Industry 4.0: What It Means for Your BMS/SCADA

You’ve automated your operations. You’ve identified key data points. All the pieces and parts are in place to give you the insight you need into your building’s performance.

Then along comes Industry 4.0, the Industrial Metaverse.

Is this a fad or a next-generation innovation? Is Industry 4.0 something to “wait and see” or an “I need to get on board with this” phenomenon? More importantly, what does the Industrial Metaverse mean for your Building Management System (BMS) or SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition)?

The Industry 4.0 bandwagon is here, so before you decide whether to jump on, let’s talk about what it is and how it can help you meet your most pressing challenges.

What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 (also known as the Industrial Metaverse) is an evolving concept and not something that is easily defined—yet. The best definition we’ve found, however, comes from the International Society of Automation’s publication arm, Automation.com:

“Industry 4.0 is not merely a matter of connecting machines and products through the Internet. It encompasses a wide range of advanced technologies, such as digital twins, artificial intelligence, high-speed wireless networks, deterministic wired networks, cloud and edge computing, and virtualization technologies like augmented reality.”1

In other words, Industry 4.0 is a digital transformation concept that enables the delivery of real-time insights, which can be used to improve products, processes, and production.

Central to Industry 4.0 is something we’ve all been immersed in for a while: data.

The fact is, this is a data-driven world—and that world includes building automation, industrial automation, life & safety, and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). The amount of data has grown beyond anything any of us have seen. And now, thanks to Industry 4.0, data’s usefulness to transform operations is growing, too.

Why the Industrial Metaverse Matters

Perhaps it’s difficult to imagine how this new concept could directly impact your operations. So, we’d like to offer an example to help illustrate Industry 4.0’s potential.

Introducing, the Smart Factory @ Wichita, a project that’s the brainchild of consulting services firm Deloitte and Wichita State University. According to Deloitte this is a project that demonstrates how advanced technologies and intelligent automation can help organizations overcome their biggest challenges, whatever they may be.

There’s a lot going on over at the Smart Factory @ Wichita. The real point is that this isn’t some futuristic, sci-fi notion. Rather, it exists to demonstrate what was once imagined has now become possible.

For you, that could mean leveraging Industry 4.0 to bring data-driven processes and automation to mission-critical operations. For us, it’s something we’ve been working toward for quite a while now.

In fact, our FieldServer and the MSA Grid were early players in Industry 4.0 solutions, so this is a great starting point for building managers and systems integrators who are relatively new to the Industrial Metaverse. Using our experience working with companies in energy metering and others in connected machine data-to-Cloud applications, MSA FieldServer can help you leverage Industry 4.0 initiatives so you can bring together the processes, people, and places that fuel your operation.

Information Sharing Is Key

Now the question becomes, “How can Industry 4.0 help transform buildings, operations, and systems to make them faster, safer, and more efficient?”

The answer: information sharing.

Industry 4.0 can enable more and better use of the data contained within organizational resources, such as smart devices and the BMS or SCADA. For example, here at MSA, we’ve recently introduced the ALTAIR io™ 4 gas detection wearable to gas detection customers who are looking to support a stronger, more proactive culture of safety and performance.

Among its many features are visual compliance indicators, device lock-out capabilities, device health statuses, digital tagging, and more. Plus, as an Industry 4.0-enabled solution, our ALTAIR io™ 4 customers can now live-monitor their workers across their organization’s entire footprint, as well as enable automatic updates, provide real-time situational awareness, automate inventory management, and much more.

While you may not need gas detection in your workplace, it’s likely that you do (or will) need to know the “who,” “what,” and “where” of other operational aspects. Industry 4.0 can make that happen.

And though Industry 4.0 is still an emerging concept, device manufacturers like Siemens and Rockwell Automation have already created Industry 4.0-enabled smart devices, which are specifically designed to collect the data points needed to make the best possible informed decisions. MSA FieldServer™ is participating in Industry 4.0, too, by ensuring that this all-important data gets delivered to the appropriate destination.

Should You Jump on the Industry 4.0 Bandwagon?

Only you can decide if Industry 4.0 is right for you. However, Industry 4.0 is proving to be the go-to innovation for enabling more meaningful data collection, dissemination, and analysis.

Industry 4.0 also supports the integration of physical and digital technologies/assets across an enterprise, including Cloud computing technologies and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices. This means you can have persistent, digital visibility into your physical operations, and tap into next-level insights—insights that can literally change the way you operate.

To learn more about using FieldServer in the application of Industry 4.0, reach out to us. For more information about the Industrial Metaverse, may we suggest the following resources:


References

[1] Automation.com. “Introduction: The Birth of Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing.” https://www.automation.com/en-us/articles/august-2022/introduction-birth-industry-4-smart-manufacturing. Accessed 26 October 2022.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month: 3 Things You Should Know

Hackers, attackers, and intruders. These are the people wreaking havoc on every industry and sector from data centers and energy plants to federal and military establishments to commercial building automation and manufacturing facilities.

Their goal? To intentionally cause harm to organizations and their customers by exploiting computer, Cloud, and software weaknesses so they steal data and maybe even extort money.

As shocking as it is to think about such malicious organizational devastation, it’s also a good reminder of just how important it is to be vigilant about cybersecurity. And since October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we thought it was also a good time to help system integrators and facility managers like you brush up on what you should know about IIoT security.

Devasting IIoT cyberattacks can and do happen.

At a predicted worldwide cost of $10.5 trillion by 2025, cybercrime is big business.1 And it’s getting bigger every year. Remember 10 years ago when the Target Corporation’s IT breach put 40 million cardholders at risk and cost a reported $300 million? Now, a decade after the fact, the Target breach remains one of the largest security breaches on record.

The potential to similarly disable organizations and facilities that adopt Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies is real, too. While the Target breach is considered an IT breach, there have been plenty of IIoT breaches that have been just as, if not more, destructive.

Take, for example, the 2022 Optus telecommunications breach in Australia that reportedly cost $1 million, and all because of unauthenticated APIs.2 Then there’s the 2021 Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack that caused the pipeline to stop production, and all because of a single compromised password.3

Hacking a data center or connected industrial environment not only has financial implications at the magnitude of the Target breach, but it can also lead to other, further-reaching consequences, such as shutdowns, shortages, destruction of high-value assets, and compromised health and safety for employees.

Unsecure IIoT is a problem that has led to new and increasing levels of disruption.

The advantages of IIoT software, hardware, and Cloud solutions includes their ability to streamline workflows, increase safety, and boost productivity, efficiency, and compliance. The drawback, however, is their potential susceptibility to cyberattacks.

Unlike IT systems that have evolved to become more secure over time, not all IIoT devices in 2022 are designed with security in mind. Worse, according to IBM, industrial control systems have seen a 50% increase in vulnerabilities related to IIoT devices, and manufacturing has now become the world’s most attacked industry.4

The reason? Attackers are looking to disrupt the global supply chain and can do so by attacking one of its most critical players: manufacturing.

The point is that hackers are looking for vulnerabilities. Which is why manufacturers, the energy sector, data centers, and others like them must strengthen security, and they must do it ASAP.

You don’t have to sacrifice the benefits of IIoT solutions to maintain security.

If you do any research or reading about IIoT hacks, you know that communication protocols are among the most vulnerable. Which is why we at MSA FieldServer® take cybersecurity precautions very seriously.

We’re about to go through our annual penetration testing with our provider, Breachlock. This in-depth manual penetration testing is in addition to monthly automated scans. Together, these tests have helped us identify our own product vulnerabilities so we can go back and fix them. We prioritize medium and above vulnerabilities over minor ones, but rest assured, we’re maintaining all MSA FieldServer gateways and Cloud-based solutions to the absolute latest standards.

In fact, since we last talked about how MSA FieldServer strengthened security, we’ve evolved our policies and adopted even more cybersecurity strategies—strategies that we hope will serve as a reminder for you, too.

Security Standards: Keep up with ever-changing security standards, and make sure that your device manufacturers are keeping up, as well. Here at FieldServer, we’re committed to the newest standards, including ISA/IEC 62443-4-1 and other cybersecurity benchmarks for building automation, power generation, oil & gas, and other similar industries. We’re also ISO/IEC 27001 accredited, which means we’ve demonstrated that our organization, including our people, processes, and products adhere to these best practice standards.

If you’re not sure if your provider has adopted the last standards, here’s an easy thing you can do: Ask. Ask every provider, because even something as seemingly innocuous as plugging a USB drive into a laptop can lead to the infusion of a bot. Remember, cybersecurity doesn’t start with IT; it starts at the design and engineering level. You have a right to know what security measures were taken with every product or device you connect to your system so ask your provider for proof.

Zero Trust: As an extension of the aforementioned security standards, it’s a good idea to implement a Zero Trust policy. That’s a policy that essentially means “trust nothing, verify everything.” The truth is, if you’re using third-party tools, there can be vulnerabilities and it’s up to you to be proactive in working to protect your organization against cyberattacks. (Side note: We do this at MSA FieldServer, too.)

Smart Devices: Inventory your IIoT devices so you know which are secure and which are not. Then work towards bringing all your devices into alignment with current security standards. That’s one of the many reasons we developed one of our more recently released products, the MSA FieldServer Dual Ethernet Port. As part of our ongoing work to help our customers achieve secure automation, we developed our two-ethernet port solution to provide updated protection that includes physical separation between the LAN and WAN, allowing routing connections only from specific subsets, and features updated security between the gateway and the browser.

Device Security: Because connected devices need to be secure, you’ll want to make sure you understand what kind of built-in security your devices have. What you’re looking for is a device that leverages the latest security measures, including robust user/password management, self-signed certificates, and compliance with current IIoT safety standards. Take, for example, our FieldServer solutions, featuring FieldSafe. FieldSafe is a security feature set that we add to every one of our gateways. FieldSafe takes a multilayered approach to security. That means FieldSafe secures your device, as well as your connections and data, yet still allows data to move securely across disparate subnets.

Security: Ensure that your Cloud-based solution provides secure, remote connectivity. Cloud-based solutions are incredibly efficient for automation. But not every Cloud-enabled gateway is as secure as ours. Our Cloud solution undergoes rigorous annual manual penetration testing by an independent third-party. Plus, we continually monitor compliance with the latest standards, such as ISO/ISE 27001.

Cybersecurity Strategy: Maintain a proactive cybersecurity strategy. Remember the Target breach we mentioned earlier? Those hackers gained access through the HVAC system. Keep in mind that this breach was 10 years ago, and hackers have become even more sophisticated. It’s more important than ever to have an up-to-date strategy and action plan to help minimize your exposure. It should include everything from ensuring multi-factor authentication to training employees on how to prevent phishing email attacks to when and how you’ll conduct your own penetration testing.

Conclusion

IIoT technology is changing fast, but so is the accompanying cybercrime. In addition to the helpful information and tips offered here, one of the best things you can do to protect yourself is to partner with a solutions provider that prioritizes cybersecurity and implements cybersecurity best practices.

So, reach out to us if you’d like some additional cybersecurity resources or if you have questions about the security of any of our gateway products or Cloud solution.

In the meantime, here’s to a safe and secure National Cybersecurity Awareness Month!


References

[1] CybersecurityVentures.com. “Cybercrime to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.” https://cybersecurityventures.com/cybercrime-damages-6-trillion-by-2021/. Accessed 6 October 2022.

[2] SecurityBoulevard.com. “How a Common API Vulnerability Might Have Cost Telco Optus $1 Million.” https://securityboulevard.com/2022/09/how-a-common-api-vulnerability-might-have-cost-telco-optus-1-million/. Accessed 6 October 2022.

[3] Reuters.com. “One password allowed hackers to disrupt Colonial Pipeline, CEO tells senators.” https://www.reuters.com/business/colonial-pipeline-ceo-tells-senate-cyber-defenses-were-compromised-ahead-hack-2021-06-08/. Accessed 6 October 2022.

[4] IBM.com. “X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2022.” https://www.ibm.com/reports/threat-intelligence/. Accessed 7 October 2022.

2 Technology-based Tools Water/Wastewater Plants Need for Safety

If you work in the water/wastewater industry, we don’t have to tell you just how dangerous treatment plants can be for worker well-being. We also don’t have to explain that water/wastewater plants have an even greater potential for danger after hours and on weekends when no one is physically on site.

What you may not realize, though, is how advancements in safety technologies, namely IIoT or Industrial Internet of Things solutions, have made it easier and more economical to monitor and manage toxic gases and other critical factors and ensure safety.

Here are two specific technology-based tools that can make a real difference:

Protocol Transition

Nothing is more important than protecting water/wastewater facilities and workers against fire and explosion hazards. And the NFPA 820 Standard for Fire Protection in water/wastewater treatment and collection facilities is the de facto guide to help ensure protection.

Which is why Fixed Gas and Flame Detection or FGFD solutions are an essential part of that protection. Combine durable, dependable devices with smart technologies and water/wastewater treatment plants can enjoy operational autonomy and increase safety and efficiency.

To illustrate what we mean, let’s look at a real-world application featuring a customer of ours. Even though this particular customer is in a different industry, they had constructed a potentially dangerous hydrogen production plant. As such, they needed a way to monitor their operation for hazardous gas leaks, reliably and remotely. Moreover, they asked that the solution facilitate communicate with the rest of their system.

You can read their full story here, but the point of it is this:

They needed a plug-and-play solution that could connect to and integrate their MSA FGFD products, giving them full visibility and control of their FGFD detectors. The same can be done for water/wastewater treatment plants with help from MSA FieldServer gateways.

Remote Notifications

If you’ve got a high gas alarm in a water/wastewater treatment facility, you’ve got a problem. With an IIoT solution like the MSA FieldServer FGFD ProtoAir Gateway, you can get instant remote monitoring capabilities for all MSA FGFD devices, as well as those from other manufacturers.

Even better, when integrated with the MSA Grid, FieldServer enables Cloud-based alarm notifications for full transparency into the life safety system.

That means those who need to know what’s going will get an SMS or email notification whenever a trouble or alarm condition is triggered, providing the necessary insight to determine if it’s a false alarm or something else that needs immediate action.

FGFD for the Water/Wastewater Industry

We’ve written before about smarter wastewater treatment and how a Cloud-based solution can help ensure that water/wastewater facilities are monitored 24/7, with or without on-site workers. But one of the greatest enablers that Cloud technologies offer is the ability to enhance the value of data to help:

  • Reduce costs
  • Boost productivity
  • Improve uptime
  • Maximize efficiencies

As an example, FieldServer helped a California-based wastewater treatment plant monitor all their fire safety conditions at each of their multiple wastewater plants—and do so from a COMC or Central Operations Monitoring Center.

Not only did FieldServer help eliminate the plague of constant false alarms, it also saved our customer from having to respond to false alarms with expensive manpower dispatches and unnecessary shutdowns.

#WEFTEC: The Latest Advancements in Gas Detection

So, now that you’ve seen the benefits of being connected and protected, you may be wondering how you can take advantage of these technologies in your water/wastewater treatment facility.

Well, we’d be happy to show you!

Talk to one of our sales reps or, better yet, come see us at WEFTEC® 2022, October 10-12, 2022 in Orlando, FL. When you stop by booth #3929, you can see for yourself the latest advancements in gas detection for the water/wastewater industry, including:

We look forward to talking with you soon!

Why FieldServer Is Becoming the Secret Ingredient of Fast-Food Operations

It’s 11:55 p.m. Cars are lined up in the drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant. Under the glow of a well-lit sign, these hungry customers are patiently waiting to order their late-night snack.

Inside, a skeleton crew is hard at work frying, flipping, and wrapping orders as fast as humanly possible. Just five minutes later, the line is cleared, the clock strikes midnight, and it’s time to shut things down and call it a day.

If you’re in the Quick-Service and Fast Casual Restaurant (QSR) business, then you know just how much energy that kind of night in your QSR establishment can gobble up.

In fact, research by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, attributes the massive energy use in QSR facilities to “intensive process loads,” such as food prep and storage.1 And, according to EnergyStar.gov, restaurants use up to 7 times more energy per square foot than office buildings and retail stores, while high-volume QSRs use up to 10 times more energy.2

High-volume QSRs use up to 10X more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings.

Beyond Energy Savings

Operationally, of course, it only makes sense for QSRs to be concerned about lowering energy consumption. Not only does reigning in excess energy usage help with profitability, it’s also an imperative for environmentally conscious organizations that are committed to reducing carbon emissions.

As you probably know, refrigeration and air conditioning (AC) systems can leak.3 As such, if they’re to be effectively and efficiently managed, they, too, require the same thing energy metering does: greater visibility and enhanced notification.

But who says these functions – energy metering and refrigerant leak detection – and these goals – energy and refrigerant reduction – have to be mutually exclusive? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a solution that would enable refrigerant leak detection, energy metering, data-informed monitoring, real-time notifications, remote troubleshooting, and more?

Good news! There is. And it’s called the MSA FieldServer.

What’s FieldServer Got to Do with It?

When the FieldServer suite of automation gateway products found its way into the hands of savvy QSR building managers’ hands, it was quickly touted as the “secret ingredient” for drastically cutting carbon emissions, controlling high energy costs, and enabling proactive monitoring in the restaurant world just as effectively as it does in other commercial building operations. In addition to the restaurants themselves, this includes food retail services, food processing facilities, food logistics and warehousing companies, and other industrial and manufacturing plants that operate using higher GWP (global warming potential) gases.

That’s because FieldServer can connect any device, such as fire alarm panels, energy metering equipment, and gas detectors, to deliver any and all meaningful data points via cellular or Cloud connectivity, as you wish. Most notably, FieldServer is a best-in-class gateway solution designed to connect to the equipment and collect the crucial data points. It also has the capability to connect to the Cloud via the MSA Grid, providing invaluable visibility and remote notifications.

How FieldServer Transforms Device Data into Actionable Insights

Here’s just one example of how it works. Let’s say one of your QSR locations has a high-value asset that has a turbo mode. Let’s say someone forgets to shut it off when they should. Suffice it to say, that’s a massive amount of energy that’s being drawn and wasted, as well as potentially polluting the environment.

With FieldServer in place, you get uninterrupted monitoring and measuring so that the person in charge can easily see that there’s a potential energy issue and take action to avert an energy drain.

That’s just one of the many benefits QSRs are realizing, thanks to FieldServer. Others include:

  • Quick and easy installation of the gateway
  • Cellular connectivity with no internet connection needed and no IT security issues to contend with
  • Industrial IoT device-to-device communication (device-to-Cloud communication is also available)
  • Detailed, device-specific information on power consumption, gas leaks, and more
  • State-of-the-art diagnostics, troubleshooting, and remote notification capabilities

FieldServer offers new and better solutions for QSRs to streamline their operations, improve efficiencies, and support sustainability initiatives.

If you’re ready to explore world-class solutions and industry-leading IIoT gateways with multi-protocol support, please request more info.


References

[1]Pnnl.gov. “Technical Support Document: 50% Energy Savings for Quick-Service Restaurants.” https://www.pnnl.gov/main/publications/external/technical_reports/PNNL-19809.pdf. Accessed 14 September 2022.

[2]EnergyStar.gov. “ENERGY STAR® Energy Efficiency Opportunities for Your Restaurant.” https://www.energystar.gov/sites/default/files/tools/SmallBiz_Restaurant_factsheet.pdf. Accessed 14 September 2022.

[3]MyBacharach.com. “Reducing Grocery Store Refrigeration Emissions.” https://www.mybacharach.com/reducing-grocery-store-refrigerant-emissions/. Accessed 14 September 2022.

How Myers Emergency Power Systems Securely Extended IIoT Cloud Data to Customers with FieldServer

Learn how backup power technologies designer and manufacturer Myers Emergency Power Systems uses MSA Safety’s Grid FieldServer Manager to enhance building safety.

Improving Peace of Mind in an Emergency Power Situation

Nobody wants to be in the dark – literally or figuratively. It’s chaotic, stressful, and in mission-critical industries, it also is potentially life threatening.

Which is why Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based Myers Emergency Power Systems has a long history of engineering the highest quality and most reliable backup power solutions in the industry. These backup power solutions, which include emergency lighting and uninterrupted power supply systems, provide emergency power to illuminate the path of egress during critical outages. Myers EPS inverters are relied upon by distribution centers, educational institutions, data centers, healthcare facilities, and commercial buildings nationwide.

“Our commitment to our customers is to ‘light the way when they need it most.’ We provide centralized inverter cabinets to give them the backup power they need for their emergency lighting and systems with maximum flexibility,” explains Rami Nasr, Myers EPS Senior Electrical Engineer. “Because we’re always looking for new ways to give our customers peace of mind, we knew we wanted to give our customers more and save them money by providing remote access to the data from their inverters and proactively pushing notifications in the rare situations where an inverter needs attention.”

Making the Connection

So, Myers EPS set out in search of an IIoT Cloud data solution to enable faster, more streamlined communication between the emergency lighting inverter system and the people who need to know when something is amiss.

They wanted a solution that could bring together all disparate devices and push the device data ultra-fast (under 50 data points per minute or DPPM) to a user-friendly dashboard before triggering alerts that immediately notify customers of critical issues. The Cloud-based system also needed to allow for quick detection and resolution of issues anytime, anywhere, and on any connected device, including computers, tablets, and mobile phones.

Myers EPS had looked at several IIoT Cloud providers over the years before selecting Losant, with special appreciation for its easy-to-use graphical interface, which summarizes the health of a fleet of inverters.

To make the most of the Losant IoT Cloud platform, however, Myers EPS needed one more component to integrate with the Cloud-based solution. They needed something that could provide secure remote connectivity while also giving them the ability to configure, update, and support connected devices.

They needed the MSA Grid FieldServer Manager.

Creating a Secure Information Loop

The MSA Grid FieldServer Manager was integral to Myers EPS’ ability to create a secure IIoT loop to ensure that the Myers EPS solution performs when the next power outage occurs.

The three-part solution, known as Myers EPS IoT Inverter Connect, leverages a combination of technologies, applications, and systems to enable devices to generate valuable power-related information, such as voltage levels and charge states. It also connects these devices – no matter where they’re located – giving Myers EPS customers:

• Concise, at-a-glance assessment of their inverters
• Critical email and SMS notifications
• Details about every inverter device

Specifically, the FieldServer Manager simplified the third-party integration with the Losant IoT Cloud platform by using RESTful APIs to pull the data into the system.

Here are just a few examples of the data-rich dashboards that Myers EPS customers see, thanks to the Losant IoT Cloud platform:

  • GPS location display with specific information about the inverter in each location
  • Maximum, minimum, and average numbers for such key data points as voltages
  • Device list showing what’s being monitored with click-through capabilities to see device details

“We’re using the FieldServer Manager for remote configuration and proxy server web access to our systems,” says Rami, “and are very happy that FieldServer was able to deliver. With the help of the Losant IoT Cloud environment and the FieldServer Manager, we’re offering a secure, scalable, and future-ready solution that improves building safety and assures our customers that our systems have their back when they need it most.”

Learn more about how FieldServer products can help with your connectivity challenges.

4 Things You Probably Didn’t Know FieldServer Can Do

“I didn’t know FieldServer could do that!”

If we had a nickel for every time we heard someone say that, we’d have quite a few nickels. So, we decided it was high time to share some things about MSA FieldServer devices that you may not be familiar with – but should know.

Whether you’re an OEM, system integrator, building owner, plant supervisor, or life safety manager, let’s talk about how to make your job easier and your communication smoother and more secure with help from FieldServer gateways and routers.

What does FieldServer do?

When the first FieldServer was shipped out in the late 1990s, its main function was to assist with data transfer to and from devices. Since then, we’ve greatly expanded FieldServer’s capabilities, features, and protocols to better enhance productivity, efficiency, and safety across a wide variety of applications and industries. In fact, today there are more than a half-million installations worldwide of our FieldServer suite of automation gateway products.

At its core, FieldServer is like having a translator, working to make sense of a language or languages in which a person is not fluent, or simply cannot understand. Of course, FieldServer doesn’t do this with people, it does it with disparate devices.

Specifically, FieldServer is a communications gateway. Its job is to help a whole bunch of devices, each of which speaks a different language, “talk” with each other so they can do what they need to do – and that can mean helping with automating buildings, supporting fire alarm systems, and maximizing operational intelligence.

Why do organizations need the FieldServer protocol gateway?

When it comes to industrial sensing and automation with IoT technologies, such as wireless, Cloud connectivity, and data services, our FieldServer products have been at the forefront of bringing knowledge-based products and services to the Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT.

Here’s why you might need FieldServer:

On the one hand is the device. On the other is you or your team. FieldServer is the bridge that closes the gap between the two. It takes the information collected by the device and disseminates it to stakeholders so they can proactively and pre-emptively act.

Now that you know what FieldServer is and how it works, here are 4 things FieldServer can do that (maybe) you didn’t know about.

Quietly work to keep assets safe.

Whether your assets are people, property, proprietary data, or a combination of these, FieldServer is quietly at work on site or in the Cloud all around the world.

Corporate, educational, medical, entertainment, industrial, and other facilities rely on FieldServer IoT gateway products to read data from a variety of devices and use that data to be more proactive about operational and safety decision making.

OEMS, energy metering, building automation, industrial automation, and life & safety professionals rely on FieldServer to connect and protect high-value assets and infrastructure.

Provide multi-protocol communication.

We often compare FieldServer to a Swiss Army knife, which is a pocket-sized multitool. That’s because FieldServer is a nimble device with a smaller footprint, which is remarkably flexible.

Two or three protocols? No problem. FieldServer can handle it. Three, four, or even five? Again, no problem. We even have a customer that requires seven protocols and, guess what? FieldServer’s got them covered.

From EtherNet/IP to LonWorks to Modbus TCP/IP to BACnet (and a whole lot more) FieldServer can handle dozens upon dozens of certified protocols, as well as emulate either a Server or Client.

Go here to see the full list of FieldServer protocol drivers.

Enable remote access and Cloud connectivity.

The connected world we live in has enabled smart operations that result in greater productivity and enhanced safety. FieldServer supports these smarter, safer operations by empowering you and your organization with instant and relevant insights that keep production moving and workers protected.

Here are just a few of the many ways FieldServer can help:

  • Remote notifications of alarms, alerts, updates, and reminders
  • Deliver visibility into potentially hazardous situations
  • Keep stakeholders informed in real time through immediate data visualization
  • Minimize human error to reduce the nearly 3 million annual workplace injuries

Multiple applications that support productivity and efficiency.

FieldServer has the protocols to enable all types of operations across a wide variety of industries, including:

  • Chillers (building automation) to communicate to SCADA (industrial automation)
  • Energy meters (energy management) to communicate to DCIM (data centers)
  • Drives (industrial automation) built into chillers to communicate to BMS (building automation)
  • Fire alarm panels (life & safety) to communicate to:
    • Building automation
    • Data centers
    • Industrial automation
    • Cloud (remote notification)

Conclusion

By now we hope you have a better understanding of FieldServer and its many capabilities. But, wait! There’s still more to know about FieldServer, including how easy it is to configure, why it’s an industry leading IIoT solution, and how we’re protecting your data with rigorous penetration testing and security certification.

But because your organization is unique, tell us about your requirements, then see for yourself how FieldServer can help you take control of your data and streamline your operations – without investing in new devices or costly IT infrastructure to leverage the Cloud.

Advancing Industrial Automation Security with OPC UA

It’s been 16 years since the first version of OPC UA, also known as Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture, was released. Since then, there have been numerous iterations to make OPC UA stronger and more secure than ever.

With the increased attacks on SCADA devices, as reported by the U.S. government’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency or CISA, there’s never been a more important time to protect your SCADA systems and automation devices.

What is OPC UA?

According to the OPC Foundation, OPC UA is:

The data exchange standard for secure, reliable, manufacturer and platform-independent industrial communications. It enables data exchange between products from different manufacturers and across operating systems.

OPC UA is used across a wide variety of industries, including industrial automation, oil & gas, and energy metering. In addition to supporting an array of systems, platforms, and functions, OPC UA’s built-in security features offer effective countermeasures against today’s most pressing security threats. Threats include scanning, compromising, and controlling automation devices, leading to disruption of critical services and functions.

For OEMs, incorporating OPC UA into your products not only helps position you as a leader in Industry 4.0, it also enables you to offer customers a plug-and-play-style of secure communications and data exchange among your devices and machines to their systems and the Cloud.

For Systems Integrators, OPC UA can help you simplify connectivity among devices, systems, and applications to achieve a higher level of secure, reliable interoperability.

The Popular Protocol

With three security levels (user, application, and transport), OPC UA has risen in popularity among those within the industrial automation space.

That’s because those who leverage the power of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Cloud connectivity need a modern, highly secure protocol that can support protected enterprise-wide network visibility and control.

It’s also why we, at MSA, added the OPC UA driver to our most advanced IIoT gateway solutions way back in 2020. It’s also why we’re continuing to enhance and evolve our BACnet, BMS, IIoT Cloud gateway, and Cloud computing solutions.

Like anyone using a SCADA or other industrial control system, we want to keep pace with digitization innovations while staying ahead of data security and cyber threats such as, malware, viruses, and denial of service (DoS).

OPC UA: The Smart, Secure Data Connector

As an interoperability standard for industrial automation devices, OPC UA can be used with embedded devices, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), sensors, Cloud applications, and more.

And because information security and data integrity are of paramount importance, OPC UA is specifically designed to be a firewall-friendly protocol that addresses such critical security concerns as:

  • Platform independence for integration with a variety of operating systems, servers, and sensors
  • Standard transports and encodings for seamless connectivity
  • Secure encryption at varying levels
  • Authentication of users, clients, and servers
  • Sequencing to reduce exposure to cyberattacks
  • Message signing for verification of origin and integrity
  • Activities logs and audit trail

Even better, according to the OPC Foundation, OPC UA offers users a “future proof framework,” by incorporating advanced security measures for transports, encoding, and algorithms, while also maintaining backwards compatibility with current devices.1

Clearly, as a globally recognized open standard, OPC UA offer many benefits as a secure, reliable protocol to enable intelligent machine-to-machine and Cloud-based communication.

Connecting Disparate Devices to OPC UA

But OPC UA alone may not be enough. If you’re looking for interoperability but have devices that are not Cloud-enabled, then you need something else (preferably not new devices). What you need is an IIoT gateway with the OPC UA driver, like MSA FieldServer™.

As one of the most advanced gateways available, FieldServer can help organizations like yours achieve next-generation interoperability with OPC UA. It’s one of the reasons we designed our Dual Ethernet QuickServer Gateway and FieldServer ProtoNode Gateway to meet the requirements of the OPC UA driver as set by the OPC Foundation.

The OPC UA Driver for the FieldServer can give your engineers a powerful protocol option for both Cloud and SCADA applications.

Here’s how it works:

Simplify Your Journey to Cloud-Based Automation

  • Where are you on your connected journey?
  • Are you in need of secure, platform-independent, Cloud-based connectivity?
  • Are you “Team OPC UA” or are you not sure if OPC UA is the protocol for you?

Contact us to learn more about how the FieldServer with the OPC UA driver can put you on the path to powerful, open system automation.


References:

OPC Foundation. Unified Architecture, opcfoundation.org. Accessed 23 June 2022, https://opcfoundation.org/about/opc-technologies/opc-ua/.

Data and Edge Computing: Could You Be Missing Out?

When it comes to smart factory automation, getting relevant data is one thing. Getting it into the right hands quickly and easily is another.

That’s where a Cloud strategy that lets you capitalize on edge computing can help.

Edge Computing: Defined

What is edge computing?

Gartner defines edge computing as solutions that facilitate data processing at or near the source of data generation.

Frankly, edge computing isn’t entirely new. After all, data-driven technologies like programmable logic controllers (PLCs) have been around a long time. But today’s edge computing is closing the gap in how far data has to go to get where it needs to be.

And that’s why edge computing is a fast-growing phenomenon.

In fact, Gartner has predicted that enterprise-generated data (data that’s created and processed outside of a traditional centralized data center or Cloud) will grow to 75% by 2025.1

So, what does this mean for smart factories and industrial automation? It means that even though data streams are bigger and more robust than ever before, the data itself can be wrangled better, synthesized faster, and disseminated quicker.

Benefits of Edge Computing

Edge computing is the answer to having too much data moving too fast. It’s what can help industrial automation specialists like you ensure that the data stream is clear, relevant, efficient, and secure.

Bottom line? Edge computing has the power to improve operations, reduce downtime, and speed time to market.

  • It is the conduit that transforms data from information to insight.
  • It ensures that data is processed swiftly.
  • It cleanses the data pool so that only the most relevant data is transmitted.
  • It enables the best presentation of data to the right people at the right time.
  • It delivers data that is more meaningful, relevant, and contextual.

Operational Impacts of Edge Computing

Edge computing can deliver more of what industrial automation facilities and operators need:

  • Clean data
  • Flexibility
  • Scalability
  • Secure remote access
  • Cost savings
  • No-hassle configuration capabilities

Edge Computing Strategy: 4 Tips for Getting Started

  1. Embrace—not replace—the technology. Data centers and Cloud computing are here to stay. Adding edge computing to the mix, however, can empower you to become more productive, resilient, and autonomous.
  2. Decide on your objectives. Like many things, edge computing isn’t one-size-fits-all. Consider what operational challenges you’re facing and what technical issues you need to solve. Because your environment, requirements, and processes are unique, your edge computing strategy should be, too.
  3. Identify your opportunity areas. Where can edge computing help your operations the most? Adopting edge computing solutions shouldn’t create more problems; it should solve them. Your workflows should align across the data lifecycle, from data center to the edge to the Cloud
  4. Consider security. By its very nature, edge computing is decentralized. For that reason, you’ll need to stay informed and aware. Security breaches through automation systems can be costly in more ways than one, so make sure you stay hypervigilant about keeping up with the latest cybersecurity standards with respect to your edge computing solutions.

Enabling Edge Computing With Gateways

Open up your edge computing capabilities with FieldServer’s suite of gateway products, including state-of-the-art protocols like Modbus, EtherNet/IP, and GE-EDG.

FieldServer lets you keep your old legacy equipment while fully enabling your new edge computing solution. Learn how to capitalize on Edge Computing by watching our on-demand webinar.

Contact us to learn more.


References:

Gartner.com. “What Edge Computing Means for Infrastructure and Operations Leaders.” Accessed 14 July 2022, https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/what-edge-computing-means-for-infrastructure-and-operations-leaders.

Two Steps to Help Data Centers Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

In this high-tech world, data centers are essential. Which may explain why researchers are predicting that the U.S. data center industry will grow to nearly $289 billion by 2027.1

Because data centers rely on sophisticated cooling systems that require a lot of power, this expected growth also means even more energy consumption—and that could have a profound impact on the environment.

From Energy Hogs to Environmental Champions

Like it or not, data centers are among the biggest of the so-called “energy hogs.” That’s because they consume 3% of the world’s electric supply and are responsible for nearly 2% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—a number that’s expected to increase to as much as 7%.2

Moreover, data centers consume 10 to 50 times more energy per floor space than a standard commercial office building.3

So, the onus is on data center owners and managers to do all they can to maintain efficient and effective operations while also reducing their carbon footprint.

It can be overwhelming to put a strategy in place to reduce such a large carbon footprint. So, if you’re a data center owner or manager looking to reduce the overwhelm—and your carbon footprint—here are two practical steps you can take to maximize energy savings and lessen your data center’s environmental impact.

Measure All Energy Consumption

In the retail industry, there’s an adage that says you can’t fix a problem if you don’t know about it. The same or similar can be said of data centers: You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

Or as renowned management consultant and author Peter Drucker put it: What gets measured gets managed.

That’s why measuring all your energy consumption is the first step toward managing it.

As a data center owner or manager, you’re under a tremendous amount of pressure to become carbon neutral and achieve a desired target of net-zero emissions.4 As such, insight into energy consumption is your secret weapon for developing sustainability strategies that will actually reduce your carbon footprint.

Fortunately, the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) is one of the most powerful resources you have in benchmarking data center performance and tracking energy usage over time.

In fact, smart energy metering devices that are connected to a secure Building Management System (BMS) enable data center managers like you to extract, collect, and synthesize critical device data from the energy metering system.

But IIoT devices alone aren’t enough. Something else is needed: an IIoT gateway like MSA FieldServer™ to facilitate device-to-device communication within a closed network.

As one of the most advanced gateways available, FieldServer enables data centers to securely and seamlessly:

  • Track and monitor consumption and overall efficiency
  • Capture key data points, such as temperature, humidity, and air flow
  • Identify usage trends, including inconsistencies and surges
  • Detect, prevent, and troubleshoot issues like overheating to ensure uninterrupted power supply (UPS)

Did You Know?: IIoT technologies can help data centers monitor usage, prevent downtime, and support environmentally friendly operations.
Evaluate, Refine, and Measure Again

Monitoring the power usage, energy spikes, and cooling costs of multiple servers is no small feat. Nor is knowing when to turn a motor off or on, or change a setting to 10%, 20%, or even 100% power.

That’s why Step 2 in reducing a data center’s carbon footprint is to assess, make changes, and re-measure.

This “wash, rinse, repeat” cycle of continuous improvement not only gives you better insight into your daily and hourly (and even minute-by-minute) energy consumption, it also can help you assess your GHG-reduction efforts, so you know exactly what’s working and what’s not.

For example, one of our clients used our FieldServer gateway to facilitate communication between their BMS and cooling control devices. By retrieving server inlet temperatures from the server network and linking that information locally to the BMS, this data center was able to precisely control their cooling systems and dramatically reduce energy consumption.

See for Yourself

If measuring and tracking the energy consumption of your data center is important to you, contact us for a free FieldServer demo and see for yourself how connecting energy metering equipment to your closed network can make all the difference in helping reduce your data center’s carbon footprint.


References:

Globe Newswire. The Global Data Center Market Size to Reach $288.30 Billion by 2027 – Arizton, 23 February 2022, https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2022/02/23/2390642/0/en/The-Global-Data-Center-Market-Size-to-Reach-288-30-Billion-by-2027-Arizton.html.

Climate Neutral Group®. Carbon emissions of data usage increase, but what is yours? Accessed 10 June 2022, https://www.climateneutralgroup.com/en/news/carbon-emissions-of-data-centers/.

Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Data Centers and Servers, Energy.gov. Accessed 16 June 2022, https://www.energy.gov/eere/buildings/data-centers-and-servers.

S&P Global Market Intelligence. Sustainability is no longer a ‘nice to have’ goal for the data center industry, 8 June 2022, https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/research/sustainability-is-no-longer-a-nice-to-have-goal-for-the-data-center-industry.

How FieldServer Gateway Technology Can Help Improve Hazard Detection and Worker Safety

When it comes to unmanned remote locations, some scenarios can make it hard to keep them in check and well supported. If combustible gas escapes or vapor hazards are present, there are no workers to endanger; however, facilities, equipment, and surrounding areas are still at risk.

Without someone on site to monitor the situation, who’s to know when something is amiss? Being in the dark like this can lead to a cascading effect, ranging from small, undetected leaks to catastrophic disaster.

Yet it’s the safety professional’s job to know what’s happening, where it’s happening, who’s in charge, and what should be done to intervene. It boils down to this: The right information delivered to the right people at the right time is critical to taking the right action.


The right information delivered to the right people at the right time is critical to taking the right action.

The new HazardWatch FX-12 Fire and Gas Detection System, when installed with a FieldServer ProtoAir gateway and connected to the MSA Grid cloud platform, empowers safety personnel to make better, faster decisions – well before a minor situation becomes a major incident.

Why FieldServer and the Grid?

While being in the field has its advantages, such as being able to monitor situations more closely, it also has its disadvantages. Not only does it take personnel away from other facilities or jobsites where they may be needed, it can be both costly and time consuming to dispatch them.

With FieldServer and the Grid in your toolbox, there’s little left to chance. Instead of wondering what’s happening in a specific location or dispatching workers to the site, FieldServer and the Grid let you proactively monitor a situation from wherever you are. Even better, real-time remote notifications alert you to potential hazards so you can act swiftly and decisively.


FieldServer and the Grid let you proactively monitor a situation from wherever you are. Real-time remote notifications alert you to potential hazards so you can act swiftly and decisively.

Even better, FieldServer and the Grid offer secure remote connectivity, as well as support all your connected IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) devices without the need to be in the field.

You Can Provide Safety Support Anytime, Anywhere

It’s humanly impossible to be everywhere all the time. Technology, on the other hand, can be anywhere you need it to be. Which means that your support people, no matter where they’re located, can perform a lot of the support tasks they need to without delay and without the need to travel to the jobsite.

Take, for example, the HazardWatch® FX-12 System, MSA’s FM-approved fire and gas detection system. This intelligent system is designed with Rockwell Automation’s industry-proven Allen-Bradley ControlLogix™ programmable logic controller (PLC) technology and MSA’s advanced gas and flame detection devices. This stand-alone fire and gas alarm panel features a touchscreen operator interface. By integrating it with the FieldServer gateway and the Grid’s cloud capabilities, remote monitoring is now possible for personnel who may not be at the jobsite.

Together, this smart, state-of-the-art fire and gas solution can provide complete visibility and more, including:

  • Connecting to systems for commissioning
  • Enabling remote troubleshooting
  • Viewing of the touchscreen

Add in the FieldVEU dashboard, and you can have remote visualization of the FX-12 system, too. The FieldVEU app integrates seamlessly with the Grid’s cloud platform, enabling instant access to essential data, plus on-the-go notifications from Cloud-registered FieldServer gateways.

See for Yourself

If you’re in the oil & gas, fire and safety, or life safety systems business, this is a powerful safety solution that you must see first-hand.

We’re introducing the HazardWatch FX-12 Fire and Gas System at the 2022 NFPA Conference & Expo in Boston, June 6-8, 2022, at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Visit us at Booth #458 for demos and discussions about:

  • Fire & Gas System Solutions
  • Flame & Gas Detection Devices
  • Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions
  • Remote Monitoring Equipment

At MSA, our business is safety. We offer a wide variety of gas and flame detection solutions to meet your flame, oxygen, combustible, and toxic gas detection needs. Our system experts design, test, and manufacture NFPA 72-compliant fire and gas systems. Our FieldServer IIoT gateways are ideal for enabling 24/7 cloud-based monitoring and troubleshooting. Contact us to learn more.