Efficient Plant June 2020 - 10

feature | digital transformation

Data Management Simplified with Edge Devices

Edge computing devices let users easily create a direct-to-cloud connection for any kind of plant I/O
signal, avoiding the complex layers of traditional solutions.

municate useful data. Although much of the
buzz about the industrial internet of things
(IIoT) focuses solely on smart sensors,
vendors are also responding by creating
products to improve connectivity among all
kinds of sensors, automation devices, and
personnel.
Industrial edge computing provides one
approach. This IIoT-capable technology
stack condenses multiple layers of hardware
and software for I/O sensing, control, networking, and data processing into a single,
simplified layer, able to connect the plant
floor directly to the cloud.
In addition to flattening the architecture,
industrial edge computing devices embed
modern tools that ease system componentintegration, even for legacy equipment.
As network-oriented devices, they often
include standard information technology
(IT) security features such as user authentication, data encryption, and certificate
management.
Combined with support for open-platform communication (OPC), they can securely integrate data from a variety of legacy
systems without relying on a Windows PC.
They also support modern communication
protocols such as MQTT (formerly MQ
Telemetry Transport) with Sparkplug B for
mission-critical system monitoring and

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efficient communication with applications
and IIoT platforms.
For monitoring and control, edge computing devices simplify connectivity with
PC-based and mobile HMI software. In
applications where predictive maintenance
or business intelligence is the end goal, edge
computing shifts data preprocessing for
normalization and sanitization to the plant
floor. This offloads the burden from higher-level computing resources, conserving
bandwidth and ensuring high-fidelity data.
Edge I/O devices and edge controllers
are two emerging choices for edgecomputing hardware. Edge I/O provides
greater processing capability than simple
remote I/O systems, while edge controllers
provide real-time director control, combined with general-purpose computing,
similar to a PC.

EDGE I/O, EDGE CONTROLLERS
Unlike traditional remote I/O, edge I/O is
capable of standalone operation without a
PLC. The hardware is suitable for easy field
installation, even in hazardous areas, and
connects to a variety of I/O signal types,
processing signal data locally and communicating directly with on-site or cloud-based
systems.
When an application calls for more than

just I/O capability, an edge controller adds
real-time control, device connectivity, and
heavier data processing. It can be used to
automate equipment just like a classic PLC,
but it can also act as a communication
gateway to integrate existing equipment and
devices, even across disparate networks.
Edge controllers can communicate with
existing PLCs using native protocols and
then efficiently transform and publish that
data through MQTT or directly into databases using IoT languages such as NodeRED. The additional horsepower that edge
controllers provide can also be used to host
local visualization and database servers or
to run custom applications, further reducing the need for PCs on the plant floor.

NEXT-LEVEL INTEGRATION
Industrial edge computing is a foundational technology for securely integrating
equipment and aggregating data, necessary
for performing deeper analytics across a
fleet of equipment. With increased networking and internet connectivity, security and
data integrity have also become important
considerations.
For many users, the ability to remotely
keep an eye on operating assets is sufficient.
Other users will take advantage of edge
devices to make their systems more secure,
efficient, intelligent, or reliable at a local
level. In all cases, edge I/O devices and edge
controllers are now making it practical for
users to easily connect to any of their equipment and begin realizing value. EP
Josh Eastburn is Director of Technical
Marketing at Opto 22, Temecula, CA,
opto22.com, a manufacturer of hardware
and software products for industrial automation, remote monitoring, and data acquisition. Prior to joining Opto 22, he worked as
an automation engineer in the semiconductor, petrochemical, food and beverage, and
life sciences industries.

JUNE 2020

5/27/20 4:54 PM


http://www.opto22.com http://www.EFFICIENTPLANTMAG.COM

Efficient Plant June 2020

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