How an Embedded IoT System Can Make Operations Safer and More Productive and Profitable
An embedded Internet of Things (IoT) system can take data-driven building or industrial automation from helpful information to invaluable insight. Rather than making assumptions or educated guesses, embedded IoT can elevate your ability to make more informed, bottom line-impacting decisions that are instrumental to success.
With embedded IoT, you have access to relevant, contextual, real-time information that, in turn, enables you to be more responsive, productive, and efficient.
An embedded IoT system integrates smart devices with technology-enabled information processing. It enables operators to interact with systems and their connected devices—without the need for complex or advanced computer skills.
That means embedded IoT systems are intuitive, intelligent, and connected. Not only do they rely on smart devices, such as sensors and controllers, to automate specific tasks and talk to each other, they also empower users by enabling data sharing and remote monitoring and control.
Leveraging the Power of Embedded IoT Systems
In a continual quest to boost productivity, ensure safety, and reduce operational costs, organizations, including industrial and manufacturing companies, have turned to technology for help.
Technologies such as machine-to-machine intelligence, edge computing, the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and Cloud computing have literally revolutionized the way business is done and buildings are managed.
By simplifying multi-location operations and leveraging the power of embedded systems to control a wide range of operations, including:
Top 3 Ways Embedded IoT Systems Streamline Operations and Promote Profitability
What follows are some of the many examples of how embedded IIoT systems are helping to optimize operations and improve the bottom line.
1) Equipment Monitoring
From generator sets used for backup power supply in data centers to refrigerant leak monitoring in food manufacturing and service, an embedded IIoT system can help you keep a close watch on your equipment and high-value assets.
In addition to automatic alert and alarming, embedded IIoT systems enable quicker equipment fault detection—and that means less downtime or fewer production outages.
And with connected solutions like the MSA Grid FieldVEU subscription service, operators can quickly and easily visualize what’s happening in the field so they can troubleshoot remotely. That means reduced personnel costs and field truck expenses.
As another example of the value of an embedded IIoT system, consider the exorbitant energy costs of fast-food industry equipment, such as a ventilated hood for the fryer. Featuring different modes, including turbo, this piece of equipment is specifically designed to suck the heat out of the kitchen. Unfortunately, it’s also a massive energy hog. Thanks to an embedded IIoT system, though, it can automatically toggle between modes depending on needs, delivering more power with the lunch rush and less at closing time.
Pro Tip: Connecting to the controller in the device or equipment allows operators to extract information and store it in the Cloud so that all stakeholders have access to the data and insights and can immediately see how a device or automation process is functioning.
2) Planned and Predictive Maintenance
Back in the day, there was an operating principle that seems unfathomable in today’s technology-based, data-driven world: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That meant that the notification operators got was simply machine failure. With IIoT embedded systems, however, the sophistication level for planned and predictive maintenance has risen to new heights.
For example, think about a motor bearing. As it starts to heat up it naturally draws more current. Because operators are continuously monitoring current flow through an embedded IIoT system, they can analyze the data and compare it to how hard they’re running the system to determine if the rise in current is a result of usage or potential equipment failure. More importantly, they can take preventive action more quickly if necessary.
As another example, consider a business that relies heavily on refrigeration. Thanks to machine data intelligence, operators can more readily identify a leak long before it becomes a safety or compliance issue and take immediate remedial action. Further, the system documents the action and stores it in the Cloud so that if there’s ever a need for it, there’s a record of the potential incident and fix.
Pro Tip: An IIoT system gateway can bring diverse data streams together in one place, making it easier to access relevant data and keep tabs on all your equipment.
3) Energy Management
Every organization needs to manage its power consumption—especially industrial, manufacturing, and food service organizations. But, as we always say, “You cannot manage what you cannot measure.”
Embedded IIoT systems to the rescue.
Take thermostats as an example. With embedded IIoT capabilities, organizations can remotely monitor and control temperature settings and easily adjust them based on a variety of factors, including occupancy rates and time of day.
Pro Tip: Transform smart devices and legacy systems into a more connected and interoperable solution with an energy metering protocol gateway.
A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) study for Google Cloud found that data-driven organizations are more profitable. According to the study as reported by Google Cloud, those that leverage high-quality, accurate, and integrated data were better at real-time decision making at the most critical junctures.
The study also found that data-leading organizations were more profitable, had bigger market share, and are ahead of their competitors in customer satisfaction.
Using Embedded IoT Systems
The power of embedded IoT systems cannot be understated. Embedded IIoT systems can help unlock business value, speed time to market, improve customer engagement and loyalty, and, most importantly, lead to greater profitability.
As you consider investing in embedded IIoT systems, contact us to learn more about industry-leading IIoT solutions, including FieldServer automation gateways.
Industrial Automation: How BACnet Helps Keep Production Going
Speed, efficiency, and flexibility.
These are the three things that every industrial and manufacturing organization around the world has always wanted and needed.
How to get it, however, has changed dramatically, especially since the widespread adoption of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). For most industrial and manufacturing organizations, connectivity is no longer new, it’s necessary.
But, like the technology itself, industrial plant connectivity, too, must continue to evolve and mature. Fortunately, technology itself is making it easier to do so. And leading the way? The BACnet interoperability protocol.
Here’s a look at how industrial and manufacturing organizations like yours can capitalize on technological advancements, smart devices, and the best-in-class open protocol, BACnet, to take operations to higher levels of speed, efficiency, and flexibility.
What Is the BACnet Protocol?
The BACnet, or Building Automation Control Networks, protocol is a leading open communications protocol that’s been deployed with more than 25 million devices globally.
BACnet was developed in 1987 and has since been continuously managed and updated by the BACnet Committee of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
Its purpose? To enable interoperability within a facility’s Building Management System (BMS) or Building Automation System (BAS).
What’s BACnet Got to Do with Industrial Automation?
If you’re wondering what the BACnet protocol means for industrial automation, the answer is simple: Everything.
It answers the question: How can we pull critical data from our BMS or BAS and put it into our industrial automation systems so we can optimize manufacturing and production?
The BACnet protocol is the mechanism by which an interoperable system exchanges information—regardless of the type and number of services it performs. In other words, it plays a major role in ensuring efficient and profitable operations.
Of course, BACnet can’t do it alone. Smart devices, such as temperature sensors, along with a protocol translating gateway like MSA FieldServer, are needed to bring disparate devices, legacy systems, and the BMS or BAS together with the industrial automation system.
It’s here where the magic happens. As an example, if you’re an ice cream manufacturing plant and the building is too warm, that’s a major problem. But with a BACnet-enabled automated plant equipped with a FieldServer gateway, problem solved. Automatically and seamlessly, the connected system alerts personnel and also changes or shuts down production until temperatures are back to normal.
The value comes from knowing when and where something has occurred that could be concerning or catastrophic.
Because it is so prevalent, BACnet is found virtually everywhere, making it critical for industrial plants to run efficiently.
Within the context of interoperability between facility and production, BACnet-enabled automation solutions provide critical information needed to streamline processes and optimize production within these five key areas:
Fire Alarm Panels: alerts, lights, sounds, evacuations
Lighting: occupancy levels and emergency egress
HVAC: temperature and fan adjustments
Environmental Control: air quality
Energy Management: power consumption and energy savings
BACnet + Other Protocols
Although BACnet is the primary protocol standard for automation, not all device manufacturers use it. And that’s okay—as long as you have a protocol gateway that can help your disparate devices talk to each other.
Our FieldServer gateway, for example, speaks and converts more than 140 protocols so you can unlock valuable information from both your building and industrial automation systems.
Because it’s a plug-and-play solution that easily integrates with BACnet Networks (BACnet/IP & BACnet MS/TP), FieldServer enables real-time, contextualized intelligence across both your building and industrial automation systems.
As such, when the inevitable power outage does happen, backup power readiness is not only a necessity, it’s an imperative.
Whether you’re faced with a power outage in a commercial building, across a corporate or educational campus, or in an institutional facility, convention center or retail complex, the number one priority, of course, is occupant safety.
That’s where Building Automation Systems (BAS) come in, enabling you to activate and control uninterrupted power supply (UPS) backup systems for emergency energy, lighting, fire alarm, and security monitoring.
Challenges of Dealing with Commercial Building Power Outages
1. No Reliable Supply of Back-Up Power Generation
Being resilient in the face of an emergency requires a plan. Your plan could include gas- or wind-powered generators, solar panels, power meters, electrical switch gear systems or battery UPS.
The challenge comes when you don’t have a reliable and connected source of backup power. Without it, you’re hard pressed to ensure the well-being of your building occupants, visitors, and staff. There’s a big difference, though, between having these systems in place and being confident they’ll work when you need them most.
How to solve it:
Install cutting-edge emergency lighting inverters like theseto transition fast to emergency power and minimize disruptions. Having industrial-grade inverters with circuitry designed to convert AC power from the grid will enable you to power up electrical devices and systems, including emergency lighting.
2. Outdated and/or Time-Constricted Emergency Power Systems
Emergency power systems are complex. Devices, components, and connected systems for everyday power and emergency backup power requires continuous monitoring and maintenance. So, when components fail, age out, become obsolete, or no longer comply with local and national building codes, both capacity and resiliency are put at risk.
How to solve it:
Repair devices and systems or replace them with standby power solutions. For example, swap out battery-pack flashlight-type emergency lights for transfer devicesthat are compliant with National Electric Code Article 700. Opt for transfer devices that are specifically designed to automatically turn existing architectural lighting into illuminated emergency egress lighting.
Here are some key reasons to replace wall-mounted battery systems sooner rather than later:
Battery system lighting is notoriously dim, which poses a potential safety hazard.
Battery-operated emergency lighting only lasts for so long. In fact, most battery-pack systems only work for 90 to 120 minutes, which is less than the standard electrical outage duration reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The ROI for battery-pack emergency systems is lower, in light of the cost of ongoing manual inspection, additional maintenance requirements, and frequent battery replacement.
Lastly, pair emergency architectural lighting solutions with an IoT gateway like theMSA FieldServer ProtoNode. Not only does this allow you to operate devices that are supplied by backup power systems from anywhere at anytime, it also means you control when and where to activate the emergency lighting, such as near an interior door, in a mechanical room, or along hallways, stairs, and exit points.
3. Lack of Real-Time Data at the Edge
For some building owners and managers, it isn’t easy to manage large amounts of data at the edge. The fact is, more data doesn’t equate to usable data—unless and until the data is processed and becomes actionable, helping you understand the “who,” “what” and “where” of each relevant data point.
How to solve it:
Choose a solution that features sophisticated self-diagnostics and event log tracking. The right power inverter can empower you to track normal operational data as well as power outage events. And the right IIoT gateway and Cloud solutioncan make storing and accessing data in the Cloud both accessible and highly secure. Remember: This is crucial data you need to support for routine Fire Marshal inspections. Without real-time tracking and secure Cloud storage, you’ll be forced to rely on inconvenient and potentially inaccurate paper logbooks and cumbersome, error-prone binders.
Benefits of a Connected BAS with IIoT Gateway Solution
Whether you’re working within your normal daily operations or contending with an emergency power situation, state-of-the-art diagnostics, log tracking data, and communication capabilities can make all the difference when it comes to activating and optimizing your energy saving systems and lighting sources.
In addition to emergency lighting inverters and transfer devices, the ProtoNode is a fully configurable building and industrial automation IIoT gateway that easily connects your lighting systems, emergency power solutions, and energy devices—including UPS, gas- and wind-powered generators, solar panels, power meters and electrical switch gear systems—to your network, and your network to the Cloud.
Supporting up to 1,000 data points, ProtoNode enables remote and secure access to the FS-GUI application, which is available locally on the ProtoNode. So, even without a power outage, you’ll have continual access to the status of your standby systems.
This means you’ll have early warning of any potential malfunction or failure of your UPS or other backup power systems so you can ready them before the literal and proverbial storm hits.
Like other FieldServer protocol gateway products and MSA Cloud solutions, ProtoNode supports more than 140 protocols for both commercial and industrial facilities allowing you to connect to traditional backup and alternate power sources.
If you’re looking for an advanced automation solution to meet your building power and lighting needs (normal and emergency), contact us or reach out to one of your local distributorsfor a quote.
BACnet vs. Modbus: What to Consider
When it comes to industrial and commercial automation, should you use BACnet® or Modbus®?
The answer is “yes.”
Both of these open protocol standards are designed to enable device communication and are
found among tens of thousands of BMS (building management systems) worldwide.
What is BACnet?
BACnet, which stands for Building Automation Control Network, is a popular protocol that’s been
around since 1995 and has a deployment of more than 25 million devices around the world.
Developed and maintained by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and AirConditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), BACnet facilitates cross-communication.
By allowing devices from varying manufacturers within HVACR, lighting control, fire and life
safety, and other building automation functions to talk with one another.
What is Modbus?
Introduced in 1979 by Schneider Electric (then known as Modicon), Modbus is an even older
protocol than BACnet. Today, you can find more than 7 million nodes in North America and
Although used in BMS today, Modbus was originally developed as a way to transmit information
between programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
BACnet vs. Modbus: What’s the Difference?
BACnet and Modbus are both open communication protocols, which means that anyone can
design and manufacture BACnet or Modbus equipment without the need for proprietary
technology, tools, or fees.
Both protocols have a few other things in common—and quite a few differences, too. Here’s a
side-by-side comparison of the features and benefits of BACnet and Modbus.
The Evolution of BACnet vs. the Stasis of Modbus
Both BACnet and Modbus have a substantial installation base. BACnet, however, has garnered more than half the market share and has a growing adoption rate for one simple reason: BACnet continues to evolve, adding new objects and capabilities that are aligned with modern-day digital advancements and connectivity capabilities.
Most recently, ASHRAE introduced BACnet Secure Connect (BACnet/SC). According to ASHRAE, BACnet/SC is …
… a secure, encrypted communication datalink layer that is specifically designed to meet the requirements, policies, and constraints of minimally managed to professionally managed IP infrastructures.
In other words, this newest addition to the protocol is a proactive response to cybersecurity threats. BACnet/SC ensures that every device is authenticated and authorized to use a network, thereby protecting network security and information and infrastructure integrity.
BACnet vs. Modbus: Making the Choice
While each protocol has its rightful place, many OEMs and system integrators are considering making the switch to BACnet. If that’s you, then you need a powerful solution to make the most of BACnet’s capabilities.
The MSA QuickServer gateway is just that solution. FieldServer can connect your HVAC units, boilers, chillers, lighting systems and fire panels so that you get the data you need to monitor and control your facility effectively and efficiently.
Here at MSA FieldServer, we’re serious about life safety solutions. That’s why we spent some time recently at the 2023 NFPA Conference & Expo. In addition to presenting on industrial hydrogen hazard solutions, we listened in as NFPA released its 21st edition of the Fire Protection Handbook, which details how the world of fire protection has changed in just the past 15 years.
From inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems, fire safety has undergone a tremendous transformation and we have heightened safety awareness and the rise of advanced technologies to thank for that.
Intelligent Fire Safety
Perhaps the biggest change, though, has been the digitization of both operations and occupational safety. In fact, NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley gave a rousing presentation for conference attendees, during which he talked about the impact of digital transformation and the need to adapt to the changes in order to achieve better outcomes.
More importantly, Pauley shared this statistic as he emphasized the importance of advanced safety measures and new technologies:
Digital transformation initiatives are expected to attract $2.3 trillion in spending this year, with 90% of executives believing it will fundamentally alter their industries.
IIoT Fire Alarm Systems
One reason digitization has been revolutionary is because of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). In fact, IIoT has enabled things we often now cannot live without, such as remote access, automated alarms, and instantaneous data visualization. This is taking connectivity’s capabilities far beyond what’s been humanly possible.
The bottom line is that the adoption of IIoT smart-enabled technologies has not only helped organizations optimize operations, it’s also helped improve—and continues to help improve—fire safety.
Multiple Systems vs. One System
With changes in technologies and NFPA 72® standards, today’s fire alarm systems can integrate temperature, flame, and smoke into their fire and gas detection infrastructure. The combination of multiple systems into a single system integrated into the larger SCADA is relatively new, but it’s proving to offer enhanced protection against fire-related hazards.
Remote Monitoring & Alerts
One of the most impressive and important outcomes of modern-day fire alarm panel integration is that the information gap has been closed, and the result is empowering. That’s because advanced fire alarm panels, gas and flame detectors, and remote monitoring together give organizations some of what they need most to enhance certain decision-making: immediate, real-time visibility and insight. Now, meaningful data can be delivered to the right people at the right time and in the right place.
As an example, MSA FieldServer partners with a variety of industrial organizations on their fire safety solutions. With the FieldServer ProtoAir these safety-minded organizations can quickly and reliably get the data, diagnostics, and updates they decide is needed. Even better, it’s delivered via the FieldServer FGFD ProtoAir wireless gateway and MSA’s Grid Cloud Platform or other third-party cloud solution.
Fire Alarm Systems: The FieldServer Advantage
As a pioneering automation gateway solution, FieldServer remains an industry leading IIoT solution for awareness and action. In fact, our one-box solution not only enables fire safety devices to easily interface with automation control networks, it meets multiple protocols, including Modbus TCP/IP, BACnet/IP and EtherNet/IP. That means you can unify and connect disparate makes and models of fire panels.
But that’s not all. In addition to multi-protocol communication, here are three more reasons to choose FieldServer for fire panel integration.
FieldServer is uncomplicated yet powerful. Our high-performance, multi-protocol IIoT gateway requires little configuration and easily interfaces with other protocols for both new and legacy devices. That means you can usually be up and running in about 2 weeks, not 2 months (or more).
Bigger systems are expensive. FieldServer isn’t. This cost-effective interoperability solution is versatile, easy to configure, and economical.
MSA FieldServer has been around a long time and continues to set the industry standard for reliability. Not only do our system experts design and manufacture NFPA 72 compliant fire and gas systems, we can, in certain applications, get site approval for UL 864.
As an example, we worked with the University of Arizona to provide a tried-and-true solution to bring their various devices into their campus SCADA—including incorporating a Simplex fire alarm infrastructure. NFPA rules, however, do not allow FieldServer to take information from a fire panel and initiate or suppress the alarm system. But it can take that information and send it to building control, giving those who monitor the central panel the information they need to make necessary adjustments. This was no small feat, considering that all the different systems and protocols going through the FieldServer accounted for some 1.5 million data points each month at the university.
Life Safety Resources
When it comes to fire panel integration, the goal is access to the right data at the right time.
So, we invite you to learn more about how the FieldServer full-featured, Cloud-connected, field-programmable wireless IIoT gateway can streamline your integration.
Better yet, contact an MSA Safety Sales Representative today to see how we can help you on your own journey in digital transformation.
Making Sense of the MQTT Protocol and MQTT Payloads
MQ Telemetry Transport or MQTT has been called by its inventor and originator IBM, “a lightweight and flexible network protocol that strikes the right balance for IoT developers.” Since it became an open standard almost 10 years ago, MQTT has made a lot of headlines.
While MQTT is a commonly used protocol for machine-to-machine communication, it does not have a defined payload format. In fact, as of this writing, there are no industry-standardized payloads for MQTT. Instead, MQTT’s payload remains undefined.
Keep in mind that payload is the term used for the data structure exclusive of the MQTT protocol information. For example, MQTT protocol information includes such details as ClientID and UserName. Payload includes such data attributes as type and object.
So, back to the topic of payloads … who defines the MQTT payload?
We do—and so do other organizations and product developers like us.
As a leading IIoT and Cloud gateway provider who understands the value of MQTT as a transport protocol, we developed our own MQTT payload for the FieldServer™ BACnet IoT Gateway. Of course, in keeping with our organization’s commitment to innovation, we also have plans to offer additional MQTT payloads for such major Cloud services as AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Ignition. (We’ll keep you informed here on our blog as we roll out our MQTT payloads.)
With no industry-standardize payload, then, perhaps you’re left wondering why MQTT has become so ubiquitous. To help answer that question, let’s take a closer look at what MQTT is, what it does, and, more importantly, what’s next for MQTT payload standardization.
What is MQTT?
MQTT is a publish-subscribe transport protocol designed to connect data between machines. Organizations may use MQTT to get data into their Cloud infrastructure, however, MQTT does NOT define the data itself.
MQTT’s benefits as a transport protocol include the following:
MQTT moves data in a binary format that minimizes bandwidth requirements.
It uses a Quality of Service or QoS system to transfer messages with little to no data loss.
MQTT can reliably handle millions of IoT device connections at any given time.
It is bidirectional, allowing data to flow to and from devices using the same TCP connection.
How does MQTT work?
MQTT offers fast, efficient message delivery. In fact, if you dig into technical articles on MQTT, you’ll nearly always find some mention of Facebook and its adoption of MQTT in 2011 for powering its popular Messenger app. Like others, Facebook chose MQTT for what it does really well, which is quickly publish information so it can be received by the correct subscribers.
Here’s how MQTT transport works in industrial automation:
An IIoT gateway or sensor publishes data to an MQTT broker.
The MQTT broker acts as an intermediary to receive the data.
The MQTT broker collects and stores data for subscribers.
Subscribers that are registered with the broker can receive published data.
What’s next for MQTT and its payloads?
As we’ve said, MQTT’s publish-subscribe model enables simple and efficient machine-to-machine communication. So, it would be no surprise if MQTT continues to dominate the industrial automation arena.
As for developing industry-standardized payloads, the future is unclear. For now, MQTT payloads are typically customized per the company or product that supports MQTT. So, while these companies have defined their own MQTT payload for mainstream Cloud services, few products use these custom standards—and it’s highly unlikely that they ever will.
Frankly, it’s too soon to come to a consensus on standardized MQTT payloads. In fact, we ascribe to the belief that shaping the future of industrial automation MQTT payloads should be carefully and thoughtfully considered by an independent standards development organization.
When and how that will happen remains to be seen. Until then, we’ll continue to offer MSA-developed MQTT payloads for our edge computing devices, as well as enable Cloud architecture using Webhooks, RESTful API standards, and MQTT.
What is FieldServer and why does it matter to OEMs? Let’s answer some fundamental questions about what FieldServer does and why original equipment manufacturers rely on this simple, yet powerful solution.
What does FieldServer do?
If you’re a manufacturer of industrial or building automation smart devices, you’re giving your customers something incredibly valuable: data.
But what can your customers do with the data your devices capture? How can your customers leverage this device data to better inform their decision making so they can act fast when it really counts?
FieldServer is a multi-protocol Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) gateway designed to bridge the gap between your device and the data it collects and your customer’s need for real-time information. In short, FieldServer gateway solutions help smart devices “talk” with each other, enabling secure, encrypted connection between disparate devices, applications, and platforms.
What does this mean for OEMs?
It means you aren’t alone in creating value-added products and services for your customers. When you implement FieldServer gateways, you’re helping your customers effectively eliminate the communication barriers that can hinder safety, efficiency, productivity, and profitability.
How can OEMs use FieldServer?
FieldServer helps OEMs with their building automation, industrial automation, fire alarm, and utility/energy devices by delivering proven, reliable, agile solutions. Manufacturers that use FieldServer are empowered to develop products with purpose, knowing that FieldServer speaks and converts more than 140 different protocols, unlocking valuable information from within their smart devices and high-value assets.
FieldServer provides OEMs with rapid, reliable, cost-effective protocol implementation for both new and legacy devices.
Delivering Results: Top 5 Benefits of FieldServer for OEMs
The competition is stiff, and the stakes are high, so there’s no time to waste on development, programming, and implementation. With FieldServer you can complete beta testing within two weeks with no engineering development needed on your part. Plus, we preload the configuration for each of the model numbers that need to be supported in the FieldServer. That means, on average, FieldServer can cut OEM time-to-market by no less than 50%.
Hassle-Free Start Up
How many times have you taken one step forward only to take two, three, or even four steps back? Not so with FieldServer. We deliver a customized startup guide/documentation that replaces trial-and-error with proven, reliable, fast-start info. Our custom guides eliminate burdensome startup problems, enabling you to better serve your customers by providing detailed yet easy-to-follow installation instructions.
Simple, Cost-Effective Interfacing
We’ve always said that one-box connectivity is better than two simply because our one-box solution is both logical and more economical. In addition to instant deployment, FieldServer supports multiple protocols—without the need for multiple pieces of equipment. And, with only one SKU for many applications, FieldServer simplifies your internal SKU management. Plus, as an edge device, FieldServer gives you the opportunity to open up your edge computing capabilities through new product innovations, without requiring you to decommission legacy devices.
Proper configuration is essential, but what OEM has the time, resources, and expertise to ensure it? With FieldServer you don’t have to. Our FieldServer solutions include multiple device profiles, making it easier for operators who don’t have extensive protocol knowledge to map protocols to our pre-defined configurations. In addition, we offer a complimentary, one-hour virtual work session to validate your configurations and answer questions. And, of course, you can count on us to deliver ongoing, personalized support at no extra charge.
Secure, Remote Connectivity
Thanks to our complementary solution, the MSA Grid, OEMs can reduce costs, boost profits, and maintain a competitive edge. Our Cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technology solution works with all of our FieldServer gateways to give users the ability to remotely configure and support devices, as well as receive over-the-air (OTA) updates.
Industrial and building automation have become a permanent part of our connected world. That means successful OEMs are not only embracing Industry 4.0, they’re also digitizing their solutions to support collecting and generating meaningful data for their customers to use.
The key to making it work seamlessly, though, is implementing intelligent connections that rise up to intelligent devices. That’s why, when it comes down to it, FieldServer provides an ease of implementation and best-in-class communication protocols to get OEMs started quickly.
Beyond the Hype: Edge Computing Architectures for Automation and Control Applications
Every automation and control organization looking to provide only the most meaningful data at the right time, in the right place to the right people is facing the same dilemma:
How can the massive amounts of available data be distilled into something of value?
How can this data be securely distributed and used in real time to improve overall efficiencies?
For starters, by embracing edge computing.
Thanks to edge computing and solutions like the FieldServer™ protocol edge gateway, there now exists the potential for data to be selective, appropriate, and legible. Edge computing has opened up the opportunities for new and better ways to capture, process, analyze, and push data.
To help organizations understand what it takes for successful edge computing deployment, we’re teaming up with Control Engineering as a co-sponsor of their upcoming Edge Series webcast, Edge computing architectures, advantages.
Featuring technology experts Alan Reveling of Interstates and Aditya Agrawal of L&T Technology Services, here’s some of the information that’ll be covered:
Where and how edge computing fits into automation and controls
Which applications support edge computing
How edge computing enables more effective Cloud resources
Real-world automation and control use cases and best practices
Though they are complementary, IoT or Internet of Things is different than edge computing or the Cloud.
IoT facilitates the capture of data. IoT devices are smart devices designed to capture data points about an automation and control system or process. Examples of IoT or IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) devices include portable gas monitors and energy metering sensors.
Edge computing enables the processing of data. With edge computing, IoT device data is processed as close to the source as possible. It also facilitates data analysis before pushing only the most meaningful—not all the available—data to the Cloud.
The Cloud securely stores data. The Cloud is the scalable resource repository.
Why Edge Computing Is Important
Within automation and control IIoT devices, there exists a massive volume of available data. So much, data in fact, that it is extremely challenging (if not virtually impossible) to process the data at great speed. Edge computing prevents sending a veritable textbook of data when all that’s needed are a few key data points.
The sheer volume of available data also makes it difficult to push the data from IoT or IIoT devices directly to the Cloud without bogging down the data stream and causing latency issues. Edge computing helps speed up data normalization.
Edge Computing in Automation and Controls
With the advent of IoT in industrial automation, operations became highly data driven. Now, with edge computing, operations are also becoming Industry 4.0 enabled. This means organizations have the capability to enable more and better use of any data that is contained within their IoT devices, SCADA systems, and other resources.
As an example of how it works and why it matters, let’s say an IoT energy metering sensor indicates a value of 70. What, exactly, does 70 refer to? Is it a temperature reading? If so, is it Fahrenheit or Celsius? Is this value of 70 a data point for the inside or outside of a facility? Which location or high-value asset does the value of 70 refer to? Is this a high value or a low one? As you can see, a simple value elicits more questions than it answers. Fortunately, there is a lot of meta data attached to that one value; meta data that can answer those questions and many more.
That’s where edge computing comes into play. It helps end users understand the “who,” “what,” and “where” aspects of any given data point. At its core, edge computing helps ensure that the end user quickly and easily understands the data that’s delivered to them.
Tips on Edge Computing
Thinking about the ins and outs of edge computing can get a little overwhelming, so we’re here to help. Be sure to sign up for Control Engineering’s Edge Series webcast, Edge computing architectures, advantages. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to gain a competitive edge – reach out to us today and embark on your journey towards a more efficient, connected future.
Bridge the Gap: How a Protocol Gateway Enhances Third-Party Cloud Integration
Did you know that Cloud computing got its foundational start as far back as the 1950s? Like much of modern technology, there’s been both a revolution and an evolution of Cloud computing since then. While we have to acknowledge the official launch of Cloud computing, thanks to the introduction of the public Cloud by Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2002, a lot is happening today that could prove to be its own game changer.
First, Cloud adoption has grown by leaps and bounds. Second, it’s now considered mainstream so if you’re still on the fence about migrating to the Cloud, you’ll want to consider joining the growing number of organizations that are relying on Cloud services.
While some organizations have chosen private Cloud connectivity, others have chosen third-party public Cloud connectivity, and still others multiple Cloud providers. Because there is plenty of information online about developing a Cloud strategy, let’s talk about what comes next: Seamlessly and securely connecting to a third-party Cloud provider.
Using an Edge Gateway for Cloud Connectivity
If data and other meaningful information is to be transmitted from business systems and devices to the Cloud, there has to be a go-between that acts as a translator. This translator is an essential piece of the puzzle because systems and devices (especially from multiple manufacturers) are usually speaking different languages, otherwise known as protocols. The go-between is, of course, a protocol gateway like our FieldServer™ edge devices.
FieldServer “speaks” and converts 140+ different protocols to help a wide variety of devices talk with each other so they can perform as they were intended. FieldServer enables information sharing for real-time access to data, visual confirmation, and notifications, such as alarms.
Cloud Messaging Protocols
Like building automation or fire & safety devices, the Cloud works much the same way. A key difference is that the Cloud has its own set of IoT application and messaging protocols, including:
AMQP (Advanced Message Queuing Protocol): Designed for enterprise messaging systems; widely used by Azure and IBM Cloud
CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol): For IoT (Internet of Things) devices and applications supporting low-power, low-bandwidth networks; used by AWS and Google Cloud IoT Core
DDS (Data Distribution Service): For high-performance systems and Cloud-based applications requiring real-time data processing and analysis
MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport): For IoT applications; supported by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure
RESTful API (Representational State Transfer API): Uses HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) to enable communication among applications over the Internet
STOMP (Simple Text Oriented Messaging Protocol): Provides a messaging framework for applications that run on various programming languages and operating systems; used by AWS, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and IBM Cloud
WebSockets: Facilitates bidirectional communication between clients and servers for real-time data transfer between web applications and Cloud services; supported by AWS and GCP
While the industry has not yet standardized how to communicate with the Cloud, MQTT, WebSockets, and RESTful API are proving to stand out as some of the most widely adopted Cloud messaging protocols—and the ones FieldServer currently offers.
Benefits of Using FieldServer for Edge-to-Cloud Connectivity
We recently participated in a webinar with one of our clients to talk about how to take edge data and send it to Cloud via Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or cellular (which pushes it to the Cloud). We’ve also featured a case study here that demonstrates how FieldServer helped enhance building safety by extending IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) Cloud data.
Here’s a concise rundown of the key advantages that make FieldServer stand out in third-party Cloud connectivity:
FieldServer gateways support multiple communication protocols used by some of the most popular third-party Cloud providers.
Easy to Configure
FieldServer installs in minutes (not hours or days) and connects to multiple third-party Cloud solutions without the need for extensive changes to underlying systems.
FieldServer is a fraction of the cost (hundreds versus thousands) of other protocol gateways.
FieldServer is capable of handling the large amounts of data and devices typically found with IIoT applications.
FieldServer is tested and verified to protect sensitive data and thwart unauthorized access. Plus, everything on the FieldServer gateway is timestamped for added accuracy and security.
Next-Level Cloud Connectivity
When you know why (and how) an Edge gateway enables third-party Cloud connectivity, you’re empowered to take your Cloud strategy to the next level.
Hopefully, these tips will not only make third-party Cloud connectivity easier and more secure, they’ll improve your edge computing experience.
Better (and Faster) Data Processing with FieldServer™ Edge Devices
Although edge computing is not new, it has gained a whole bunch more traction in recent years; and it’s expected to continue this growth trend for years to come. In fact, not that long ago Gartner predicted that 75% of enterprise-generated data will be created outside of centralized data centers by 2025.¹ It looks like that prediction is right on target.
So, what makes edge computing so important to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?
It’s simple: Edge computing allows organizations to handle data as closely to the source as possible. What that means is that companies can more quickly generate actionable insights in real time to improve efficiency and productivity.
Examples of edge computing solutions include Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms, automation gateways, routers, and wide area networks (WANs).
Edge computing allows organizations to establish systems that are independent from a centralized data center, thereby enabling faster data collection, analysis, and on-the-spot troubleshooting.
Data, Data, and More Data
In today’s environment, data is king. IoT devices, on the other hand, are the royal staff in this analogy, working hard at generating all-important data. But data is nothing until it’s processed, distributed, and applied.
Distribution can be time consuming and expensive, depending on how it’s done. With edge computing, instead of every single piece of data being uploaded to a centralized location or the Cloud, only relevant and meaningful data is transmitted.
To illustrate, here’s an example:
Imagine there are three energy meters, each generating their own data sets. It’s unlikely that an end user would want to know every detail behind every piece of data from each meter—especially if what the end user really wanted to know is the total amount of energy expenditure from all three meters.
That’s where an edge computing solution like MSA FieldServer™ comes in.
FieldServer is an edge device designed to securely Cloud-enable energy metering equipment, building management systems, and industrial automation operations. Our edge computing solution accelerates the capture, upload, and normalizing of relevant data at the appropriate time, delivering it in a format that makes more sense to the end user. Even better, FieldServer enables permissions-based remote access to the Cloud via mobile device from any location, whether that location is in a different state or another country halfway around the world.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of FieldServer gateways is our 20+ years of knowledge and experience handling over 144 different protocols. We’ve proven our ability to gain data that we can then manipulate using our edge device. In fact, we’re so confident in FieldServer as an edge device that we use it ourselves in our FGFD solutions.
Obviously, edge computing has many merits. It’s important to also consider edge computing’s vulnerabilities, too. Among those vulnerabilities? Hacking. As we all know now, there have been cybersecurity events that occurred as a result of unauthorized entry through an HVAC or other automation system.
Like network and Cloud architectures, edge computing devices, too, must be properly protected using these cybersecurity best practices:
Develop and implement access control policies such as zero trust, as well as user authentication controls and credentials to keep unauthorized users out.
Look for solutions that have built-in device security (like FieldSafe) to protect endpoints.
Ensure that the Cloud is secured with such technologies as encryption to safeguard sensitive data.
Adopt a proactive multi-layered defense strategy, including current security standards to minimize exposure.
Ask device manufacturers about their third-party penetration testing, which helps ensure that devices keep up with ever-changing cybersecurity threats and tactics.
More Edge Computing Coming Your Way…
Of course, there’s a lot more to say on the topic of edge computing and edge security. And we’ll be doing just that when we sponsor edge computing webinars in the summer of 2023. To be among the first to register for our edge computing webinars, check back here on the blog in the coming months.