New Edge Computing Platform Combines Data, Analytics, and Control

The forthcoming PACEdge IIoT controller from Emerson Automation Solutions combines Emerson’s technologies with those from its recent acquisitions of GE Intelligent Platforms and Progea.

“What we’re highlighting at PACK EXPO Connects this year is our ability to deliver scalable machine architectures, whether that's micro control systems, compact systems, large systems or high availability systems (where PLCs need to keep running while software updates are made)," said Derek Thomas, vice president, sales and marketing for Emerson’s machine automation solutions.

The company’s newest controller, previewed at PACK EXPO Connects, is an extension of Emerson’s PACEdge controller—acquired in Emerson’s acquisition of GE Intelligent Platforms in 2018. This controller is  being expanded with technologies from Emerson’s acquisition of Progea in October of 2020. Progea is a provider of industrial internet of things (IIoT), plant analytics, human machine interface (HMI) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) technologies. The addition of Progea’s Movicon.NExT software capabilities to PACEdge enables Emerson’s control to extend beyond individual devices or machines to complete line control.

This soon-to-be-released controller will be known as PACEdge IIoT. Thomas said it is designed to create a comprehensive data, analytics, and control ecosystem.

“With this controller, we now have a standard package which can be used to do 3D machine visualization or full line visualization as well as OEE calculations and energy calculations,” Thomas said. “Today, if you wanted to have a controller plus IoT plus OEE, you would have to have at least two different pieces of hardware and at least three different software packages from any company, we're the only one that can now do it all in one.”

Emerson is combining these technologies into one edge computing platform because the reality of sending large amounts of machine data to the cloud is neither practical nor affordable, said Rich Carpenter, general manager, product management of machine automation solutions at Emerson Automation Solutions. “Especially when you consider that one piece of equipment can generate more data in one day than Twitter does in a full year.”

Carpenter explained that, “when you bring all that data down to the edge, you're making it more accessible to the operator, and that's how you're going to realize OEE (overall equipment effectiveness). By putting all this capability in one box, designed for industrial applications—from the hardware to the software—that makes a big difference. Other companies do this by using an industrial PC that they virtualize and run on a soft PLC on top of Windows. Running your production’s critical applications this way is not as optimal as doing it on one system that’s designed to have the reliability of a traditional deterministic control system.”

Some of the specific functions Carpenter highlighted about the Movicon.NExT software and the capabilities it brings to the PACEdge IIoT system include: improving overall production efficiency, controlling equipment with better visibility to understand what’s happening in production, ability to easily see alarms that require maintenance, provide production reports to plant managers for help in continuously improving operations, and interfacing with mobile devices so personnel can access the system from anywhere.

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