

Testbeds provide real-world IIoT deliverables

Testbeds provide real-world IIoT deliverables

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has published the first results of its testbed program. A major focus and activity of the IIC and its members, testbeds provide platforms for IIC member organizations to think through innovations, test new applications, processes, products, services and business models to ascertain their usefulness and viability before taking them to market.

“IIC testbeds provide a feedback loop from concept to reality and back to innovation,” said Dr. Richard Soley, Executive Director, IIC. “They help uncover the technologies, techniques and opportunities that are essential to solving important problems that benefit business and society. This is the reason member companies agree to sponsor and own their testbeds but will also share progress reports.”

Howard Kradjel, director of Testbeds, told me in an interview this week that test beds are used to prove out business cases along with usability. This release is an attempt to pull together the results so that the general technical public can see what is happening. The results focused on standards, ecosystems, and/or business models.

The following IIC testbeds have shared these important first results:

  • Track & Trace Testbed – Initially formed to trace process tools, the team deployed sensors that provided information about the location of tools and assets in use. It was expanded from tools to logistics equipment, specifically forklifts. Results: The testbed identified standardization opportunities in localization-technology interfaces, tightening-tool interfaces, enterprise-system interfaces, data models, data communications and device management. It also identified reusable interfaces that opened the solution to components from different vendors.
  • Time Sensitive Networking Testbed – Time-sensitive networking (TSN) enhances Ethernet to bring more deterministic capabilities to the network, including time synchronization, which schedules traffic flows and manages central automated system configuration. This testbed applies TSN technology in a manufacturing system with a wide range of automation and control vendors. Results: The testbed deployed early-phase IEEE 802.1 and IEEE 802 Ethernet standards. The testbed will improve upon those standards, making the use of TSN more prevalent in industries where it can improve efficiency, such as manufacturing and energy.
  • Manufacturing Quality Management Testbed –This testbed will improve manufacturing quality by retrofitting outdated factories using modern sensory networks and analytic technologies. The initial success was shown using the welding section of the air conditioner production line in a factory. Prior to the process, the quality control was based on the noise detection by an experienced examiner. Results: In March 2017, an optimized noise detection analytic engine was proven to help reduce the false detection rate by 45%. In June 2017, the analytic engine for noise detection was integrated into the production line and the accuracy of pass/fail detection was dramatically improved.
  • Communication and Control for Microgrid Applications Testbed – A microgrid combines generation and storage into a local power system. It allows more reliable use of renewable sources like solar or wind power in conjunction with, or even isolated from, the rest of the power grid. Near-term uses are for limited areas, such as a campus, corporation, hospital, factory or residential area. Someday, the microgrid architecture will enable deeper use of renewables throughout the main grid. Results: This testbed proves the viability of a real-time, securely distributed control architecture for real-world microgrid applications. It leverages an Industrial Internet Reference Architecture (IIRA) pattern called the “layered databus” that federates multiple connectivity domains into a larger system. The testbed implemented the pattern with the Data Distribution Service (DDS) standard as explained in the Industrial Internet Connectivity Framework (IICF) guidance. The testbed thus validated both the pattern and its implementation, showing both efficacy and acceleration. This testbed is also contributing to the Open Field Message Bus (OpenFMB) design, now a power industry standard
  • INFINITE Testbed – The INternational Future INdustrial Internet TEstbed (INFINITE) uses software-defined networking to create virtual domains so that multiple virtual domains can run securely on a single physical network. Results: This testbed enabled intelligent route planning for ambulances to improve response times, leading to better pre-hospital emergency care experiences and outcomes for patients. It also led to the improved safety and effectiveness of first responders in emergency situations, especially in harsh environments. A third use case enabled the detection of anomalies or fraudulent behavior within the power grid through machine learning algorithms, which can also be applied to other types of Operation Technology (OT).
  • Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance Testbed – This testbed provides insight into the health of critical assets. It leverages advanced sensors that automatically predict equipment failure and notifies a person or system so that pro-active steps can be taken to avoid equipment damage and unscheduled downtime. Results: This testbed demonstrated how to make older assets smart, collecting asset health data from four pump/motor skids used to pump chilled water from an HVAC system.
  • Smart Factory Web Testbed – This testbed networks a web of smart factories to improve order fulfillment by aligning capacity across production sites. Results: Factories and their assets can be registered and searched for in the Smart Factory Web (SFW) portal. IEC standards OPC UA and AutomationML are used to achieve semantic interoperability and are applied to exchange information between engineering tools.

The IIC reviews testbed proposals to identify goals, value, potential partners and commercial viability of each testbed. The testbeds must offer a solid business case for global economic impact; have relevance to IIC IIoT frameworks to help members develop IIoT systems more rapidly; pass a security review to ensure a secure industrial Internet; and provide tangible deliverables such as technologies or best practices requirements for standards. There are currently 26 approved IIC testbeds.

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