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Newsletter Issue # 37

Real Time Automation's - Best Darn Newsletter 

Dear Class of 2017...
How Microsoft Is Leveraging OPC UA to Get an Irreplaceable Position in Your Factory
Fun Facts and Trivia

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Take our quick, 5 question survey by August 4th to claim your steal of the month!

June 20, 2017
June 13, 2017
Modbus for City Slickers
June 6, 2017
OPC UA Pub Sub Under Construction
May 30, 2017
OPC UA Pub Sub in the Works!
May 24, 2017
The Cloud & EtherNet/IP
May 16, 2017
Old McDonald Had a Factory…



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

- Industrial Automation vs. Building Automation Protocols



Dear Class of 2017...

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

No, not Harvard, MIT or Stanford. Not my alma maters, Connecticut or Marquette. Not even my Brother-in-law’s plumbing school invited me to make a commencement address. So I stand here, all dressed, address in hand with no place to go. But if I had been asked, here’s what I would have said.

Class of 2017, faculty, parents and honored guests, I am grateful for this invitation to speak to you today. I will endeavor to say something that might be remembered tomorrow morning even as the results of tonight’s revelry manifest themselves.

I come here today with two purposes in mind. One to make this speech short and succinct so you can begin that revelry, and two, to welcome you to the real world and provide you with some rules of the road so that you have a better chance of staying on course.

Today is obviously an end, but it’s more of a beginning. It’s now a time in which you will have to fend for yourself. Starting today there won’t be folks around to protect you from disappointment, to cheer your every action, to ease your pain, cater to your happiness and plan for your future. Today you begin to walk the difficult road of life.

I’ll be honest with you. It’s a road filled with disappointments. You may unfairly lose a job, a business or a home. You may be devastated by a lost love. It’s pretty much guaranteed that illness and death will strike those close to you. And many other tragedies may befall you. But on that road, you also find laughter, passion, beauty, happiness, and, if you’re lucky, love. In other words, starting today you’re going to experience life and its wondrous variety of disappointments and delights.

Let me introduce you to a woman by the name of Lauren Prezioso. A woman on a beach, on a fine Monday afternoon in New South Wales, Australia. When a mother screamed that her two sons were drowning in the strong current, Lauren Prezioso fearlessly rushed into the water to battle the dangerous undertow. And she saved those two young lives. All the more extraordinary as, 22 days later, she brought her own son into the world. Yes, she was nine months pregnant!

A hero. No doubt about it. Fearless as Alvin York in the Meuse-Argonne or Joshua Chamberlain at Gettysburg. But heroes today are something unfashionable, something that’s been diminished in our culture. It’s common today to denigrate our heroes. The founding fathers? Slave owners. That preacher over there? Had an affair. That soldier? Well, there was this other soldier that committed an awful crime.

The truth is that all our heroes are real people, and real people have feet of clay. But when we focus on that, we rob ourselves of the wisdom, inspiration, example and call to action that heroes like Lauren Prezioso provide. These heroes are ordinary people that in a critical moment do extraordinary things. But what led to these acts of heroism? Were these people just born to be heroes? Are they somehow different from those of us in this room today?

David Brooks, the famous New York Times columnist, coined the term “eulogy virtues” – the virtues that we want to be spoken about us at our wake; courage, faith, friendship, compassion, and more. But often we instead focus on our resume virtues— what we bring to the marketplace. Unlike resume virtues, eulogy virtues are built slowly, over time, with moral and spiritual decisions.

And that’s the secret. The secret of heroism. Know your values and live them. Live with integrity every day. Start with simple decisions. A simple decision to return a lost wallet. A simple decision to tell the truth. A simple decision to honor your marital vows. Simple decisions build the self-control muscle that strengthens and fortifies you for the really hard ones. And if you do that, and you ever have an Alvin York or a Joshua Chamberlain moment when you have to charge ahead under fire, you’ll be ready, and you just might change the world.

Thank You. Good Luck and Godspeed.



- John





· True or False: Death rates in hospitals spike during the month of July due to new resident doctors arriving at hospitals.

·  In the Roman calendar July was originally called Quintilis. What does this Latin word mean?

· Who was the month of July named after?

· What period of time are they referring to when they say “The Dog Days of Summer?”


Answers located on bottom of page.


How Microsoft Is Leveraging OPC UA to Get an Irreplaceable Position in Your Factory

If you’re like most control engineers, you’ve been a bit behind the eight ball on the whole IoT business. As control engineers we’d rather be architecting a new packaging system, improving the performance of a tool or fixing PLC control code, than thinking about processing data. Those things will always be important but, increasingly, moving information out of processes and into the cloud is of interest to our managers and our customers. They want to unlock insights into data to dramatically improve business operations.

How to Move Data to the IoT Hub
Microsoft Azure is one of the destinations growing more popular for all this data. Azure is the collection of tools that they’ve built to process all the data from your manufacturing process and every Internet of Things (IoT) device known to man. The functionality available in Azure grows larger every day and includes stream analytic tools, database tools, predictive indicator tools and more. But before you can use those amazing Microsoft services to process data, you have to get that data from your sensor, drive, chiller or controller to the Microsoft cloud (Azure). In their latest series of announcements, it’s clear that OPC UA is key to Microsoft’s strategy of entering and dominating the factory floor through its Azure cloud services, but it’s only one of several ways of moving data there. Let’s look at those mechanisms before diving into their OPC UA strategy for Azure.

Mechanism #1 – Connect a Device Directly to the Microsoft IoT Hub
If you have a device that is Ethernet enabled, you can send data directly to the IoT hub. There are several transport mechanisms that are supported including HTTPS, AMQP and MQTT. HTTPS is probably the easiest for us control guys to use as it requires the least technology. Unfortunately, Microsoft limits an HTTPS “ingestion” (as they call it) to once every 25 minutes. If you have very slowly changing data, that might work but it’s not feasible for a lot of applications. AMQP, without the intervention of a broker, is the preferred mechanism and you can do that as often as you like.

The recommended application layer for these transports is JSON (JavaScript Object Notation). JSON is nothing more than a name:value pair similar to XML.

Mechanism #2 – Connecting Devices to a Cloud Gateway
There are devices that may be IT-enabled but don’t have the ability to support AMQP with JSON payloads. Those devices can be used with a cloud gateway. These cloud gateways will take whatever Ethernet traffic you have and convert it – usually to AMQP and JSON – such that it can flow into the Microsoft IoT hub.

Mechanism #3 – Connecting Devices Indirectly to the Microsoft IoT Hub
There are other types of devices for which supporting Ethernet or AMQP or MQTT is not practical. Some of these devices, Modbus RTU devices, for example, have no Ethernet physical connection. Others lack the bandwidth or resources needed to support another Ethernet connection or host a TLS security stack. And others have critical timing requirements. In these applications, a device Microsoft calls a “field gateway” provides the connection to the IoT Hub. While the interaction with field devices is specific to the industrial network, these devices operate on the IoT Hub side exactly as described in Mechanism #1.

Mechanism #4 – Protocol Translation in the Cloud
Another option for some devices that are unable to directly connect to the Microsoft IoT hub is to connect to a cloud gateway. Cloud gateways perform the kinds of functions that field gateways do in Mechanism #2 but they are located in the cloud. Cloud gateways interface to the Microsoft IoT hub with AMQP, MQTT or HTTPS, just like every other device discussed previously. The only difference being that no hardware is required. Microsoft provides an SDK for developing cloud gateways of this nature.

OPC UA and the Microsoft Connected Factory
Microsoft is making an enormous effort to become a major player in factory automation. Nowhere is this clearer than their support of OPC UA. The Microsoft Connected Factory is all about making it easy to connect devices, especially OPC UA devices, to Microsoft Azure and control factory processes from the cloud.

In the “Microsoft Connected Factory,” Microsoft is proposing an architecture where factory operation can be made more efficient and productive using OPC UA with Microsoft Azure tools like Time Series Insights (TSI). This architecture consists of a series of modular components which can include any or all of the following:

  • An OPC UA Publisher Module to subscribe to OPC UA servers in your factory.

  • An instance of the IoT hub to retain the data from the OPC UA servers and make it available to the data management, analytics and web services in Azure.

  • Time Series Insights –Time Series Insights is an Azure service that provides, analytics, visualization and data storage.

  • An OPC UA Client in the Cloud to deliver commands to the OPC UA servers in the factory.

  • An OPC UA Proxy Module to tunnel those OPC UA command and control messages from the cloud OPC UA Client back to the OPC UA servers using UA authorization and encryption.

Microsoft created quite a stir at the OPC UA Day Europe conference at the end of May. In fact, their series of announcements overshadowed everything else at the conference. They announced:

  • .NET Standard cross -platform OPC UA reference stack (started this a few years ago)

  • OPC UA on their HoloLens product

  • OPC UA Clients and Servers running on Azure

  • OPC Publisher Module for Azure IoT Edge

  • OPC UA Proxy Module for Azure IoT Edge

  • OPC UA Aggregation Server for Azure

  • OS Certificate Store for OPC UA

On top of all that they announced a multicast Local Discover Server (LDS). This is the software that registers local devices and provides clients with endpoints and functional capabilities of Server on the local network. And even more impressive, they announced a Global Discovery Server (GDS) operating as multi-tenant, single URL with the capability to do certificate management hosted on Azure.

LDS and GDS implementations have been lacking for OPC UA and it is has been one of the weak points of the architecture. Microsoft products vastly improve the OPC UA technology and solidifies Microsoft’s position on the factory floor. Most, if not all, factory floor implementations will need the GDS to handle the certificate management and that means that nearly all OPC UA installations will have a Microsoft presence.

Let’s not gloss over that. It means that Microsoft will most likely have its tentacles into every single factory automation system using OPC UA. The only way to avoid that Microsoft presence is to not use the cloud, not use security or find an equivalent tool to manage the certificates required to implement secure OPC UA solutions.

A longer version of this article is available here.









Fun Facts

·Only two people actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4: John Hancock and Charles Thomson, secretary of Congress. Most of the others signed on August 2.

·July 4 wasn't deemed a federal holiday until 1870, nearly 100 years after the nation was founded.

·It is estimated that John Dunlap produced 200 copies of his broadside of the Declaration of Independence, the first printing of the text. Of that number, there are 26 known copies of the Dunlap broadside in the world today.

·1 out of 8 people who signed the Declaration of Independence were educated at Harvard (7 total).




  Trivia Answers: True: death rates increase by 8-24%, this is known as the "July Effect"; Fifth -because at one time July was the fifth month; Julius Caesar; The weeks between July 3rd and August 11th

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