Remote Operations for the Post-COVID Era

A recent article, Remote Operations for the Post-COVID Era, by Harry Forbes at in ARC Advisory Group, tells how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a greater number of people to work remotely than ever before. The author observes that the need for remote access to production data is not likely to diminish in the foreseeable future.

“Supporting a much larger set of remote knowledge workers will be critical for success in the next one to two years and will probably become an expected part of ‘the new, new normal'” Forbes says.

To illustrate the value and practicality of remote operations, Forbes presents a case study of the recently-completed TANAP pipeline project in Turkey. In this system OPC servers across the entire breadth of the country are connected to a central control room, where they are monitored and controlled by production engineers in real time. Skkynet’s DataHub technology was used to provide the secure data connectivity for the project.

Air Liquide uses conditional bridging for robust control

A recent article in CONTROL magazine tells how engineers at Air Liquide now have a standard way to connect the company’s air separation units.  These units need to work with a variety of distributed control systems in a number of locations. The challenge was to build a system flexible enough to connect to the different control systems without having to reconfigure each of them.

Using the Bridging interface in Skkynet’s DataHub industrial middleware, along with a custom DataHub script created in collaboration with Software Toolbox, Air Liquide has successfully installed their first system, and now plans to expand to more locations in a standard way.

“When Air Liquide shared their requirements with us, the DataHub came immediately to mind as the easiest and most reliable approach,” said Win Worrall of Software Toolbox, who worked closely with the engineering team.

Skkynet software networks OPC A&E data in Turkish pipeline project

Automation.com, a leading online publisher of automation-related content, recently ran an article on a recent Skkynet case study.  DataHub middleware from Skkynet was used by ABB to support redundant, secure networking of OPC A&E and real-time data on the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) project in Turkey.

“Almost every functionality that the DataHub offers gets used here,” said Sam Harrasi, PCS Engineer for ABB, the pipeline project technical leader. “Some of the features of the DataHub that we have used are unique to the DataHub, features that other companies with similar products aren’t able to even offer.”

 

Food Processing Plants Look to IIoT to Stay Competitive

A recent article in Food Engineering collected insights and opinions from executives at a number of industrial automation and control companies regarding how IIoT, Industrie 4.0 and digitization of the plant floor will play out in the area of food and beverage manufacturing.

The shared view was that these new initiatives are worth pursuing in food processing, as long as they are balanced with caution and good judgement. The article said, “While no one interviewed would suggest that a food or beverage manufacturer convert all its manufacturing software systems to an industrial internet of things (IIoT) platform in one fell swoop, many would suggest that to remain competitive in a fast-changing consumer product environment, it wouldn’t be a bad idea—for those that haven’t already done so—to embark on the ‘digitalization journey’ now.”

Skkynet’s contribution to the conversation focused on the value of connecting real-time production data to management, and what that might look like in the context of food processing. We also shared our thoughts on a number of other topics, such as the value of secure-by-design data communications, but these were outside the scope of the final published article.

Need to Speed Up OPC UA Development? Use a Framework

Developers who want to put OPC UA on an embedded device typically use an SDK (Sofware Development Kit) to speed up the project. Although an SDK can be helpful, using one to build an OPC UA server is still a big task, typically taking 12 to 18 months for an expert in OPC. Thankfully, there is another approach—use a framework. This article explains the three main advantages of using a framework:

  1. It resolves protocol blocking, a challenging obstacle to development .
  2. It can convert the OPC UA to the protocol the device may be using.
  3. You don’t need to learn OPC UA.

Using a framework (like the one provided by Skkynet’s ETK) allows a developer to bridge between the application logic and the OPC UA protocol and speed up development time.

The Kaspersky Report: It’s Not Really About OPC UA

Automation.com, a leading online publisher of automation-related content, recently ran a commentary on a new report from Kaspersky Labs about OPC UA. The Kaspersky report identified 17 critical security flaws in OPC UA software. But although the Kaspersky methodology may be sound, the commentary in Automation.com suggested caution in drawing conclusions.

It turns out that the flaws noted by Kaspersky were simply because an OPC UA must listen for connections on a network, just like any other server on a TCP/IP network. The real problem is deeper, according to the commentary. Put simply, the standard approach to industrial data communications is not suitable for untrusted networks like the Internet. A better solution is not to allow any inbound connections at all.