As a Product Manager, I often discuss connectivity challenges with organizations and advise them on how to use Kepware solutions to gather machine data to uncover operational efficiencies. With the business value of the Internet of Things (IoT) established and recognized, I speak with more and more organizations that are evaluating how to implement IoT initiatives to improve factory performance and stay competitive in today’s global market.
One of the biggest hurdles these organizations must overcome is connectivity. Factory floors often house equipment that may have been installed ten, twenty or even thirty years ago. These industrial assets were built to last, but they lack the internet-based connectivity required to integrate with today’s modern machines. With promised benefits of increased visibility, uptime and profitability, asset integration is a challenge that must be resolved to build an IoT ecosystem.
KEPServerEX® version 6.4 expands interoperability with a new MQTT Client driver, enhanced system functionality, and new performance features.
As with every KEPServerEX release, our developers spent a lot of time figuring out what users need and how to build solutions that meet those needs today—and into the future. For this product release blog post, we're showcasing the strategic development behind the functionality.
We talked to three Kepware software professionals about what they worked on and their goals for this release. Watch the videos below to learn about how the teams at PTC Kepware created KEPServerEX version 6.4 to optimize your industrial automation and help you overcome data connectivity challenges.
We look at many different factors when planning a KEPServerEX release. As we develop our product roadmap and decide how to enhance and update KEPServerEX, it all comes back to one question: What do users need?
The answer this time was “customization and control.” KEPServerEX version 6.3 includes new enhancements and drivers that were designed to give you flexibility in how you connect industrial assets to critical applications—regardless of device type and location. KEPServerEX version 6.3 gives you more customization options for time syncing, complete remote management and configuration control of all remote KEPServerEX instances, and streamlined control over your Internet of Things (IoT) projects—including configuring, deploying, and adjusting—through a single user interface.
There are a lot of marketing buzzwords surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT) these days. Enough to dilute the true purpose of the IoT and cause disillusionment for people curious about its real advantages. Many of the endless streams of articles, conferences, and journals focused on the IoT are actually useful and enlightening—but the quality of IoT content as a whole has been impaired by companies stuffing IoT-related buzzwords into every possible phrase to try to increase their search engine ranking.
Wouldn't you like to see more substance behind all that IoT marketing fluff? Wouldn't you like to know why IoT is truly different, effective, and revolutionary? Wouldn't it be great if every IoT article came with a jargon decoder that told you if the IoT in reference was related to IoT concepts in general, or consumer products, or the manufacturing industry, or smart cities, or home automation, or artificial intelligence, and so on?
Well, I wish I could do all that for you in a few paragraphs on this blog post, but I can't. What I can do is give you the three tips that work for me when I’m trying to cut through the hype.
At Acton Elementary School, they’ve added one more “r” to the traditional reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic: Robotics. With help from the Kepware® School Grant Program, Acton students are learning how to create and program complex, autonomous robots—and maybe how to save the world.
A PLC is unexpectedly offline, but the controls engineer doesn't know about it—and once informed, cannot easily trace its root cause. A plant line is under performing, but the plant manager doesn't have any visibility into the factory lines to understand why—or how performance can be improved. A machine is out of its normal operating range, but the maintenance team doesn’t know the status of the anomaly—or what level of maintenance is needed to fix it.
If you work on a factory floor, chances are that one—or all—of those scenarios sound familiar. Everyone recognizes the problems caused by latent data and low visibility into plant floor assets, but there hasn't been a simple solution to address these unique challenges—until now.
Last month, I presented a one-hour webinar on the industrial Internet of Things (IoT). After describing what the industrial IoT means to Kepware, I explored three real-world use cases by Kepware customers:
- Industrial data over web services for manufacturing execution
- Mobile and web interfaces for manufacturing systems
- Industrial data for Cloud and Big Data systems
These use cases demonstrate how real-world companies are solving their industrial connectivity challenges and improving traceability, visibility, and product quality with industrial IoT solutions. But with so much to cover during the webinar, I didn't have time to answer each question that was asked. With topics spanning everything from IoT Gateway agent features to data buffering and vendor-specific connectivity, I thought it would be helpful to re-visit and share them.
On April 8, KEPServerEX® version 6.1 hit the market—with updates and features built to meet your evolving industrial connectivity needs. Today’s release of KEPServerEX version 6.2 furthers these enhancements with new functionality for the CODESYS Ethernet driver, a new TIA Portal Exporter utility, Configuration API support for the EFM Exporter, improved interoperability with the ThingWorx® IoT Platform, and updates to more than 19 other server components, drivers, and advanced plug-ins.
Version 6.2 broadens the already expansive portfolio of devices to which KEPServerEX can connect—and provides new tools so that connecting those devices to diverse applications is easier and quicker than ever before. You can learn about version 6.2's key features below; for more in-depth information please attend the "KEPServerEX Version 6.2 Release Webinar" on June 14 at 10:00 AM EDT.
With its abundance of remote assets, complex interconnectivity across SCADA devices, and focus on safe and efficient processes, today’s Energy Industry is well-positioned to take advantage of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
But despite the potential benefits, concerns with IIoT solutions' implementation, cost, and reliability still remain. In his new whitepaper, PTC’s Stephen Sponseller explores the challenges of the IIoT for the Energy Industry—and how edge computing solutions are helping fill in the gaps.
Read the excerpt below for a preview, and download the full whitepaper for an in-depth look at how edge devices are contributing to improved decision-making, increased safety, and lowered costs across the Energy Industry.
I am excited to announce the release of KEPServerEX® Version 6.1! This release builds on the usability and performance enhancements of Version 6, while strengthening the industrial connectivity platform’s core functionalities and enabling further device connectivity across the plant floor.
Version 6.1 includes new OPC UA Client driver enhancements, additional Configuration API capabilities, streamlined ThingWorx® and KEPServerEX integration, and two new solutions: a Siemens Plus Suite that incorporates Siemens-approved OPC UA functionality and a new driver supporting CODESYS Version 2.3 connectivity. These enhancements were designed to help bridge the gap between Operations and IT, for seamless enterprise-wide operational intelligence and optimized Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connectivity.
On February 24, I presented "Collecting Industrial IoT Sensor Data through the KEPServerEX® User-Configurable Driver," a live webinar on how the User Configurable (U-CON) driver for KEPServerEX can help optimize the new breed of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) smart sensors. Attendees sent in great questions and comments throughout the webinar, but due to time constraints I couldn't answer every question asked.
The Q&A pairs below address the topics I didn't have time for during the webinar. I hope that this background information on the U-CON driver will give you the confidence and enthusiasm to explore how it can optimize your smart manufacturing tools.
Many of the promised benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) did not capture the imagination of SCADA professionals a year or two ago. Why not? Because many of the IIoT capabilities lauded as “visionary” match what they have been accomplishing for decades.
Today’s manufacturing plant floor has inherent automation and connectivity challenges. Real-time production control and data analysis requires seamless connectivity across the enterprise—but disparate machinery, devices, and applications can’t always communicate effectively (or at all). Valuable information can be lost in this connectivity gap—at the cost of safety, productivity, efficiency, and profitability.
In October 2015, Kepware released the IoT Gateway advanced plug-in. Leveraging the 150+ drivers within the KEPServerEX® connectivity platform, the IoT Gateway streams real-time industrial data directly into Big Data and analytic software applications. It extends KEPServerEX connectivity to include web-based client applications and helps users create a more connected enterprise.
Since the release of the IoT Gateway, we’ve received questions about its ability to issue an HTTP GET request from our RESTful Client and retrieve data from a RESTful Server within KEPServerEX. Although this functionality is not included in the IoT Gateway, you can retrieve data from a RESTful server for use in KEPServerEX via Kepware's User Configurable (U-CON) driver.
In today's fast-paced world of technology, new software can reshape industries overnight. But while the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is everywhere now—connecting millions of devices, machines, sensors, and systems throughout the world—it is anything but an overnight sensation. Over the past 50 years, technological milestones big and small—from large-scale system architecture breakthroughs to modest "Eureka" moments—have led to today's IIoT and are still informing predictions for tomorrow's industrial landscape.
When Kepware developed the Version 5 licensing model eight years ago, our customer base was very different than the one we have today. Our customers now have ever-increasing license counts, with more global operations and increased restrictions from IT. The Version 5 licensing model required a manual “round-trip” with our server for every licensed component (from drivers to advanced plug-ins to support), which created an overly burdensome process—especially for customers with multiple licenses. In KEPServerEX® Version 6, we wanted to improve customer experience and streamline this licensing process.
Our ongoing blog series on the new features of KEPServerEX® Version 6 has covered a lot of ground. We’ve described how Version 6 addresses the ever-changing industrial connectivity needs of our customers, offering native OPC UA technology, a new Configuration API, and an updated user interface. In these posts, we’ve strived to highlight the key goals of Version 6: streamlining server management and deployment, and increasing product scalability and IT-friendliness.
KEPServerEX® Version 6 is the result of nearly two years of planning and development work. Much of this effort was focused on architectural changes designed to meet the evolving industrial connectivity needs of our customers, culminating into a more positive and efficient user experience. All components of Version 6 strive to support and streamline the installation, deployment, and maintenance of our customers' projects—and the new user interface (UI) is no exception.
KEPServerEX users are accustomed to interacting with a simple yet capable UI. With Version 6, we hope to deliver the most positive user experience on the market while also building a foundation to better support future improvements. To learn more about the improved KEPServerEX UI, please read the Q&A pairs below.
On November 15, 2016, Kepware released KEPServerEX® Version 6. One of the major features of this update is the Configuration Application Programmable Interface (API), which addresses previous limitations related to remote programmatic configuration.
The Q&A pairs below provide more information on Configuration API and how it can help with your KEPServerEX projects.
On November 15, 2016, Kepware released KEPServerEX® Version 6. This major update includes native development of core OPC UA technology, which provides improved performance, enhanced diagnostics, and a solid foundation for continued OPC UA functionality enhancements.
To learn more about the OPC UA technology developed for Version 6, please read the Q&A pairs below.
Kepware is excited to announce the launch of KEPServerEX® Version 6. The first major release since 2009, Version 6 is designed to meet your evolving industrial connectivity needs.
Although I have only recently learned about Extra Life, its goals have really resonated with me. It's a 24-hour event where people across the country play any game they want—from board games to video games to sporting games—and all the money they raise directly supports their chosen Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospital. Since starting in 2008, Extra Life has raised more than $22 million for local CMN Hospitals, enabling them to spend the money in a way that makes the biggest impact in the lives of the kids they treat.
In KEPServerEX® version 5.21, Kepware’s industrial connectivity platform expanded interoperability with the ThingWorx® IoT Platform, the industry’s leading application development platform for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Both KEPServerEX and ThingWorx are extremely flexible, and can be deployed in many different environments and integrated with a variety of solutions to meet customer needs. To support this wide range of use and application, Kepware extended the integration options available for connectivity between the platforms—providing users the ability to select the best integration method for their systems.
On June 30, Kepware concluded its first installment of the IoT Webinar Series. The series shares breakthrough technology for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and explores a wide range of solutions made possible by integrating KEPServerEX with IoT Alliance member offerings. Use cases and real-world applications ranged from condition-based monitoring and predictive maintenance to machine learning, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and big data analytics.
In the spring of 2015, Kepware was presented with the opportunity to help design a Kepware-inspired lab in the Barrows Engineering Hall at the University of Maine Orono. The Kepware team approached the interior design endeavor as we would any other project that would bear the Kepware name: we collaborated with our phenomenal design team at Workplace Transformation Facilitation, led by Lisa Whited. Thus began the thoughtful approach to designing a space for UMO students that would foster collaboration, promote focus space, and create an engaging learning experience for students—all while utilizing the Kepware aesthetic and passion for a progressively-designed workspace. Kepware’s bright colors, flexible workspaces, and choice in seating and work environment all needed to translate to this learning lab at UMO. Students and faculty needed to feel like they had walked from a hallway in a university building into a space that could be found in our Portland office.
We have been talking about the shift in the industry health for oil and gas as the supply crosses under demand. It appears a few other unforeseen elements are weighing in as well. But one interesting shift is the change in mood of professional bloggers and writers. As of late, there has been an appearance of optimism and a general recognition of the profitability of $50-$60/BL oil.
Today, customers expect products to “just work” and be free of defects and bugs. While warranty programs have become more and more gracious to help manage this expectation, the inconvenience and frustration of managing a return may ultimately still result in a negative customer experience. Redeemed warranties are also expensive for vendors due to the short-term impact on revenue and long-term impact on market share and brand reputation. In the industrial world, downtime and safety are the cost of poor quality and unstable software—which can have a dramatic impact on business.
As a member of the Sales Team here at Kepware, I’m often the first point of contact with our customers. It's fascinating to hear about the countless ways people are using Kepware products, and rewarding to help solve their challenges and answer their questions. There's one question in particular that comes up frequently and in various forms: How is KEPServerEX licensed and what does it cost?
To help shed some light on this, I have picked the top five common questions that the Sales Team receives on this topic. Read on to see the questions and their answers below.
It’s becoming clear that fully-integrated Building Management Systems (BMS) monitor and control all major building components and systems—from lighting and HVAC to security and access control—are the future of the building automation market. And as more advanced hardware and software solutions enter market, it is imperative that facility managers and building owners design with interoperability and open standards in mind. This approach enables current and legacy components and systems to be effectively and efficiently integrated.
Here at Kepware, we have a small team of employees that get together and talk about how to motivate people to get active and live a healthy lifestyle. These discussions usually result in organizing a health-related “event” that is open to the entire company. Events include weekly workout classes, seasonal fitness challenges, and—my favorite—scavenger hunts. While the first two are effective in getting people to the Kepware gym, it's the scavenger hunts that attract the most employees and get a lot of buzz in the office.
You may be asking yourself, how can a scavenger hunt motivate people to live a healthy lifestyle? It's a good question. Let me explain by describing our latest event, the Winter Scavenger Hunt.
Last March, Kepware started accepting applications for its second annual school grant contest. Committed to advancing STEM education and workforce development in Maine, Kepware’s goal was to help alleviate the technology gap and provide students the tools they need to excel in the classroom and beyond.
In recent years, the number of manufacturers leveraging the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to improve productivity, reduce defects, and gain more visibility into the operation of their facilities has increased dramatically. A recent survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that over one-third of U.S. manufacturers consider it “extremely critical” to have an IIoT strategy implemented in their operation. Similarly, a survey from LNS Research with over 600 respondents found that 34 percent of companies are currently adopting IoT—a figure that will undoubtedly continue to grow in the coming years.
In my previous post, I walked you through a common situation where there is no “out-of-the-box” solution available for connecting a device into an existing automation system. Today, I’m going to demonstrate how you can create a custom driver with Kepware’s User Configurable (U-CON) driver.
I recently experienced some technology integration headaches. I tried to install a smart thermostat in my home only to find my ancient furnace uses two wires instead of the requisite four. I was road-blocked trying to get this new technology integrated into old technology, and it turned out to be much more involved—and expensive—than I anticipated.
In my previous post, we took an academic look at how Kepware’s development teams leverage the Scrum framework to continuously improve their processes. Today, we’re going to take a deeper dive into what that looks like in practical terms, using one specific team called “Coyote” as an example.
On December 15, Kepware hosted an IoT-themed Tweet Chat. During the one-hour event, R&D Lead Aron Semle, Product Manager Erik Dellinger, and a team of Kepware employees joined IoT Alliance members, industry affiliates, and the global Twitter community to discuss the Internet of Things and Industrial Automation. We received so many thoughtful responses, comments, and conversations that we'd like to share them with you here.
The Automation Fair® (hosted by Rockwell Automation) took place November 18 and 19 in Chicago, Illinois at McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America. The theme was Connected Enterprise, and the hot topic on the show floor was IIoT—the Industrial Internet of Things. Check out the video below for some highlights from Kepware, including an interview with IoT Major Account Manager Alex Herbert, an excerpt from R&D Lead Aron Semle’s presentation “Industrial Internet of Things and Communications at the Edge," and some great show floor footage.
On November 5, 2015, Kepware’s Erik Dellinger (Product Manager – IoT Solutions) and Joanne Bacharach (Senior Applications Engineer) hosted a webinar that provided a virtual tour of KEPServerEX version 5.19, featuring the new IoT Gateway.
The webinar attendance and engagement were really staggering. In fact, it was the largest webinar in Kepware history, with over a thousand users registered for the virtual event. While Erik and Joanne discussed real-world IoT use cases and provided live product demonstrations, a team of Kepware Applications Engineers worked frantically to respond to the questions and comments that poured in throughout the webinar. We received such great questions that we decided to share the most popular questions (and their responses) with you here.
Check out the Q&A pairs below to learn more about the IoT Gateway for KEPServerEX, which streams industrial data into the Cloud or on-premise solutions for real-time analytics. The Q&A pairs include information on IoT Gateway application support, configuration, functionality, and security.
Seven years ago, I started working as a Technical Writer for Kepware. I brought grammar and technical writing knowledge and authoring software expertise to my role, and thought I was ready to dive into our library of product manuals. Little did I know exactly how long it would take me to learn the abbreviations commonly used within our different vertical industries. Understanding the different terms for systems, networks, and processes was one thing; mastering the different protocols—and discerning when to use one over another—was entirely different.
With the help of patient colleagues, technical resources, and time, I was able to create a foundation of knowledge that continues to expand today. As industry turns its attention toward the Internet of Things and Industrie 4.0, the abbreviations and definitions added to our language (and my Kepware dictionary) multiplies.
In the world of Scrum, you sometimes hear about teams being "self-actualized." This term is thrown around by thought leaders and practitioners, but what does it mean? "Self-actualization" refers to teams firing on all cylinders and being a "well-oiled machine"—or in plainer terms, achieving their full potential. The more important question, however, is how do we help teams achieve this elusive, optimal state?
I first heard the term self-actualization when studying psychology in college. There, I learned about the concept of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. In short, it is represented by a pyramid, with a person’s most basic needs at the bottom and most complex and abstract needs at the top.
In last week's post, I introduced four teams that were impacted by Kepware's shift to a new development philosophy and internal structure. Today, I'll describe our two remaining engineering teams and detail how our separate but synchronous development efforts impact Kepware's product release schedule.
Over the years, Kepware has grown from an ad-hoc group of engineers working to identify what products would have the biggest impact with our customer base to a formalized structure of teams—each focused on addressing an aspect of the development and maintenance cycle. This evolution came with a cost as it involved discussion of the new structure, retraining to the new paradigm, and personnel dedicated to roles that were previously handled by people wearing multiple hats. In the end, it has proven a worthwhile investment as we are better able to track changes in our customers’ requirements and quickly develop products to meet their needs. Below, I will introduce you to the groups that help Kepware build a world-class communications platform.
Redundancy is something that every company strives for in their automated process, but is one of the hardest functionalities to implement successfully. Companies across the globe are working with solutions comprised of disparate devices, HMI/SCADA systems, historians, and MES systems—each of which has various support for integrating a redundant solution. As an Applications Engineer at Kepware, I have the privilege of answering the question, “How can we implement a redundant automated solution?”
I’m happy to say that by leveraging Kepware’s portfolio of products, redundancy is possible even for customers with unique environments. One of the tools we provide is Media Level Redundancy, an advanced option for KEPServerEX that is supported in Master drivers and drivers that do not require third-party interface cards or library files. Accessed in KEPServerEX through the driver's Device Properties | Redundancy tab, Media Level Redundancy (MLR) was enhanced in the June 2015 release of KEPServerEX version 5.18.
On-the-fly, real-time, dynamic—these are all words we use to describe how we want our software to work. Change is happening all the time in plants, and we need software that can keep pace with it without requiring that systems be shut down and rebooted. That’s why I’m excited to share a new feature we’ve added to KEPServerEX version 5.18 that will make your life easier.
At Kepware Technologies, “Quality in everything we do” is not only one of our core values—it’s the foundation for how we recruit and retain our esteemed employees. From application to offer letter, we strive to make your experience with us one that accurately reflects Kepware’s unique values, culture, and industry.
I recently attended a Kepware company meeting and left excited that we are about to enter the “Wild West” of technology, where opportunities seem endless. I am referring to the Internet of Things (IoT).
As a member of the Sales team, I typically work with folks on the plant floor or "in the trenches” at some of largest companies in the world—and we often lose sight of the big picture. Phrases like the “Internet of Things” are tossed around but not put into practice. As many of us know, these new technologies and ideas take quite some time to become a reality. But as IoT becomes more than just a buzzword, I felt the need to explore this phenomena and how, in a general sense, Kepware may be a key participant. As a sales-oriented individual, I immediately asked myself what value could Kepware bring to the IoT that inherently exposes opportunities?
HANNOVER MESSE 2015 took place in Hannover, Germany from April 13 to 17 this year and can be described in one word: massive. From the size of the facilities to the number of people in attendance to the special guests—everything was massive. Each year, Deutsch Messe AG hosts one of the world’s biggest industrial fairs, and a few hundred thousand people attend to see exhibitors from all over the world and all walks of industry. With exhibits ranging from dancing robots to mini windfarms—and speakers including Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi—it is hard to find another show of its magnitude anywhere.
Last November, Kepware opened a 1,200 square foot fitness room on the second floor of our headquarters in Portland, Maine. It is a fantastic space! Called "KepGym," it has some really great equipment—including treadmills, exercise bikes, elliptical trainers, and weight training equipment. It also has an adjacent yoga room with a lot of floor space for stretching or yoga. Early in the morning, during lunch, or after work, you will often find Kepwarians in the KepGym running on the treadmill, lifting weights, or training to their favorite exercise video in the yoga room.
As spring takes its sweet time entering the Northeast, we here at Kepware are trudging full-steam ahead to a busy tradeshow season. From Oil & Gas to Automation, Power, Wind, and the Internet of Things (IoT), there is no shortage of tradeshows in Q2. In fact, Kepware will be attending 16 industry events this spring.
What’s the saying? One of the keys to success is seeing challenges as opportunities? Practically overnight, the upstream Oil & Gas Industry has faced the challenge of having the value of their product roughly cut in half. Not only are they dealing with less revenue coming in, but their company valuation took a hit too.
Last week, I described several challenges that SCADA engineers face while determining a remote data acquisition schedule. I also shared the top seven features that our market research identified as helping to resolve those issues. Today, I'm happy to introduce Kepware’s new Scheduler Plug-In for KEPServerEX, which allows our industry-leading communications platform to take on the role of a dedicated polling engine. We’ve designed the Scheduler’s UI with the same clean, minimalist look and feel that users expect from Kepware products. This means we paid attention to reducing mouse clicks and creating intuitive and tidy organizational structures, wizard-driven configuration for more complex features, and a workflow design that is consistent with all of the other tools that you’re used to using within KEPServerEX.
For folks out there in SCADA engineering, whether fresh data is arriving on your control screens or not is particularly important. In certain environments (like high-speed manufacturing systems), the decision process around what data to read when and at what frequency sometimes can be as simple as determining the fastest rate of change of your most frequently changing data point—and then designing your control system to request all of your data at least twice as fast as this rate. Yes, it is extremely nice to have dedicated, fast data pipes for all of your important process data. But for SCADA engineers in environments where devices potentially exist hundreds of miles away from a central SCADA operations center, running dedicated cabling to these locations is cost prohibitive if not logistically impossible. This means that to connect to equipment, an organization is often using leased and shared Ethernet or telephone lines or utilizing wireless data transfer technologies like radio, cellular, and microwave. These transfer mediums don’t usually offer anywhere near the performance that you’d need for a one-size-fits-all style of data collection frequency.
In April 2013, Kepware released a case study featuring SIGIT Automation, a privately-owned Controls and Automation system integration company that serves the Petroleum and Energy industries. I came across it again the other day while perusing our library of case studies, and was reminded of what an interesting application story they had. Faced with challenges that ranged from data collection to interoperability, SIGIT was able to integrate KEPServerEX with their existing e-SCADA™ system to improve their real-time and EFM data monitoring. Read on for an overview of their challenges, solution, and results.
Communication issues within industrial or information technology networks are some of the hardest to troubleshoot and isolate in any industry. Even a simple network has a variety of potential failure points. Are packets getting dropped by a router? Is a device unresponsive because of too many requests? Is the device configuration incorrect and preventing the proper establishment of communications? Luckly, there are a variety of tools and techniques available to help isolate the root of these issues. One of the more powerful tools available is an application called Wireshark.
Before the introduction of OPC, client software vendors were responsible for writing their own device communication drivers. Any time an application needed to access data from a new device, a new driver had to be written. This approach worked fine when each vendor included all the connectivity requirements that their end users needed. But when they did not, end users were stuck with inaccessible silos of data.
This year, we've been committed to providing our customers and partners with insights into our company, products, and industry trends through the Kepware Blog. With 24 blog posts spanning a myriad of topics, I thought it’d be interesting to look back on the year and recap our five most popular posts. Click the image below for the list and links to the blog posts in full.
Over the past two years, I’ve met with companies from various industries to discuss their automation architecture. A common theme in these meetings is the desire to define and implement a standard that can be adopted globally. The idea is to create a complete view or snapshot for management to monitor. Getting data in the hands of decision-makers quickly and reliably allows for efficient decisions to be made—whether it’s cars being manufactured, food being processed, machines being built, or goods being packaged. As companies expand their reach in our global economy, identifying and tracking all information in a factory process is essential for growing revenue.
If you are familiar with Splunk, then your first thought may be that they are an Operational Intelligence company gathering Big Data generated from log files within a data center. While this is true, it does not paint the entire picture of Splunk’s efforts around Big Data. Splunk has recently partnered with Kepware to harness data from the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). This blog will discuss some possible benefits of industrial machine data as part of business and operational intelligence strategy. It will also demonstrate the practical applications of the new partnership between Kepware and Splunk.
“With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Although a cheesy quote from a comic book-inspired movie, it is surprisingly relevant to the Automation Industry. As data becomes increasingly valuable, it unfortunately also becomes more vulnerable. From the number of bottles filled in a processing line to the type of soda selected at the movie theater, data is being gathered all around us to provide better analytics and enable improved business decisions. Making sure that this data stays in the appropriate hands can make all the difference.
Our recent "KEPServerEX Version 5.16 Release Webinar" toured the new products and enhancements now available in the latest release of our flagship product. To learn more about the webinar and gain access to additional KEPServerEX version 5.16 resources, read our latest infographic below.
Many people ask, "What is the optimal architecture for KEPServerEX within a plant; how many servers and where?" As with most questions of this nature, the short answer is that it depends, but there is some guidance we can provide.
Process data is important: it’s the fuel for process improvement. As such, there are many tools to record, analyze, and report on process data. KEPServerEX provides two of these tools with the DataLogger and Local Historian plug-ins.
You may have heard of the new malware on the street targeting Industrial Control Systems called Havex. It isn't the first malware to target our industry (Stuxnet), but there are two things that make it interesting.
First, its primary attack vector is vendor installers. The folks behind Havex compromise vendors’ websites and add “bad” code to the vendor installer (“mbcheck.dll” and “mbcheck.exe”). Customers download the installer and become instantly infected. The Trojan calls to command and control servers, which are really just compromised websites (like blogs). From there, the hackers have free reign to push bad code down to the machine.
Kepware’s products span multiple different industry verticals. While product growth at Kepware has been strong across the board, I wanted to highlight our top 5 fastest growing industry segments so that you can see the breadth of industries that are taking advantage of our software solutions. Our growing presence across these industries highlights both the increasing demand in many areas for the ability to connect disparate devices and applications (ranging from plant control systems to enterprise information systems) and Kepware’s commitment to delivering quality solutions to these markets.
OPC UA was designed with security in mind. One of the key ways OPC UA protects the integrity and confidentially of messages is through message encryption and signing. Although this sounds fancy, the technologies OPC UA uses to achieve this have a direct impact on how end users interact with OPC UA products. This blog describes that technology, and details how to use it to make secure OPC UA connections.
When discussing optimized automation systems, network communications are a common concern because of their significant complexity. Luckily, KEPServerEX has a number of tools available that make difficult optimizations easy to implement. In the first of a series of posts on project optimization, I will outline the optimization tools available to just one of the elements of a KEPServerEX project: the channel.
Training classes can sometimes be a gamble. You may sign up for a course without always knowing exactly what’s going to happen. You might wonder: will this provide useful information that applies to my everyday work? Will the class be engaging? Will the other attendees prove to be valuable contacts?
The Kepware Customized Training Program answers “Yes!” to all these questions and more. Read on to learn what attendees are exposed to during Kepware's training courses.
Making the adjustment from a college lifestyle into the professional working environment has caused me a great deal of stress and anxiety up until this summer. No help to the matter was the fact that I had yet to pursue an internship before I had the opportunity to join Kepware Technologies as their first Sales intern. I had many misconceptions about what an internship would entail, but I quickly realized how meaningful a position like this can be when you are surrounded by co-workers who understand its importance.
In the past six months, I’ve had the opportunity to travel the globe and speak with thought leaders from all aspects of the Automation Industry—from discrete manufacturing to Internet of Things (IoT) and everything in-between. It has truly been an amazing education! Among these distinct disciplines, it is clear that there are some exciting innovations and improvements on the horizon. I often find myself thinking about the possibilities and begin scripting what sounds like the narrative to a summer blockbuster movie trailer! Queue the deep voice with ominous tones…
Before I get into Kepware’s current implementation of the BACnet Calendar and Schedule Objects (available in KEPServerEX version 5.15 and later), we should cover objects in general terms. When we talk about objects, we are essentially talking about structured data. You can think of structured data as how we store and organize data so that it can be easily and efficiently referenced and used. For example, rather than reading your first name, your last name, and then your location, you read it all at once. Structured data is a collection of properties or attributes that can contain various information, some of which is useless on its own but paints a larger and more meaningful picture when combined.
Sysmac NJ is the new series of Machine Automation Controllers (MACs) from the device vendor Omron. The MAC is Omron's complete machine automation solution that combines logic, motion, vision, safety, robotics, and sensing. This means only one controller is needed for an entire machine or production cell.
Mobile technologies have exploded over the past few years with the advent of inexpensive and reliable mobile displays from Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung (to name a few). They have also evolved from a simple 4 inch display on a phone to a 13” tablet to wearables in the form of watches or Google Glass. With these mobile displays, workers have found it easier to access their corporate information systems, first starting with email and then moving to cloud-based applications like CRM systems. Now they are looking for access to real-time systems like SCADA and HMI.
Kepware recently visited the University of Maine's Brunswick Engineering Program. We were invited by Alex Friess, the director of the program, to attend the end-of-year project reports and demonstrations for their freshman class.
In 1914, Henry Ford’s vehicle assembly line produced an average of twenty Model Ts an hour. In 2014, some manufacturers roll more than eighty vehicles off one assembly line in the same amount of time. We have come a long way from the days when you could have any color Model T—as long as that color was black.
Click on the image below to view poll results from "Math, Logic, and More with KEPServerEX's Advanced Tags Plug-In," our latest webinar presented by Applications Engineer Sam Elsner. The webinar discussed the features and functionality available in the Advanced Tags Plug-In for KEPServerEX, as well as practical use cases for the various tag types. Learn how your peers handle PLC-to-PLC data exchange and automated logic—and get additional resources including the webinar recording—in the infographic below.
Anyone who feels pessimistic about the future of America should go to a robotics competition or at least watch the video I took at the FIRST Robotics Competition Pine Tree District event. Hundreds of New England high school students did "Gracious" battle at the Androscoggin Bank Colisée in Lewiston, Maine in front of 1,000 screaming, chanting fans. Teams from all over New England placed their robots on a 54 by 24 foot (about 16 by 7 meters) playing field, picked up 3 foot (about 1 meter) diameter bouncing balls, and threw them through targets and over obstacles—all while being bumped and blocked by other machines.
I recently read an article from the ARC Advisory Group discussing the industry’s latest hot topics around the Internet of Things (IoT). According to ARC, IoT is not necessarily a new concept in the industrial space—it has traditionally gone by Machine to Machine (M2M) and Industrial Ethernet, to name a couple. The differences with IoT today are centered on new technologies and better performance for traditional asset management and predictive maintenance systems. These new technologies are different in that they enable more connectivity through cloud-based applications, are storing and aggregating data more efficiently, and are providing better performance around mining the data that is collected.
Two and a half years ago, when Kepware was starting their development of gas EFM data collection from flow computers (like ABB Totalflow, Emerson's FloBoss and ROC800 series, and Schneider's SCADAPacks), I met with Flow-Cal's President and CEO, Mike Squyres, at the American School of Gas Measurement Technology. Just like Mr. McGuire advised Ben in the movie The Graduate that the future could be summarized in one word—"Plastics"—Mike advised me that the future of the Oil & Gas Measurement Industry was "Liquids." At that time, his company was working with midstream companies like DCP Midstream to develop and add liquid measurement support to Flow-Cal's industry-leading FLOWCAL Enterprise Gas measurement application.
Licensing a software application should be the simplest aspect of a new installation. The last thing anyone should struggle with when deploying new software is the licensing and activation process. Sadly, this is not always the case: complicated procedures, baffling documentation, required web connectivity, and a myriad of other obstacles often challenge end users when they are simply trying to turn their software “on.”
Click the image below to see poll results from “SNMP Connectivity with KEPServerEX," our latest webinar presented by Applications Engineer Joanne Okvath. This webinar covered SNMP terminology before describing how users can leverage Kepware’s SNMP Agent Plug-In and SNMP Driver in their network configurations. Learn more—and find additional resources including the webinar recording—in the infographic below.
At a recent company meeting, Kepware CEO Tony Paine said to me, “We just can’t find enough engineers in Maine to grow fast enough.”
What? There are more jobs available out there than people to fill them?
Beyond the basic needs for an OPC server, many companies have to move data between applications, devices, and systems. Kepware has two applications that move this data and share similar functionalities: LinkMaster (LM) and Advanced Tags (AT). Neither LinkMaster nor Advanced Tags have a tag limit, and both are equally reliable and work extremely well with any KEPServerEX driver. Deciding which one is right for your application can be tricky, however.
One of the challenges we see today that goes beyond technology is the convergence of Automation/Control and Information Technology (IT) systems and departments. Automation professionals want and need a hardened system. The systems they manage can and do run 24/7 without any major changes. If the IT department makes a decision to push down the latest anti-virus software, install the latest patches from an operating system update, or even something more significant like install a new operating system, production at a manufacturing facility could be taken offline for minutes to weeks. There is the potential when making IT system changes to make automation systems unusable. On the other hand, IT professionals must ensure all the equipment and networks are secure and vulnerabilities are managed. The business systems that reside on these networks are better understood by the IT team and are not as likely to produce the same significant loss in operations if they are down for a short period of time while changes are made or the system is recovered.
This new infographic contains feedback from attendees of the OPC Tunneling Webinar presented by Kepware's Sam Elsner and the OPC Foundation's Thomas Burke on November 21, 2013. Click the image below to discover how your peers rate their familiarity with OPC Unified Architecture and describe how they have used tunneling products in the past. Then, visit the linked resources to learn how you can utilize OPC tunneling easily and securely in your next project.
Today’s post provides an in-depth look at the problems facing the Oil & Gas Industry with respect to data loss during remote data collection. What are the regulatory and financial implications? How do we start to solve this problem?
In the Automation Industry, a premium is often put on stability. Once a server, system, or platform is successfully implemented, consumers often take a “don’t touch it” approach. They elect not to perform updates or upgrades under the belief that this is best for the stability of the system—but is it really the best approach to provide on-going stability and operational efficiency?
First, what do we mean by the “King of Automation”? If one standard were king, every component of an industrial automation system—from PLC to PC to PAC—would speak the same language regardless of manufacturer. In a way, this is what the micro-USB plug did for cell phones and cell phone chargers, but in industrial automation terms. (Isn’t it so much more convenient now that our cell phones and chargers all have the same plug?!)
View Kepware's new infographic with feedback from attendees of our KEPServerEX version 5.13 webinar, and discover what your peers are reporting as their biggest issues with scanning and pollingThen, learn how Kepware's new Device Demand Poll can be leveraged to resolve those issues through the additional resources made available in this infographic.
Let’s face it—we live in a world that is dominated by radio waves and twisted pairs of copper. Our homes, our communities, and the places we work are all connected together in some way or another. The information we need and want is always at our fingertips. That’s where it belongs and that’s where we expect it to be.
Classic off-the-shelf client/server interfaces like OPC are optimized for collecting information from any data source at some predefined cyclic interval. Within the client application, an end user can browse for information that is contained in one or more servers. The information of interest can then be selected and tied to UI controls for visualization, alarm and event objects for condition monitoring, or trends for historical analysis. As part of this, the end user will also set how often each piece of data should be polled from the data source. Although perhaps over-simplified, the rest of the scenario is as follows: the end user enters Run Mode, the server polls the data sources at the appropriate intervals and sends updates to the client when the value or quality of the data changes, and the client performs the necessary logic on the information as configured by the end user. The process continues until the client application is stopped.
At Kepware, we understand that talent needs time, opportunity, and support in order to develop. That’s why we’re dedicated to encouraging students to pursue an education and career in engineering. Every summer, Kepware’s Summer Internship Program gives four full-time internships to students studying Computer Engineering and Computer Science. By showing students different aspects of software engineering (such as research, specification, design, implementation, Quality Assurance (QA), and documentation), we aim to deliver a realistic glimpse into the profession. Kepware provides interns with real-life experience, professional mentoring, and a chance to learn from (and work with) some of the brightest minds in engineering. Read on to learn the top 5 reasons why Kepware’s Summer Internship Program is an unbeatable opportunity.
Optimizing communications between devices in the field and the centralized applications that need their data is a critical component to the success of a SCADA implementation. The networks that support these communications typically use radios, cellular networks, satellite links, or other types of wireless technology. Due to the bandwidth limitations of these networks, a non-streamlined and inefficient communications solution compromises the network’s ability to acquire and manage data as needed. This blog will discuss a new approach to a communications architecture that simplifies, enhances, and increases the reliability of data collection in a SCADA environment.
There’s no doubt about it: modern automation systems are capable of generating more data than ever before. When you live in a time where even a single PLC can contain millions of individual data points, you’ve certainly asked yourself the question, “How can I make all of this data work for me?” Indeed, gaining access to this data, bringing it into a SCADA, MES, or DCS system, and giving it context can increase efficiency and reduce operating costs. But before you can make the data work for you, you’ve got to figure out how to get access to it. One excellent way to do so is through industry-standard OPC specifications and Kepware’s ClientAce.
View Kepware's latest infographic with feedback from attendees of our ClientAce version 4.0 webinar, and discover what your peers have to say about our OPC Client Toolkit. How are you using ClientAce to solve your client application development challenges?
View Kepware's latest infographic with feedback from attendees of our KEPServerEX version 5.12 webinar, and discover what your peers have to say about project security. Do you face similar security challenges?
Today we welcome guest blogger, Greg Hale, to the Kepware Technologies Blog. Greg is the Editor/Founder of Industrial Safety and Security Source, www.ISSSource.com.
There’s no disputing that big companies encounter security threats from cyber attackers every day—but people often forget that small to medium-sized businesses frequently suffer attacks as well.
It is these organizations that need protection most of all. Many fall into a line of thinking that places their company’s size before its value. By questioning their need for protection, and reasoning that they are “just a small company,” they put themselves at risk for trouble.
As we discussed in earlier parts of this blog series, the ability to exchange information between the various software and hardware components found inside of an organization is necessary to operate and maintain the day-to-day business. Tying all of the components together is a major challenge: they typically come from a wide variety of vendors, each providing a unique communications interface that will not interoperate with one another out of the box. Fortunately, communications platforms, such as KEPServerEX, exist to solve this problem.
Wonder what your peers are saying about IEC 61850? View the poll results from our latest webinar and let us know if your experience is comparable.
Last time, we looked at how data was traditionally moved from plant floor devices to various applications, as well as how that data is turned into information. This time, we will examine how some standards groups have tackled issues with interoperability and turning raw data into information.
Monitoring energy use is the first step to taking greater control over energy costs and conservation efforts. However, the emergence of alternative sources of power has made it more difficult to gain an accurate, holistic picture across multiple sources and structures. Engineering managers of multi-building complexes such as universities, hospitals, and corporate campuses are especially challenged in this area, particularly when energy efficiency and costs are tied to green initiatives. For example, energy monitoring requirements on a large campus site may span everything from the traditional grid, to chilled water plants, to solar panels providing supplemental energy through on-site power plants.
Mobile technologies are driving the next generation of centralized monitoring and communication systems, especially in the Agricultural industry and in other industries whose remote locations span vast acreage. Instead of physically visiting a remote site and wasting precious response time, engineers can respond instantly to alerts, alarms, or isolated changes in system performance with a few taps on their Smartphone, iPad, tablet PC, or computer connected to the Internet.
Manufacturing and industrial automation environments have become increasingly complex. They house different types of equipment—along with different manufacturing software applications—each with a different purpose. Yet somehow, it all has to work together in order to solve real-world manufacturing objectives. On top of that, businesses are looking to utilize the data and information that these manufacturing systems produce.
Today’s automation engineer has the critical job of monitoring PLCs and different devices on the plant floor. But what happens when there is an issue with the IT infrastructure that interconnects these devices? What if a port on a switch goes down? At that point, there’s unfortunately not much that the automation engineer can do except contact the enterprise IT department. That’s their domain.
For most businesses, data consolidation, sharing, and visibility across the enterprise is a top priority. OPC Classic enabled many organizations to achieve these objectives. However, there have been several obstacles caused by limitations in the Microsoft Component Object Model (COM) and Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM). Despite being widely adopted, these two options are limited in the usability and security options required by today’s industrial automation and distributed operation environments.
Walking into the world’s largest polymer manufacturing plant, you’d see nothing unusual. Your guide would proudly show you the pristine new control room or the 40 towering, shining steel silos. You’d probably not meet Christine—even though without her, the whole thing would come to a grinding, expensive halt.
Hidden away in a windowless, tiny office, Christine and her small team are managing those silos. Almost all the production risk is on their shoulders. Get it wrong and the silos overflow, or a product is contaminated, stopping production and costing millions of dollars an hour.
This team needs a simple process to follow; every action they have to perform increases the risk. If their process includes digging through a SAP screen for each silo, exporting data to Excel so it can be properly viewed, sending data to other teams for MES, DCS, and Labs data to be added, and then sharing it with a third party logistics team, something is going to go wrong.
True Downtime Cost (TDC) varies considerably from company to company because there are so many variables that affect the bottom line: your industry, what you produce, your employee count, and so forth. In fact, one Automation.com survey puts TDC between $1 and $100,000,000 for companies with 0-300 employees in industries like automotive, food/beverage, injection molding, machinery, metal products, and paper.
The amount of data generated within an organization continues to increase exponentially. Different personnel need access to the appropriate information so they can make the best operational and maintenance decisions for their organization. Depending on who or where you are in the organization, there may be one or more different ways of obtaining this information.
According to a December 2011 ARC Advisory Group report¹, today’s manufacturers are compelled to rethink their approach to software life cycle management to lessen the impact of rapid technology changes on the enterprise. This shift in thinking is especially important when migrating from obsolete or proprietary systems to new "commercial-off-the-shelf" (COTS) technology.