The Internet of Things is fueled by data—data collected at every point of the automation process. This is true for any device that exists within your network. Whether it be Ethernet-connected or wireless, these devices are collecting data. A major trend at the Automation Fair was the ability to collect data and translate it into useful information. Rockwell Automation unveiled different levels of technology scalable for OEMs into the world of IoT.
Rockwell Automation introduced three device-level interfaces to help operators make faster and more informed decisions. The first was the Allen-Bradley ControlLogix compute module, which allows users to add IoT platforms (powered by Windows) directly into the Logix system in existing applications, and provides high-speed access to ControlLogix data across the backplane. The second device was an Allen-Bradley CompactLogix 5480 controller. It combines Allen-Bradley Logix5000 control and Windows-based computing into one controller. The controller supports data collection, analytics, and predictive computations. Third was the Allen-Bradley VersaView 5000 industrial computers, which provide modern visualization and data aggregation for smart manufacturing. These computers use an open architecture design so that users can install software specific to their applications. Rockwell Automation and their Encompass Partner applications run directly on the device while allowing users to visualize this data on an integrated or external industrial monitor.
Each of these devices are ideal for meeting the demands of high-performance production lines and information-driven smart machines. “Time is of the essence in industrial operations, so it’s critical that workers be able to consume data as close as possible to where it’s produced,” said Greg Gernert, global business manager, Rockwell Automation.
Companies can take advantage of the system- and plant-level computing capabilities of the VersaView industrial computers. The Industrial Data Center (IDC) tracks productivity and downtime data while providing predictive maintenance. The scalable, pre-engineered IDC provides all the hardware needed to run multiple operating systems and applications from virtualized servers. Rockwell Automation can install, configure, and manage the IDC as part of its Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering.
At the enterprise level, companies can use the IDC either as an IaaS offering or as a private, on-premises cloud platform. FactoryTalk Cloud, a public, remotely administered cloud platform powered by Windows Azure, can help industrial companies monitor remote assets, track historical data, and analyze multisite performance. It also can help OEMs better monitor and support machines after they are deployed with customers.
FactoryTalk Analytics and TeamOne Software is how Rockwell is able to provide useful and insightful IoT data to their users on every device, whether it be a computer terminal or mobile device.
All of this data is then translated into FactoryTalk Analytics. FactoryTalk Analytics is powered by Microsoft—by Cortana’s search engine, in particular. All of the data is collected, analyzed, and presented as useful information. FactoryTalk Analytics delivers real-time asset health and diagnostic information to the VersaView 5000 industrial computers. FactoryTalk provides users real-time automation notifications directly to smart mobile devices. The variety of platforms also gives users flexibility to meet individual application needs. Rockwell has also partnered with Festo to integrate their Motion Terminal Data with FactoryTalk Analytics. The potential future of FactoryTalk is that other companies can integrate their IoT data into one large user friendly system.
The future of data is also bleeding over into the realm of mixed reality. At the Innovations Showcase, Rockwell displayed how it plans to use Microsoft’s HoloLens and IoT data. Working with the HoloLens, they can project human machine interface (HMI) panels with ongoing real-time data. The user can interact with these virtual panels to manipulate the automation line. The data on these HMI screens will come from the FactoryTalk Analytics Software. It is safe to say that the main focus of Automation Fair 2017 was that data should be everywhere, but not just pointless raw data—rather, data that has been analyzed and harnessed to benefit the user experience, providing process improvements and product efficiency.