OPC UA Use Cases

OPCUAPatience is not a virtue that many of us have. Almost nowhere is that more apparent than when we push the little button and start what always seems to be an endless wait for the elevator doors to slide open. That wait is important to building operators, but it is of vital concern for facilities like hotels where slow running elevator systems can ruin an otherwise excellent guest experience.

Ignore elevator maintenance and slow elevators is what you get. But worse than that, the building owner may unknowingly also be experiencing high energy usage, excessive heating in the drive system enclosure, and excessive noise generation, which all lead to a shortening of system life, and in excessive cases, safety issues. Knowing that status of elevator operation is critical to providing excellent service to the building owner.

Remote monitoring is critical to providing excellent elevator service and avoiding long term outages that affect building owners and tenants. There are many items to monitor, but few of them are regularly monitored in the one million thirty thousand elevators and escalators in North America. There are hundreds of items to monitor, but some of the crucial ones include:

• Travel time
• Energy usage
• Control System Temperature
• System Power Factor
• Door Cycle Times
• Total Operating Hours

OPC UA is an excellent solution for providing this type of monitoring for all the same reasons that make UA such an effective tool on the factory floor.
Remote Monitoring – OPC UA is especially effective in situations where a remote piece of equipment must report to a supervisory system when an operational discrepancy is reported. Since UA uses standard Ethernet communications, any physical layer – including wired, wireless, cellular and satellite – can be used to move OPC UA messages.

Event Handling – OPC UA contains a sophisticated Event management system. OPC UA Client devices can select the variables to monitor, can select under what conditions a variable’s value is published, and set the rate at which the remote devices’ variables are monitored.

Security – For business reasons, elevator vendors prefer to keep data like operating cycles out of competitor’s hands. This is more important if the elevator builder is remotely sending commands to the system to change operating parameters as the system ages, or in response to a high temperature environment or utility power charge at a particular time of the day. UA provides excellent security in this kind of situation.

Information Modeling – Using a standard, open information model makes it much easier for the elevator manufacturer, their customers, and third-party after-market vendors to build applications that use elevator data. Using standard objects with informative Meta data means that dashboards, handheld applications and other monitoring systems can be quickly and easily constructed. Manufacturers and customers tracking the frequency of problems can lead to reduced call frequencies, lower maintenance costs and the avoidance of injuries – all increasing bottom line profits for both the operator and the manufacturer.

Standard Interfaces – …

Industrial Ethernet Security

IndustrialEthernetsecurityI admit it. All this security talk makes my head spin. I didn’t go to Harvard. I didn’t go to MIT. I learned Computer Science at a school whose best attribute is that it’s kinda close to Yale. I’m not a wiz kid in security by any stretch of the imagination.

I really try to look at things a practically. Because I’m not that smart, I really look for simplicity. And that’s really what distresses me. Whenever the subject is security there isn’t a lot of simplicity to be found.

All I can tell from the reading I’ve done is that security is good and no security is bad. Everything after that confuses the issue for me.

There is a lot of technical-sounding terminology. There’s concepts like “defense in depth.” There’s the threats like “denial of service.” And then there are all the security protocols. If you’re like me, you have a general understanding of things like HTTPS, 802.1x, PKI, encryption technologies and all the rest. Not many of us are anything close to experts on these topics, even though part of my job to know about stuff like this.

So today I read that EtherNet/IP is working on a “secure” EtherNet/IP. I’m sure the same is in progress for Profinet IO.

I have two questions. One is “Really?” The other is “Why?”

I’ll start by asking the obvious question: Why do these networks need to be secure? Yes, I know that seems preposterous. Yes, I know it seems silly. But bear with me for a moment.

Those networks exist to move inputs from a field device to a controller and outputs from a controller to a field device. They really don’t have any other function. They are well-designed for that and really good at it.

I have this argument all the time with the PI and ODVA people. These are not information networks. They are I/O networks. They are not well adapted to moving information from the factory floor to the Enterprise. It’s a perversion to try to make them do that. They’re as cumbersome at moving information as I am doing a waltz. Yes, I can take my Buick and drive it in the Indianapolis 500. It will make it around the course, but it’s not really built for that.

Now, if the system needs to connect the controller to the Enterprise, that’s a connection that I can understand. The best way to do that is to use a separate NIC card and talk to the Enterprise on that second Ethernet channel.

The alternative, an alternative I don’t like, is to use the same Ethernet network as the I/O network. I wouldn’t do it this way, but you could. You could move information from the controller to the Enterprise over the same physical network as the I/O network. To do that, you should use an information protocol like OPC UA, MQTT, AMQP, XML or something of that ilk. If you did that, you would do it over a …

EtherNet/IP DLL

EIPDLLOne of the things I find odd about life is how some of the simplest things cause some of the greatest frustrations. Shoelaces are the first thing that comes to mind. Why are shoe laces so long? Do they just make one size for the large boots? It seems that every pair of shoes I buy has shoelaces that are twice what I need.

My list is long and I won’t bore you with it, but there is a frustration that all vendors of EtherNet/IP Adapters face and that’s what I’d like to address today. That frustration is testing. There isn’t a decent way to put together a decent test program that can validate your Adapter’s functionality in your QA or production system.

A lot of people use a CompactLogix PLC or other controller, but that’s hardly a nice solution. It’s hard to log tests to a database from a PLC, plus that’s a pretty expensive solution. It’s also a solution that needs a highly trained and valuable PLC programmer to set up and maintain.
A better solution is now available. We are just releasing a DLL for Windows and a set of Python test scripts that you can use to create a simple EtherNet/IP Windows test system. We are using that in our production test and giving it away to people when they purchase an EtherNet/IP Adapter Royalty Free Source code stack.

Some people have used royalty free EtherNet/IP controller code to create that solution, but now you have all the functionality of the RTA Scanner source code without the expense of licensing it.
Here’s what you can do with it:

• Open an EtherNet/IP connection with an EtherNet/IP Adapter device

• Read and Write any Attribute in any EtherNet/IP Object using Explicit messages. This is perfect for setting your configuration when you commission a new EtherNet/IP device.

• Test your I/O messaging by doing cyclic communications. You can send outputs to your Adapter device and get back your inputs. If you’re really ambitious, you can set up an I/O module and do closed loop communications

• Interface your data and the results of your testing with a database through standard Python extensions.

I’m really excited about making this functionality available and look forward to getting your comments, questions and suggestions.

Cyber Physical Systems (CPS)

CPSOne of the things that humans are really good at is naming things. The more archaic, the more obtuse, the more cloaked in secrecy the name is, the happier we are. That’s probably because we want to feel special. We want to be the ones with the special handshake that others don’t know.

Recently I found a name I’ll admit I hadn’t heard before: Cyber Physical Systems or CPS. It’s a new one and it describes the emerging digitization of manufacturing. It’s an all-encompassing term that includes other somewhat vague terms like Smart Machines, Smart Processes and M2M Communications.

Traditionally the manufacturing world is controlled by higher level systems known as MES Systems. These systems translate the orders developed by a business into manufacturing plans and instructions. An MES system might look at the incoming order stream and download the recipe for Blue M&Ms into Line 2, download the recipe for Red M&Ms into Line 3 and not send any instructions for Brown M&Ms. The machines themselves are not very intelligent. They would only understand how to decode the recipes and activate the components that start that instruction process.

In an advanced Cyber Physical System, this process is very different. In that kind of system, as soon as a customer noted a decreasing supply of M&Ms, the conveyor system would be alerted to send M&M bags into the production process. The conveyor might then alert each of the other components of the machine that bags are on the way and pass on the requirements of the customer. At the end of the process when boxes are ready to ship, the end customer would be notified that a box with this many bags is shipping.

In this example, the filling station may note that it is getting low on blue coloring and order more. The conveyor may note that it’s been 100 hours since the machine was oiled and notify a technician to perform that maintenance.

Cyber Physical Systems is a complete integration of the manufacturing process. It’s external integration with suppliers and customers. It’s internal integration between machines and components of machines. It’s smart machines effortlessly passing data and information about the process and operating status to other smart machines. It’s a continuation of the digitization of our world.

The benefits of Cyber Physical Systems are many. They include incredible flexibility – the ability to easily alter the production flow or implement new processes. It includes mass customization – the ability to create individually customized units within a mass production process. You also get reduced time to market, higher quality and lower marginal cost.



Industry4History can always be sliced and diced in different ways. The history of the Civil War can be told focusing on the North, the West (west of the Appalachian Mountains that is) or the East. It can be told focusing on the immigrants who fought in it, the spies who crossed between North and South, or the Generals who directed it. It can be classified, categorized and carved up in an endless variety of ways.

The history of manufacturing and industry is like that too. You could talk about inventions like the water wheel or the spinning jenny or the Francis Turbine. You could talk about people that made it happen from Alexander Graham Bell to Henry Ford to Dick Morley, the father of the PLC.

When I think of the history of manufacturing and industry, I like to think of it in the following sequence:
Pre-Industrial Era – this is the era of the artisan. Energy was available from the water wheel, human power, or draft animals. Most everyone, even those skilled as artisans, farmed for their own needs. Information from any more than a few miles away was passed orally by infrequent travelers. There was trade, but little in the way of ongoing, contractualized international trade.

The 1st Industrial Revolution changed everything. Steam energy and much more advanced hydroelectric power became available. These energy sources powered the cotton gin, automatic textile weavers and steel processing (the Bessemer process). Information traveled orders of magnitude faster along railroads, telegraph lines and telephone lines, enabling vast economic expansion. The powered printing press enabled the wide dissemination of printed contracts and books that spread the ideas of the Industrial Revolution even further. The nature of work itself was transformed. Raw or semi raw labor was replaced with labor that could run machines, though manufacturing was yet to be very organized.

The 2nd Industrial Revolution ushered in mass production and the integrated manufacturing system. The new energy of this age was electricity. AC current enabled the electric motor, radio and television, and indoor and outdoor lighting that conferred the ability to work after dark. Information traveled even faster. Photographs and video could be transferred over satellite from remote locations. Vast industrial concerns were created to deliver specialized goods around the globe.

The 3rd Industrial Revolution was the age of electronic controls, computer controlled manufacturing and digital communication. Electronic logic embedded in a PLC became the standard way to develop machine operating logic. Data became an asset, and the ability to move it became important. Standard networks like RS485, CAN and Ethernet were developed. Protocols like EtherNet/IP, DeviceNet, Profibus and ProfiNet IO were developed to integrate data throughout a manufacturing system.

The 4th Industrial Revolution? That’s the revolution starting now. It’s called the Cyber Physical Systems revolution. It’s the integration of the factory floor into the IT environment. An age of seamless integration between the back office operation and the machines of the factory floor. An age in which machines can discover other machines, …