Industrial Internet of Things Integral Part of Industry of Things Conference

Industrial Internet of Things Integral Part of Industry of Things Conference

The Industry of Things World USA conference in San Diego in its third year is becoming a premier Internet of Things (IoT) event in the US. Organized by weConnect in Berlin, Germany, it attracts a few hundred attendees, excellent speakers, and me (of course). The organizers leverage worldwide contacts–organizing similar events in Berlin and Singapore. They also have similar events in other technology areas.

Topics cover a range of IT and OT subjects. I make sure to get to the OT people who are here. This is a quick recap of what I’ve seen so far.

Charlie Gifford spoke at a breakout session on ISA95. He updated us on the latest changes proposed to the standard. His other focus was to promote event-driven architecture. He suggested that we build a library of operations events such that when an event occurs information about the change with the updated data is broadcast to subscribers. This is a great bandwidth saving over continuous point-to-point connections. He is also concerned with how to interconnect the many existing databases within a plant or production location.

Jagannath Rao, SVP of IoT and MindSphere for Siemens, discussed the evolution of MindSphere and its latest incarnation. Key point–Siemens has committed to openness–providing for open APIs especially in its MindSphere platform and adoption of open technologies such as OPC UA.

MindSphere v 2 enabled people to go out and do Proof of Concept (PoC) projects. From these Siemens could determine what customers were interested in and what the problems were that they were trying to solve. This all fed back into the product development process leading to the recent release of v 3.

V3, now a product, builds on open technologies–open being the key word. The platform moved from SAP Leonardo to Amazon Web Services (AWS) providing a more robust cloud experience. AWS is a Infrastructure as a Service, while MindSphere is Platform as a Service containing open APIs and data models. The next step on the journey is for Siemens to build out an ecosystem of 3rd party applications.

When asked about TSN, Rao also brought up 5G, both of which point out the importance of the Edge for initial processing of IoT data. Siemens is preparing for this next step, for example its Sinumeric Edge contains much analytics power, then ability to communicate information not just vast streams of data.

OPC vice president of marketing Stefan Hoppe, during his breakout session, discussed the acceptance of OPC UA in industry and the power of the release of publish/subscribe with OPC UA. His strong discussion point was to emphasize that OPC UA is not a protocol. It is an information model. It uses protocols—AMQP, MQTT, DDS, JavaScript, whatever to communicate the information from one device to another (or many). Proponents of a protocol who suggest that a protocol is superior to OPC UA miss the point that it’s not a protocol but actually an information model.

One key potential misunderstanding…Hoppe’s presentation made OPC appear to be German-centric and tied to the German Industrie 4.0. We need to keep in mind that the OPC Foundation Board is only 33% German, and that OPC UA lends itself to the digitalization efforts of any of the countries developing standards. It has become the official communication technology for many standardization efforts including the Open Process Automation Forum. It is truly global.

Lin Nease, IoT technologist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, chatted with me at a one-on-one meeting about the edge and the power of Xeon server technology in its edge devices as well as software-defined control. I think I’ll be seeing more from HPE as it builds out its IoT infrastructure.

Companies Discover IoT Applications Boost Performance

Companies Discover IoT Applications Boost Performance

I am still stung by a comment and ensuing discussion made by a maintenance manager during a talk I gave a few years ago. The talk was an early IoT description of networks, data, information, and the like. The guy raised his hand and said, “The engineers in my plant tell me that this stuff doesn’t work. So just forget about it!”

Emerson Automation developed a strategy called Top Quartile Performance and a service plan called Operational Certainty in order to operationalize Industrial IoT to benefit customers. This report comes from Covestro, one of the world’s largest polymer companies, which has selected Emerson to provide Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to help achieve its goals of minimizing risk and improving uptime at nine high-utilization plants.

As part of the $14 million, five-year contract, Emerson will provide remote monitoring and predictive maintenance to help Covestro optimize these manufacturing facilities for improved production, safety and reliability.

The Emerson program is a tenet of Covestro’s comprehensive digitization program called [email protected] that considers and implements new Industrial IoT strategies and operating procedures to deliver improved performance and meet defined financial targets. Covestro’s reliability program will leverage strategies, solutions and technologies in Emerson’s Operational Certainty program designed to help manufacturers achieve Top Quartile performance. Emerson data shows that Top Quartile companies spend half as much on maintenance compared to average performers and operate with an additional 15 days of available production each year.

Emerson will remotely monitor and maintain 40 of its DeltaV distributed control systems at Covestro plants in China, the United States and Germany. Remote teams at Emerson’s Innovation Center in Austin, Texas, will monitor and provide best practices-based maintenance strategies for local Emerson teams to implement at each Covestro plant. “By collaborating with Emerson to stay proactive about plant availability, we can drive toward always-on production and continue to satisfy customers in our high-demand market,” said Klaus Schaefer, chief technical officer, Covestro.

The Emerson-Covestro agreement reflects an emerging business model in industry, where manufacturers rely on a strategic supplier’s software solutions and deep automation expertise to monitor and execute maintenance, equipment health or energy management programs, allowing customers to focus their attention on critical operating functions that drive plant performance.

“Covestro and Emerson have a shared focus on driving Top Quartile operational performance,” said Jamie Froedge, president of Emerson’s Process Systems and Solutions business. “Connecting Covestro’s global product manufacturing expertise with our remote and local service capabilities allows the right expert to be available, real time, to ensure reliable operations.”

ARC Forum Digitizing and Securing Industry, Infrastructure

ARC Forum Digitizing and Securing Industry, Infrastructure

The one industry conference where manufacturing industry insiders network and discuss the latest technologies, standards, and applications occurs a little later this year at the ARC Forum Orlando from Feb. 12-15.

This year’s theme is Digitizing and Securing Industry, Infrastructure, and Cities. You can meet me here as I head south for the 21st straight year. I always take away something from the event. ARC Advisory Group’s Paul Miller tells me that this year is shaping up to be one of the best.

Read about the conference from the organizer’s promotion material:

It’s happening fast. Everywhere we turn, things and processes are becoming more connected and intelligent. Streetlights, cars, gas turbines, and thermostats stream data. Buildings, refineries, oil platforms, mines, and wind turbines are optimizing asset and operating performance. Parking meters and distributed power grids deliver value to both consumers and operators. Design software can link to additive machines to print parts directly. And it’s only the beginning.

Challenges continue to grow for the industrial cybersecurity community. Broader deployment of operational technology is expanding the use cases requiring protection. Resource shortages are undermining the effectiveness of established defenses. Blurring boundaries between IT, OT, and IoT are increasing the need for more integrated, collaborative cybersecurity strategies.

How will disruptive technologies change existing products, plants, and cities? Can cybersecurity threats be overcome? When will machine learning and artificial intelligence transform operations? Will open source solutions impact traditional software and automation domains? How will a digitally-enhanced workforce stem the loss of tribal knowledge? How do connected products create opportunities in aftermarket services? What steps can organizations take to foster innovative thinking?

There are countless ways to conduct your digital transformation journey, too many technologies and suppliers to evaluate, and endless choices to make along the way. Embedded systems, networks, software platforms, augmented reality, and machine learning may play a role as you begin to improve uptime, optimize operating performance, enhance service, and re-think business models.

More Communication Options For Industrial Applications

More Communication Options For Industrial Applications

An interesting, and at times intense, discussion has risen over the past couple of years in information communication circles between OPC UA and MQTT proponents. Some see a competition between the technologies while others (me) see complimentary technologies enabling engineers the flexibility to develop the communication application that best suits their needs.

Kepware, a PTC business, is a leading supplier of OPC development tools. Its newly released version 6.4 of KEPServerEX now includes an MQTT Client driver. Inclusion of this new driver enables users to collect data from sensor networks and other devices that utilize MQTT—and make that data available to the industrial automation devices and applications they rely on to run their plants efficiently.

“Many KEPServerEX users are now acquiring industrial data in their operational environments through new intelligent sensors and open-source or lightweight devices,” said Jeff Bates, Kepware Product Manager. “The MQTT Client driver and KEPServerEX seamlessly integrate data from these devices—enabling users to access new real-time data and provide a robust view of their plant floor operations.”

The MQTT Client driver included in KEPServerEX version 6.4 offers users a commercially available out-of-the-box MQTT to OPC UA translator. It uses innovative parsing tools to enable users to create tags from popular devices that utilize MQTT. With this new driver, KEPServerEX is able to securely subscribe to MQTT topics through any MQTT broker, receive updates as new device data is published, and make that data available over a variety of protocols.

“The enhancements in KEPServerEX version 6.4 are extremely valuable to any customer whose devices utilize the MQTT protocol, including customers of Wzzard Wireless Sensing Solutions,” said Mike Fahrion, CTO and VP of IoT Technologies at Advantech B+B SmartWorx. “There are significant benefits to making IoT Sensor data available in traditional industrial automation applications, and that is now possible with KEPServerEX.”

Along with the MQTT Client driver, KEPServerEX version 6.4 includes:

  • Siemens TCP/IP Ethernet Driver Read/Write Enhancements: Enables users of Siemens TCP/IP Ethernet drivers with Siemens S7-400 and S7-1500 controllers to perform read/writes more efficiently by configuring their Packet Data Unit (PDU) size up to the maximum levels supported by the controller. Users can now easily monitor high-fidelity data with high tag counts and high data change rates.
  • Store And Forward Capabilities With The ThingWorx Native Interface: Enables users to reliably transmit data between KEPServerEX and ThingWorx—even in the event of network instability. During communication disruptions between KEPServerEX and ThingWorx, the store and forward service collects data that ThingWorx had been requesting. Upon reconnection, the stored data is automatically forwarded to ThingWorx.
  • CODESYS Ethernet Driver Tag Browsing Capabilities: Users of the CODESYS Ethernet driver now have the option to select and import only relevant tags into their KEPServerEX projects. This enables users to more efficiently connect to and start streaming data from CODESYS devices.
Brace Yourself—Here Comes Another IoT Platform

Brace Yourself—Here Comes Another IoT Platform

IoT Platforms are all the rage. All God’s children need a platform, it seems. Most larger companies have a platform. Oh, and all promise it’s “open” to everyone’s connections. Then there is open source—check out Dell, the Linux Foundation, and others who have developed the EdgeX Foundry.

Now we have an Asian developed one—mostly Japanese along with Taiwan-based Advantech—called the Edgecross Consortium. Edgecross evidently refers to a focus on edge computing and cross vendor.

I received the first notice from Advantech who announced it has partnered with Mitsubishi Electric, Omron, NEC, IBM Japan, and Oracle Japan to establish the “Edgecross Consortium” to overcome boundaries between companies and industries in order to realize collaboration between factory automation and IT. The objective is to create new value centered on edge computing.

The Consortium news release states, “In this way, it will contribute to the promotion of IoT, for which demand is increasing on a global scale, as well as Society 5.0, proposed by the Japanese government, and activities of Connected Industries, which tie in to Society 5.0.”

Initial activities of the Consortium will begin with the development of specifications for the Edgecross open software platform and promoting its dissemination for edge computing from Japan to harmonize with FA and IT. This initial work will include providing avenues for supporting companies to cooperate and collaborate beyond the framework of companies and industries. The Consortium will aim to expand applications for various industries in addition to initiating activities in the global arena in the future.

I should note here that in America and Europe, we generally refer to bringing OT and IT together (rather than FA).

The date of founding is scheduled for November 29, 2017, and an exhibition is planned at the System Control Fair 2017, to be held on the same day.

Overview of Edgecross

An open software platform of edge computing area from Japan built by consortium members beyond the boundaries of companies and industries to realize collaboration with FA and IT.


Real-time diagnosis and feedback

Realizing real-time feedback to the production site by analyzing and diagnosing the data at location close to the production sites

Creating models from production sites

Data can be easily utilized by people or by applications by layering and abstracting the Big data of the production sites

Utilization of various applications in the edge computing area

IT applications can be easily applied to FA application

Applications may be selected from an extensive lineup depending on the situation

System construction completed in the edge computing area are available

Collecting all types of data at the production site

Enable data collection from all equipment and devices regardless of vendor or network

Smooth coordination with FA and IT systems

Realizing supply chain and engineering chain optimization by seamless data coordination with IT systems including the cloud

Operates on industrial PCs

Mountable on various manufacturer’s industrial PCs (IPCs)

Here are a couple of executive quotes about the news.

“Partnering with leading global companies in accelerating our global business in Industry 4.0 is Advantech’s key strategy,” stated Allan Yang, CTO of Advantech. “Advantech joined the Mitsubishi [email protected] Alliance this April to foster business opportunities for smart manufacturing in Asia through co-marketing and co-exhibition. Joining the Edgecross Consortium is our next big step to expand global collaboration and business in Industry 4.0. We are very proud to be a part of Edgecross Consortium with these leading global companies; we are looking forward to collaborating with consortium members to develop Industry 4.0 products and solutions to enhance our customer experience.”

Yoshikazu Miyata, Executive Officer and Group President of Factory Automation Systems at Mitsubishi Electric, gave the following statement regarding the new partnership, “The consortium welcomes Advantech as a key member. We are happy to work with Advantech, a worldwide leading innovator for Edge computing and IoT solutions. We are looking forward to co-creating with Advantech to provide innovative IoT solutions to customers.”


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