IMTS has been a huge show for many years. As you might expect from a trade show, the theme is broad. Exhibitors are a diverse lot. Things I saw indicating a new wave of technologies including machines designed to work with humans (so-called “cobots”) and various aspects of Industrial Internet of Things. Following are a few specifics.
Formerly the International Machine Tool Show and now the International Manufacturing Technology Show, the South Hall of Chicago’s McCormick Place is still filled with huge machining centers. The North Hall was packed with robotics, components, and other automation products. Much of this flows over to the East Hall where several aisles were devoted to Hannover Messe automation companies—my sweet spot. Even the West Hall was packed.
Beckhoff proclaimed, “Solve the IoT hardware, software and networking puzzle.”
The company introduced ultra-compact Industrial PCs (IPCs). These IPCs are Microsoft Azure Certified and can work just as easily with other major cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and SAP HANA.
Significant updates will span three key areas of the TwinCAT software suite: new HTML5-enabled TwinCAT HMI for industrial displays and mobile devices, important data processing expansions in the TwinCAT Analytics offering, and TwinCAT 3 Motion Designer, which adds a deep set of valuable tools to commission entire motor, drive and mechanical systems in software. Motion Designer can be integrated into the standard TwinCAT 3 software platform or it can be used as a stand-alone motion system engineering tool.
EK1000 EtherCAT TSN Coupler expands the industrial Ethernet capabilities of the EtherCAT I/O system to utilize TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) technology. The EK1000 enables communication among high-performance EtherCAT segments with remote EtherCAT controllers via heterogeneous Ethernet networks.
Ideagen plc, the UK-based software firm, announced the acquisition of American quality inspection software provider, InspectionXpert. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, InspectionXpert currently generates $2.8 million in revenue and will bring more than 1,000 clients including Boeing, Kohler and Pratt & Whitney to Ideagen’s existing customer base.
Speaking at IMTS, Chicago, Ideagen CEO, Ben Dorks, said: “As well as significantly enhancing our manufacturing supply chain product suite, the acquisition of InspectionXpert provides Ideagen with a fantastic opportunity for growth by broadening upsell and cross-selling opportunities, increasing our customer footprint and expanding our geographical reach.”
InspectionXpert’s products, InspectionXpert and QualityXpert, enable organizations in the precision manufacturing industry and associated supply chains to simplify inspection planning, execution and reporting and general quality through digitalization of paper-based processes.
InspectionXpert and QualityXpert will be integrated into Ideagen’s existing software suite, which will enhance Software as a Service (SaaS) revenues and provide excellent opportunities for future growth.
Energid released Actin 5, an update to its robot software development kit (SDK). Called the industry’s only real-time adaptive motion control software, it allows robotic system developers to focus on the robot’s task rather than joint movement and paths. It responds in real time to sensory input and directs the robot on the most efficient path while avoiding collisions. The robot motion is updated dynamically without requiring reprogramming, even in dynamic, mission-critical environments.
Forcam develops software solutions in the area of MES, IIoT, and OEE. It leans into the trend of developing platforms. Its platform is built with open APIs with the latest programming languages and tools. It supports Microsoft Azure Cloud, SAP ERP, Maximo maintenance/asset applications, and Apple iPads for input. The platform helps reduce integration time and expense.
I came across the Dell Technologies booth in the automation hall. The big news was a collaboration with Tridium and Intel for IIoT solutions.
The IIoT solution is built on the Niagara Framework, Tridium’s open technology platform, and combines software and consulting services to help customers begin the digital transformation of their businesses.
The Niagara-based IIoT solution built with Dell and Intel technology will comprise a complete hardware and software stack delivered as a finished solution for ease of adoption, and will encompass consulting services from subject matter experts to support implementation. The application layer of the IIoT solution is being developed and supported by Tridium and will expand over time with solutions designed for the telecom and energy sectors.
Quuppa introduced me to its unique location sensing technology at Hannover last April and I wrote about it here.
Today’s announcement concerns a partnership with Ubisense Group plc, a market leader in enterprise location intelligence solutions, as part of Ubisense’s strategy to integrate leading location and identification technologies with its open and sensor-agnostic SmartSpace software platform, enabling customers to create a truly enterprise-wide digital twin along the entire value chain of critical manufacturing activities.
Many of the world’s major manufacturers benefit from Ubisense SmartSpace systems which create a real-time, operational digital twin and use it to change factory behavior based on the locations of tools, people and work-in-progress. SmartSpace allows customers to integrate a broad range of sensing capabilities to address different use cases and a wide range of ROIs, and leverage existing location technology they may already be using. By working with Quuppa to support applications where the Quuppa Intelligent Locating System offers the best ROI, Ubisense also expects to extend the reach of SmartSpace further into the logistics, construction and healthcare markets.
Quuppa utilizes a unique combination of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and the Angle of Arrival (AoA) methodology, as well as advanced location algorithms that have been developed over the course of more than 15 years, to calculate highly accurate, real-time indoor positioning, even in the most demanding environments. The low-power system is a reliable, highly-customisable, scalable and cost-efficient solution for providing an accurate “dot on the map.” The Quuppa solution provides another powerful source of information to drive location-aware applications within Ubisense’s SmartSpace platform. It complements the many sensors already integrated with SmartSpace, including Ubisense’s own market-leading UWB location systems (Dimension 4 and AngleID), other third-party location sensors, third-party passive RFID tag readers, and barcode systems.
Dr. Andy Ward, CTO at Ubisense, said: “One of the key benefits of our SmartSpace platform is the ability to integrate a wide range of data sources to facilitate building sensor-rich, industrial-scale systems, allowing us to propose the right location sensor technology for each application. We’re looking forward to seeing powerful additional use cases develop as customers explore our joint capabilities with Quuppa.”
Thomas Hasselman, chief marketing officer at Quuppa, said: “The Quuppa Ecosystem—now more than 90 partners strong—continues to flourish, bringing the power of highly accurate, reliable and scalable location services to a growing number of companies across a variety of industries through our commitment to BLE technology. In partnering with Ubisense, we are delivering new opportunities to SmartSpace customers that are using location as a business driver.”
Platforms that serve to expedite the interaction and collaboration of apps in the Internet of Things (IoT) are sort of the next new thing. There are several that some of the IT analyst firms are following. Trouble is the term allows for a wide variety.
One I’ve written about several times here and here and here is open source developed under the auspices of the Linux Foundation with major leadership and contributions by Dell Technologies. It’s called the EdgeX Foundry. The initiative includes 47 member companies.
The second major release of the platform (California) has just seen the light of day. I picked up information from a blog post by Jim White, Vice Chair of the Technical Steering Committee and Distinguished Engineer and Project Lead of the IoT Platform Development Team within Dell Technologies IoT Solutions Division.
Following is a lightly edited version of his blog concerning the announcement.
While EdgeX is only a year old, our community is demonstrating its staying power with the second major release in its first year. The California release, which follows Barcelona, shows the commitment and dedication of many who see the importance and potential of developing a flexible, open source, IoT software platform for the edge that provides connectivity and interoperability while still allowing value add.
So, what is new with the California release? A lot! But before we get into the details, I want to highlight that the biggest focus of this release was to introduce a few key security capabilities and to make EdgeX smaller and faster.
EdgeX began its existence without security and organizations wanting to leverage the platform had to add their own security capability. Today, EdgeX incorporates some of the first security elements. These initial elements, while useful on their own, are essential building blocks to additional security features in the future.
The first security elements include a reverse proxy that helps protect the REST API communications and a secrets store. With the EdgeX reverse proxy in place – as provided by incorporating an open source product called Kong – any external client of an EdgeX micro service must first authenticate themselves before successfully calling on an EdgeX API.
The secure storage facility was provided by incorporating the open source Vault (Hashicorp) product, and it allows items such as username/password credentials, certificates, secure tokens, etc. to be persisted and protected within EdgeX. These types of “secrets” will allow EdgeX to, for example, encrypt data, make HTTPS calls to the enterprise, or connect EdgeX to a cloud provider in a secure manner.
Performance and Scalability
The EdgeX Foundry Technical Steering Committee decided early last year in the project’s formation that we would release twice a year – once in April and once in October. You probably noticed that it’s not April.
Last year, we decided that EdgeX needed to be smaller and faster to better function effectively at “the edge”, which the largely-Java code from the seed donation was going to make difficult. To do this, we needed to rebuild the EdgeX microservices in Go Lang – and do so by our spring 2018 release. This was not a small endeavor and it was made at a time when the EdgeX Foundry developer community was just coming on board. We knew it would take a bit more time, but we were committed to this, and added two more months to this release cycle.
The extra time was well worth it! With the California release, we’ve dramatically lowered the footprint, startup time, memory and CPU usage. Take a look at the statistics below, which compares services from our first community release last October (Barcelona) to our current release (California).
We still have work to do, but it’s now possible to run all of EdgeX on something like a Raspberry Pi 3.
In addition to the initial security capabilities and reducing the size and latency of the platform, this release includes other work – some visible to the user while some features are more hidden but improve the overall quality of EdgeX.
• Several additions were made to the export services to provide additional “northbound” connectivity, to include connectors for XMPP, ThingsBoard IoT, and Brightics IoT
• We improved the documentation and now have documentation stored with the code in Github – allowing it to be maintained and updated more like code by the community
• Arm 64 is now fully supported. In fact we worked with the Linux Foundation to add external environments and tools to create native Arm 64 artifacts.
• We added blackbox tests for all the micro services. These are now kicked off as part of our build and continuous integration processes.
• Other improvements were made to our continuous integration – to help streamline developer contributions
On to Delhi
Our next release, named Delhi, will come out in October 2018. Due to the extended release cycle for California, the Delhi release cycle is going to be short. The significant features planned for Delhi include:
• Initial manageability services and capability
• Device Service SDKs (Go/C) and at least one example device service
• The next wave of security features to include access control lists to grant access to appropriate services and improved security service bootstrapping
• Better/more unit testing and added performance testing
• Adding the last of the refactored and improved Go Lang microservices
• Outlining options and a potential implementation plan for alternate or additional database support
• An EdgeX UI suitable for demos and smaller installations
The HMI SCADA software space continues to evolve into areas unthinkable only a few years ago. The competitive landscape is similarly evolving as some larger companies face corporate challenges and smaller players are finding new ways to compete.
Inductive Automation’s growing Enterprise Integrator program is a case in point. The company has built its distribution with integrators and has been adding partners. While I’ve been on the road, I’ve learned of two additions to this program. Grantek Systems Integration joins as a new member of the Enterprise Integrator Program. Inductive Automation defines Enterprise Integrators as those with a high level of Ignition certification, a global presence, the ability to take on enterprise-wide projects, and 250 or more engineers, among other requirements.
“Grantek has been working successfully with Inductive Automation for many years,” said Ian Tooke, chief innovation officer for Grantek. “The Ignition platform allows us to provide our clients with integrated solutions for MES, HMI, SCADA and the IIoT. Being an Enterprise Integrator will allow us to deliver even more value to our clients. The addition of an Ignition solution to our suite of enterprise-level offerings will bring great benefits to customers across the globe.”
Grantek has provided large-scale solutions in numerous industries, including food & beverage, energy, pharma/life sciences, and consumer packaged goods. The company focuses on smart manufacturing, automation, industrial networking, and industrial safety. Solutions include serialization, ERP integration and IIoT.
“We’re very pleased to designate Grantek as an Enterprise Integrator,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “Grantek has proven its expertise with our Ignition software platform on a variety of projects. The people at Grantek have done outstanding work, and we look forward to working with them on many more large projects in the future.”
A second integrator joining the program is ATS Applied Tech Systems.
“We are proud to be associated with Inductive Automation as a leading global partner,” said Rob Valent, managing director of ATS. “Being part of the Enterprise Integrator Program is a testimony to our strong engagement with Inductive Automation. ATS has delivered projects all over the world, and we’re leveraging Ignition to create scalable and flexible Industry 4.0 solutions for our customers. With this formal recognition from Inductive Automation, we look forward to a more powerful partnership delivering a smart digital transformation everywhere!”
ATS is one of the world’s premiere automation integrators and advises its customers independently on the best product portfolios for their technical and business needs. The company serves clients in a variety of industries, including aerospace & defense, automotive, electronics, food & beverage, life sciences, and metals & mining. The company has offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and numerous other countries.
“We’re very pleased to designate ATS Applied Tech Systems as an Enterprise Integrator,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “ATS has shown over the years that it really understands its customers, and how to leverage the Ignition software platform to benefit those customers. ATS has done some terrific large projects, and we look forward to working with them on many more in the future.”
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.