Product advice on how software evolves the industrial edge

Edge software with open connectivity and flexible scalability is crucial for quickly creating data and analytics solutions capable of bridging factory floor machines with the enterprise to deliver valuable information and results, according to a company with a Control Engineering Engineers’ Choice Award product.

By Michael Condon February 17, 2022
Courtesy: Emerson

 

Learning Objectives

  • Learn the importance of curated software tools for edge computing.
  • Understand how edge computing software should be compatible with modern communications.
  • See the need for edge computing that can improve data accessibility and analytics.

Original equipment manufacturers and end users alike are exploring ways to collect data, store it, analyze it, and serve up results near the source and across the enterprise. This is necessary so they can obtain actionable insights for improving performance. To accelerate these digital transformation projects, it is necessary to build solutions using the right edge-located software and computing.

Curated software tools for edge computing

Many software tools are ideal for the task, but assembling them into a cohesive and integrated whole, and then sustaining and updating the collection, takes careful consideration and significant effort. End users are finding it is more effective to select a curated grouping of industrial-ready software products provided by a company with industry expertise and extensive hardware offerings, as opposed to a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach.

This type of software platform brings together the leading open-source tools in a flexible, integrated, and secure manner, enabling users to rapidly build and deploy applications for many uses, such as identifying machinery health, monitoring energy usage and tracking productivity.

A development package of edge software needs to be modular and containerized so developers can immediately start with just a few instances in a pilot environment, and then scale up as value is proven. Pre-configured options with drag-and-drop programming and embedded web interfaces and visualization are key to helping users quickly create applications.

Edge computing software should be compatible with modern communications

Edge software must incorporate modern and legacy operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) protocols so users can create IIoT applications that bridge the divide. This must be accomplished while simultaneously providing an effective solution that does not require any expensive network and server infrastructures, or create additional complexity due to inconsistent operating environments.

Native compatibility with OPC UA, MQTT, REST and more help ensure an edge software platform can access all field data, and then transport the information to higher level plant or cloud-based services for enterprise-wide visibility and aggregation.

Advanced edge analytics applications can use field data like compressed air usage, energy consumption, equipment operational values and other sensor data to support analytics and responsive dashboard views. This data can be combined with external sources such as weather and energy costs to support optimized asset operation. Users in the field gain immediate access to diagnostic and production information so they can make better decisions faster.

The Emerson PACEdge industrial edge platform brings together the leading software tools in an integrated and secure manner, providing end users with a foundation to rapidly develop data and analytics applications for all types of industrial digital transformation projects. (Emerson’s PACEdge industrial edge platform software was announced as the Control Engineering 2022 Engineers’ Choice Awards winner for the “Software: Analytics” category on Feb. 7.) Courtesy: Emerson

The Emerson PACEdge industrial edge platform brings together the leading software tools in an integrated and secure manner, providing end users with a foundation to rapidly develop data and analytics applications for all types of industrial digital transformation projects. (Emerson’s PACEdge industrial edge platform software was announced as the Control Engineering 2022 Engineers’ Choice Awards winner for the “Software: Analytics” category on Feb. 7.) Courtesy: Emerson

Edge computing for data accessibility, analytics

End users at original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and manufacturing companies are familiar with the traditional programmable logic controllers (PLCs), programmable automation controllers (PACs), PCs, and human-machine interfaces (HMIs) used for developing automation and visualization applications. However, there is a growing need for data accessibility and analytics performed in a secure manner.

An edge software solution optimized to run on industrial PCs and edge controllers is a complete answer to meet these end user needs while delivering the intrinsic reliability and edge-located performance required for connectivity and analytics digital transformation projects. Because the solution is integrated and sustained by industrial experts, this allows designers to focus on developing applications instead of sustaining the development environment.

It also results in more frequent feature and function enhancements, and better responsiveness to cybersecurity threats as they evolve. The pre-configured nature of an edge software platform ensures the lowest-risk and fastest deployment, empowering end users to realize benefits.

Michael Condon is senior product manager of the industrial PC portfolio for Emerson’s machine automation solutions business. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: Edge computing advice, Engineers’ Choice Awards

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Michael Condon
Author Bio: Michael Condon is senior product manager of the industrial PC portfolio for Emerson’s machine automation solutions business. In this role, he leads the global product portfolio and product strategy for Emerson's industrial PCs. Condon has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Military Institute, and a Master of Science degree from George Mason University.