Newsletter Issue # 18

Real Time Automation's - Best Darn Newsletter 


IN THIS ISSUE
Are You a HERO?
Cloudmania Comes to the Factory Floor
Fun Facts and Trivia


STEAL OF THE MONTH...
Get a free RTA LED flashlight this month only!

Email your name and address to: jladd@rta- automation.com by June 30th to claim your steal of the month.


SIDE BLOGS
5/5/14
Can I Admit Something?
5/2/14
ASCII Part 2
5/1/14
ASCII
3/14/14
UA in Europe
2/13/14
Waste Water

 

AUTOMATION INSERT

Practical tips and information for young engineers. This issue, featuring:

- Faults

- Network Security

 




Are You a HERO?


A Column of personal opinion by John Rinaldi, Founder and Owner of Real Time Automation.

I’m writing this a few days before the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. Newspapers, the nightly news, magazines - they’re all full of stories, but the tale of Shores Salter, a 20-year-old college junior, is the one that really intrigues me. He started Marathon Monday around 10 a.m., as I would if I was twenty, by having beers with his friends. On the way to another bar on Boylston Street they hear what sounds like a cannon or a loud musket. Then the second bomb goes off and bedlam ensues. Everyone is panicking, screaming and running away from the finish line. His friend says “Dude, let’s get the f… out of here” and they take off running.

But after just a few steps, Salter stops. He doesn’t run away. He doesn’t run to safety. Instead, for some unknown reason he turns around and heads right in to the center of all the confusion, all the blood and all the panic. He runs there without knowing if there are more bombs. He runs there without knowing what dangers there are or even what he can do. He has no medical training. He’s just a 20 year old kid. What he finds is 45 year old Roseann Sdoia screaming in pain. Her first words to him are “I don’t think I have a leg.” You can find the story online but the result is that he saves her life.

Imagine that scene. Instead of running away he ran towards. Towards the unknown. Towards the chaos. Towards the danger. That’s pretty special. Pretty unique.

It’s good to know that heroes walk among us. Anyone that puts on an American military uniform is one. Take Jeremiah Denton, a native of Mobile, who passed away last month. His A-6 Intruder was shot down over Vietnam just one month after arriving in Vietnam. Suffering unimaginable torture from his captors he agrees to be part of a propaganda film. But during the film Denton uses his eyelids to blink the word “TORTURE” in Morse code. His captors eventually learned of it and they beat and tortured him mercilessly. For 7½ long years he was confined in a tiny, stinking, windowless cell at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton". He was finally released in 1973.

One of my personal heroes is Raoul Wallenberg, the Swiss diplomat that may have saved as many as one hundred thousand Hungarian Jews during World War II. He defied the Nazis by making all the Jews he could find instant Swiss citizens, some even as they were confined to train cars headed for extermination. He couldn’t be located at war’s end but it is believed he was captured by the Russians and executed.

Hero stories are common. A New York man jumps on the train tracks in front of an oncoming train and rescues a baby whose stroller was blown onto the tracks. Two teenagers in Florida pull a couple out of a burning car seconds before it explodes. And one I remember well, people, in the midst of strong aftershocks, crawl into the collapsed Cypress Freeway in 1989 to find and rescue survivors.

All ordinary people that, in a pivotal moment, presented with a life and death situation, made the choice to disregard their own personal safety to rescue a perfect stranger. Not for fame. Not for money. Not for some reward. But like Shores Salter, just because it was the right thing to do.

Can you say what you would do in a similar situation?

What is so intriguing is that these stories are all about people acting instantly. No time to weigh options. No time to list advantages and disadvantages. Just run into the chaos, jump on the train tracks or crawl into the remnants of a collapsed freeway. Just act.

What’s the origin of that? I hope that I have the same capability. I’d like to think that I’d make the same choice. I’d like to think that if I’m ever on a plane making an emergency landing that I’d assist the old couple across the aisle instead of just getting my butt to safety. If I found a car on fire, I’d like to think that I’d brave the possible explosion to get the occupants out.

I’d like to think that but I really don’t know.

We’d all take any chance to rescue our spouse or children from danger. But it takes some special courage, some astonishing degree of selflessness and extraordinary fearlessness to provide that kind of service to strangers.

Until that moment, that moment when a friend is urging us to get the f… out of there, there really isn’t a way for any of us to know. And that’s why I’d like to salute Shores Salter, the other heroes of last year’s Boston Marathon, the heroes in our armed forces and all the other every day heroes that find that courage and selflessness in them. 

Shores Salter and other men and women like him have set a high bar for the rest of us.

- John

 

 

Trivia Challenge

· A typical microwave oven uses more electricity during which activity: keeping its digital clock on standby, or heating food?

· What percentage of their DNA do humans share with bananas?

· Which person, who died in 1966, won more Academy Awards than any other person, receiving 29 Oscars during his lifetime?

· How many years does it take for a typical glass bottle to decompose?

· What percentage of the cells that make up human beings aren't human, but mostly fungi and bacteria?

 

 

Answers located on bottom of page.

Cloudmania Comes to the Factory Floor

 

Ever had an acupuncture experience like this? I’m lying there with needles in my thumbs for something to do with my sinuses, needles in my knee for an elbow problem and needles in my big toe for I don’t know what. And in the middle of all these needles he starts telling me about how his acupuncture business is now Cloud-based.

Not just telling me but he is really excited about it to the point that I am wondering how much he is concentrating on where he’s sticking all those needles. My eyes are darting from side to side looking for an escape route. The more he talks, the more worried I get about having holes where there shouldn’t be holes and having things poked with needles that I wouldn’t want poked with needles if you know what I mean.

But that’s where we are today with the cloud. Everyone is in the cloud; looking at data, sending data to it, building cloud infrastructure or writing about it (including me). This scares me because it reminds me of the number one rule of investing; when everyone gets in, it’s time to get out. If your barber, auto mechanic and brother-in-law are all fully invested, run like crazy to sell.

The real origin of that rule is the Tulip Panic of the late 16th and early 17th Century. A great story if you haven’t heard it yet. It seems a botanist named Carolus Clusius brought a Tulip plant to Holland with the intent to do some research on this unknown plant. Well, unfortunately, Carolus had the misfortune to live next to some pretty unscrupulous and immoral neighbors. One night they snuck over to Carolus’s garden and “acquired” some of the more beautiful bulbs which they sold the next day at a very nice price.

By all accounts that started a desire among the richer Dutch to have Tulip bulbs. And once the rich started acquiring bulbs, the not so rich, the middle class and even the poor decided that they too should have Tulips. And over the years, every increase in demand was followed by an increase in price which fed the next increase in demand. Tulips became THE investment for rich and poor alike. A single Tulip could command the equivalent of $2,500 in today’s dollars. At its height people were selling their homes to buy Tulips.

But just as in the dot com panic, the various real estate bubbles, stock market bubbles and dot com bubble, The Great Tulip Panic of 1593 came to an end. Eventually everyone owned tulips and once the last buyer bought, the price crashed. Tulipmania was over.

Now I don’t think that Cloudmania directly compares to Tulipmania but when my acupuncturist is excited about The Cloud it leads me to believe that there have to be some similarities. You already know that it’s a hot conference topic, that Amazon, Google and Microsoft are all at war to sell Cloud infrastructure and every vendor you have is rushing out Cloud-based versions of all their products.

There are very good reasons why Cloud services are such a hot topic. They provide a lot of advantages to both the provider of the data and the consumer. Anywhere-access is the most obvious one. That’s why cloud-based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software solutions from companies like Sales Force are so successful. Sales people can have complete access to all their customer records without carrying them around with them.

Security is another reason. Someone steals your laptop and you don’t lose all your process data, customer records or financial data to some scoundrel. There aren’t any management headaches or maintenance issues. No worries about physical site access, IT expertise, redundancy, security, hardware platforms, software releases and everything else you have to manage. Best of all it’s affordable. A few days ago, Google dropped its prices for Cloud services about 40% to boost their market share.

I recently realized that I am actually a Cloud pioneer. In the early 1980s I worked on a remote terminal that accessed some remote processor with some remote storage. It was a system I never saw, in a building I couldn’t find in a locked room that I couldn’t access. Sounds like the cloud to me. I should get a T-shirt, “I Won The Race To The Cloud 30 Years Ago.”

The Cloud is nothing more than a remote hard drive. For those of us in Factory Automation that hard drive might be located on a server machine in the control room. It might be located in plant operations on the other side of our factory floor firewall. Or it might truly be remote – off in the internet someplace.

Before your customers can use the data your embedded device provides, you have to get it there. That can be tricky depending on the capabilities of your embedded platform - the OS or TCP/IP stack that you’re using. There are lots of ways of moving embedded data into the cloud but here are five common methods for various kinds of application requirements. Some are fast, cheap and simple while others are complex, expensive and a little more difficult to implement.

1. SERVE UP XML (eXtensible Markup Language) – One of the fastest, least complex ways to send data from your embedded device is to serve up your embedded data as an XML file. Once your device can send XML files, you can easily load the data into lots of standard applications like Internet Explorer, Sequel, MS Word, Excel and more. Excel is a great tool to easily capture data. You can set up Excel to automatically grab your data and insert it into rows of your Excel table at a rate chosen by the Excel user. Once in Excel you can use all the visual power of Excel to present your data in interesting ways.

To do this, you’ll need to define a schema for your data. That’s nothing more than a template for the XML data that you’re sending. When you get a request from a Client, you simply encode your data in the XML format specified by your template send it out over TCP. Applications request your data by referencing a web page URL like 192.168.0.100/current.xml.

2. GOOGLE’S UNIVERSAL PROTOCOL – Google has made another pretty easy way to capture data. Using their Universal Protocol, you can send data to their servers and use their tools to view the data. For a long time Google has made analytic tools to analyze web site traffic. They’ve now generalized this service and made it available to anyone to use for any data. It’s a simple protocol and a quick and easy way to store data in the cloud. The disadvantage is that you are pretty much at their mercy. There’s no guarantee they won’t discontinue or change the service at any time.

3. SOAP / WEB SERVICES – When you need more complex interactions between two devices than XML can provide, you might want to implement SOAP. SOAP is nothing more than an enhanced functional XML file that adds the capabilities to request services from the receiver. It’s the basis for Web Services and the way that applications talk to each other on the Internet.

Lots of platform vendors are incorporating network connectivity into their platforms. Netburner (http://www.netburner.com/) and Digi International through their Etherios brand (http://www.etherios.com/) are two with easy to use offerings in this area. Netburner incorporates the ability to send JSON commands (a less verbose XML) in all of its platforms. Etherios has a much more extensive set of offerings from the simplest possible solutions to complete done-for-you applications.

4. ACTIVE SERVER PAGES – If you’re a bit more ambitious and you want the functionality that a scripting language can provide, you could use Active Server Pages (ASP). ASP is a Server side facility within Windows that provides a scripting language that you can use to create more complex applications. With ASP, your device forms commands consisting of a URL and your data as command parameters. Your ASP script can process those variables to summarize them, add them to a database, retrieve other pieces of data, send them to some other application, or more.

5. OPC UA – Open Process Control with Unified Architecture (OPC UA) is the next generation of OPC technology. UA is a secure, open, reliable mechanism for transferring information within the process environment or into the enterprise. UA provides a very flexible and adaptable mechanism for moving data between the types of controls, monitoring devices and sensors that interact with real world data and enterprise-type systems. OPC UA provides sophisticated data modeling, event notifications, standard Internet type transports and much more.

Over the past few years I’ve see a significant number of vendors pushing turnkey Cloud data collection systems. These vendors provide a hardware interface, a proprietary communication protocol to their private Cloud, a custom data access system and a monthly fee. In my opinion, contracting all this out as a turnkey service is a huge mistake. Avoid a solution that involves any kind of proprietary hardware, communication link or private cloud with a proprietary interface like the plague.

Whatever you do, look for open standards. If you need secure communications look for HTTPS. Use standard data encoding like XML. If XML is too verbose for you use JSON or a standard binary like what you can find in OPC UA. Standard platforms, encodings, protocols and transports are going to provide you with the most flexibility for your cloud applications in the future.

And if you have any additional questions about The Cloud, just make an appointment with my Acupuncturist. He’ll be happy to chat with you.

 

 

 

Fun Facts

·Anne Frank, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barbara Walters were all born the same year, 1929.

·Cleopatra lived closer to the invention of the iPhone than she did to the building of the Great Pyramid.

·If you are over 45, the world population has doubled in your lifetime.

·The last time the Chicago Cubs won the baseball Wold Series, the Ottoman Empire still existed, and woman in the United States did not have the right to vote.

·Duck Hunt is a two-player game. Player two controls the ducks.

 

 

  Trivia Answers: Keeping its digital clock on standby; 50%; Walt Disney; About 4,000 or more years - even longer if it's in a landfill; 90%
   
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