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Newsletter Issue # 21

Real Time Automation's - Best Darn Newsletter 

The Light in a Very Dark Room
Fun Facts and Trivia

Sorry snowbirds, in the North, these are an absolute necessity. Get a free RTA ice scraper this month only!

Email your name and address to: jladd at by December 30th to claim your steal of the month.

November 2014
OPC UA Server Object
November 2014
Data Modeling in Industrial Automation
November 2014
Future of the Factory Floor
November 2014
Betamax and HMI's



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

- Midwest Nice: Three Times You Need to Get Over it in Business

-BACnet Demystified


Help Support Families in Need with RTA's 2014 Holiday Charity Event!
It's that time of year again when we donate a portion of our sales to a worthy cause. This year 5% of your gateway purchases for one month will go toward helping the Hunger Task Force, a local organization which helps prevent hunger and malnutrition. The money from those sales will be used to buy as many non-perishable items as we can to make one HUGE donation and help make the holiday season a little better for those in need. Purchase any gateway product between November 24th to December 23rd to help us make a great donation! To donate or get more information, visit the Hunger Task Force web site.

The Light in a Very Dark Room

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

The room is dimly lit. Two solitary people sit there holding hands for hours. No television. No radio. Almost no conversation. It’s my aunt Janet and she’s lived in the nursing home for about three months now. It’s Alzheimer’s, and it’s claiming her body, organ by organ. She’s incontinent. She mumbles incoherently and can barely swallow. Sometimes she gestures uncontrollably. Sometimes she’s irritated and annoyed. Why? There’s no way of knowing.

So they sit there hour after hour. My uncle and his wife of forty-six years. Holding hands in that unlit room, waiting for the angel of death. My uncle patiently answering every unintelligible request with, “I don’t know, Jannie,” or “That sounds good, Jannie.” And every once in a while he’ll so very tenderly say “I love you, Jannie.” And, somehow, miraculously, the dense fog of Alzheimer’s is penetrated. With incredible clarity and presence, she opens her eyes wide, looks directly at him, and says, “I love you too.”

Incredibly moving. Incredibly touching. My uncle devoting hours a day to sitting in that dark room, desperately hoping and praying for the cure that will never come. Every day knowing that the love of his life is nearly gone.

It shocked me. Shocked me into realizing how little appreciation I had for my health, my work and my country. All of a sudden all the stupid, little problems that occupy most of my waking life were put into perspective. The hassle of a bad left front tire.  A little knee pain from my marathon training. The bad power cord on the DVR. I realized that I really lack appreciation for what I’ve been given.

I live a pretty cushy life. I have an incredible staff here at RTA. I don’t do any of the daily administrative work or day-to-day operations. They do so much that I can scuba dive Shark’s Cove in West Palm, spend eighteen days in Italy, run the waterfront in Seattle, and bike around the Big Island. I get to do only the things I love doing: writing books, articles and these newsletters. I get to travel and learn about new technologies. I often forget how easy they make it for me.

One of the reasons I have it so very easy is that a lot of men and women have chosen to have it really hard. They have chosen the hard, selfless way. They have chosen to put on our country’s uniform, go to some Godforsaken place with unbearable heat or unforgiving cold and live in the most miserable conditions with the full knowledge that they might die the next day. And a lot of them, an awful lot of them, come back missing limbs or so riddled with wounds that their lives will be severely limited forever. I often forget how hard a life others have had so that I can live this soft and cushy life.

I have an awful lot to be thankful for. I am ridiculously healthy. A nurse asked me not long ago to describe all the surgeries and illnesses I’ve had over the last ten years. When I had nothing to tell her, she told me that most people go on for a half hour. I often forget how wonderful it is to be healthy.

It’s going to be a special Thanksgiving for me. Those hours in the nursing home are eye-opening in several ways. My Thanksgiving wish to each of you is that, even though you may not have the fog of Alzheimer’s, you can shed the fog of daily life to truly appreciate the important people in your life and the wonderful blessings God has bestowed on you.

Make it a real Thanksgiving Day!

- John



Christmas Song Trivia

· The Grinch is as cuddly as a what?

· Good tidings to you, and all of your what?

· What did Frosty The Snowman do when they placed the magic hat on his head?

· On the eleventh day of Christmas, what did my true love send to me?

· Who was seated next to me a day or two ago in the song Jingle Bells?

· What do Janice and Jen want for Christmas in the song It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas?



Answers located on bottom of page.




A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the 2014 GE User Summit in Orlando. It was a worthwhile event with some significant takeaways (For the record: It was not, as some in my office have suggested, a boondoggle so I could go scuba diving and get a little too close to an eight-foot sandbar shark).

GE, the company founded by the legendary Thomas Edison, is embarking on an interesting business strategy. If you haven’t noticed, they’ve sold off or are selling all of their consumer divisions. That’s extremely noteworthy as GE has a one-hundred-year history of consumer product development. They invented the electric fan in 1902. They invented the electric toaster, the electric range, the self-cleaning oven and the hermetically sealed home refrigerator. I could go on, but the list is too long to repeat here. The consumer business has been very important to GE over the last hundred years.

And now it’s gone. They’ve sold their entire appliance business to Electrolux in Sweden. That follows divesture of plastic, insurance and media businesses, among others. They’re still in finance, but the only consumer business left is the light bulb business and I’m betting that doesn’t last much longer.

The highlight of the conference for me was a presentation by CEO Jeff Immelt, who was handpicked by the legendary Jack Welch in 2000 to succeed him. The presentation answered the question “Where is GE going?” The short answer is INDUSTRIAL AUTOMATION and specifically the The Internet of Things (IoT), or, as they call it, the Industrial Internet.

GE, led by Mr. Immelt, believes that the world is changing. One of his key points was that hardware is now irrelevant. If your company isn’t a software company today, it will be one tomorrow. Hardware is cheap, commoditized and largely irrelevant. Everything of importance that you will deliver to customers in the future is a product of your software efforts and more specifically what data you collect and how you scrutinize that data to deliver actionable information to your customers. (As an aside, this is not much different than what I heard in August at Microsoft, only they are leveraging their Azure product.

GE believes they have a massive opportunity to take a leadership role in a new paradigm in all sorts of manufacturing industries. The new paradigm looks like this:


What that equation means is that if you equip machines with smart sensors and securely collect that data someplace where it can be processed using advanced analytic software, you can deliver exceptional results. Results like a 1% decrease in fossil fuel usage. 1% may not seem like a lot, but for things like aircraft engines and locomotives, it’s a massive amount of money for their customers (and GE).

They detailed at the conference how a single GE engine on a flight from Orlando to Chicago now generates 2 terabytes of data. Delta airlines uses that kind of data to vastly improve the in-service time of their fleet. In fact, they’ve used GE’s analysis software, Proficy Vision, to decrease the number planes out of service from an average of thirty-five to around fifteen or so. That’s an almost 60% decrease in out-of-service airplanes, meaning they can afford to reduce the number of planes in their fleet by one or two. I haven’t checked the Amazon price for a 737 or an MD88 lately (you can buy anything on Amazon), but I would bet reducing your fleet by a few airplanes is a massive reduction in capital equipment that generates a huge boost to a balance sheet.

GE is going after results like this in several markets like Transportation (aviation, rail), Medical (Healthcare delivery) and Energy (oil and gas). They have the expertise to equip machinery and systems with sensors, the technology to move the data securely from remote locations, the advanced analytic engine (Proficy) and teams of smart people with domain-specific knowledge who can identify action plans from that information that generate exceptional outcomes.

So what does that mean for all of us who don’t build aircraft engines and train locomotives? A lot of us develop less glamorous industrial equipment like scales, valves, inductive sensors and drives. Others are designing processes, building machines or just keeping the machines humming so that the shelves are filled at Walmart.

Well, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that a lot of what we do isn’t going to change all that much or all that quickly. There will still be logic controllers and they’ll still control automation devices with traditional networks like EtherNet/IP, Profinet IO, Profibus DP, DeviceNet and all the rest.

For now anyway.

The Germans are working really hard at completely changing that paradigm. It’s an effort they call Industry 4.0. That effort is aimed at eliminating all the grunt work it takes to connect a machine to another machine. Today, if you have some kind of production machine, for facial tissue for example, and you buy somebody’s packaging machine for that tissue machine, there is a lot of work to interface the two machines. Industry 4.0’s goal is to make that process automatic. Hook them up electrically, hook them up mechanically and the two machines will talk to each other and figure out how to work together to package tissues.

That sounds pretty farfetched, but I saw a very early demonstration in Germany earlier this year. They had a four-section machine and could hook the components up in any order and the machines would figure things out and start making parts. It was very impressive. The German government, the German automation industry (including Siemens) and their top universities are all working to make that more seamless and automatic. I wouldn’t bet against them.

The bad news is that a lot of other stuff beyond the central logic core of our automation systems is changing. Where there used to be a wall between the enterprise and the factory floor won’t even be an invisible line in the future. You won’t be able to design an automation system without considering how you’ll deliver data to enterprise systems. Most factory floor devices will have dual personalities. They’ll be traditional automation devices on one side and IT devices on the other. Initially they’ll do that with one Ethernet connection, but two Ethernet Phys with two different TCP/IP addresses will be common.

On the IT network they’ll use things like Web Services and OPC UA to directly pass data to local cloud servers and system monitors. You’ll use all that data with advanced analytic software to increase quality and operating efficiencies, plan maintenance and design new machines. If you were a factory floor guy in the past, you are going to be an IT guy in the future.

A key to all this is OPC UA.

OPC UA is the next generation of OPC technology. UA is a more secure, open, reliable mechanism for transferring information between servers and clients. It provides more open transports, better security and a more complete information model than traditional OPC, which I will refer to as OPC Classic. UA provides a very flexible and adaptable mechanism for moving data between enterprise-type systems and the kinds of controls, monitoring devices and sensors that interact with real-world data.

For more information, you can read the paper I wrote on UA in the technologies forum of or you can click on the Contact Us link at the top of the home page and request a free copy of my OPC UA book.





Fun Facts

·The original Thanksgiving was a 3 day festival which included eating and hunting to honor the pilgrims first successful harvest.

·Thanksgiving didn't become an annual tradition until over 200 years after the original Thanksgiving took place in 1621.

·Sarah Josepha Hale, an American magazine editor, and author of the popular nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb," persuaded Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday.

·Male turkeys gobble. Hens do not. They make a clucking noise.

·A 16-week-old turkey is called a fryer. A five to seven month old turkey is called a young roaster.


  Trivia Answers: Cactus; Kin; He began to dance around; Eleven Pipers Piping; Miss Fanny Bright; Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk

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