The Internet of Things as it applies to the world of process automation is moving from hype to reality. In recent months, several suppliers have introduced products, applications, and services that are the first “real world” manifestations of what the IoT will look like in process industry applications. Companies are either making acquisitions or developing their own solutions in-house. If you’re an end user, you should have IoT related functions and roadmap as part of your supplier selection criteria. Here are some examples of how the Internet of Things is starting to manifest itself in real world products and services offered by key process automation suppliers. From sensors to edge computing devices and gateways and cloud-based engineering, the Internet of Things is becoming a reality for process automation. I have left GE Predix off this list basically because we have written a lot about Predix already here at the ARC Internet of Things/Industrie 4.0 blog. Predix is a much more comprehensive IoT architecture that reaches into other industries aside from the process industries.
ABB’s Smart Sensor for low voltage motors is part of the company’s Internet of Things, Services, and People (IoTSP) initiative, and was recently introduced at this past Hanover Fair. Smart Sensor provides wireless condition monitoring data for low voltage motors. The devices can be retrofitted to both ABB and third party motors. They transmit information on vibration, temperature, loads and energy consumption to the cloud and generate alerts when motors perform sub-optimally. Further information is not yet available as the sale of the product will not start until later in the year.
Emerson Process Management is playing on its strengths in “Pervasive Sensing” as its entry into the Industrial Internet of Things. The company has introduced several new sensors that are low cost, wireless, or both. Rosemount recently released the Rosemount 975 line of optical flame detectors designed to perform in harsh environmental conditions and connect directly to alarm or automatic fire extinguishing systems. Emerson also recently released introduced wirelessly-monitored Enardo 2000 emergency pressure relief vents (EPRVs). Emerson is combining its ability to monitor thousands of sensors in a process plant and turn the data from those sensors into useful information. Steam trap monitoring and pressure relief vents are good examples of devices that are important to the process, there are hundreds of them in many process plants, and outfitting them with relatively cheap sensing capabilities can provide great value in terms of avoiding unplanned downtime and adopting a more proactive maintenance philosophy.
Honeywell Sentience is the new cloud based infrastructure that was introduced by Honeywell Process Solutions at this year’s Honeywell User Group meeting in San Antonio. Other company divisions are also leveraging the Honeywell Sentience cloud platform, including both Building Automation and Aerospace. Honeywell Sentience represents a foundational set of capabilities that allows each Honeywell business to focus on unique areas and integrate complementary technologies. The platform also leverages the latest cloud standards in terms of data security and can be hosted in a variety of ways, including private clouds. Honeywell’s Virtual Engineering Platform (VEP) has been out for some time and provides a secure, centrally hosted cloud environment to execute industrial automation projects and to do process automation system engineering.
Rockwell Automation has made numerous announcements related to its Connected Enterprise in the past year, but one of the lesser publicized endeavors is the mobility collaboration project with Microsoft designed for industrial environments, where wireless network connections are not always reliable. This is being driven by industrial workers that are increasingly turning to mobile devices to help improve productivity and collaboration, but need interfaces tailored to the specific device. Dubbed Project Stanton (@Project_Stanton on Twitter), The toolkit emerging from this collaboration enables Rockwell Automation offerings with a consistent web-based user interface for a specific device; tablet, smartphone or desktop, and now includes a prototype app. The two companies demonstrated the product toolkit and the prototype of the new app at the most recent Automation Fair.
Schneider’s Modicon M580 – ePAC Controller is a new concept is designed to fill the void between a universal Ethernet backbone, a DCS, and a programmable automation controller (PAC). The ePAC is a controller concept where all communications are managed on an open Ethernet backbone; from the control network, such as SCADA, asset management, DCS, etc., down to the field network via remote or distributed equipment. This even includes the controller’s backplane bus, which has Ethernet processing built into its core. This new concept, leveraging Ethernet as its core, creates new value and positioning for automation solutions, based on greater transparency and higher speed communications, to deliver deterministic solutions over standard, proven and fully open Ethernet architectures.
Earlier this year, Siemens introduced MindSphere, its cloud-based platform for analytics. MindSphere is a platform of tools and services that allows users to configure their own analytics applications, or offer analytics as a digital service to their customers. These services include data recording, transmission and safe storage, as well as a framework for developing applications quickly. Rather than offering a complete ecosystem by itself, Siemens has entered into a number of partnerships to support the platform. The open architecture is based on SAP HANA, and Siemens plans soon to expand the number of hosting partners to include Atos and Amazon Web Services, as well as Chinese-based provider, according to the company.
Yokogawa made the news recently with its investment in “fog computing” company FogHorn. Through its investment in this company, Yokogawa aims to foster their development of fog computing technology and expand the range of solutions available to the world of process automation end users. Yokogawa also made headlines with the recent acquisition of Industrial Evolution. This acquisition will enable Yokogawa to launch a “Data-as-a-Service” (DaaS) solution that will provide considerable value to process industry end users in the form of more easily accessible data across the enterprise and an enhanced ability to turn that data into useful information, and will be a major step in Yokogawa’s evolution toward the Industrial Internet of Things. Yokogawa has created a new business unit called Industrial Knowledge for these solutions.