Sink or swim? Drowning under too much info!

16/06/2017

Rachel Cooper, category marketing manager – field services with Schneider Electric on managing the Big Data Flood.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is constantly in the news. That’s understandable since forecasts anticipate that there will soon be tens of billions of connected devices, helping the IoT sector to generate more than £7.5 trillion worth of economic activity worldwide. In fact, according to McKinsey Global, the IoT economic impact on factories, retail settings, work sites, offices and homes could total as much as £3.55 trillion by 2025.

Oil refinery control room screen

One area where the IoT is driving development is in smart buildings. Today’s more complex buildings are generating vast quantities of data, but building management systems (BMS) are not leveraging that data as much as they could, and are not always capturing the right data to make useful decisions. With 42 per cent of the world’s energy consumed by buildings, facility managers face escalating demand for environmentally friendly, high-performance buildings that are efficient and sustainable.  The data collected can help them to achieve this.

However, many facility managers lack the time and resources to investigate the convenient methods that can help them to turn the flood of IoT and other sensor data they’re exposed to, into actionable insights

Forced to do more with less 
Reduced budgets force building owners to manage sophisticated building systems with fewer resources. This issue is further aggravated by older systems becoming inefficient over time. Even when there is sufficient budget, it is increasingly difficult and time-consuming to hire, develop, and retain staff with the skills and knowledge to take advantage of BMS capabilities.

Facility managers also face challenges maintaining existing equipment performance. Components can break or fall out of calibration, and general wear and tear often leads to a marked decline in a building’s operational efficiency. Changes in building use and occupancy can contribute to indoor air-quality problems, uncomfortable environments, and higher overall energy costs. These changes begin immediately after construction is complete.

Owners often undertake recommissioning projects to fine-tune their buildings. Such work is intended to bring the facility back to its best possible operation level. However, recommissioning is often done as a reactive measure, and traditional maintenance may not identify all areas of energy waste. Operational inefficiencies that are not obvious, or that do not result in occupant discomfort, may go undetected.

Upskilling the current workforce
Many tools have come onto the market over the past decade to help employees get a better understanding of their facilities and assist them in their day-to-day operations and long-term planning. This can include anything from dashboards and automated analytics platforms to machine-learning optimisation engines. However, much like the sophisticated BMS platforms available today, for each tool you deploy, more investment is needed in time for training. In fact, research shows that lacking training is evident with roughly only 20 per cent of facility managers using 80 per cent of capabilities available to them within their BMS. The remaining 80 per cent use a very limited amount (20 per cent) of the potential functionality in their system.

With personnel turnover and competing facility-management responsibilities, many facilities are left without staff who have the time to learn the full capabilities of these tools. Of course, outsourcing different functions is one way to overcome these issues. However, vendors must be managed closely to ensure efficacy, and to ensure that outsourcing costs do not accrue significantly as third parties spend more time on-site.

In tech we trust
Technology has become an important part of building management, as BMS play an ever bigger role in how facility managers perform their jobs and operate buildings. Newer technologies like data visualisation dashboards let facility managers view building performance metrics in a single window, helping them to spot trends and gather insights. By visualising data in terms of graphs, charts, and conversion to different equivalents – for example, kWh to pound cost or kWh to carbon footprint, an experienced building operator can manually identify areas of concern for closer inspection.

Yet, while dashboards can be helpful in determining building behaviour, the data is often complex and challenging to interpret. In fact, even if building staff have the time and skills to review and understand the data, dashboard information alone tells only part of the building performance story. Facility managers can identify where inefficiencies exist but usually not why. This requires additional troubleshooting and investigation. Therefore, dashboards are most effective for simple monitoring in environments where there are plenty of trained staff to perform troubleshooting and identify the root causes of issues.

Analytics is the answer 
To gain more from a BMS deployment, many facility managers are turning to data analytics software to interpret large volumes of BMS data. Best-in-class software automatically trends energy and equipment use, identifies faults, provides root-cause analysis, and prioritises opportunities for improvement based on cost, comfort and maintenance impact. This software complements BMS dashboards because it takes the additional step of interpreting the data – showing not just where but why inefficiencies occur. Engineers can then convert this intelligence into “actionable information” for troubleshooting and preventative maintenance, as well as for solving more complicated operational challenges. 

Using this software, facility managers can proactively optimise and commission building operations more effectively than with a BMS alone. It enables them to understand why a building is or isn’t operating efficiently so that they can introduce permanent solutions rather than temporary fixes. For instance, with data analytics, facility managers can proactively identify operational problems such as equipment that needs to be repaired or replaced. Moreover, it can do this before critical failure and before it has an impact on the building occupants. Repairs can be scheduled before an emergency arises, eliminating costly short-notice or out-of-hours replacement and avoiding failure and downtime. With this proactive approach, equipment becomes more reliable, the cost of replacement and repair can be much lower, and occupants are assured of optimal comfort. In fact, by following best practice, they can even reduce HVAC energy costs by up to 30%.

The Future
Smart, connected technology has taken us beyond the human ability to manage what can amount to hundreds of thousands of data points in large buildings. Efficient operations require a proactive response. Analytics solutions effectively manage the new state of information overload created by a digital world and filter out what’s not valuable to you. For example, they can provide insight on how to fix problems when they are first observed, before total failure. This predictive maintenance approach means capital assets can be preserved and significant energy savings can be made. The advent of IoT means that we must shift our approach to facility management in order to deliver against the financial, wellbeing and sustainability targets of today’s facilities. By investing in a sophisticated BMS, users can uncover which data to ignore and which to act upon. After all, data for data’s sake is useless. Being able to use a building’s performance data to augment operational efficiency, increase occupant comfort, and improve overall energy consumption so that the financial well-being of buildings can be sustained, is of paramount importance.

@SchneiderElec #PAuto #IoT

Communication analysis: Industrial Ethernet & Wireless v Fieldbus.

06/03/2017

Industrial Ethernet and Wireless growth is accelerated by the increasing need for industrial devices to get connected and the Industrial Internet of Things. This is the main finding of HMS Industrial Networks’ annual study of the industrial network market. Industrial Ethernet now accounts for 46% of the market (38 last year). Wireless technologies are also coming on strong, now at 6% (4) market share. Combined, industrial Ethernet and Wireless now account for 52% of the market, while fieldbuses are at 48%.

Fieldbus vs. industrial Ethernet and wireless
HMS’s estimation for 2017 based on number of new installed nodes in 2016 within Factory Automation. The estimation is based on several market studies and HMS’s own sales statistics

HMS Industrial Networks now presents their annual analysis of the industrial network market, which focuses on new installed nodes within factory automation globally. As an independent supplier of products and services for industrial communication and the Internet of Things, HMS has a substantial insight into the industrial network market. Here are some of the trends they see within industrial communication in 2017.

network-shares-according-to-hms-2017-jpg_ico500
Industrial Internet of Things is boosting Industrial Ethernet growth
According to HMS, industrial Ethernet is growing faster than previous years, with a growth rate of 22%. Industrial Ethernet now makes up for 46% of the global market compared to 38% last year. EtherNet/IP and PROFINET are tied at first place, with PROFINET dominating in Central Europe, and EtherNet/IP leading in North America. Runners-up globally are EtherCAT, Modbus-TCP and Ethernet POWERLINK.

Anders Hanson

Anders Hanson

“We definitely see an accelerated transition towards various industrial Ethernet networks when it comes to new installed nodes,” says Anders Hansson, Marketing Director at HMS. “The transition to industrial Ethernet is driven by the need for high performance, integration between factory installations and IT-systems, as well as the Industrial Internet of Things in general.”

Wireless is redefining the networking picture
Wireless technologies are growing quickly by 32% and now accounts for 6% of the total market. Within Wireless, WLAN is the most popular technology, followed by Bluetooth. “Wireless is increasingly being used by machine builders to realize innovative automation architectures and new solutions for connectivity and control, including Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) solutions via tablets or smartphones,” says Anders Hansson.

Fieldbus is still growing, but the growth is slowing down
Fieldbuses are still the most widely used type of networks with 48% of the market. Fieldbuses are still growing as many users ask for the traditional simplicity and reliability offered by fieldbuses, but the growth rate is slowing down, currently at around 4% compared to 7% last year. The dominant fieldbus is PROFIBUS with 14% of the total world market, followed by Modbus-RTU and CC-Link, both at 6%.

Regional facts
In Europe and the Middle East, PROFIBUS is still the leading network while PROFINET has the fastest growth rate. Runners up are EtherCAT, Modbus-TCP and Ethernet POWERLINK.
The US market is dominated by the CIP networks where EtherNet/IP has overtaken DeviceNet in terms of market shares.
In Asia, a fragmented network market is very visible. No network stands out as truly market-leading, but PROFIBUS, PROFINET, EtherNet/IP, Modbus and CC-Link are widely used. EtherCAT continues to establish itself as a significant network, and CC-Link IE Field is also gaining traction.

More and more devices are getting connected
“The presented figures represent our consolidated view, taking into account insights from colleagues in the industry, our own sales statistics and overall perception of the market,” says Anders Hansson. “It is interesting to see that industrial Ethernet and Wireless combined now account for more than half of the market at 52%, compared to fieldbuses at 48%. The success of a series of industrial Ethernet networks and the addition of growing Wireless technologies confirms that the network market remains fragmented, as users continue to ask for connectivity to a variety of fieldbus, industrial Ethernet and wireless networks. All in all, industrial devices are getting increasingly connected, boosted by trends such as Industrial Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. From our point of view, we are well-suited to grow with these trends, since HMS is all about ‘Connecting Devices.’”

 @HMSAnybus #PAuto #IoT

Systems integration for Industrie 4.0.

22/11/2016
The latest trends and challenges in systems integration.

Our world is getting smaller every day. Never before have remote locations been more accessible thanks to communications technology, smartphones and the internet. Connected devices have infiltrated every aspect of our lives, including the most traditional industry sectors. Here, Nick Boughton, sales manager of Boulting Technology, discusses the challenges connectivity poses for industry, particularly with regard to systems integration and the water industry.

boulting_industrie_4-0One question industry has been unsuccessful in answering refers to the number of connected devices that exist in the world at the moment. Gartner says that by 2020, the Internet of Things will have grown to more than 26 billion units. According to Cisco, there will be 10 billion mobile-ready devices by 2018, including machine to machine – thus exceeding the world population.

The Industrial Internet of Things

Only fifteen years ago, an industrial plant operated on three separate levels. You had the plant processes or operational technology (OT), the IT layer and in between stood the grey area of middleware – connecting management systems to the shop floor. The problem in most enterprises was that the commercial and production systems were entirely separate, often as a deliberate policy. Trying to connect them was difficult not only because of the divergence in the technology, but also the limited collaboration between different parts of the organisation. For these reasons successful implementation of middleware was rare.

Fast forward to today’s smart factory floor that uses the almost ubiquitous Ethernet to make communications as smooth as possible. Supporting the new generation of networking technologies is an increased flow of data, collected and analysed in real-time. However, data is only useful when you can decipher and display it. The next step to industry nirvana is using relevant data for better decisions and predictive analysis, in which the system itself can detect issues and recommend solutions.

Smart manufacturing is based on a common, secure network infrastructure that allows a dialogue – or even better, convergence – between operational and information technology.

The trend goes beyond the factory floor and expands to big processes like national utilities, water treatment and distribution, energy and smart grids, everything in an effort to drive better decision making, improve asset utilisation and increase process performance and productivity.

In fact, some water and energy companies are using the same approach to perform self-analysis on energy efficiency, potential weak points and the integration of legacy systems with new technologies. In a highly regulated and driven sector like utilities, maximising assets and being able to make predictions are worth a king’s ransom.

System integration challenges
System integration in this connected industry landscape comes with its challenges, so companies need to keep up to speed and get creative with technology. Keeping existing systems up to date and working properly is one of the main challenges of industry and big processes alike.

Finally, ensuring your system is secure from cyber threats and attacks is a new challenge fit for Industry 4.0. Connecting a system or equipment to a network is all fine and dandy, but it also brings vulnerabilities that weren’t there before.

Systems integrators relish a challenge and they’re very good at adapting to new technologies. For this reason, some systems integrators have started working closely with industrial automation, IT and security experts to help overcome the challenges posed by Industrie 4.0.

Regardless of whether we’re talking about companies in utilities, manufacturing or transportation, the signs are showing that companies want to get more from their existing assets and are retrofitting systems more than ever.

Of course, retrofitting isn’t always easy. In many cases, upgrading a system without shutting it down is like trying to change the brakes on a speeding bus – impossible. However, unlike the bus scenario, there is usually a solution. All you have to do is find it.

Flexibility is essential for good systems integrators. Being familiar with a wide range of systems and working with different manufacturers is the best way to maximise industry knowledge and expertise, while also keeping up to date with the latest technologies. At Boulting Technology, we partner up with market leaders like Rockwell Automation, Siemens, Mitsubishi, Schneider, ABB and others, to design and supply tailor-made systems integration solutions for a diverse range of industries, processes and platforms.

The world might be getting smaller and we might be more connected than ever before, but some things never change. Relevant experience, partnerships and the desire to innovate are as valuable as they have ever been in this connected new world of Industrie 4.0.

@BoultingTech #PAuto #IoT #Industrie4 @StoneJunctionPR

Compliance – more than just red tape.

03/07/2016

A growing customer demand for regulatory compliance combined with increased competition amongst manufacturers has made SCADA software a minimum requirement for the pharmaceutical industry. Here, Lee Sullivan, Regional Manager at COPA-DATA UK discusses why today, more than ever before, regulatory compliance is crucial for the pharmaceutical industry.

copabatchstdFDA statistics are forcing the industry to identify and implement improvements to its manufacturing processes. In its latest reports (published in Automation World), the FDA identified a significant increase in the number of drug shortages reported globally. With 65% of these drug shortage instances directly caused by issues in product quality, it’s clear that if more pharma manufacturers aimed to meet the criteria outlined in FDA and other industry standards, drug shortages and quality issues would certainly become less frequent.

The compulsion to become compliant obviously differs from company to company and standard to standard but one thing is certain: development starts with batch software. The range and capabilities of batch software vary immensely, but there are three factors to consider before making a choice: flexibility, connectivity and ergonomics.

Flexibility
To assist the complex processes of pharmaceutical manufacturing, batch software needs to be flexible. The software should manage traceability of raw materials through to the finished product and communicate fluently with other equipment in the facility. To ensure it provides a consistent procedure and terminology for batch production, the software should also be in line with the ISA-88 standard.

To meet increasing demand for personalised medication, manufacturers are seeking out batch software that is capable of creating flexible recipes, which are consistently repeatable. Traditional batch control creates one sequence of each process-specific recipe. While this model may be ideal for high volume manufacturing where the recipe does not change, today’s pharmaceutical production requires more flexibility.

To remain competitive, manufacturers need to provide compliance in a quick and cost-effective manner. Modern batch control software ensures flexibility by separating the equipment and recipe control. This allows the operator to make changes in batch recipes without any modifications to the equipment or additional engineering, thus saving the manufacturer time and money.

Connectivity
To avoid complications, manufacturers should choose independent software that supports a wide range of communication protocols. COPA-DATA’s zenon, for example, offers more than 300 high-performance interfaces that function in accordance with the ‘plug-and-play principle’. This makes it easy to implement and the user can start to collect, process and monitor production data straight away.

The communication model of the batch software extends upwards to fully integrate into manufacturing execution systems (MES) and business enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. This links the raw material from goods-in through to the finished product at the customer’s site. The strong communication platform includes all layers of a production environment and extends to these systems.

Having no association with specific hardware providers ensures that regardless of the make and age of equipment, the batch software will be fully compatible and integrate seamlessly. Using this high level of connectivity minimises disruptions and quality problems, while also allowing pharmaceutical companies to collect data from the entire factory to archive digital records and ensure compliance across the processing line – allowing manufacturers to establish a fully connected smart factory.

Ergonomics
Lastly, understanding and using batch software should be stress free. As the pharmaceutical industry becomes more complex and more manufacturers begin exploring the realms of smart manufacturing, factory operators should be able to control and change batch production without complications.

By using software fitted with clear parameters and access levels, operators gain the ability to create and validate recipes, monitor the execution of production and review the performance of industrial machinery – without accidently altering or changing existing recipes and data. Reducing the amount of software engineering makes the operator’s life easier and minimises potential problems that could arise.

The benefits of complying with various industry regulations and standards do not stop with an enhanced Quality Management System (QMS). More customers will buy from you because you appear more reliable and your supply chain will see improved production indicators, such as increased OEE, reduced wastage, reduced recalls. On top of all of these benefits, you also improve product and thus patient safety.

To comply with industry standards, pharmaceutical companies should take steps to modernise their manufacturing processes, beginning with upgrading their batch control software. Anything else would be like putting the cart before the horse.

 

@copadata  @COPADATAUK #PAuto #SCADA

Future factory – a moderator’s impression!

01/02/2016

Read-out was asked to moderate the automation stream at the National Manufacturing & Supplies conference held last week outside Dublin. (26th January 2016). In their wisdom the organisers selected “Future Factory!” as a title for this half day seminar and there were 11 speakers organised to speak on their particular subjects for about 15 minutes each. This was replicated in the the over a dozen different seminars held on this one day.

q#MSC16

Long queues lasted well into the morning to enter the event!

We were a little sceptical that this would work but with the help of the organisers and the discipline of the speakers the time targets were achieved. Another target achieved was the number of attendees at the event as well as those who attended this particular seminar.
In all between exhibitors, speakers and visitors well over 3000 packed the venue. Probably far more than the organisers had anticipated and hopefully a potent sign that the economy is again on the upturn. Indeed it was so successful that it was trending (#MSC16) on twitter for most of the day.

Seminar
But back to our seminar. If you google the term Future Factory you get back 207million links, yet it is difficult to find a simple definition as to what it means. The term automation similarly is a very difficult term to define though the term in Irish “uathoibriú” perhaps is a bit clearer literally meaning “self-working.”

uturefactory.jpg

Good attendance at the Seminar

Background
The world of automation has changed to an extrordinary degree and yet in other ways it remains the same. The areas where it has experienced least change is in the areas of sensing – a thermometer is a thermometer – and final control – a valve is a valve. Where it has changed almost to the point of unrecognisability is in that bit in the middle, what one does with the signal from the sensor to activate the final control element.

From single parameter dedicated Indicator/Controller/Recorders in the sixties which transmitted either pnuematically (3-15psi) or electrically (4-20mA). Gradually (relatively speaking) most instruments became electronic, smaller in size and multifunctional. The means of communication changed too and fieldbus communication became more common to intercact with computors which themselves were developing at breaknech speed. Then transmission via wireless became more common and finally the internet and the ability to control a process from the computer that we call the intelligent phone. There are problems with these latter, internet/cellphone, of course. One is that the reach of the internet is focussed at present on areas of high population. Another is the danger of infiltration of systems by hostile or mischivous strangers. The importance of security protocols is one that has only recently been apparent to Automation professionals.

• Many of the presentations are available on-line here. The password is manufac2016

The Presentations
Maria Archer of Ericsson spoke on the enabling and facilitating IoT in the manufacturing industry. Diving straight into topic she drew on her experience of big data, e-commerce, media, cyber security, IOT and connected devices.

The second speaker was Cormac Garvey of Hal Software who addressed Supply Chain prototyping. The Supply Chain ecosystem is incredibly complex, usually requiring significant integration of each suppliers’ standards and processes to the manufacturer’s. Cormac will introduce the concept of supply chain prototyping, where easy-to-use, standards-based technology is used to wireframe out the entire supply chain ecosystem prior to integration, thus significantly reducing cost, time and risk on the project. This wireframe can then be used as a model for future integration projects.

Two speakers from the Tralee Institute of Technology, Dr. Pat Doody and Dr. Daniel Riordan spoke on RFID, IoT, Sensor & Process Automation for Industry 4.0. They explained how IMaR’s (Intelligent Mechatronics and RFID) expertise is delivering for their industrial partners and is available to those aiming to become a part of Industry 4.0.

Smart Manufacturing – the power of actionable data was the topic addressed by Mark Higgins of Fast Technology. He shared his understanding of the acute issues companies face on their journey to Business Excellence and how leveraging IT solutions can elevate the business to a new point on that journey.

Assistant Professor (Mechanical & Manuf. Eng) at TCD, Dr Garret O’Donnell,   explained how one of the most significant initiatives in the last 2 years has been the concept of the 4th industrial revolution promoted by the National Academy for Science and Engineering in Germany- ACATECH, known as Industrie 4.0. (Industrie 4.0 was first used as a term in Germany in 2011).

Another speaker from Fast Technologies, Joe Gallaher, addressed the area of Robotics and how Collaborative Robots are the “Game Changer” in the modern manufacturing facility.

Dr. Hassan Kaghazchi of the University of Limerick and Profibus spoke on PROFINET and Industrie 4.0. Industrial communications systems play a major role in today’s manufacturing systems. The ability to provide connectivity, handle large amount of data, uptime, open standards, safety, and security are the major deciding factors. This presentation shows how PROFINET fits into Industrial Internet of Things (Industrie 4.0).

White Andreetto

Maurice Buckley CEO NSAI

The CEO of NSAI, the Irish National Standards Authority, Maurice Buckley explained how standards and the National Standards Authority of Ireland can help Irish businesses take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution and become more prepared to reap the rewards digitisation can bring.

The next two speakers stressed the impact of low forecast accuracy on the bottom line and how this coulbe be addressed. Jaap Piersma a consultant with SAS UK & Ireland explained that low forecast accuracies on the business performance is high in industry but with the right tools, the right approach and experienced resources you can achieve very significant result and benefits for your business. Following him Dave Clarke, Chief Data Scientist at Asystec, who mantains the company strategy for big data analytics service development for customers. He showed how are incredible business opportunities possible by harnessing the massive data sets generated in the machine to machine and person to machine hyper connected IoT world.

The final speaker David Goodstein, Connected Living Project Director, GSMA, described new form factor mobile SIMs which are robust, remotely manageable which are an essential enabler for applications and services in the connected world.

All in all a very interesting event and useful to attendees. Papers are being collected and should be available shortly on-line.

It is hoped to do it all again next year on 24th January 2017- #MSC17.

See you there.

@NationalMSC #MSC16 #PAuto #IoT


Automation industry veterans are IoT pioneers and didn’t know it!

28/12/2015
Keith Blodorn, Director of Program Management at ProSoft Technology advises what to consider when starting your industrial internet of things journey

Do you consider yourself an Internet of Things Engineer? You should! Think about what the Internet of Things really means. According to Wikipedia, the Internet of Things “is the network of physical objects or ‘things’ embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity to enable objects to exchange data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices…” As an automation industry veteran, that sounds really familiar. We have been connecting intelligent devices to control networks for decades. We’re pioneers!

Acoustic coupler!

Acoustic coupler!

So, then, what’s all the fuss about? Looking through automation-oriented magazines and websites, the Internet of Things seems to be all anyone talks about. In the industrial world people call it the “Industrial Internet of Things” or “Industry 4.0” or any number of other names. But fundamentally, what is so different between this new-fangled buzzword and connecting a motor overload relay to a plant communications network like we were doing twenty years ago?

On one hand, these are basically the same idea. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is about intelligent devices like overloads, photo eyes, variable frequency drives, or PLCs providing data that we use to make our processes more efficient. IIoT is a name for a trend that has been going on in manufacturing and process control for years – remember “shop floor to top floor”? IIoT is about gathering more data from more intelligent things, and using powerful analytical tools to find and eliminate waste.

Remote Monitoring and Equipment Access
I know, we’ve been connecting to PLCs remotely for as long as most of us can remember! In the old days, remote access meant installing a serial modem connected to a dedicated phone line, so the machines we made remote access-capable were limited to the most critical operations.

What’s changed in the IIoT world is the proliferation of wireless connectivity, especially cellular networks and wireless LAN. By some estimates, 85 percent of the world’s population will be covered by high-speed cellular data networks by 2017. This has had several effects that change how we should approach remote access and equipment monitoring. First, it’s becoming feasible to gather a LOT more data from remote machines. Since 2008, the average cost per MB of cellular data has dropped 98 percent, from $0.46 per MB to just $0.01 per MB. Now, all that data that we used to deem not important enough to transmit can be made available from our remote sites.

Second, as consumer demand has driven rapid development of Internet- based user interfaces, these same technologies are making remote access to industrial equipment, and especially to process data, more accessible for more people throughout the organization.

Finally, machine builders and control engineers responsible for widely dispersed global operations can build reliable connectivity into their systems without the need for custom infrastructure and integration at the end site. Cellular technology that works on networks worldwide allows these engineers to design their system around a standard remote connection, and reasonably expect that connection to work wherever the machine ends up. For mobile equipment, access is available just about anywhere the equipment goes.

Machine and Process Control
IIoT technology is not just about cellular connections to remote machines. We are seeing new networking approaches to the old requirements of connecting sensors, operator interfaces, controllers and ERP systems that take advantage of the networking technology of today’s Internet. Major automation vendors like Rockwell Automation® and Schneider Electric® have been offering industrial Ethernet connectivity for PLCs and related devices for more than a decade. Industrial Ethernet protocols like ODVA’s EtherNet/IP provide the kind of performance required for automation systems, while also enabling interoperability with the massive Internet Protocol-based network infrastructure found in virtually every organization.

In many industrial applications, moving equipment presents a major challenge for communication to the sensors, actuators, and controls on that equipment. Many products exist to try to solve this problem, from slip rings to flexible cable trays to festoons.

However, these hard-wired solutions add cost and complexity while increasing the maintenance requirements for the machine. Meanwhile, we roam around our offices and homes with continuous connection to the Internet – no festoons in sight! Today’s automation engineers are taking advantage of the Internet Protocol-based industrial technologies to design more reliable networks for moving equipment.

Asset Mobility
One area of automation where IIoT technology is creating new opportunities involves taking the network connection anywhere in the plant. Old systems offered only so many places to “plug in.” Operators had to run the machine from one place – the operator panel. Maintenance had to jot down measurements and observations to enter into the maintenance management system when they got back to the shop. Control engineers could only program PLCs by plugging into the PLC, or to the PLC’s physical network through a proprietary adapter.

In a world where I can set my home thermostat while walking through an airport, we don’t have to live like this! Automation systems are now benefiting from the same “network everywhere” mindset as our home and office environment.

Things to Consider

Keith Blodorn - the author

Keith Blodorn – the author

The Industrial Internet of Things opens up some interesting new possibilities for automation, so you should begin planning how you can get your system “IIoT Ready.” The good news is that you likely have many pieces in place already – intelligent field devices, industrial networks, perhaps even some Internet Protocol-based infrastructure. Here is some food for thought as you consider how your system can fit into this new world of connected machines.

• Network Migration – While many of your field devices are likely already on a network, it is probably not an Internet Protocol-based network. Not to worry! As you see the need to move device data up to higher-level systems, you won’t need to scrap that tried-and-true device network. Gateway devices and in-rack protocol interfaces in your controller allow you to easily connect those older networks to the IP-based applications that need that device data. Serving up data from smart devices adds value to your operation, but it doesn’t necessarily require changing everything that is already there.

• Cybersecurity – While the interoperability of the IIoT brings great benefits, it also opens up new risks that we need to address. In reality, many automation systems are already “connected,” so cybersecurity should already be on your mind. It is important to understand what equipment can be accessed by whom, what connections are necessary and not necessary, and how data that’s transmitted outside the boundaries of your organization’s network is protected.

• Start Small – Vendors everywhere have grand visions for what the IIoT can do for manufacturers. But remember, you don’t need to dive in head first to get benefits from IIoT. Look for applications in your industry that make sense, and give them a try. One of the best parts of the IIoT concept is its scalability – Internet-based applications can just as easily serve one deployment as one million. Pick an interesting application, and run a pilot in a small area. There’s no better way to learn about a new technology than by giving it a go.

• Get Help – Most importantly, work with vendors you can trust. When it comes to industrial networking, ProSoft Technology® has been helping engineers get different equipment all talking the same language for more than 25 years. We can help you navigate your IIoT course, from connecting older Modbus® and PROFIBUS® networks to enabling remote equipment connectivity via cellular networks. When you’re ready to start the next phase of your IIoT journey, we’re here to help make it happen!


How long can this go on?

19/10/2015
Breaking Moore’s Law – Can technology maintain its current pace of growth?

With its depth of only 6.7mm, the iPhone 6 holds more processing power than was used by NASA at the time of the 1969 moon landing and over four times that of the Mars Curiosity Rover. Here, Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of European Automation, analyses the rate of technological progress and discusses the validity of Moore’s Law.

EPA250In 1965, Gordon Moore, founder of Intel, predicted that throughout the future of technological hardware, the number of transistors per square inch of integrated circuits will double approximately every two years. This observation came to be known as Moore’s Law.

At the time, the industry as a whole was still in its infancy. In fact, Intel itself would not be founded for a further three years. Defying expectations, Moore’s prediction was correct and continued to hold true for over half a century. In fact, Moore’s Law became so well known that it turned into an industry objective for competing companies.

The increase of the number of transistors on integrated circuits was made possible by shrinking the size of the transistor. Simply translated, Moore’s Law is one of the reasons why each generation of iPhone is thinner, yet more powerful than the previous.

But Moore’s Law is beginning to lose its momentum. Recently, Intel announced that for 2016, it will continue to use the current 14 nanometre processes – as opposed to the smaller ten nanometre chips we were all expecting. Only a few days after Intel’s announcement, Apple partner TSMC estimated it will be mass producing ten nanomentre chips by early 2017. Clearly, tech companies are struggling to keep up with Moore’s Law.

Although they are not ready for official release, the ten nanometre size chips can be successfully manufactured by using pure silicon. However, shrinking manufacturing beyond this will require the use of different materials, which means that sooner or later, Moore’s law will become obsolete.

Unfortunately for Intel, IBM recently announced a breakthrough seven nanometre processor. This incredibly thin chip was made possible by using a silicon-germanium alloy (SiGe). This new material improves electron mobility and enables faster switching transistors with lower power requirements. Although functional, IBM’s seven nanometre SiGe chips will not ready for mass production until 2017. 

The era of Moore’s Law may be coming to a natural end, but technologists argue that the concept is simply changing form. Soon, a new generation of quantum processors could be developed, built on the principals of quantum physics. By using new technology and new materials future processors could break the expectations set by Moore’s Law.

• Moore’s Law as covered by WIKIPedia.

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