In 2021, Siemens released its Industrial Edge platform to enable IT or plant floor personnel to manage (on-premises or remotely) distributed edge devices and centrally monitor their operating states. Platforms for edge device management in industry are becoming more widely used due to their ability to securely roll out new software applications company-wide on all connected edge devices, while minimizing IT tasks associated the maintenance and updating of distributed software.
Edge platforms are, of course, gaining interest because of the increased use of edge devices across industry to process data very near to or on the machines and systems that generate the data. Siemens Industrial Edge also allows users to send select data to the cloud for longer-range analyses and to provide for remote access to those data while still allowing for full user control of the data.
Earlier this year, Siemens added the Simatic S7-1500V virtual PLC to its Industrial Edge platform. This virtual PLC is based on the functions and operation of the SIMATIC S7-1500 PLC but is independent of the hardware, meaning that users can access the controller and all its functions via a mobile device. This mobile access capability allows users to increase or decrease the number of controller instances they need and only pay for those they are using.
The hardware independence of the virtual PLC means that it can be downloaded and integrated into an IT environment. Siemens says the virtual PLC software will run on computers with Industrial Edge Run Time in the factory while the hardware remains on the shop floor.
Two key capabilities enabled by the virtual PLC on the Industrial Edge platform are:
- Software updates to the PLC are streamlined because all software updates can be managed centrally with the Industrial Edge Management system. Also, different scenarios and configurations can also be tested virtually first before deploying changes.
- The closer coupling of IT and OT (operations technology) enabled by the virtual PLC and the Industrial Edge platform enables more data-driven decisions related to plant floor performance, productivity, flexibility and sustainability while maintaining plant security.
In the video below, Chris Liu of Siemens Digital Industries explains Siemens Industrial Edge platform and highlights the Simatic S7-1500V virtual PLC.