At Rockwell Automation’s recent Automation Fair in Houston, Texas, IIoT, Digital Transformation, and The Connected Enterprise were all front and center. This was supported by a range of new solutions and services that were announced and released.
Rockwell Automation's Project Scio, New Scalable Analytics Platform for IIoT
Project Scio, a new scalable analytics platform for IIoT applications designed for advanced analytics, was one of the highlights of Automation Fair. The platform opens access to ad-hoc analytics and performs advanced analysis by pulling structured and unstructured data from existing sources. It can also fuse related data and deliver analytics in “storyboard” dashboards and enable users to perform self-serve drill downs. Data model can be built on the platform and are also portable.
The Project Scio platform can auto-discover Rockwell Automation devices and tags, as well as third-party device data. It brings data into a centralized location and can continually refresh that data. The platform supports flexible machine learning (ML) and is configurable to support SparkML, MLLib, Python, and other industry algorithms. The platform can monitor operations and automatically trigger control adjustments if processes start to fall outside allowable parameters, using either ML or predefined settings.
Rockwell Automation's Expanded Connected Services Offering
Rockwell Automation also announced the expansion of its Connected Services offerings portfolio. Offerings include industrial infrastructure assessment, design, implementation, support and monitoring capabilities including IaaS, remote asset monitoring and predictive maintenance, cybersecurity threat detection and recovery, training, and consulting. These can make use of the company’s FactoryTalk Cloud gateway, on-premise Rockwell Automation Industrial Data Center servers, or a hybrid model.
The portfolio includes Network and Cybersecurity services, which provide assessments and design, technical support, IT/OT training, remote monitoring, threat detection and recovery, turnkey implementation, pre-engineered network solutions, and network monitoring and management. These services can complement on-site maintenance teams, ranging from continuous machine monitoring and incident response to 24/7 remote support and software/firmware updates. Also, Data Integration and Contextualization services can help capture data and convert it into actionable information. Additional Digital transformation and Data scientist consulting services will be available in 2018.
Rockwell Automation's Project Sherlock Brings Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence was also front and center, and Rockwell Automation released the new Project Sherlock (AI) module to help create and diagnose analytics solutions that previously required data scientists. The company provides the AI though an algorithm embedded directly into the controller chassis.
Project Sherlock AI leverages physics-based modeling to learn the controller application. It searches through controller tags to identify the application or allows users to choose what they would like modeled by selecting inputs and outputs via an add-on-instruction (AOI). Large quantities of historical data are not required, nor must the data ever leave the automation layer.
Once the model is built, the Project Sherlock solution watches the operation looking for anomalies against its derived, principled understanding. If it spots a problem, it can trigger an alarm on an HMI screen or dashboard. The initial version of Project Sherlock AI will include ready-to-use templates for boiler, pump and chiller operations, suited for process or hybrid applications. The module does not add to controller CPU-load nor add to network traffic. Project Sherlock AI pilots have been running for the past 18 months. Customers will be able to purchase the module in mid-2018.
Rockwell Automation's IaaS Simplifies and Accelerates Network Developments
Rockwell Automation also introduced its Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering at Automation Fair. IaaS combines pre-engineered network solutions, on-site configuration, and 24/7 remote monitoring into a single five-year contract. The service can help ease budgetary constraints by shifting networking costs from a capital expense to an operating expense.
All aspects of IaaS are aligned to a Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) reference architectures developed by Rockwell Automation and Cisco. IaaS is offered with two Rockwell Automation pre-engineered network solutions, including the Industrial Data Center (IDC) and the Industrial Network Distribution Solution (INDS). The IDC provides the hardware and software required to transition to a virtualized environment. These solutions are designed from Rockwell Automation Strategic Alliance partners Cisco, Panduit, and Microsoft.
Under an IaaS contract, Rockwell Automation will size, assemble, and test the infrastructure, including configuration and on-site deployment at the customer’s facility. Contracts include 24/7 remote monitoring of system parameters. Support response is guaranteed within 10 minutes, but actual response times averages three minutes.
In summary, scalable analytics platforms, connected services, artificial intelligence, and infrastructure as a service are all essential solutions and services that help to enable Rockwell Automation’s customers to achieve the goal of digital transformation and the connected enterprise. Digital transformation and IIoT certainly provide users with value and benefits, but these users often seek help as to how to get started within the context of their existing business processes. This is where events, such as Automation Fair, help Rockwell Automation with its efforts to educate its customers about where and how to further embrace digital transformation and IIoT in the context of their own applications and challenges, helping users to ease into the latest technology with minimal disruption and maximize the increased KPIs and return on investment.