Over the past year, I’ve seen an increasing number of displays at industry events showcasing the various ways in which automation suppliers are responding to customer requests to outfit machine automation systems with Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities. One of the more recent examples I encountered was the Bevcorp display of a 72-can filler destined for use by Coca-Cola at Rockwell Automation Fair.
As interest in the Internet of Things increases among industrial end users of all sizes, manufacturers looking to take the plunge are learning that they need to construct their IoT initiative by cobbling together many disparate technologies. The alternative approach, like the Coca-Cola/Bevcorp example cited above, is to require the automation supplier to compile the constituent IoT pieces for the OEM or end user. But that’s not an option for most manufacturers.
To help ease the process of configuring a complete Industrial IoT (IIoT) initiative, industrial networking technology supplier Hilscher North America has formed an IIoT Solutions marketing cooperation agreement with middleware-vendor Cirrus Link Solutions and SCADA-supplier Inductive Automation. This cooperation among the three companies draws on IIoT products and services currently available from the three vendors:
- Hilscher North America supplies its netIOT Edge Gateways for gathering data from manufacturing plants and making it available via the MQTT protocol.
- Cirrus Link Solutions, with its MQTT software and server products, enables distribution of machine and device data to users and returns processed results to the plant. Read more about how MQTT functions and enables IIoT. “The merging of IT and OT systems require the fast transmission of data from sensors up to high level corporate platforms and back,” says Cirrus Link Solutions CEO Arlen Nipper. “Our MQTT middleware servers and enablement tools take the raw data from Hilscher’s Edge Gateways and publish meaningful information for Ignition to deliver to end users.”
- Inductive Automation offers its Ignition SCADA system to assimilate the Cirrus Link data and present it anywhere in the enterprise or on mobile devices. Hilscher and Cirrus Link enhance our modular SCADA capability “all the way to the edge of the enterprise,” says Don Pearson, Inductive Automation’s chief strategy officer. “Anyone with access to Ignition can now acquire, analyze, display and process plant information from across the enterprise within minutes.”
“Collectively, we can offer a unique technology combination that opens up advanced monitoring, analysis, management and maintenance benefits,” says Phil Marshall, CEO of Hilscher North America. “Our combined resources put the big operational gains promised by IIoT within easy reach of any enterprise.”
I asked Craig Lentzkow, Hilscher’s business development manager, about the origins of this alliance between the three companies. He explained that the genesis of the agreement came about because of each company’s plan to create “an open, low-complexity and reasonable cost IIoT data collection solution for end users and system integrators. We wanted the data and information to be highly distributable and available to IT systems for asset management, data analytics and predictive maintenance.”
Hilscher, Cirrus Link Solutions and Inductive Automation began working together last year to “implement a complete bottom-to-top solution for our customers,” said Lentzkow. “We decided that the best way to bring this customer solution to market was to form a cooperation between our companies that would market the combined solutions.”
With the recent announcement of the agreement, Hilscher is not yet able to reveal the details of companies using this combination of technologies. However, Lentzkow noted that “we are cooperatively working on projects in the automotive, oil and gas pipeline and utilities industries.”
Referencing the growing level of industry partnerships, like this one, around IIoT enablement, Lentzkow added, “This agreement is symptomatic of a new trend in automation—no one can effectively do IIoT alone. As OT merges with IT, there’s more and more call for data to be made available across the enterprise. Our collaborative solution offers fresh options for making quantum leaps in manufacturing and management efficiency. And we can deliver all this today.”