Internet of Things platforms are all the rage these days. Seems like every company either has one or is building one. On the other hand, recent news about GE Digital’s Predix and discussions on LinkedIn have thrown a cautioning light on the efficacy of platforms.
When a technology supplier releases a platform the common thread is open connectivity to devices and closed, tightly integrated integration with the supplier’s products. Sometimes there is open connectivity with a variety of databases and analytics engines, but usually not.
A different take was begun by the Linux Foundation driven in the market by Dell Technologies. This take is open source and the drive has been to sign on as many technology companies as possible. Hence, today’s announcement. I have previously written about the EdgeX Foundry here and here.
EdgeX Foundry, an open source project building a common framework for Internet of Things (IoT) edge computing, announced Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. has joined as a Platinum member. Participating in EdgeX Foundry will support Samsung’s emerging efforts in the industrial sector while expanding the market of EdgeX compatible components and devices.
“The true potential of IoT will be realized with solutions that cross both the consumer and industrial sectors. As one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world, having seamless IoT across our business domains and factories would streamline operations and drive efficiencies, but interoperability is a major challenge,” said Kyeongwoon Lee, Senior Vice President at Samsung Electronics. “EdgeX Foundry delivers the interoperability, flexibility and scalability that businesses need to deploy Industrial IoT solutions without hesitation, and it will enable us to create lightweight edge solutions that can support real-time operations for our manufacturing infrastructures.”
EdgeX Foundry is a project of The Linux Foundation that is building an open interoperability framework hosted within a full hardware- and OS-agnostic reference software platform to enable an ecosystem of plug-and-play components that unifies the marketplace and accelerates the deployment of IoT solutions. Designed to run on any hardware or operating system and with any combination of application environments, EdgeX can quickly and easily deliver interoperability between connected devices, applications and services, across a wide range of use cases.
“Samsung is an active contributor in the open source community and has been a key driver behind IoT standardization supporting consumer devices and smart home technology,” said Philip DesAutels, PhD Senior Director of IoT at The Linux Foundation. “Their manufacturing experience combined with their expertise in consumer electronics, mobile devices and enterprise solutions will be essential to the development of the EdgeX Framework, and we are excited to welcome them into the community.”
EdgeX Foundry has rapidly grown to almost 60 members since its launch in April 2017 and is supported by an active community. More than 150 people from around the world joined EdgeX Foundry face-to-face meetings over the summer to align on project goals, develop working groups and discuss next steps for the project. EdgeX Foundry has also launched a series of technical training sessions called Tech Talks that are designed to help onboard new developers on to the project.
When it comes to the Internet of Things, it is becoming all about the platform. Every week is a new one. Most are built by suppliers in an attempt to either bring in everyone’s data to their systems, e.g. Microsoft, SAP, Exosite, Cisco, Siemens, GE, etc.
One platform is designed to be essentially built only with standards. As far as I know, I’m the only one writing about it–and have been the only one for at least 10 years as it has developed. That is the Open Industrial Interoperability Ecosystem (OIIE) promulgated by MIMOSA.
Another platform assembled with the leadership of Dell EMC’s IoT team is open source dubbed EdgeX Foundry.
This announcement from FogHorn Systems adds the nuance of machine learning to its platform.
FogHorn Systems today announced the availability of Lightning ML, the newest version of its Lightning edge intelligence software platform for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Lightning ML is now the industry’s first IIoT software platform with integrated machine learning capabilities and universal compatibility across all major IIoT edge systems.
Accenture predicts that IIoT can add $14.2 trillion to the global economy by 2030. However, industrial environments present a challenge to status quo methods for data collection and analysis.
“The money and time required to move massive amounts of machine data to the cloud for
analysis, only to send the results back to the edge, often makes little sense,” said Mike
Guilfoyle, Director of Research and Senior Analyst at ARC Advisory Group. “In many instances
cloud computing won’t be practical, necessary, or desirable. The reality is that edge intelligence is critical to a successful overall analytics strategy.”
“FogHorn is accelerating the pace of innovation in edge computing by not just democratizing analytics but by making machine learning accessible to industrial operators,” said FogHorn CEO David C. King. “The addition of FogHorn Lightning ML is a monumental leap forward indelivering on the promise of actionable insights for our IIoT customers. In the initial launch of FogHorn’s Lightning platform, we successfully miniaturized the massive computing capabilities previously available only in the cloud. This allows customers to run powerful big data analytics directly on operations technology (OT) and IIoT devices right at the edge through our complex event processing (CEP) analytics engine. With the introduction of Lightning ML, we now offer customers the game changing combination of real-time streaming analytics and advanced machine learning capabilities powered by our high-performance CEP engine.”
Machine Learning at the Edge
Lightning ML brings the power of machine learning at the edge in three groundbreaking ways:
1. Leverages existing models and algorithms: Industrial customers can seamlessly plug in and execute proprietary algorithms and machine learning models on live data streams produced by their physical assets and industrial control systems.
2. Makes machine learning OT-accessible: Non-technical personnel can use FogHorn’s tools to generate powerful machine learning insights without the need to constantly rely on in-house or third party data scientists.
3. Runs in tiny software footprint: Lightning ML enables complex machine learning models to run on highly-constrained compute devices such as PLCs, Raspberry Pi systems, tiny ruggedized IIoT gateways, as well as more powerful Industrial PCs and servers. Even with the addition of advanced machine learning capabilities, the complete Micro edition of the Lightning ML platform requires less than 256MB of memory footprint.
“FogHorn’s breakthrough edge computing technology brings the power of big data analytics and machine learning to the OT (operations technology) world,” said Casey Taniguchi, General Manager and Head of Business Development Center at Yokogawa Electric Corporation, a global leader in process and industrial automation systems. “The introduction of support for ARM32 processors, advanced data pre-processing capabilities and streaming analytics accomplished in a tiny footprint, along with seamless on-prem/cloud integration represents a major step forward in speeding the adoption of FogHorn’s technology in a wide variety of IIoT markets and industrial use cases. We look forward to working closely with FogHorn to incorporate all of these groundbreaking technologies into Yokogawa’s family of advanced industrial automation solutions.”
Comprehensive Support for IIoT Hardware
While the first Lightning release supported all x86-based IIoT gateways and OT systems, Lightning ML also supports ARM32 — one of the most widely used processors in OT control systems (like PLCs and DCSs) and the newest generation of small footprint Raspberry Pi derivative IIoT gateways.
“Fog computing requires a variety of different compute performance levels, all of which can be enabled by the flexible, low-power ARM architecture,” said Rhonda Dirvin, director of IoT and embedded, Business Segments Group, ARM. “FogHorn Systems’ Lightning platform supports and validates ARM-based solutions in OpenFog applications, and will enable new efficiencies and applications in the industrial edge computing space.”
On-Premise Centric and Cloud Agnostic
The FogHorn Lightning ML software platform can run entirely on premise or connect to any private cloud or public cloud environment. This gives customers maximum flexibility in selecting the best deployment model in terms of IT infrastructure, security policy and cost.
Designed for Operational Technology
FogHorn Lightning ML has been specifically designed to empower OT users through a simple drag-and-drop authoring tool that abstracts away the complexities of an underlying IIoT deployment, allowing operators to focus on translating their domain expertise into meaningful analytics and machine learning insights.
“OT staff are domain experts in their respective industrial environments, but not necessarily experts in edge computing and advanced IT,” said FogHorn CTO Sastry Malladi. “By giving them intuitive tools to automate, monitor and take action on their industrial data in real-time, operators can enhance situational awareness, prevent process failures and identify new efficiencies that lead to huge business benefits. This is a very different approach from other IT-centric solutions that fail to leverage the tribal knowledge of key OT experts.”
FogHorn develops “edge intelligence” software for industrial and commercial IoT application solutions.
Inductive Automation recently named the six recipients of its Ignition Firebrand Awards for 2016. The announcements were made at the Ignition Community Conference (ICC), held September 19-21 in Folsom, Calif.
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 applications platform with fully integrated tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
Ignition is used in more than 100 countries. Its popularity has helped Inductive Automation increase its revenues at an average annual rate of more than 40 percent over the past six years.
The Ignition Firebrand Awards are presented every year at ICC. The award-winning projects are part of the ICC Discover Gallery, which featured the best 18 Ignition projects submitted by integrators and industrial organizations. Inductive Automation received a record number of entries this year, and saw more innovation than ever before.
“We were extremely impressed with the quality and variety of Discover Gallery entries this year,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “It made it very difficult to select the top six. But we were very pleased to see that this year’s Firebrand Award winners represent a deeper level of understanding of the power of Ignition than we’ve ever seen before.”
“When you install the Ignition platform, it does nothing on its own,” said Travis Cox, co-director of sales engineering for Inductive Automation. “It’s inspiring to see what people can do as they innovate and build these creative and unique applications with Ignition.”
These six award winners demonstrated the versatility and power of Ignition:
- Bixby International (Newburyport, Mass.) had one of its managers learn and implement Ignition on his own, creating numerous screens for three plastics extrusion lines, showing real-time data on a number of clients.
- HTC High Tech Consultant (Vicenza, Italy) used Ignition to eliminate paper and improve production efficiencies for a large producer of leather products. The solution included the ability to expand Ignition to more than 100 tablets.
- Kymera Systems (Leduc, Alberta, Canada) used Ignition to provide an oil company with a highly cost-effective, new SCADA system that worked with numerous types of legacy field devices.
- MartinCSI (Plain City, Ohio) used Ignition in a highly creative way to make a realistic training simulation of a water purification system used by the United States Army.
- Tyrion Integration Services (Bakersfield, Calif.) used Ignition and message queuing telemetry transport (MQTT) to provide real-time data for testing of oil wells. The project included a cloud-based solution and expanded mobile capabilities.
- Vertech (Phoenix, Ariz.; Irvine, Calif.; Nashville, Tenn.) created a White Box with Ignition that can connect to a brewery’s bottling or canning line, unobtrusively, in just one day. The White Box instantly delivers valuable data that brewers were not able to see previously.
Software platforms that provide specific “apps” for industrial applications was the theme of the week for me. I received a better look at Siemens’ Mindsphere along with a competitor’s app that I’ll discuss in a later post. Tuesday and Wednesday this week found me in Las Vegas at the 2016 Automation Summit—Siemens US users group. There were many sessions and quite a lot of training for customers.
The keynote was given by Klaus Helmrich, a member of the managing board of Siemens. He continued the theme repeated during Hannover Messe—digitalization. His point was that digitalization enhances competitiveness, time to market, flexibility, quality, efficiency. You design in the virtual world; take it to real world; receive feedback from real world to the virtual world to assure design is current to reality.
Although I’ve been told that Europeans are not fond of the term “ecosystem” in this context, Helmrich uttered the “e-word”. The Digital Enterprise Ecosystem enables customers toe realize their wish to interact with the production process making their product.
Memorable quote—“using software is key to realization of Industry 4.0.”
Maintenance and Reliability
Terry O’Hanlon CEO of ReliabilityWeb.com and Uptime magazine invited me to a panel presentation he was on. From the description in the program, I’d probably have never looked a second time. Plus, I’m not fond of panels. Usually each one talks for 10-15 minutes and then there is 10-15 minutes at the end for questions.
This one went against that grain. Each panelist gave about 2 minutes of their interest in the topic, then moderator Bob Vavra, editor of Plant Engineering magazine, proceeded directly to asking questions of the panel. The panel did not just sit back but each chimed in appropriately.
They did hope to hold questions to the final 15-20 minutes of the 105-minute session, but the audience would have none of that and started waving hands to ask follow up questions soon after the beginning.
The other panelists were Jagannath Rao, President of Siemens Industry Services; Brian Clemons, process automation manager at Dow Chemical; and, Keith Jones, of Prism Systems—an integrator.
It was a wide-ranging discussion. So, here are some quotes that capture some of the flavor of the discussion.
O’Hanlon, “What maintenance delivers is capacity.”
Clemons, “We bring a new process into the plant, but we’re still dealing with the same people.”
Clemons, Reliability usually talks MTBF, but what is really important is MTTR (repair or recover).
Rao, “Technology Suppliers more than component sellers, but look at larger solution.”
Jones, “Big data going to analytics is a difficult proposition—both doing and defining.”
O’Hanlon, “You need sensors that are appropriate to the health of the asset. That’s why you need predictive analytics.”
Jones, “IoT increasing traffic on network is a burden and sometimes affects production.”
O’Hanlon, “Reliability as a function of the business case.”
Data Analytics — Mindsphere
MindSphere is Siemens Cloud for Industry built on SAP HANA. It is a platform, which Siemens, customers, and OEMs can build software apps (App Store) on top of.
Speakers acknowledged that some customers are still uncertain about the cloud, but the cloud is where analytics run.
One app already developed is control loops. Customers can connect selected control loops, send data to cloud, analytics check for status of tuning and other things. The customer gets a dashboard. The analytics can even see stiction in valves.
This solution (like many) moves the software expenditure from CapEx to OpEx (note: look for this as a theme for how technology suppliers are beginning to price software).
Domain Knowhow + Context Knowhow + Analytics Knowhow = Customer Value
is the foundation of app development.
Siemens has a product “MindConnect” secure data acquisition box. This is a similar idea to the Dell IoT Gateway or Advantech. These edge computing and communicating engines are the current IoT trend.
Current apps include:
I’m still pondering the whole HMI/SCADA market and technologies. I’m still getting a few updates after the Inductive Automation conference I attended in California and the Wonderware conference in Dallas that I missed.
The two have traditionally been referred to in trade publications together.
Today, I think three or four things are blending. Things are getting interesting.
SCADA is “supervisory control and data acquisition.” The supervisory control part has blended into the higher ends of human-machine interface. Data Acquisition software technology is a key platform for what we are today calling the “Industrial Internet of Things.” I’ve heard one technologist predict that soon we’ll just say “Internet.”
Data acquisition itself is a system that involves a variety of inputs including sensors, signal analyzers, and networks. The software part brings it all under control and provides a format for passing data to the next level.
HMI also involves a system these days. Evolving from operator interface into sophisticated software that includes the “supervisory control” part of the system.
Some applications also blend in MES and Manufacturing Intelligence. These applications, often engineered solutions atop the software platforms, strive to make sense of the data moving from HMI/SCADA either using it for manufacturing control or as a feed to enterprise systems.
Wonderware has been an historical force in these areas. Its original competitor was Intellution which is now subsumed into GE’s Proficy suite. The other strong competitor is Rockwell Automation. All three sell on a traditional sales model of “seats” and/or “tags.”
Inductive Automation built from enterprise grade database technology and has a completely different sales model. It is driving the cost of HMI/SCADA, and in some ways MES, down.
Competitors can meet that competition by either pursuing a race to the bottom or through redefining a higher niche. The winner of the race to the bottom becomes the company built from the ground up for low individual sales price.
All of that was just an analyst prologue to a couple of items that have popped up from Schneider Electric Software (Wonderware) over the past couple of days.
To my mind, Tim Sowell is addressing how some customers are taking these platforms to a new level. Writing in his blog last weekend, Sowell notes, “For the last couple of years we have seen the changing supervisory solutions emerging, that will require a rethink of the underlying systems, and how they implemented and the traditional HMI, Control architectures will not satisfy! Certainly in upstream Oil and Gas, Power, Mining, Water and Smart Cities we have seen a significant growth in the Integrated Operational Center (IOC) concept. Where multiple sites control comes back into one room, where planning and operations can collaborate in real-time.”
I have seen examples of this Integrated Operations Center featuring such roles as operations, planning, engineering, and maintenance. But this is more than technology—it requires organizing, training, and equipping humans.
Sowell, “When you start peeling back the ‘day in the life of operations’ the IOC is only the ‘quarterback’ in a flexible operational team of different roles, contributing different levels of operational. Combined with dynamic operational landscape, where the operational span of control of operational assets, is dynamically changing all the time. The question is what does the system look like, do the traditional approaches apply?”
Tying things together, Sowell writes, “Traditionally companies have used isolated (siloed) HMI, DCS workstation controls at the facilities, and then others at the regional operational centers and then others at the central IOC, and stitched them together. Now you add the dynamic nature of the business with changing assets, and now a mobile workforce we have addition operational stations that of the mobile (roaming worker). All must see the same state, with scope to their span of control, and accountability to control.”
The initial conclusion, “We need one system, but multiple operational points, and layouts, awareness so the OPERATIONAL TEAM can operate in unison, enabling effective operational work.”
Here is a little more detail about the latest revision of Wonderware Intelligence to which I referred last week and above.The newest version collects, calculates and contextualizes data and metrics from multiple sources across the manufacturing operation, puts it into a centralized storage and updates it all in near-real time. Because it is optimized for retrieval, the information can then be used to monitor KPIs via customizable dashboards, as well as for drill-down analysis and insights into operating and overall business performance.
“Wonderware Intelligence is an easy-to-use, non-disruptive solution that improves how our customers visualize and analyze industrial Big Data,” said Graeme Welton, director of Advansys (Pty) Ltd., a South African company that provides specialized industrial automation, manufacturing systems and business intelligence consulting and project implementation services. “It allows our customers to build their own interactive dashboards that can capture, visualize and analyze key performance indicators and other operating data. Not only is it more user-friendly, it has better query cycle times, it’s faster and it has simpler administration rights. It’s an innovative tool that continues to drive quality and value.”
Wonderware Intelligence visual analytics and dashboards allow everyone in the operation to see the same version of the truth drawn from a single data warehouse. The interactive and visual nature of the dashboards significantly increases the speed and confidence of the users’ decision making.