Where’s The Edge with IIoT–Emerson Exchange

Where’s The Edge with IIoT–Emerson Exchange

Presentations abound at Emerson Global Users Exchange. Attendees can choose to take deep technical dives into Emerson products, get overviews and trends of technology and the industry, and even personal development. Yes, there was even a 6 am fitness time with either running or Yoga.

Where’s “The Edge”? Yes, you can use good presentation skills for career success. Building Your Personal Brand through Digital Transformation–or social media an networking. Here’s a recap of the 2019 Emerson Global Users Exchange based upon several sessions I attended led by people I’ve known for a long time–Dave Imming, Mike Boudreaux, and Jim Cahill.

The Secure First Mile–IIoT and the Edge

A panel discussion assembled and led by Emerson’s Director of Connected Plant Mike Boudreaux, discussed Industrial Internet of Things in relation to “Where is the Edge”. The blend of IT and OT on the panel was refreshing and informative. Most instructive was how far each has come toward understanding the entire picture broadening from each’s silos.

Attila Fazekas, ExxonMobil, stated that IoT connects to Level 4 of the Purdue model. He is part of the IT organization taking the view from that side of the divide. He noted that his company tries to have a hard line between the IoT (IT) and control systems, although he admitted that occasionally the line becomes blurred. He was a strong proponent of  IT governance, notes they have a hard line between IoT and control system (although in effect the line sometimes gets a bit smudged).

Peter Zornio, CTO Emerson Automation, relates IoT and Edge to “a giant SCADA system.” He reflects those who come from the plant where intelligent devices are connected to an automation system, which formerly was the single point where data was collected and then passed through. I have talked with Zornio for years. Few people in the industry are as knowledgeable about the plant. He is beginning to adjust to the IT world with which he’s going to have to work in the future. Especially given Emerson’s expanded strategy into digital transformation and “Top Quartile Performance.” He sees security helping drive Edge applications to divide systems providing a firm break between control systems and IT systems.

Jose Valle, CTO Energy/Manufacturing at MIcrosoft, brought another IT view to the panel. For him, The Edge becomes a place for security with a separation of functions. He  also brought an emphasis on provisioning devices through the cloud.

Rich Carpenter, Executive Product Manager, Emerson Automation / Machinery (former CTO of GE Fanuc/GE Intelligent Platforms), discussed a new Edge computer from Emerson (GE). It uses Hypervisor to run RTOS and PLC control on part of chip segmented by firewall from regular PC chip running Linux for IoT functions. Noted that for the latter, they’ve discovered it better to use Node-RED and Python for programming. Congratulations  to Rich for landing at Emerson—he’s another long-time contact. And thanks for mentioning Node-RED.

Overall, the panel expressed concerns about providing security with the IIoT and Edge devices. The best part was Boudreaux’s assembling a panel split evenly with IT and OT and there was no acrimony or “you think this, we think that” nonsense. They are all trying to solve bigger problems than just IT or OT only. Businesses are driving them together to solve “digital transformation” challenges. Good stuff.

Company Emerges from Stealth to Power Real-Time Apps at the Edge

Company Emerges from Stealth to Power Real-Time Apps at the Edge

The Internet of Things ecosystem is changing computing in almost a seismic shift. But like geology, it builds up over time and then the event happens before you know it.

We had centralized, on-site computing revolutionized by PCs. We networked PCs and wound up with centralized computing in the cloud. Demands from building the Internet of Things (or Industrial Internet of Things for us manufacturing and production geeks) expose the flaws of cloud computing. The next hot thing—edge.

Yesterday the CEO/co-founder of Zededa talked with me about the computing platform his company is building with no less a mission than to build the largest computing company on Earth without owning infrastructure. Its vision—create a new edge economy that allows applications to run anywhere.

Some of what follows may sound familiar. I’ve talked with many companies doing a piece of what Zededa has laid out, but none are as audacious as this.

In brief, Zedeta…

  • Closes $3.06M in Seed Funding
  • Pioneering a secure, cloud-native approach to real-time edge applications at hyperscale for solutions ranging from self-driving cars to industrial robots
  • Built a team comprised of distinguished engineers from top tech companies in cloud, networking and open source to solve the edge computing puzzle and disrupt the status quo
  • Seed round was led by Wild West Capital; other investors include Almaz Capital, Barton Capital and Industry Veteran Ed Zander, former CEO of Motorola and former COO of Sun Microsystems

“Tomorrow’s edge computing environment that enables digital transformation will be distributed, autonomous and cooperative. The edge is complex and not only has to scale out securely, but simultaneously must become friendlier for app developers. That’s the problem we are solving at ZEDEDA,” stated ZEDEDA CEO and Co-Founder Said Ouissal. “It will require a drastic shift from today’s embedded computing mindset to a more secure-by-design, cloud-native approach that unlocks the power of millions of cloud app developers and allows them to digitize the physical world as billions of ‘things’ become smart and connected.”

ZEDEDA will use the funding for continued research and product development, investment in community open-source projects for edge computing as well as further investment in sales and marketing initiatives. ZEDEDA investors include Wild West Capital and Almaz Capital, whose funding was part of a broader group investors, some of whom also invested in IoT/edge companies Theatro and Sensity Systems (now Verizon).

In the coming wave of pervasive computing, real-time apps, cyber-physical systems and data services such as machine learning and analytics will become commonplace. ZEDEDA envisions an open ecosystem and a completely new technology stack that creates a service fabric essential to achieving the hyperscale that will be required in edge computing.

To realize that goal, ZEDEDA has pulled together a distinguished roster of industry veterans from legendary technology companies with expertise in areas of operating systems, virtualization, networking, security, blockchain, cloud and application platforms. This unique blend of skills combines with the team’s deep connections to core open-source projects and standardization bodies. The team’s work has directly contributed to software and system patents as well as industry standards used by billions of people around the world today.

“A new paradigm and massive innovation is needed to meet demand for IoT and edge computing,” said Kevin DeNuccio, Founder of Wild West Capital and ZEDEDA’s lead investor. “Massive shifts in technology, including the proliferation of IoT, paves the way for industry disruption, which large incumbents tend to inhibit. Disruption takes a combination of an entrepreneurial team with a very unique set of collective experience, groundbreaking ideas, and the ability to garner immediate traction with global industrial leaders, who can transform their business with machine learning and artificial intelligence delivered by the Edge connected IoT world. ZEDEDA is simply one of the most promising edge computing startups out there.”

“Operations Technology teams face major challenges when it comes to fully realizing the advantages of an IoT world. Their worlds are becoming massively connected systems dealing with virtualization, networking and security,” stated Christian Renaud, Research Director, IoT at 451 Research. “Our recent research shows that while OT teams have the application plans for leveraging IoT, the vast majority of organizations’ IT resources and capabilities are maxed out. This leaves open the question of how these edge applications and IoT will scale out without compromising security or taxing resources even further in the future.”

Ouissal told me, “Edge is the next big wave, bigger than cloud, simply because of the sheer size of the number of devices. The goal is ubiquitous compute where applications want to interact real-time. The problem with the cloud is that it’s centralized. This ecosystem is truly Cyberphysical—just like your Industry 4.0.”

The current IoT model of sending all data to the cloud for processing, won’t scale due to:

  • Bandwidth
  • Latency
  • Privacy issues

Three problems that the company is attacking:

1. Moving apps now running in the cloud to the edge

2. Edge-to-edge communication, key for autonomous systems, peer-to-peer

3. Security, cloud requires cyber security, but at the edge we must add physical security—someone could walk in and carry out an intelligent device

Ouissal often mentioned the need to rethink management of the edge. There exists a big difference between managing cloud and edge. Zedeta is tacking the variety of management challenges for updating and managing thousands to millions of embedded devices.

Solutions the team are developing include:

1. Security-built on platform, use keys, trusted, health check with every plug in, embedded virtualization

2. management-virtualization->can run multiple sessions on a device, eg robot motion on one session and analytics on another all on same embedded system, can scale this to millions of devices

3. Networking-monitor, watch lists, anomaly detection, analyze why, VPN architecture

This is all fascinating. I can’t wait to talk with competitors and potential competitors in a couple of weeks in Hannover and during some upcoming trips to get responses.

Podcast – 157 Tech Trends for 2017

Podcast – 157 Tech Trends for 2017

Another manufacturing podcast has been published. You can subscribe on iTunes or other places or subscribe on YouTube and watch me talk.

This one discusses Tech Trends I’ve picked up on for 2017. Most are connectivity oriented, others expand our powers. Intelligent devices, conversational systems, augmented reality, blockchain. One I forgot is the coming IEEE standard on Time Sensitive Networks.

Anything you can think of to add?


Catching Up With ABB Automation and Power World

Catching Up With ABB Automation and Power World

Ulrich Spiesshofer, ABB CEO

Ulrich Spiesshofer, ABB CEO

I was not able to attend ABB’s Automation and Power World this year. Too many places to go at the same time.

However, someone I trust, Mehul Shah of LNS Research, was there and wrote his observations on the LNS blog.

Mehul focuses on software and linked it to the Internet of Things. “The conference also featured a prime focus on the Internet of Things (IoT), as a panel was presented on stage, containing key event sponsor Microsoft, ABB, and an ABB customer. The trio provided insight and examples into how the IoT trend is impacting the industry.”
Highlighting ABB’s solution in the IoT space, Spiesshofer discussed the following key areas of focus
• Robotics
• Intelligent devices
• Control systems
• Advanced communication infrastructure
• Enterprise software
• Analytics solutions

“A notable fact that was highlighted at conference was that—to my surprise—more than 50% of what ABB’s currently offers is software related. ABB had made a few major acquisition over the last decade to build its software offering. The most impactful was the acquisition of Ventyx for $1 billion in 2010. This gave ABB a major boost in asset, operations, energy, and workforce management solutions in some of the asset intensive industries. ABB has also made some other acquisitions such as Insert Key Solutions and Mincom to build its Enterprise Asset Management software offerings. It seems clear the company understands the importance of its software business to remain competitive, and has also developed a separate Enterprise Software group that houses some of these acquisitions.”

Interesting that the investments were in software applications. Several years ago a CEO told me that software was important to his company—and that there was software in most of the company’s hardware products. That was correct—but my point was software business, not technology. ABB seems to have kept emphasis on software business even while Spiesshofer has been divesting some of the acquisitions made under previous CEO Joe Hogan.

Shah’s Takeaways

• It was impressive to see the effort that ABB has invested to bring its acquisitions under one brand.
• ABB has taken a first step in building a technology roadmap by bringing some of the software offerings together as part of the Enterprise Software group. LNS sees this as a big step in the right direction strategically, and should prove of great benefit to current ABB customers as well as prospects.
• However, ABB currently has important software products that remain outside of its Enterprise Software group and it remains to be seen if these solutions will receive the required attention, especially when considering the breadth of ABB’s portfolio. Two examples of this are the company’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES) offering, and the aforementioned Decathlon for Data Centers.
• ABB has a full-fledged MES offering with some good customers currently leveraging this MES across discrete, process, and batch industries.
• ABB might have some ground to cover in MES compared to some of its closest competitors in this space. Companies like GE, Siemens, Schneider Electric and Rockwell Automation have been heavily focused on the software business with many announcing reorganizations to increase resources allocated to software over the past several years and.
• Another area we would like to hear from ABB is around their offerings in IoT. While there were number of products that were categorized as IoT solution, ABB will need a holistic offering and vision around how their industrial clients can leverage these solutions to drive value.
• To answer the question, yes—ABB can compete effectively in the software business. But there is still some grounds to cover. ABB has had a lot of critical parts of the software business for quite a while and has been slower than many of its competitors in pulling it all together.

Gary’s Take

I agree with Mehul for the most part. I knew ABB had an MES offering, and I’ve interviewed Marc Leroux many times over the years. But it always seemed a little under the covers. The same with the Ventyx acquisition. It was easy to forget about it as it didn’t seem to get the promotion it deserved.

ABB is such a diverse conglomerate that sometimes it’s hard to know what it focuses on. I always followed the automation—primarily process automation. Several years ago, I think at Hannover but maybe SPS in Nuremberg, ABB executives explained the factory automation offering and the added emphasis the company was placing on it. But there are so many things and so few promotional dollars.

Also a few years ago, ABB decided to add its Power users to its Automation user group conference—hence Automation and Power World. However, the first two of those featured much more power and much less automation. It looks as if the company is striking a balance at the conference. But the Power division is still a laggard in performance.

ABB is a strong company, but it has much work to do in order to reach peak performance.

Motion Control Products from Switzerland

Motion Control Products from Switzerland

Technosoft,iMOT172S-XM-CAN based in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, has released the first member of its iMOT line of motors with integrated motion controller and drive — the  iMOT172S XM-CAN intelligent stepless motor.

The product is based on a cost-effective hybrid step motor on which the motion control specialists at Technosoft have integrated a magnetic encoder, together with a member of their powerful iPOS motion controllers, into a very compact package (42 x 42 x 70 mm).

The design is made, for high reliability, with only one PCB incorporating the encoder and the iPOS controller that utilizes the Technosoft MotionChip technology and provides 7 I/Os. The configuration, tuning and local programming of the iPOS drive can easily be done using Technosoft’s powerful graphical platform, EasyMotion Studio. The position sensor is absolute single-turn, providing 4096 counts per revolution for accurate speed and position control, down to 5 arc minutes.

While an EtherCAT version is under preparation, the current release covers two CAN versions: the standard CANopen, in accordance to the CiA 301, 305 and 402 profiles, and the TMLCAN protocol. TML (Technosoft Motion Language) opens the possibility to use the powerful motion controller, allowing it to operate as an independent intelligent device. As an example, any homing routine can be customized to match the application needs. Standalone single- or multi-axis applications with communication between drives without the need of a CAN master are possible, while various types of CAN masters are as well supported through an extended set of Technosoft Motion Control Libraries.

This intelligent stepless motor reaches a peak torque of 500 mNm at 1000 rpm without a gearbox, achieved from a motor with a square flange of 42 mm. The maximum length of the integrated unit is a mere 70 mm. The high efficiency of the solution is obtained due to Technosoft’s implementation of current and torque vector regulation under a field oriented control method (FOC) that practically transforms the motor into a stepless servo motor, dramatically reducing the current consumption and heat dissipation typical to hybrid steppers.

The standard NEMA17 flange ensures multiple sources of gearheads that are available for fitting to the motor, depending on the requirements of the application.

An intelligent motor can be used in many applications, but it has been developed for medical analysis and dosing machines, pick and place and welding robots, instrumentation and optical equipment, unmanned military vehicles, packaging, bottling and labeling machines.

Intelligent Motion Control Drive

It has also releTechnosoft ipos3604ased the iPOS3604 HX-CAN—a closed frame intelligent drive offering a very compact solution for sinusoidal or trapezoidal position, speed and torque control of rotary or linear DC Brushless and open-loop or closed-loop control of 2-phase and 3-phase step motors requiring power up to 144 watts. The supply voltage range is 12 to 36 VDC with a continuous current of 4 A, (10 A peak) and a PWM frequency of 20 KHz.

This high performance servo drive offers high level single or multiple-axis control functions such as master, slave or standalone operations in a small package of only 80 x 55 x 16 mm. Although extremely compact, iPOS3604 HX embeds motion controller, drive and PLC functionality in one unit.

iPOS3604 HX can operate as a CiA402 CANopen drive, or can be programmed to execute complex motion programs directly at drive level, using their built-in motion controller and the high level Technosoft motion language (TML).Thanks to the TML instruction set, the iPOS3604 HX is an intelligent drive, programmable at user’s level and offering position and speed profiles, PVT & PT interpolated, electronic gearing and cam, external reference: analogue or sent via a communication bus.

The configuration, tuning and programming of the iPOS3604 HX-CAN drive is easy with Technosoft’s powerful graphical platform, EasyMotion Studio. System configuration and parameterization are performed by selecting and testing the system structure, motor and sensor types and control mode.

Flexibility and easy implementation make the iPOS3604 BX-CAN drives an ideal solution to fulfilling today’s motion axis control needs, using modern distributed intelligence architecture.