EZLogix Sparkplug B Beta Testing

This weekend, I had the pleasure of beta testing EZAutomation‘s new firmware for their EZRack PLCs.  This firmware is SparkPlug B compliant for MQTT (read about SparkPlug B here) in addition to supporting OPC-UA and string based MQTT publishing.

The testing went very smooth… I ran into no issues… Vikram and his team at EZAutomation did a great job with their dev.  After building the dev environment, I wrote a PLC program that would help scale out the topics so I could slowly ramp up and benchmark the data across the wire, configured Ignition as my MQTT broker using Cirrus Link modules, wrote a small piece of Python code to automate the testing and then sat back and watched.

To say that I am impressed with the results would be an understatement.  You can get a taste for what is to come in the final release of the firmware as well as the results of the testing below.

**Store and Forward is currently in development and should be ready for testing after Thanksgiving**

Blessings,

Walker

EZLogix PLC

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Designer Software (Beta Version for Sparkplug B)

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MQTT Topics Published in Ignition from EZLogix

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Benchmarking Resultings in Ignition (Broker)

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Automation Fair 2017 — Day 1 WonderLogix Will Change The Way We Program ControlLogix PLCs 10/15/17

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I had a profound conversation with three men from Israel just prior to lunch.  The folks at WonderLogix have developed a platform that allows developers to build complex PLC programs using a Node based GUI (think Node Red on steroids) that builds all of the ladder logic, AOI/UDT and documentation in the background while users just create and configure nodes in a GUI interface.  Dror Roth (pictured next to me…) took me through a demo… to say this platform is slick, beautiful and powerful would be major understatements.  Their platform will make it possible for software developers to write PLC code without knowing anything at all about the ControlLogix platform.  For the seasoned Controls Engineer… this is going to cut development and documentation time by 2/3.  This is a fully object oriented environment that allows users to build their objects, connect them together, code the logic and then spit out an L5x file with documentation for import into ControlLogix.

How do they do it?  Watch the vid below…

Automation Fair 2017 — Day 1 Cloud Based Machine Analytics for Machine Builders 10/15/2017

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  • Todd Smith–Product Manager FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines

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  • Rockwell has built a stack that is their IIOT integrated solution–typical to their business model, rather than build on solutions in the IOT space, RA has developed their IIOT stack as an extension of their existing architecture.
  • FactoryTALK Cloud is RA’s cloud solution–running on Azure?
  • FactoryTALK Analytics
    • Hardware AOI/UDT to FactoryTALK Cloud Gateway to FactorTALK Cloud that is consumed by FactoryTALK Analytics
  • Controller Data Structures
    • RAPID Equipment Interface AOI
    • AOI and UDTs need to be added to Controller

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  • Cloud Gateway
    • 9300-ENA ($1200)
    • Outbound HTTPS to Cloud

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  • Dashboards
    • Centered around MTBF and MTTR and look a lot like ThingWorx
  •  Questions
    • Cloud is Azure–on Prem?
      • No support for on Prem
      • Data is stored in cloud Azure that RA owns
    • Why make analytics data a separate stream of data when protocols exist where edge values and cloud values can be published together?
      • MQTT or another edge protocol has not been considered
    • Is the gateway report by exception or is it polled from the cloud?
      • Report by exception–only changed values are published from the gateway to the cloud
    • Dashboards are static… any custom development possible?
      • No custom development
    • What is the protocol?
  • Summation
    • RA has a cool offering here for OEMs… there are some issues that I expect them to work out in the next 12 months related to data access, dashboard customization and on Premises cloud servers.  As a whole, this is very similar to PTC Thingworx but without the customization available from PTC.  I’d like to see RA adopt a single stream architecture using hub and spoke to an on Prem broker but we will have to wait and see if this develops.

 

Automation Fair 2017 — The Plan

Intellic is attending Rockwell’s Automation Fair in Houston, TX.  I arrived on Monday and the team joined me yesterday at the Le Meridien hotel in downtown.  Over the next two days, we will attend sessions and labs, meet with product managers and enjoy fellowship with the Rockwell Automation community.  My specific plan is to get an update from the product managers on RA’s plan for Industry 4.0 and IIOT.  After perusing the literature, I have read no references to MQTT or the Sparkplug B specification.

IIOT is one core focus of our business and we find there is a huge interest across our client base to natively integrate from the plant floor up to the enterprise and onto the cloud seamlessly and out of the box.  The goal this week is to learn what Rockwell has planned to help Intellic serve its clients.

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The Intellic Team attending the show (Left to Right):

  1. Walker Reynolds (yours truly)
    1. President
  2. Tonya Reynolds
    1. COO and Service Based Project Leader
  3. John McCloud
    1. Director of Sales

 

If you see us wandering around… please offer a tip of the hat and a hello.

Blessings,

Walker

ICC 2017–Final Thoughts 9/21/17

Well… ICC 2017, Transform, is in the books.  After 3 days of sessions, networking, fellowship, food and libation–yours truly and the rest of Team Intellic is pooped.  We had an amazing time with the community and thank Steve Hechtman and the rest of the Inductive Automation team for putting together an awesome conference.  A special shout out goes to our Sales Rep, Vannessa Garcia, for all of her hard work coordinating the various meetings we scheduled with clients, IA staff and other members of the community–thank you!!

My final thoughts:

  1. Ignition 8.0 (Perspective) is going to completely change the game… Inductive Automation is working on opening up the entire suite of web browser and mobile functionality to the Ignition Platform… next year, the show is going to sell out in a week… we have been waiting for many years for the announcements we heard from Colby and Carl on Wednesday and we can’t be more excited
  2. Security enhancements are coming… and all Ignition developers should start working advanced level security architectures into their projects
  3. This was the first show where many of the presentations got down and deep into the details–this is a welcome change and one that will help to drive up attendance in future conferences
  4. This was also the first show, since 2013, where so many of the attendees were first-timers.  There are several new Integrators–created in the past few months, from Europe–who made the trek to ICC in hopes of getting guidance building their business models.  I spoke personally with more than 300 of the attendees and was struck by how many were attending for the first time.  This is awesome!
  5. OEE 2.0 from Sepasoft and the Azure Injector from Cirrus Link were the two hot-topics of this year’s show.  We’ve had an opportunity to work with both modules in the past month and they are game-changers
    1. Effective development in OEE 2.0 will require a knowledge of object oriented programming (Classes and/or UDT style development) and greatly increases the performance and utility of MES development
    2. Effective development using the Azure Injector will require a knowledge of Azure IOT Hub and Data Lakes.  This new module opens up an entire world of possibility… a fact, I personally feel, has not been realized by most of the community.  I can’t wait to see what people do with Azure Injector over the coming year
  6. I’m impressed with how the community continues to develop… the projects get better and this is a good thing for all members of the community.  I am a firm believer that the Ignition market is not a zero-sum game… as more integrators join the community, the existing members of the community all win
  7. A lot of folks asked me why is it that Intellic doesn’t present at ICC.  The simple answer is time.  The presenters at ICC dedicate a lot of time putting together useful, top-notch presentations for the community.  Unfortunately, we just have not had any discretionary time to dedicate to such an endeavor.  Like many members of the community, we are growing at a phenomenal pace (400% growth year over year from ’16 – ’17).  In addition, we are currently developing and have released several products to market that require extensive marketing and integration efforts and this chews up a lot of our time.  The good news: we have identified a way where we can contribute to ICC and will dedicate our efforts over the coming year to add to the experience of the show.  Stay tuned…
  8. A list of projects and/or products that I found interesting and will definitely work into our development over the coming year
    1. OEE 2.0
    2. Azure Injector
    3. Kepware/PTC Thingworx (proper, and manufacturing apps)
    4. Canary Labs historian
      1. We use this already and would like to see a connector between Ignition and their historian–we may have to develop this ourselves in Q4
    5. Sequential pick list project from Brown Engineering
      1. Powerful functionality for manual assembly and QC processes
    6. 3-D Charts from Perfect Abstractions (awesome, awesome, awesome)
    7. And of course, the full suite of Cirrus Link IIOT modules for Ignition… next year, I predict, the discovery gallery will be overrun with projects that utilize MQTT in some capacity…

 

ICC is my favorite time of year… and this year did not disappoint.  If I could sum up my thoughts from ICC in just one sentence, it would be…

The future is now!

Blessings,

Walker

ICC 2017–Day 3 Developer’s Panel 9/20/17

Colby and Carl with the future of the platform.

  • Year in review–Ignition Edge and the distributed use of Ignition; most of the advancements from 7.8.5 to 7.9.5 have been fixes rather than features
  • 7.9.4–Named Queries create top level resources with advanced security rather than text based queries all throughout the project; Client Security Settings
  • Version 8–Brand new visialization system called ‘Perspective’.  HTML, CSS and JS support; Mobile-First Responsive Design (yay!); High Performance, Highly Scalable; Built from the ground up to be completely poll free; New Components and Interaction including multi touch gestures; Tag Performance Improvements; Security Enhancements (see my earlier post); Version Control (yay!!); Improved Script Authoring; Document Based Storage Support
  • Beyond 8.0–Improvements to tag history system; V2 of EAM

Lively question and answer… watch the video!
Walker

ICC 2017–Day 2 Highlights 9/19/17

Day 2 of the Ignition Community Conference was typically long and filled with a lot of amazing presentations.  We capped the evening off with the reception and dinner at the Palladio and then headed off to the Fat Rabbit for libations and fellowship.  Yours truly stole away some time to celebrate my wife’s birthday (she is a real trooper with all my travel) and then reviewed all my notes from the presentations and one-on-one discussions I attended.

Highlights:

  1. There were no major announcements during the keynote–on the development side, Colby and Carl punted the roadmap discussion to Day 3 and the developer’s panel session.  I’m hoping to hear more details about 8.0 (Blaze?) — Ignition’s HTML5 efforts.
  2. Travis Cox did announce a new program called Ignition Onboard.  Ignition Onboard is a program where hardware companies will be packaging Ignition (likely Edge) on their hardware solution.  Opto22 and Hilscher are the first two members.  You will know by the Ignition Onboard sticker on the box.

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  1. Carl Gould announced the future security developments coming down the road during the Security session.  For security… this really was a great session and I highly recommend anyone who missed it to watch the video once it is posted by IA. The highlights are below and should be taken into account for all future development in Ignition.  I did ask Carl what effect the pen-testing would have on the release of both the Ignition builds and the module builds… and he said that is still to be determined.  For those that aren’t familiar with 3rd party pen-testing… it is when software developers pay a 3rd party to try to hack their software and then report on vulnerabilities.  This will be an added step in the development process and will likely slow down the release schedule a bit.
  2. Security Enhancements coming in future releases of Ignition:
    • Better unidirectional gateway support
    • Secure by default
    • Multi-factor authentication and federated identity support
    • 3rd party pen-testing of Ignition builds
    • Auditing and 21CFR11 Tools
  3. I had an opportunity to set up a Skype Session with Perfect Abstractions and one of our clients to demo the 3-D Charts module.  Nick has done a great job with the development and our client is excited to get the module installed for some 3D representations of O.D. measurements and time series representations of AQP and OEE.
  4. Brown Engineering has a really slick solution on display.  Using Ignition and an external sensor–over serial–they have developed an application that builds sequential pick lists and then tracks the operators selections.  It is a very cool implementation and has many applications in manual assembly, QC and inventory management.

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Day 2 was an impressive showing all around.  From Sepasoft’s presentation of OEE 2.0 (phenomenal improvements) to the IIOT discussions to Security Improvements… and capping the day off at the Palladio with a spectacular farm to fork dinner.  Inductive Automation has not disappointed.

Intellic comes to the show every year… I am, personally, here every year… and ICC 2017 is shaping up to be the best yet.

Blessings,

Walker