Most viewed stories in 2018.

02/01/2019

These are the most viewed stories on the Read-out Instrumentation Signpost website during 2017. The article on Radar Level Management (item 9 on this list) by Emerson’s Sarah Parker,  has consistantly appeared somewhere on this annual list in the last seven years.

As permanent links to the site we list these month by month. Those which were added during the year (2017) and in previous years may be found here!

First past the post!

Tapeswitch are now providing sensors for horse riding simulators to Racewood Equestrian Simulators .


Ensuring pure air in Scottish towns.

15/01/2018

In North Ayrshire, Scotland, monitoring activities have demonstrated that the main local air quality issues are related to traffic congestion caused by a section of the High Street in Irvine, which is being used as a bus terminus, and by queuing traffic at New Street in Dalry. In both locations the pollutant of most concern is Nitrogen Dioxide.

Sensor on street in Irvine.

North Ayrshire Council operates a fixed continuous air quality monitoring station (AQMS) in Irvine High Street which supplies data to Scottish Air Quality website.

“Data from the AQMS is supplemented by portable monitoring equipment that is installed at key locations,” reports the Council’s Willie McNish. “Passive diffusion tubes provide approximate monthly average data, but over the last 2-3 years we have started using AQMesh air quality monitors. Three ‘pods’ have been installed in pollution hotspots and a further AQMesh pod is used as a mobile device; installed temporarily in key locations to assist with air quality strategy development, and planning and development control.”

AQMesh air quality monitoring pods, from Air Monitors, are small, lightweight, wireless, battery or solar -powered air quality monitors that are quick and easy to install. They are able to monitor the main pollutants simultaneously, delivering accurate cloud-based data wirelessly via the internet. “We use the AQMesh pods for air quality screening,” reports Willie McNish, one of the Council’s Officers responsible for air quality monitoring. “The beauty of these monitors is that they provide almost real-time data that we can access via PC. This is really useful for detecting and predicting trends. For example, I can look at the current air quality measured by a pod and then look at the Met Office website for information on wind speed and direction, and this helps us to better understand the factors that affect air quality.”

The ease and speed with which AQMesh pods can be installed in almost any location is a major advantage in air quality investigations related to planning applications. For example, Willie says: “Concerns about dust and fumes from trucks were raised in connection with an application to extend the life of a landfill site by ten years (as less waste is being landfilled more time was required to fill it), but by locating an AQMesh pod (measuring gases and particulates) in an appropriate location, we were able to support the planning decision by demonstrating that air quality would not be harmed by the extension.”

Monitoring is also informing the development of traffic management strategies to reduce exposure to air pollution. In Irvine, Willie says: “The prevailing wind direction is from the South West, which creates a canyon effect, whereby air pollution accumulates within streets that are confined by buildings on both sides. This effect is exacerbated by queuing double-decker buses, so we plan to undertake remedial measures and monitor their effects.”

As a consequence of the elevated levels of Nitrogen Dioxide in Irvine, the Council will undertake public realm works (streetscape improvements) to widen the pavement, and one of the bus stops will be relocated. This will not only move the source of pollution away from the receptor, but also allow better dilution and dispersion of pollutants, without affecting the frequency of service or convenient access to public transport. In Dalry, a new bypass is due to be constructed and it is anticipated that this will lower Nitrogen Dioxide levels. In both locations, modelling has indicated that air quality will improve, but existing monitoring data will be compared with data once the work is complete, so that an effective evaluation of the effects on air quality can be performed.

Summarising the advantages of the Council’s air quality monitoring strategy, Willie says: “The AQMS in Irvine employs standard reference methods or equivalent, to measure air quality, so it is able to provide definitive data for comparison with EU limits. The station is serviced and maintained by Air Monitors and delivers extremely high levels of data capture. Since 2015 it has also included a FIDAS 200 particulate monitor, so we are now able to monitor TSP, PM10, PM4, PM2.5, PM1 and Particle Number simultaneously, which provides greater insight into the types of pollution and their likely sources.

“To complement the AQMS we also operate 4 AQMesh pods which provide the flexibility we need to monitor air quality in precisely the location of greatest importance. Web connectivity combined with Air Monitors’ reliability of service provides us with continuous access to accurate air quality data, which means that we are able to fulfil our statutory obligations as a Council, and also find ways to protect the health of people in North Ayrshire.”

@airmonitors #Pauto @scotairquality @_Enviro_News #Environment

Cybersecurity pitfalls!

09/03/2017

Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of obsolete industrial parts supplier, EU Automation discusses three cyber security pitfalls that industry should prepare for – the weaponisation of everyday devices, older attacks, such as Heartbleed and Shellshock and vulnerabilities in industrial control systems.

IBM X-Force® Research
2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index

In 2016, IBM reported that manufacturing was the second most cyber-attacked industry. With new strains of ransomware and other vulnerabilities created every week, what should manufacturers look out for in new year?

‘Weaponisation’ of everyday devices
The advantages of accessing data from smart devices include condition monitoring, predictive analytics and predictive maintenance, all of which can save manufacturers money.

However, recent attacks proved that these connected devices can quickly become weapons, programmed to attack the heart of any business and shut down facilities. In a recent distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack, everyday devices were used to bring down some of the most visited websites in the world, including Twitter, Reddit and AirBNB.

Such incidents raise a clear alarm signal that manufacturers should run their production line on a separate, highly secure network. For manufacturers that use connected devices, cyber security is even more important, so they should conduct regular cyber security audits and ensure security protocols are in place and up-to-date.

Don’t forget the oldies
According to the 2016 Manufacturing Report, manufacturers are more susceptible to older attacks, such as Heartbleed and Shellshock. These are serious vulnerabilities found in the OpenSSL cryptographic that allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications and steal data directly from users.

Industrial computer systems generally aren’t updated or replaced as often as consumer technology, which means that some still have the original OpenSSL software installed. A fixed version of the programme has since been released, meaning that manufacturers can avoid this type of attack by simply updating their system.

Keeping industrial control
Manufacturers understand the need to protect their networks and corporate systems from attacks, but their industrial control systems also pose a risk. If an attacker deploys ransomware to lock down manufacturing computers, it could cause long periods of downtime, loss of production and scrap of products that are being made when the attack happens.

This is particularly true in the era of Industry 4.0, where devices are connected and processes are automated. One of the most effective means of safeguarding automated production systems is cell protection. This form of defence is especially effective against man-in-the-middle attacks, whereby the attacker has the ability to monitor, alter and inject messages in a communications system.

In its report, IBM also stated that cyber security awareness in the manufacturing industry is lower than other sectors. The truth is that any company can be the target of a cyber attack. The only way to avoid a cyber security breach is by planning ahead and preparing for the unexpected.

#PAuto @StoneJunctionPR @IBMSecurity

Brexit woes continue.

02/08/2016
This is a short piece from Nick Denbow, in the July Issue of Industrial Automation Insider*  on the aftermath of the Brexit referendum. See our earlier piece “Nobody knows!” (30/6/2016)

The first thing that Great Britain’s new government, under Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, did was to quash talk of a new referendum that might end Brexit before it actually gets started. The government says it plans to go ahead with the exit of Great Britain from the European Union, despite angry words from Scotland and Northern Ireland, both of which client states voted emphatically to stay in the EU.

zollschildThis impacts manufacturing and automation system companies in quite a few different ways. The membership of Great Britain and Ireland in the EU made it possible to conduct business across country barriers with so much ease that the borders were essentially invisible. Personnel could be sent wherever needed, not where they were citizens. Inventory could be stored anywhere in the EU for shipment anywhere in the EU and things like FAT tests and FEED projects could be done anywhere without regard for borders.

“The connection of just about anything via the Internet is expected to grow rapidly through 2016 and well into the future, significantly boosting opportunities for tech specialists, particularly cybersecurity professionals. Complicating this is the recent investment by the EU of US $500 million to fund research into cybersecurity, and its call for industry to invest at least three times that amount to protect the EU economy from cyberattacks. Under the plan, the European Commission (EC), the EU’s executive body, has launched a public-private partnership under the European Cyber Security Organization, which calls for EU member states and cybersecurity bodies, including market players, research centers, and academia, to strengthen their cooperation and pool their knowledge to increase Europe’s cyber resilience. It’s not clear at this point where, or if, the UK would fit into this program.” –Ron Schnieiderman on IEEE Careers site.

This will no longer be true, as Brexit takes hold, and companies are now having to do significant amounts of strategic planning based on this very large Great-Britain-sized hole in the EU. Further, other countries are making noises like they might want to break up the EU entirely, which is a different bucket of fish entirely. European automation companies have prospered because of the borderless and customs-less conditions under which they have worked in the EU.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, especially with Scotland making independence noises again, less than two years after a failed independence plebiscite.

• The Insider’s Health Watch column also reports on some Brexit related influences!
• Coincidentally the ever-interesting BMON daily had a popular piece on the possible effects of the Brexit decision on the internet – specifically the use of cookies –  The Future for EU and UK Laws on Cookies after ‘Brexit’ (3/7/2016)

*The Automation INSIDER is an independent monthly e-mail newsletter and editorial report on the continuing evolution, development and convergence of industrial automation, instrumentation and process control technologies worldwide for automation and process control system users, designers, installers and suppliers. It is compiled by Walt Boyes.


Accelerating development of smart, power-efficient IoT applications!

28/07/2014
Delivering intelligent connectivity starting at the network edge

B&B Electronics has introduced its Wzzard™ Intelligent Sensing Platform.    Wzzard is an easy to use, complete wireless sensor connectivity platform for the rapid deployment of scalable, intelligent, reliable Internet of Things (IoT) networking in remote and demanding environments.   Wzzard was designed to help integrators, VARs and service providers efficiently develop and deploy secure, smart, self-powered, and scalable IoT applications.

BBWzzardUnlike a traditional SCADA application where sensors and edge devices are simply passive conduits for raw data, edge decision making delivers a more effective network.  Using iterative control limits and gateway data aggregation to support applications closer to the network edge, the Wzzard Intelligent Sensing Platform brings this intelligence to the network starting at the sensor, creating a more responsive, reliable and efficient network.

There are several key components and technologies that comprise B&B Electronics’ Wzzard Intelligent Sensing Platform, as demonstrated here: B&B Smart Sensing Wzzard Platform

First, Wzzard Intelligent Edge Nodes will connect, via conduit fitting cable gland or M12 connector, to any industry-standard sensor. General-purpose analog inputs, digital input/output and thermocouple interfaces are included. B&B has already integrated internal temperature and accelerometer sensor options, and can integrate other application specific sensors upon request.

The Intelligent Edge Nodes are easily configurable, using Android or IoS smartphones or tablets and the Wzzard app over Bluetooth LE 4.0. They can be configured to communicate only data outside specified thresholds, reducing the cost on cellular networks, as well as to associate other useful information (geo-location, device name, and up-time) with the collected sensor data for upstream analytics applications.   Control time synchronization is used to maximize battery life, exceeding 5 years for many applications.   Nodes are IP67 rated for outdoor use and include both magnetized and screw mount options.

Next is the communications component. B&B chose SmartMesh IP® wireless sensing technology from Linear Technologies Dust Networks.  SmartMesh IP is based upon the wireless IEEE 802.15.4e standard and creates full-mesh networks, sometimes referred to as “mesh-to-the-edge” networks.  SmartMesh IP networks use a triple-play of wireless mesh technologies—time diversity, frequency diversity, and physical diversity—to assure reliability, resiliency, scalability, power source flexibility, and ease-of-use.  At the core the technology is an intelligent mesh network with advanced algorithms and power saving technologies that enable powerful features not available from other WSN providers including:

• Ultra low power consumption

• Deterministic power management and optimization

• Auto-forming mesh technology for a self-healing and self-sustaining network

• Dynamic bandwidth support, load balancing and optimization

• Network management and configuration

• Zero collision low power packet exchange

• Scalability to large, dense, deep networks

wzzard_groupWzzard’s Intelligent Edge Nodes can join the mesh network at any time without gateway interaction.  Nodes attach automatically, and the SmartMesh IP technology dynamically self-configures to re-form the mesh network. To ensure data always reaches the gateway, nodes will determine their optimal RF paths to other nodes and back to the gateway. The SmartMesh IP protocol implemented within the edge nodes includes advanced network management functions and security features such as encryption and authentication. For more information: B&B Smart-Sensing What is Smartmesh

Wzzard also uses the lightweight, publish/subscribe messaging transport MQTT protocol for sensor communications.   MQTT is an extremely simple messaging protocol created for M2M and IoT applications over wireless networks. Its efficient distribution of information to single or multiple receivers, low power usage and minimized data packets make it ideal for mobile or remote locations. Unlike older SCADA protocols such as Modbus, MQTT places few restrictions on the volume or type of data that can be communicated. This facilitates a meta-data approach where multiple IoT applications can act upon the information simultaneously without having to know its origin.

Finally, B&B’s programmable, industrial-grade Spectre router serves as Wzzard’s Intelligent Gateway. Spectre can connect equipment and other devices to the Internet or Intranet over either wired Ethernet or wireless cellular connections. Spectre is built for plug-and-play simplicity with extensive remote management, deployment and customization options.  It is a robust, flexible gateway designed for easy deployment in demanding environments and the cellular version creates secure connections in locations where cable connections are impractical.

Processed information from the sensor nodes is published through the Spectre Gateway up to the customer’s IoT application using MQTT transport protocol.

SeeControl is one of the first IoT platform providers to leverage the Wzzard Intelligent Sensing Platform and MQTT protocols to develop applications. (More information at: B&B/SeeControl Partnership)

“Today, most business analytics can only describe what has happened and why,” said Parthesh Shastri, SeeControl’s vice president of customer success and strategy.  “The industry can move past descriptive to predictive and even prescriptive analytics using IoT technologies such as B&B’s Wzzard that applies edge decision making and processes information collected from sensors before transmitting relevant, as opposed to raw data, up to SeeControl’s SaaS remote management platform. Cloud-based big data analytics is then better able to derive meaning from the data, and prescribe specific courses of action, to drive more intelligent applications.”

Jerry O’Gorman, CEO of B&B Electronics explained, “The Wzzard platform’s technologies, protocols and hardware work together to reduce the complexity, expertise and time it takes for integrators to develop scalable IoT solutions.   We developed Wzzard to facilitate the coming world of connected intelligence, where smart machines and systems will collaborate, inform and make decisions on the intelligence gained from each other with little or no human supervision. Humans will program these smart networks, but then they have the ability to run efficiently and autonomously, sometimes for years, until there’s data reported that requires human intervention.”

Possible Applications:

  • Flood and water level monitoring
  • Smart car parks; vehicle counting, air quality
  • Smart irrigation systems monitoring soil moisture, environmental conditions, leaks
  • Mechanical condition monitoring/preventative maintenance
  • Energy measurements and audits on a per system or machine basis
  • Data center environmental monitoring
  • Tank and lift stations
  • Condition monitoring and optimization in industrial environments
  • Traffic monitoring of over-height vehicles for tunnels and bridges

InTech steams into your iPad!

13/03/2014

We don’t usually plug automation publications per sé although we have from time to time publicised articles which we feel might be of interest to our visitors. One of the most respected publications in the Automation world is InTech, the periodical of the International Society of Automation. They have just launched a tablet version of the magazine – initially for the iPad but shortly for other platforms.

InTech Plus is a new mobile app from the ISA, for the Apple iPad that enables automation professionals to rapidly access, scan and digest a diverse range of technical and educational content—and utilize valuable tools and calculators—through a highly interactive and inviting format.  InTech Plus may be downloaded at no cost through the Apple App Store.

InTech Plus_Part One

“The InTech Plus mobile app has great new content delivered in a new and engaging way,” said Peggie W. Koon, Ph.D., ISA President. “Downloadable free of charge, InTech Plus connects automation and control professionals to all things automation. It’s interactive, intuitive, fresh and fun. From the latest technology news and ‘how-to’ videos featuring ISA subject matter experts to Q&As, quizzes and calculators, our new mobile app delivers added value to automation professionals on the go.”

Because InTech Plus provides on-the-go access—whenever and wherever—to an extensive array of automation content and functionality, Dr. Koon says it supports the ISA mission of better connecting automation and control professionals with the information they need and want.

“In addition,” she says, “InTech Plus represents our commitment to innovation, and to pursuing the ongoing development of new tools, products and programs with the “coolest delivery” available to our members and the automation community at large.”

A fresh and engaging format designed for ease of use
As users move through InTech Plus, they will immediately notice they’re engaging in a totally new way to view and digest information. Highly colorful and visual in approach, the pages feature intuitive navigation that will guide you to captivating success stories, to best-practice overviews, and to “quick-read” call-out boxes and sliders—all of which encourage you to learn more and dig deeper.

“ISA is extremely excited to introduce InTech Plus to the automation community,” says Susan Colwell, Manager of ISA Publications Development. “There is so much to discover and explore. Useful information and tools are on display right at your fingertips. Tap on a button to read about a hot topic or view helpful conversion tables, or get a refresher on a specific area of automation fundamentals, such as how to select field instruments. Polish up on wireless devices, HMI, pressure transmitters, level, temperature, batch and so on. Take a quick quiz on CCST® or CAP® certification. A slide of a finger will lead you to the next feature, video, fun fact or news item. Download a calculation or scientific app on the go, when you need it most. You can even learn about the history of automation.”

InTech Plus content, which will be updated on a regular basis, is derived through a variety of authoritative sources, most significantly through the insights and perspectives of ISA’s world-renowned subject matter experts. In addition, the entire spectrum of ISA’s products and services—including its automation standards; education, training and certification programs; technical symposia; publishing resources and leadership development capabilities—is represented.

While InTech Plus is currently only formatted for the iPad, Colwell says additional formats are under development.


The US cybersecurity framework for implementation!

14/02/2014
A unique, public-private partnership effort now turns to the plan’s implementation

The official rollout of the US Cybersecurity Framework, recognized this past Wednesday in an announcement delivered by President Barack Obama, represents the completion of a successful partnership effort among The White House, the Automation Federation and its founding organization, the International Society of Automation (ISA). Now, the second phase of the partnership—working together to implement the framework—begins.

US President Obama

US President Obama

The US Cybersecurity Framework, the result of a year-long initiative to develop a voluntary how-to guide for American industry and operators of critical infrastructure to strengthen their cyber defenses. is a key deliverable from the Executive Order on “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity” that President Obama announced in his 2013 State of the Union address.

During the past year, representatives of the Automation Federation and the International Society of Automation (ISA) have been assisting the US government—at the White House’s request—to help develop and refine a draft of the US Cybersecurity Framework. Both organisations were sought out as essential government advisors given their expertise in developing and advocating for industrial automation and control system (IACS) security standards. The ANSI/ISA99, Industrial Automation and Control Systems Security standards (known internationally as ISA99/IEC 62443), are recognized globally for their comprehensive, all-inclusive approach to IACS security.

ISA’s IACS security standards are among the framework’s recommendations because they’re designed to prevent and mitigate potentially devastating cyber damage to industrial plant systems and networks—commonly used in transportation grids, power plants, water treatment facilities, and other vital industrial settings. Without these defenses in place, industrial cyberattack can result in plant shutdown, operational and equipment impairment, severe economic and environmental damage, and public endangerment.

A significant step forward in protection
President Obama, in his statement released on last Wednesday in Washington, DC, said that “cyber threats pose one the gravest national security dangers that the United States faces. I am pleased to receive the Cybersecurity Framework, which reflects the good work of hundreds of companies, multiple federal agencies and contributors from around the world.”

The 41-page framework takes a risk-management approach that allows organizations to adapt to “a changing cybersecurity landscape and responds to evolving and sophisticated threats in a timely manner,” according to the document.

Though the adoption of the framework is voluntary, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established the Critical Infrastructure Cyber Community (C3) Voluntary Program to increase awareness and use of the Cybersecurity Framework. The C3 Voluntary Program will connect companies, as well as federal, state and local partners, to DHS and other federal government programs and resources that will assist their efforts in managing their cyber risks. Participants will be able to share lessons learned, receive guidance and learn about free tools and resources.

Automation Federation Chairman Terry Ives

Terry Ives, Automation Federation Chair

Attending the Wednesday launch event in the nation’s capital was a contingent of Automation Federation officials, including Michael Marlowe, Automation Federation Managing Director and Director of Government Relations; Terry Ives, 2014 Chair of the Automation Federation; and Leo Staples, a past Chair of the Automation Federation who serves as leader of the Automation Federation’s Cybersecurity Framework team.

“Given that the risk of cyberattacks targeted to industrial automation and control systems across all industry sectors continues to grow, it’s important that the Automation Federation and ISA have been actively involved in the development of this national cybersecurity initiative,” said Ives. “The Cybersecurity Framework provides an effective, comprehensive approach for industry sectors to determine their vulnerability to these kinds of attacks and the means to mitigate them.”

Moving forward to implementation 
“Now that the Cybersecurity Framework has been officially launched by the Obama administration, we have been asked by The White House and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to assist in the framework’s implementation,” reports Marlowe. “We are actively underway in planning a series of implementation seminars throughout the US and as far away as London.”

In fact, the first implementation seminar is to be conducted  on Friday, 21 February 2014 in Birmingham (AL USA). The seminar will be sponsored by the Automation Federation and the Alabama Technology Network, a Working Group of the Automation Federation.

At the seminar, representatives from the White House, NIST and leading cybersecurity subject matter experts will outline the provisions and details of the Cybersecurity Framework, and will illustrate why IACS security standards are such fundamental components of the plan and its implementation.