SPS Drives Trade Fair in Nuremberg Automation News

SPS Drives Trade Fair in Nuremberg Automation News

I will only be at SPS for a few hours this year to check in with old friends and see some of the latest automation goodies. But I’m glad to be there at all. Thank you to Siemens who is sponsoring a press tour that includes a couple of days of intense cybersecurity briefings and workshops.

Oh, and a trip to Allianz Stadium to see the technology and a Bayern Munchen football match.

Some early SPS news:

  • Avnu Alliance Demonstrates New Conformance Test Reference Tool
  • OPC Foundation promises much news plus addition of Rockwell Automation

OPC Foundation

OPC Foundation has sent a couple of emails inviting us to a press briefing at SPS promising much news. I won’t be in Nuremberg on Tuesday, but I’ll catch up with Stefan and Tom for sure on Wednesday.

The mating dance has ended after a few months. Rockwell Automation has rejoined the OPC Foundation and gained a board seat. OPC Foundation has elected Juergen Weinhofer, vice president of common architecture and technology for Rockwell Automation, to its board of directors. Note that Weinhofer is also the Rockwell delegate to the ODVA board.

Weinhofer’s election to the board extends Rockwell Automation’s engagement in the technical work of the OPC Foundation and its technical advisory council.

“OPC UA has become the dominant open protocol for machine-to-software and machine-to-cloud solutions, and it is becoming critical for companies deploying a Connected Enterprise,” Weinhofer said. “I look forward to helping the OPC Foundation become a leader in machine-to-machine applications and helping OPC UA users unlock more value from their production systems.”

This quote is from the OPC news release. We should note that “Connected Enterprise” (capitalized) is the Rockwell Automation theme. I also note while parsing the comment that Rockwell is still firmly fixed in the factory floor area where Weinhofer specifically states “become a leader in machine-to-machine applications.”

“Rockwell Automation is a proven leader in industry standardization and open information technologies,” said Stefan Hoppe, president of the OPC Foundation. “I welcome not just Juergen’s business and political skills on the board but also the increased technical and commercial contribution that the wider Rockwell Automation team will also bring to the foundation.”

Avnu Alliance

Avnu Alliance, an industry consortium enabling open, standards-based deterministic networking, will exhibit at SPS IPC Drives in the University Stuttgart ISW booth. Avnu Alliance, alongside ISW and Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), will showcase the role of conformance test plans, testbeds and test reference tools in ensuring an interoperable ecosystem of Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) devices.

“We are in cooperation with IIC, IEEE, IEC and others in creating an interoperable ecosystem through a common network foundation that stems from industry open standards and testing,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Chair. “The market will continue to require multiple application layer protocols for networked industrial systems. The Avnu Alliance charter is to enable interoperability at the network layer, to ensure ‘One TSN.’ We are the organization focused on providing TSN test plans and reference test architectures to anyone in the industry that wants to test for TSN compatibility.”

As such, Avnu serves to support Fieldbus organizations by providing its TSN conformance tests and procedures to ensure those organizations’ interoperability in the wider Ethernet system.

Leveraging the industry-defined requirements for TSN network interoperability, Avnu ensures there is a universal set of test plans for conformance to guarantee interoperability at the network layer. Avnu has developed a baseline test plan in the industrial market that ensures industrial devices, whether end device, infrastructure component or silicon, conform to the relevant IEEE standards, as well as the industrial automation profile being defined by IEC/IEEE 60802 Joint Project working group.

Starting with Time Synchronization, or 802.1AS as the foundation for all TSN devices, Avnu released the first set of test plans at SPS IPC Drives in 2017. Avnu will soon publish additional conformance test plans for end devices, such as enhancements for scheduled traffic.

At SPS IPC Drives 2018, Avnu Alliance will show a new proof-of-concept (POC) Conformance Test Reference Design that offers a single, streamlined way for vendors to test TSN interoperability. The POC Conformance Test Reference Design is designed to automatically test TSN devices for compliance to 802.1AS. The demonstration features a Linux open-source test tool created by ISW in partnership with Avnu. This tool would also allow other protocol organizations to test application stacks on top of a TSN network in a streamlined way enabling one-stop certification at any test house.

OPC Foundation Extends OPC UA With TSN To Field Level

OPC Foundation Extends OPC UA With TSN To Field Level

OPC UA and TSN (Time Sensitive Network). A marriage I was beginning to think was never going to happen. I wrote a preliminary white paper following Hannover Messe 2017. Yes, more than a year ago. (Check it out by clicking the small ad on the sidebar.) This thing has been like a ball in a Rugby match—kicked, going different directions, downed and picked up. People wanting to move before thinking. Getting caught up in legal issues and “politics.” Postponed press conferences.

And, now…”The OPC Foundation launches an initiative to further enable OPC UA adoption throughout industrial automation by extending standardization and harmonization activities for OPC UA including TSN-enabled Ethernet networks.”

The goal of this initiative is to deliver an open, cohesive approach to implement OPC UA including TSN and associated application profiles. This will advance the OPC Foundation providing vendor independent end-to-end interoperability into field level devices for all relevant industry automation use-cases. The OPC Foundation vision of becoming the worldwide industrial interoperability standard is advanced by integrating field devices and the shop floor.

A new set of working groups will identify, manage and standardize the OPC UA relevant topics focused on industrial automation including,

• harmonization and standardization of application profiles e.g. IO, motion control, safety, system redundancy

• standardization of OPC UA information models for field level devices in offline e.g. device description and online e.g. diagnostics

• mapping of OPC UA application profiles related to real-time operations on ethernet networks including TSN

• definition of certification procedures

The working groups will closely align with the TSN Profile for Industrial Automation (TSN-IA-Profile) which will be standardized by the IEC/IEEE 60802 standardization group. This will help ensure that a single, converged TSN network approach is maintained so that OPC UA can share one common multi-vendor TSN network infrastructure together with other applications.

This initiative integrates well with existing joint working groups engaged in ongoing companion specification e.g. description of machines.

Stefan Hoppe, President of the OPC Foundation said “The benefit of membership in the OPC Foundation allows companies to actively engage and influence the direction of the OPC Foundation and includes early access to the specifications and technology. This initiative will grow OPC UA into new markets and I highly encourage all OPC Foundation members to contact the OPC Foundation to participate”.

Thomas Burke, Strategic Marketing Officer of the OPC Foundation, “We are very excited about the initiative to extend OPC UA including TSN down to the field level, and the number of companies that want to actively participate in this initiative bringing the technology into real world products. This set of working groups will pave the way for the broadest, easiest, and fastest market adoption of OPC UA over TSN.”

The OPC Foundation develops and maintains OPC UA as an open and secure communication platform comprised of an information model framework, communication models and underlying protocol bindings. As such, the OPC Foundation works non-exclusively with other organizations on various OPC UA related topics but continues to operate as a platform, technology, use case, and vendor agnostic standardization body.

Open Process Automation Forum Update

Open Process Automation Forum Update

Our schedules finally aligned and I was able to catch up with Ed Harrington, director of the Open Process Automation Forum for The Open Group. A few months ago I talked with Gary Freburger and Peter Martin of Schneider Electric’s process automation unit. We discussed the OPAF and what had been going on since the ARC Forum in Orlando last February.

OPAF has laid out an ambitious agenda moving automation toward an era of open connectivity and interoperability.

The original plan broached a couple of years ago at ARC Forum by representatives of ExxonMobil and Lockheed Martin was to prod suppliers into reducing the problem of upgrading systems in the field without the huge expense of rip-and-replace. Considerable industry jockeying ensued. Schneider Electric (Foxboro) eventually taking a leadership position in the effort with assistance from Yokogawa and to a degree Siemens. Other suppliers are watching and evaluating.

Smaller suppliers such as Inductive Automation have become involved along with some of the major automation systems suppliers.

The OPAF specification is really a standard of standards. The group wishes to build upon existing standards, assembling them in such a way as to advance the cause of open automation.

Harrington told me that so far this year, the group has published three items (that are open to the public). One is a business guide, The Open Process Automation Business Guide: Value Proposition and Business Case for the Open Process Automation Standard.

The industrial control systems that manufacturers use to automate their processes are critical to the company’s productivity and product quality. To increase the business contribution from control systems, manufacturers need:
1. Increases in operational benefits from improved capabilities
2. Improvements in cybersecurity compared to currently available systems
3. Reductions in the system’s capital and lifecycle costs

The organization has also published The Open Group Snapshot—Open Process Automation Technical Reference Model: Technical Architecture and a white paper Requirements for an Open Process Automation Standard.

Harrington also told me to expect an announcement of further work at next week’s Open Group Quarterly Meeting in Singapore.

I have seen a number of these initiatives in my career. Few succeed in entirety. However, the thinking that goes into this work always moves industry forward. I don’t know if we’ll ever see a truly OPAF control system. Anything that brings more rationality to the market keeping in minds the goals of OPAF will do much for helping manufacturers and producers improve performance. And that’s what it’s all about.

Open Marketplace for IoT Edge Computing

Open Marketplace for IoT Edge Computing

News from EdgeX Foundry including an open marketplace for IoT Edge Computing. This is an interesting extension to the platform. Also, Intel has joined the consortium.

At a glance:

  • EdgeX Foundry Seeds an Open Marketplace for IoT Edge Computing with New Developer Kits and Smart Building Automation
  • Community Demo at IoT Solutions World Congress
  • Intel, Redis Labs, ZEDEDA and five other tech influencers commit to IoT interoperability and join EdgeX’s mission to create a unified edge ecosystem

EdgeX Foundry, an open-source, vendor-neutral project that enables an ecosystem of plug-and-play components to unify the IoT edge computing marketplace, announced the availability of EdgeX-enabled developer kits and a Smart Building Automation Community Demonstrator that will debut at IoT Solutions World Congress on October 16-18 in Barcelona.

Hosted by The Linux Foundation, the EdgeX platform is architected to run on any hardware or operating system and unify components coded in any programming language to accelerate time to market and simplify the deployment of secure IoT solutions. The framework serves as a de facto standard to bring together any mix of existing connectivity protocols with an ecosystem of heterogeneous value-add applications.

Developer kits are important tools for building new applications and solutions. A variety of dev kits are already on the market; however, the majority of these kits lock the developer into a particular back-end platform or cloud. In comparison, dev kits based on the EdgeX framework will provide developers with the freedom to choose from an ecosystem of components bound together by the EdgeX interoperability APIs.

“With the emergence of these dev kits, developers will have the opportunity to prototype with their choice of ingredients while taking advantage of plug-in components from EdgeX’s growing vendor-neutral ecosystem,” said Jason Shepherd, EdgeX Foundry Governing Board Chair and Dell Technologies IoT and Edge Computing CTO. “This allows them to focus on innovation rather than reinvention, in addition to being able to add and exchange components at any time to optimize their solution throughout the development and deployment lifecycle.”

There will be two different kinds of dev kits – community and commercial. For options in the community track, the bill of materials will be purchased independently online, the code will be downloaded straight from a special repository on the project GitHub, and questions will be answered through forums like the EdgeX Rocket Chat. The first kit is based on the Samsung Artik with Grove sensor, and options will grow through community contributions over time.

The commercial track for the dev kits will provide EdgeX members with the ability to seed the emergence of an open marketplace for IoT edge computing. These kits will offer end users with attractive options to get started with professional support so they can focus on their preferred value-add rather than supporting open source code. Commercial options will include kits based on supported versions of the EdgeX framework itself (neutral to any plug-in value add), kits based on specific IoT platforms, and microservice plug-ins for value-add such as analytics, data orchestration and security.

EdgeX Foundry is debuting a new community demo at IoT Solutions World Congress that will highlight the platform’s ability to bring together heterogeneous solution components. This first community demo showcases how EdgeX can bring together a real-world, smart flexible office space environment based on components from a variety of vendors leveraging numerous connectivity standards, operating systems and hardware types.

The growth and diversity of the EdgeX ecosystem over the last year has helped the technical community hit major milestones including the “California” release, which made the switch to Golang for the baseline reference implementation. Since the release in April, EdgeX Foundry unique code contributions from members and non-members alike have more than doubled to 70 on a regular basis.

These contributors have played a major role in the upcoming “Delhi” release, which offers major enhancements including the first management features, more security functionality such as access control and improved security bootstrapping, C and Golang-based Device Service SDKs and a reference GUI for demos and simple deployments. Projected to launch in November, the Delhi code will be well-suited for end users to begin developing commercial offers and production deployments. To find more details about Delhi or the EdgeX roadmap, visit the wiki here.

Intel joins the EdgeX Ecosystem

“Today’s announcement represents one more step in Intel’s open source journey and increased role in the advocacy, use and contribution across the ecosystem,” said Stacey Shulman, chief innovation officer for Retail Solutions at Intel. “Intel’s involvement in EdgeX Foundry will help drive scale and accessibility of solutions for both our customers and businesses of all sizes.”

Other new EdgeX Foundry project members include Basking Automation GmbH, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (BUPT), DATA AHEAD, CertusNet, Redis Labs, the Federal University of Campina Grande (UFCG) /Embedded Lab, Windmill Enterprise and ZEDEDA.

“We’re standing at a critical point for digital transformation,” said Shepherd. “The massive volume of devices coming online represents a huge opportunity for innovation and is making edge computing a necessity. We need an open, cloud-native edge ecosystem enabled by EdgeX to minimize reinvention and facilitate building and deploying distributed, interoperable applications from the edge to the cloud. We’re thrilled to welcome these new member organizations into our already strong community that shares the same commitment to open collaboration and innovation.”

Veronika Schmid-Lutz (SAP) Elected Chair of OPC Foundation Board of Directors

Veronika Schmid-Lutz (SAP) Elected Chair of OPC Foundation Board of Directors

OPC Foundation’s continuous improvement program extended with the addition of new Chair for its Board of Directors. I haven’t had an OPC Foundation conversation since April. Based on conversations with numerous leaders in Hannover, I think this is a great step forward by the Foundation’s board of directors. I’m not sure what precipitated the addition, but I’ve met Schmid-Lutz and she’ll do an excellent job of bringing cohesiveness and direction to the organization.

OPC UA is solid technology used by most automation and IoT companies. These moves to strengthen the organization can only be positive.

This from the original press release—In this key position, the Chair manages the strategic and tactical directives of the Board of Directors and ensures the marketing, technical, and overall business activities of the OPC Foundation consistently align with its vision and objectives. In addition, the Chair organizes and calls the Board of Directors meetings and engages directly with the organization’s infrastructure. The Chair position requires a dynamic leader who can navigate the political, business, and technical challenges associated with a standard setting organization.

Veronika Schmid-Lutz was honored by the trust and confidence placed in her by her fellow board members and noted that “being elected as the Chair of the OPC Foundation’s board is a great honor for me. My focus will be to strengthen and pursuing all aspects that make interoperability between devices, machines, and business systems as simple and as secure as possible.”

Thomas J. Burke, President of the OPC Foundation commented on the importance of the Chair position and why Ms. Schmid-Lutz was the right person to fill it, “Veronika clearly demonstrated her excellent leadership and business skills as a member of the OPC Foundation Board of Directors. Based on this I believe she is well suited to now serve as the Board’s Chair. With Veronika at the helm of the business, I look forward to see her facilitate and successfully drive the OPC Foundation vision into the next era.” Mr. Burke concluded saying “It’s a great honor to have Veronika accept this important leadership role. We look forward to see her oversee communicating the importance of OPC UA into the IT world.”

Recognizing the value of both the organization and its deliverables, Veronika Schmid-Lutz emphasized the importance of OPC UA by noting: “Easy interoperability is an important enabler for intelligent systems leveraging new technologies in software and hardware. SAP strongly supports OPC UA as it simplifies and accelerates information exchange between heterogeneous systems and devices which is why Platform Industrie 4.0 has made OPC-UA a key component of its RAMI architecture. The board looks forward to continue enhancing the value of both the organization and its deliverables.”

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