Sharing the Trade Floor with President Obama

HannoverMesseI recently returned from Hannover Messe (‘messe’ is German for ‘fair’), my first visit to the largest industrial fair in the world. It really has to be seen to be believed: 200,000 visitors, 5,000 exhibitors, fifteen or more exhibition halls… and one U.S. President.
Barack Obama caused a bit of unhappiness with exhibitors; the main industrial halls were closed for most of the first day because of his visit. Exhibitors had to arrive early, wait in a very long line for a security scan, and then stand around without visitors to their booths for quite a few hours. Some did get a glimpse of President Obama and Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, as they walked through – it’s always something special when you can get close to the President.

The words “IOT” and “OPC UA” were everywhere in the factory floor exhibit halls at Hannover. It seems as if every German company has implemented it, which makes sense. OPC UA is the core of Industrie 4.0, the German government /industry /university effort to make sure that Germany remains the the world’s manufacturing center.

I continue to wonder what the future of OPC UA technology might be. It has powerful features but, on the other hand, it is trying to be everything to everybody. That has never worked in the past with other technologies. I am not pessimistic as much as I am concerned, since there is a major update to OPC UA coming. It will be interesting to see how devices built on the original specification can be melded with the specifications for the latest release, which includes a complete rewrite of the publish-subscribe architecture.

The ODVA held an interesting press conference at Hannover. Technical problems delayed the press conference almost 25 minutes, which Katherine Voss, President and Executive Director, ODVA, had to uncomfortably fill. Her cursing parrot joke helped. Once they started, they indicated that they’ve noticed that manufacturers need to move data from the manufacturing floor into the Enterprise into the Cloud. That wasn’t the big news. They next point was that CIP and EtherNet/IP were good technologies with which to move the data, which really astounded me. I’ve railed in my blog posts and newsletter that technologies like EtherNet/IP and ProfiNet IO need to stick to their knitting of moving I/O data from the I/O devices to the controller. They do that well. Leave what works alone.

Another technology for moving data to Enterprise and Cloud?

But now, apparently, ODVA is on the path of developing some extension to EtherNet/IP for Enterprise and Cloud communication. It sounded like they plan to develop something new. I didn’t hear anything about defining mechanisms for integrating EtherNet/IP with all the existing technologies that do this – it seems like they want to use the existing CIP object model.

I am clueless as to how this can possibly work (cluelessness is my usual condition so I may be wrong on all this). I am just not sure that we need another technology. How many technologies are there for moving data to the Enterprise and the Cloud? I think I counted 15 major technologies – there’s probably about 200 minor ones. Who are they going to get to work on this? Who supports this and is going to drive it? All the ODVA members I know are far down the path of integrating their products with the Cloud and those solutions don’t involve CIP.

Possibly this is a Rockwell effort. Katharine Voss indicated that something would be available in 18 months. It will be very interesting. I can’t wait to see what develops, and I hope it is successful.
If you’ve never been to Hannover, it is a nice city, albeit very much destroyed during WWII. There are a few historic remnants of pre-war Hannover that you can visit. The food is wonderful. I found a real German restaurant that is on my “go-to” list for my next trip to Germany.