Humans don’t want to think about the data being gathered until it suits their schedule, or when problems require immediate attention.
ILS Technology is one of the companies tackling this challenge, providing software that helps automate the data flow. Its DeviceWise tools make it simple to set up reporting structures and quickly set or change the data that’s gathered from various nodes.
“Without programming, people can select the payloads they want to send upstairs, for example. You can pick things like the high, low or average of 50 variables you want to monitor every 10 minutes and send that data up to the enterprise,” says Fred Yentz, chief operating officer at ILS, of Boca Raton, Fla.
Much of the benefit comes from transferring data from equipment on the plant floor up to the front-office systems. However, data flows both ways. “It isn’t just data collection that’s uploaded. We can receive instructions from the enterprise side and do something downstream,” says John Keever, chief technology officer at ILS.
When companies want to print serial numbers or other changing data, the software gathers the necessary information from the host, then manages it until the job is finished. “If you’re printing at very high speeds, we can load a very specific set of print codes and validate each batch, then go to the enterprise and get another batch,” Yentz says. A big benefit is that these actions can take place even if the network connection is lost. That eliminates the waste that can occur when network connections are lost at about the time jobs should end.
The software doesn’t require a lot of hardware. “DeviceWise can be on a card you buy from someone like Mitsubishi. A non-embedded version, DeviceWise Enterprise, reaches down through the network and grabs data,” Yentz says.
Once installed in one of those fashions, the data handling software leverages the computing capability that’s scattered throughout modern networks. “There’s so much processing capability in devices that we can do more critical processing of information,” Keever says. “We have access to simple serial devices like hand scanners, but we don’t go into things like microsensors,” he adds.
Reflecting the openness of modern networks, security is also addressed. When remote access is granted to people outside the plant, DeviceWise provides a way to add some checks and balances. That eliminates concerns that can arise when someone comes in remotely and has nearly unlimited access to devices on the network.
“We let management set policies for remote connectivity and we audit activity. We set where people can go, whether they can write files or only read them. We can also limit how long they stay on the network,” Yentz says.
To view the Feature Article, "Ethernet's not the Only Game in Town", go to www.automationworld.com/view-4202.