Edge Computing and IIoT Platforms and More At ARC Forum

Edge Computing and IIoT Platforms and More At ARC Forum

Let me try to summarize a number of other news items gleaned from the ARC Forum featuring edge computing, IIoT Platforms, and technology. When ARC’s Paul Miller told me it would be the best ever, he turned out not to be exaggerating. More people, more news.

Stratus Technologies, known for years for secure servers, released an edge computing device. Interest in computing at the edge of the network has blossomed lately, with many companies releasing products. Lots of choices for users.

Integration Objects, firmly within another important trend, introduced an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Platform. I’m beginning to see articles about users latching on to these platforms rather than building their own ad hoc connections among IoT devices and applications.

UL discussed standards with me during the show. The company known for developing safety standards and then testing for compliance has developed also a security standard. And it tests to it for compliance.

HIMA is another company combining safety and security technologies. There is so much in common between the two–especially thought processes and planning.

Yokogawa has extended and rebranded its process automation offering, now called Synaptic Business Automation. Among other things, it has refined the dashboard into a “karaoke” style.

Bentley Systems discussed the combining of engineering design tools with digital photography and other digital technologies to better represent the engineering and design of a plant. This is the most cutting edge technology I saw during the week, but I cannot do it justice in a paragraph. I encourage a tour of the Website.

Supplementing EtherCAT with TSN for Use in Heterogeneous Networks

Supplementing EtherCAT with TSN for Use in Heterogeneous Networks

Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) defines the future of networking. Most of the specifications have been agreed upon by the IEEE 802 committee, only a few remain to be completed. I have written a White Paper describing OPC UA over TSN for information communication. This corroborates the idea that information is where the new momentum lies within manufacturing and production technologies.

One topic of concern to many regards whether or not TSN will supplant current fieldbus technologies. Indeed, on the surface it appears that TSN can perform most, if not all, of those functions.

Therefore, it behooves the fieldbus groups to figure out how to work with this new technology in order to add value for users.

The EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG) has taken the initiative and supplemented EtherCAT with Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) technologies, expanding the field of possible EtherCAT applications to include heterogeneous network environments. With the help of TSN, industrial controls can contact a number of different EtherCAT segments in real-time through Ethernet networks.

In doing so, no changes to the EtherCAT slave devices are required: the EtherCAT Device Protocol, including all high performance characteristics, is fully preserved. Also expanded by TSN is the EtherCAT Automation Protocol (EAP) for communication between controls, which will result in even more deterministic performance on this level.

The ETG has specified the technology expansion in the form of a profile, which highlights the fact that no changes to the TSN standards are needed. This approach also considerably simplifies the adaptation to the final versions of the TSN technologies, because specification in the IEEE is not yet fully complete.

The ETG has supported the development of TSN from the very beginning through active participation in the IEEE committee, and is coordinating the specifications through a liaison with the IEEE 802.1 Working Group. This ensures that the ETG will also be able to access the IEEE 802.1 specifications that have not yet been adopted. Therefore, the technology can be introduced almost at the same time as TSN.

EtherCAT uses the TSN streams with any data rates for real-time communication above EtherCAT device segments. In the segment itself nothing is changed – the unique performance of the EtherCAT protocol built upon processing on the fly, highly precise synchronization, flexible topology selection, excellent diagnostic capabilities and simplicity through fully automated addressing of devices are all fully preserved. Similarly, the thousands of different EtherCAT devices available worldwide do not need to be modified at all. The stream adaptation feature that connects the EtherCAT segment to the heterogeneous TSN network can be placed either in the last TSN switch or in the first EtherCAT slave device.

Dr. Guido Beckmann, Chairman of the ETG Technical Committee classifies the new specification as such: “The incorporation of TSN standards will significantly improve the real-time characteristics of generic Ethernet. With our technology expansion we make use of TSN in an ideal way, and exactly where TSN can offer significant advantages – in the factory networks. As one frame is sufficient for EtherCAT to communicate with a whole segment, and thus with the entire fieldbus network, EtherCAT is virtually predestined for integration with TSN networks. We achieve this without turning our technology inside out. EtherCAT together with TSN offers the ‘best of both worlds’. Therefore, this prepares EtherCAT for the future perfectly.”

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.

Avnu Alliance Plus Partnerships Plus TSN Yields Internet of Things Advances

Avnu Alliance Plus Partnerships Plus TSN Yields Internet of Things Advances

2017 marks the year of Avnu Alliance, the consortium driving standards-based deterministic networking, making its name in the industrial Internet of Things space. I’ve caught up with news from other trips, now it’s news from SPS in Nuremberg that I missed this year.

  • Avnu Alliance and Edge Computing Consortium
  • Avnu Alliance and OPC Foundation
  • TSN Conformance Testing

Avnu Alliance and the Edge Computing Consortium

Avnu Alliance and the Edge Computing Consortium (ECC) announced a liaison agreement to partner on shared interests of advancing industrial networking and edge computing. Under the agreement, the consortia will work together with the shared goal for interoperability across the industrial control industry.

Joint activities between Avnu Alliance and the ECC will include:

  • Identifying and sharing IIoT best practices
  • Collaborating on test beds
  • Collaborating on standardization and conformance testing

“We are very excited about the cooperation between ECC and Avnu Alliance,” said Mr. Haibin Yu, Chairman of ECC. “We believe that Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) technology will enable edge computing to better meet the industrial customers end-to-end needs and promote the global industry digitization transformation.”

“Edge computing is a key enabling technology to the industrial IoT. The liaison with the Edge Computing Consortium enables Avnu to broaden the scope for creating an interoperable foundation of Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) for the industrial IoT in alignment with our organization’s goal to build coalitions within the networking space,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Chair.

Avnu Alliance and ECC conducted a joint presentation at the ECC Summit in Beijing on November 29, 2017 to announce their agreement and the opportunities ahead for Edge Computing and Time Sensitive Networking.

Avnu Alliance and OPC Foundation Combined IT-OT Leadership

Avnu Alliance (Avnu), Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), and OPC Foundation announce their collaboration with IT-OT industry leaders to advance industrial device interoperability and to show the progress made in bringing the open, unified communication standard OPC UA over Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) to market.

Leading companies active in these groups have pledged their commitment to ensuring the interoperability of deterministic industrial devices and have made significant investments in achieving this goal. Rapid developments of these technologies have been made over the last year.

“With the rapid adoption of TSN as a foundational technology for automation, the community is increasingly relying on an interoperable set of network services and infrastructure. Today, 17 market leaders are reinforcing their commitment to complete a unified communication technology,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Chair. “By leveraging the liaison agreements of Avnu, IIC and OPC Foundation, we’re creating a faster process for the creation of an open, interoperable ecosystem of devices that take advantage of secure, guaranteed latency and delivery for critical traffic. It is exciting to see the fruits of our labor in these milestones.”

The pillars of this announcement are:

Conformance testing advances: Avnu TSN conformance test plans for time synchronization of industrial devices are ready and available to test houses. At last month’s Avnu IIC Interoperability Workshop, more than 20 companies came together to demonstrate interoperability in the IIC TSN Testbed and to advance the conformance tests with the assistance of University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab, an Avnu-recognized test facility.

Standards evolved, more vendors, more devices: The Publish Subscribe extension for OPC UA is now available in release-candidate form, enabling the exchange of OPC UA over UDP connections. This is the prerequisite for running OPC UA TSN.

“OPC UA over TSN adds additional capability to the OPC Foundation portfolio, including enhancing controller-to-controller and machine-to-machine communication and information integration. OPC UA addresses the complex requirements of initiatives like Industrie 4.0 and the IIoT, providing information integration between devices, applications and the cloud, truly providing the foundation for the much-demanded seamless communication and information integration between IT and OT networks,” said Thomas Burke, OPC Foundation President.

Demonstrated interoperability between different vendors: Interoperability testing via the IIC TSN Testbed is rapidly progressing with eight hands-on plugfests taking place in the US and Europe over the past 18 months. More than 20 companies have participated in these face-to-face events to test and demonstrate interoperability between devices from various manufacturers and vendors – both collaborative and competitive.

“Our TSN Testbed stands as a showcase for the business value of TSN. The work coming out of the TSN Testbed is already having a direct impact on suppliers and manufacturers who see the technology as a value-add for their system structures,” said Paul Didier, IIC TSN Testbed Coordinator, Cisco Solution Architect. “Companies are invited to participate in our plugfests to test their own TSN devices for interoperability, including OPC UA Pub-Sub TSN devices.”

Avnu Alliance Delivers First TSN Conformance Tests for Industrial Devices

Avnu Alliance announced the first set of Avnu TSN conformance test plans for time synchronization of industrial devices are ready and available now for test houses to implement.

Avnu Alliance has built a rich set of conformance and interoperability tests with a defined procedure for certification in various markets. Leveraging that multi-industry experience, Avnu defined a baseline certification in the industrial market that consists of robust and comprehensive test requirements based on the market requirements for industrial automation devices and silicon. These conformance tests ensure that the device or silicon conforms to the relevant IEEE standards, as well as additional requirements that Avnu has selected as necessary for proper system interoperability.

“Time Synchronization, or 802.1AS, is the foundation for all TSN devices, hence it is the first set of conformance tests that are ready and available,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Chair. As the standards and networks continue to evolve, so does Avnu’s work to define and certify the standard foundation. In the future, Avnu will also be able to test and certify other traffic shaping mechanisms, frame preemption, redundancy, ingress policing, strict priority, and security. “Our work with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), OPC Foundation and other industry organizations drives the industry closer toward achieving an interoperable ecosystem,” added Walter.

Avnu is committed to speeding up the path to an interoperable foundation. To this end, Avnu members have made open source code available for 802.1AS timing and synchronization in the OpenAvnu repository on GitHub.

To encourage and enable multiple industry groups, vendors and protocols to share a TSN network, Avnu has outlined the system architecture and requirements for this industrial model built on an Avnu certified foundation in a document entitled “Theory of Operation for TSN-enabled Industrial Systems,” which is available for download. This document introduces the fundamental mechanisms needed for a system architecture to build on, including time synchronization, quality of service using scheduled transmission and network configuration and walks through the requirements of several industrial use cases including how to enable and integrate non-TSN technologies where needed.

Avnu Alliance members have created this document to help designers and engineers in the industry understand the real-world application context and build a TSN network that is configured for multiple vendor and industry groups. Avnu’s defined foundation will continue to support additional capabilities, including support for multiple IEEE 1588 profiles, guidelines for scaling to very large network architectures, centralized and distributed configuration for the network, and aggregation/composition of multiple networks into a single TSN-enabled network domain.

Testbeds provide real-world IIoT deliverables

Testbeds provide real-world IIoT deliverables

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has published the first results of its testbed program. A major focus and activity of the IIC and its members, testbeds provide platforms for IIC member organizations to think through innovations, test new applications, processes, products, services and business models to ascertain their usefulness and viability before taking them to market.

“IIC testbeds provide a feedback loop from concept to reality and back to innovation,” said Dr. Richard Soley, Executive Director, IIC. “They help uncover the technologies, techniques and opportunities that are essential to solving important problems that benefit business and society. This is the reason member companies agree to sponsor and own their testbeds but will also share progress reports.”

Howard Kradjel, director of Testbeds, told me in an interview this week that test beds are used to prove out business cases along with usability. This release is an attempt to pull together the results so that the general technical public can see what is happening. The results focused on standards, ecosystems, and/or business models.

The following IIC testbeds have shared these important first results:

  • Track & Trace Testbed – Initially formed to trace process tools, the team deployed sensors that provided information about the location of tools and assets in use. It was expanded from tools to logistics equipment, specifically forklifts. Results: The testbed identified standardization opportunities in localization-technology interfaces, tightening-tool interfaces, enterprise-system interfaces, data models, data communications and device management. It also identified reusable interfaces that opened the solution to components from different vendors.
  • Time Sensitive Networking Testbed – Time-sensitive networking (TSN) enhances Ethernet to bring more deterministic capabilities to the network, including time synchronization, which schedules traffic flows and manages central automated system configuration. This testbed applies TSN technology in a manufacturing system with a wide range of automation and control vendors. Results: The testbed deployed early-phase IEEE 802.1 and IEEE 802 Ethernet standards. The testbed will improve upon those standards, making the use of TSN more prevalent in industries where it can improve efficiency, such as manufacturing and energy.
  • Manufacturing Quality Management Testbed –This testbed will improve manufacturing quality by retrofitting outdated factories using modern sensory networks and analytic technologies. The initial success was shown using the welding section of the air conditioner production line in a factory. Prior to the process, the quality control was based on the noise detection by an experienced examiner. Results: In March 2017, an optimized noise detection analytic engine was proven to help reduce the false detection rate by 45%. In June 2017, the analytic engine for noise detection was integrated into the production line and the accuracy of pass/fail detection was dramatically improved.
  • Communication and Control for Microgrid Applications Testbed – A microgrid combines generation and storage into a local power system. It allows more reliable use of renewable sources like solar or wind power in conjunction with, or even isolated from, the rest of the power grid. Near-term uses are for limited areas, such as a campus, corporation, hospital, factory or residential area. Someday, the microgrid architecture will enable deeper use of renewables throughout the main grid. Results: This testbed proves the viability of a real-time, securely distributed control architecture for real-world microgrid applications. It leverages an Industrial Internet Reference Architecture (IIRA) pattern called the “layered databus” that federates multiple connectivity domains into a larger system. The testbed implemented the pattern with the Data Distribution Service (DDS) standard as explained in the Industrial Internet Connectivity Framework (IICF) guidance. The testbed thus validated both the pattern and its implementation, showing both efficacy and acceleration. This testbed is also contributing to the Open Field Message Bus (OpenFMB) design, now a power industry standard
  • INFINITE Testbed – The INternational Future INdustrial Internet TEstbed (INFINITE) uses software-defined networking to create virtual domains so that multiple virtual domains can run securely on a single physical network. Results: This testbed enabled intelligent route planning for ambulances to improve response times, leading to better pre-hospital emergency care experiences and outcomes for patients. It also led to the improved safety and effectiveness of first responders in emergency situations, especially in harsh environments. A third use case enabled the detection of anomalies or fraudulent behavior within the power grid through machine learning algorithms, which can also be applied to other types of Operation Technology (OT).
  • Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance Testbed – This testbed provides insight into the health of critical assets. It leverages advanced sensors that automatically predict equipment failure and notifies a person or system so that pro-active steps can be taken to avoid equipment damage and unscheduled downtime. Results: This testbed demonstrated how to make older assets smart, collecting asset health data from four pump/motor skids used to pump chilled water from an HVAC system.
  • Smart Factory Web Testbed – This testbed networks a web of smart factories to improve order fulfillment by aligning capacity across production sites. Results: Factories and their assets can be registered and searched for in the Smart Factory Web (SFW) portal. IEC standards OPC UA and AutomationML are used to achieve semantic interoperability and are applied to exchange information between engineering tools.

The IIC reviews testbed proposals to identify goals, value, potential partners and commercial viability of each testbed. The testbeds must offer a solid business case for global economic impact; have relevance to IIC IIoT frameworks to help members develop IIoT systems more rapidly; pass a security review to ensure a secure industrial Internet; and provide tangible deliverables such as technologies or best practices requirements for standards. There are currently 26 approved IIC testbeds.


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