Alliance for web-embedded chip may spark connectivity revolution

No man is an island and pretty soon many factory networks will be a lot less isolated too.To help transform these networks from proprietary islands of automation into globally manageable data and control systems, Osicom Technologies Inc. (Santa Monica, Calif.) unveiled an alliance June 22 of four automation firms it says are committed to Internet- and Ethernet-based control networks.

07/01/1998


No man is an island and pretty soon many factory networks will be a lot less isolated too.

To help transform these networks from proprietary islands of automation into globally manageable data and control systems, Osicom Technologies Inc. (Santa Monica, Calif.) unveiled an alliance June 22 of four automation firms it says are committed to Internet- and Ethernet-based control networks. The companies include Osicom, networking products supplier Richard Hirschmann GmbH & Co. (Nürtingen, Germany), Schneider Automation (North Andover, Mass.), and software developer Object Automation (Santa Ana, Calif.)

The alliance plans to use Osicom's Net+ARM (Advanced RISC Machines Ltd.) single-chip connectivity system to connect factory floors and business information systems via web-based devices, such as browsers, Internet mail, and file transfer protocols (FTPs). Unveiled in January 1998, Net+ARM can embed these devices on a single chip. Osicom reports this is far less expensive than other methods of accomplishing the same task. Supporters say Osicom's Net+ARM will spark a revolution in the control and automation field's migration from proprietary networks to Ethernet- and Internet-based systems.

In fact, Osicom began shipping NetPrint Pocket, the first product that uses the Net+ARM chip, earlier this year. NetPrint Pocket is a 10/100 Ethernet pocket print server.

In concert with its move to open networking, Osicom plans to preserve the intelligence contained in fieldbus objects. Applicable solutions will have combinations of objects transported over TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/ Internet protocol) and web-based HTML (hypertext mark-up language) screens for status and management.

"Until now, increased productivity in all sorts of automation applications has been constrained in a quagmire of proprietary networks," says Cornelius "Pete" Peterson, president of Osicom's Embedded Networking Solutions division. "Today none of these applications can take advantage of the cost benefits of Internet technologies that are just a mouse click away using Net+ARM. In this global economy, dispatching technicians to far away sites can be a drag on suppliers' bottom lines. In most cases, these tasks can be performed remotely by using web browsers, mail, and FTP via Ethernet and/or the Internet."

Alliance members' plans

Hirschmann plans to use Net+ARM to develop open and standards-based networking products, including a connectivity solution with deterministic and redundancy features.

Schneider Automation chose Net+ARM to aid integration of control networks with business data systems. It's vision of the "transparent factory" promises users the ability to gather production data from control networks and distribute it freely across an enterprise. "Net+ARM will hasten advances in industrial automation because our engineers won't have to become networking experts, but will be able to focus on our core applications," says Mark Fondl, Schneider's vice president.

Dave Smith, president of Object Automation (OA), adds that, "Net+ARM is the ideal environment to host OA's object-based control (OBC) objects for use in embedded controllers. This design will power intelligent I/O controllers and embedded machine tool applications."

In the near future, Osicom plans to customize the Net+ARM chip with new hardware and software to support DSPs (digital signal processors) as well as A/D (analog-to-digital) and D/A (digital-to-analog) converters. This will make it easier to integrate devices at a lower level. Software improvements will include new industry-specific APIs (application program interfaces) and fieldbus protocol gateways and web mapping for fieldbus objects. Net+ARM will also expand into Japan and Europe this summer and fall.

For more information, visit www.controleng.com/info .





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