It’s no secret that I like to talk. Some people say that I’m a ham. Actually I like to write more than I like to talk but occasionally getting up in front of a group of Control Engineers is kind of fun.
I had an opportunity to do just that a few weeks at the Kendall Electric Network Expo in Grand Rapids. This was a huge event with about 300 attendees from all over Michigan. Rockwell did a bunch of presentations on the basic tenets of EtherNet/IP and general network infrastructure components. A few other companies did product presentations – describing why their product is so incredibly slick.
I didn’t do that even though I have products that are worth bragging about. For example, our 460ETCMM easily connects a group of Modbus slave devices to a Rockwell PLC – yes, any of them. That’s pretty cool. It has security, email, alarming, an automatic mapping feature and a lot more. And there’s no Windows tool you need to keep track of.
But I didn’t brag on it, though I could have… Instead I focused on delivering a roundup of the way that people are moving data from the PLC environment to the enterprise environment.
I started out by describing a couple of really interesting trends:
1. Cisco projects that we will have 50 Billion Internet devices by 2020. They’ll be collecting data on everything from soil to space and lots more in between.
2. MES software is growing rapidly. 50% growth projected over the next 4 years.
3. More tools to process the data.
4. More regulations and government “requests” for data and information on our processes
So we have more data, more tools to process the data and more demand for information than ever before. And a lot of that information is in the PLC systems on the factory floor.
But how do we get that information to the Enterprise? I covered a lot of the ways. Here’s few:
1. RSLinx™ – Rockwells premium product for interfacing to PLC networks.
2. OPC – the traditional way of moving data from factory floor systems into the PC environment where it can be mapped into
3. XML – ASCII based files that can be quickly and easily transferred to many Enterprise programs. And since this generally goes out more than comes in, you can do this very securely.
4. FTP – Transferring files around between the Enterprise and the Factory Floor systems. FTP is great for things like recipes but you usually need to map the data in a proprietary way.
The point of my talk was that all these kinds of things are fine but none of them does the job the way it should be done. Too many times we settle for putting an insecure, unreliable, unstable Windows PC in the factory floor environment to collect data and then send it out another Ethernet port to some Enterprise computer. That’s just wrong on so many levels.
What I told my audience was that OPC UA is going to change all that. And if you don’t know what UA is yet, you really need to read my book. It’s like $16 on Amazon. Here’s the link: <ahref=”http://www.amazon.com/OPC-UA-Overview-Embedded-Programming/dp/1482375885/ref=pd_sxp_f_pt”>http://www.amazon.com/OPC-UA-Overview-Embedded-Programming/dp/1482375885/ref=pd_sxp_f_pt
It’s a really easy read. There’s just enough information in the book to whet your whistle on UA and get some of the technical papers that have been done.
Be careful out there,