Industrie 4.0 and IIoT Ecosystems, It Takes an Expanding Village

As ARC continues to advocate, the adoption and traction of any emerging technology in the marketplace is directly proportional to the size and strength of the technology’s ecosystem, which ranges from developers to sales channels.  That has certainly been the case with Industrie 4.0 and IIoT ecosystems.  ARC remains a strong proponent of IIoT and Industrie 4.0, and has been aggressively promoting the continued collaboration between all of its technology provider clients ranging from start-ups to Fortune 10 companies, along with the adoption and use of open standards to help create these Industrie 4.0 and IIoT ecosystems.

A recent example of this Industrie 4.0 and IIoT ecosystems expansion is National Instruments (NI), which announced in January the opening of its new IIoT Lab located at NI’s global headquarters in Austin, Texas. The lab is a working demonstration of IIoT technologies, solutions, and systems architectures. The NI IIoT Lab focuses on intelligent systems that connect operational technology (OT), information technology (IT) and the companies working on these systems. The lab’s operational focus includes areas, such as microgrid control and communication, advanced control for manufacturing, and asset monitoring for heavy equipment.  Additionally, the NI IIoT Lab fosters collaboration between different companies to help improve interoperability. In this space, companies with expertise in communications protocols, controller hardware, I/O components, processing elements and software platforms come together to help validate end-to-end solutions. Companies sponsoring the NI IIoT Lab include: Analog Devices, Avnu Alliance, Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Industrial Internet Consortium, Intel, Kalypso, OPC Foundation, OSIsoft, PTC, Real-Time Innovations, SparkCognition, Semikron, Viewpoint Systems and Xilinx.

NI’s objectives for its IIoT Lab are to strengthen IIoT ecosystems partnerships with other technology companies and to provide a working showcase for new technologies that can help all involved companies devise solutions for utility grids, manufacturing, and asset health monitoring. The lab is also a working showcase for IIoT technologies, solutions and systems architectures. Through demonstrators, such as the on-site Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) testbeds, participating companies can promote solutions and drive discussions with the respective domain experts.

There are several highlighted demos from the NI IIoT Lab. The Industrial Asset Monitoring demo focuses on condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.  Unplanned downtime costs manufacturers billions of dollars each year, and the challenges of aging assets combined with an evolving and resized workforce have companies looking at IIoT technology for asset management solutions. The demo, which is built on a pump/motor setup, applies IIoT technologies to heavy assets by combining data acquisition, analytics, edge computing, and software technology platforms. This industrial asset monitoring demo is designed to show manufacturing companies an example of how applying this technology within their respective plants can help plant personnel make more informed decisions that keep their operational assets working while lowering maintenance costs. In this demo, Flowserve provided the flow system solutions; HPE provided the edge computing and remote systems management; NI provided the data acquisition; PTC provided the IoT platform, including analytics and augmented reality (AR) for enterprise; and OSIsoft provided the data management and historian.  The demo consists of sensor inputs with on-asset data acquisition using Intel Atom processors; diagnostics on bearings and seals; software that provides a remaining usable life (RUL) calculation for the isolated components; AR for enterprise, which uses data from the system to assist with on-site system troubleshooting and repair; and computing at the edge with converged IIoT systems using Intel Xeon processors.

Another demo in the NI IIoT lab is focused on Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) and Flexible Manufacturing. Real-time connectivity is key for industrial applications, such as process and machine control, where low-communication latency and minimal jitter are critical to meeting closed-loop control requirements. TSN is a set of new capabilities being added to the IEEE Ethernet standards. TSN features for flexible manufacturing include time synchronization, where end nodes and switches have a common understanding of time; and traffic scheduling, where packet transmission from a sender to a receiver is scheduled end to end and follows a repeating cycle.  The TSN for Flexible Manufacturing IIC testbed was built by a number of industrial suppliers who are working on supporting TSN functionality, including Schneider Electric, Cisco, NI, B&R Automation, Bosch/Rexroth, Innovasic, and TTTech.

The NI IIoT lab also features a Microgrid Communication and Control demo that is also an IIC testbed.  Microgrid topologies can offer several advantages over large traditional grids, including increased resiliency and easier integration of distributed renewables, but there are also some challenges that the solutions provided in this demo are designed to overcome. The microgrid testbed focuses on open technology that can help monitor and control a microgrid at the edge while maintaining scalability and interoperability between different suppliers and protocol standards. The demonstrator has three programmable inverter cabinets that can simulate load profiles for a variety of conditions.  In this demo, NI provided the monitoring, edge processing and control, smart inverter controller design, and software gateway services; RTI provided Data Distribution Service (DDS) communication technology and development tools; and Cisco provide the IT data communication infrastructure. The demo consists of a three-phase, low-voltage AC microgrid; instrumentation for power quality, monitoring, and phasor measurements; and smart inverter controllers with TSN technology.  The grid is all inverter-powered, so no synchronous generation is needed, and has ActiveSync capability.

ARC certainly applauds NI’s efforts to host this lab and is impressed by the demos, as well as the number and caliber of its sponsoring and collaborating companies, which should result in additional industry solutions, especially in the areas of asset monitoring, TSN, and microgrid communications and control. ARC will continue to cover announcements of these new and expanded Industrie 4.0 and IIoT ecosystems and to strongly encourage the development of additional ecosystems based on a foundation of open standards from technology providers collaborating together to help bring the forecasted number of tens of billions of IIoT connected devices to reality.  Without these Industrie 4.0 and IIoT ecosystems, there would be no chance of achieving this level of connectivity.