Case Study: Case Controls®
MSA FieldServer™ Remote Monitoring – Case Controls® Says It’s Been Great for Business

Somewhere between Evansville, Indiana, Kapolei, Hawaii, and Hazira, India is a compressed air system alarm, voltage disturbance, or some other anomaly that requires swift and specialized attention.

Enter Case Controls®.

With installations across North America and around the world, troubleshooting, monitoring, and supporting issues is all in a day’s work for this Evansville-based firm that designs, builds, and services world-class products for controlling industrial air compressors and compressed air systems on Allen-Bradley CompactLogix™ and ControlLogix® PLCs and PanelView™ Plus HMIs.

Case supplies and services some of the world’s most well-known – and most depended-upon – industrial organizations. In fact, without Case’s support, some of these compressed air operations could be severely interrupted or even shut down, negatively impacting the production and distribution of essential food, healthcare, paper goods, and other much-needed supplies.

THE CHALLENGE

Though they were already known for providing outstanding service, Case knew it could amplify its support offerings even more – and save customers time, money, and downtime hassle – if they could figure out how to expand their compressor data monitoring capabilities.

For the past two years they’d already been relying on MSA FieldServer™ for IoT solutions and multi-protocol gateways. So, Case again turned to FieldServer and presented this challenge:

How can we offer real-time data monitoring from a central or remote location, provide simultaneous monitoring of all compressor controllers, and achieve faster response time?

THE SOLUTION

FieldServer acted as swiftly as the implementation of its solution. Within just a couple of weeks, it delivered a robust platform that allows Case to offer customers speedy remote troubleshooting, diagnostics, and remote connectivity.

AirView™ Cloud, the data visualization solution on the compressor controller, is a versatile platform that has exponentially expanded Case’s compressor data monitoring abilities – to the delight of its team and its customers.

With AirView Cloud, Case can now remotely connect to any of their partnering customer locations anywhere in the world using a secure connection. AirView Cloud lets them acknowledge an issue, and either resolve it in mere minutes or determine whether Case needs to schedule a site visit.

Plus, with the VPN solution from FieldServer, Case engineers can remotely access the Allen-Bradley hardware on each compressor and using the Allen-Bradley development software, reconfigure or troubleshoot the controllers. The virtual tunnel via the FieldServer Cloud also allows for Compressor local HMI web based screens to be viewed remotely.

“Thanks to FieldServer, the answer to our problem turned out to be surprisingly swift and simple… They delivered an out-of-the-box solution with all the bells and whistles, and implemented it in less than 14 days. We now have the ability to respond almost immediately and resolve compressed air system issues to improve system efficiency and increase overall system reliability. We appreciate both the functionality of the FieldServer solution and the price point. In fact, we’re so pleased, we’re now thinking of placing FieldServer on each control system we sell and service.” - Devin Sullivan, Case Controls

Contact us to learn more about MSA FieldServer and cloud-enablement capabilities for industrial automation, building automation, energy management, and more.

Clearing the Confusion: Third-Party Integration Made Simple

Welcome to Part 1 of our multi-part series on Third-Party Integration, the solution to right-here, right-now connectivity and remote support.

If you’ve ever been up to your knees in muddy waters you know that it’s not easy to know where to take the next step. Will it be solid and sure? Or will it put you on your tail, flailing about in the muck and the mire?

Clear waters, on the other hand, let you see the exactly where your next step should be as well as what obstacles lie ahead.

For many, third-party integration is a lot like muddy waters. You’ve heard the terms, you kind of understand, but do you really? With that kind of uncertainty comes hesitation, regret, and missteps.

That’s unfortunate, because the benefits of third-party integration are crucial to supporting a state-of-the-art automation system.

So, let’s clear up the muddy waters so you can make a crystal clear decision about which third-party integration solution is right for you.

The Definition of Third Party Integration

The first and obvious question is: What is third-party integration? Third-party integration is just the fancy, technical term for helping devices talk to each other.

One example of third-party integration can be found in something most of us use every day – the map application on our cell phones. Along with directions to where you’re going, you also get location-specific information, such as where the nearest gas station or fast food restaurant is. That doesn’t just magically happen. Third-party integration makes it work.

In building automation, third-party integration promotes secure, encrypted connection between a variety of disparate applications, devices, and platforms using either the cloud or a mobile device.

Understanding Cloud-Based Connectivity

To enable cloud architecture, there has to be something to facilitate the communication between the device and the cloud. That “something” is known as a network protocol and includes these three standards:

  1. Webhooks
  2. RESTful API
  3. MQTT (Message Queue Telemetry Transport)

We’ll be looking at these standards, including what they are and how they work, in more depth in future blog posts. Until now, just know that common standards enable that sharing of information, including real-time access to data, visual confirmation, and notifications, such as alarms.

How Third-Party Integration Can Speed Up Device Support

Remote connectivity is so prevalent in our daily lives, we’ve come to expect it – so why shouldn’t you expect it for automation? Remote connectivity to your products in the field is the best way to deliver immediate, reliable monitoring, troubleshooting, and issues resolution in real time – without having to be on site.

MSA FieldServer™ is our proven “one-box solution” that can enable you to use your existing devices and applications without big, expensive add-ons.

Application Integrations

From business applications like Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) technologies to Cisco IoT platforms, MSA FieldServer automation gateway products can bring together all your devices faster, easier, and more securely than you thought possible.

What’s Next

It makes no good business sense to risk avoidable delays and inefficiencies. With MSA FieldServer third-party integration solutions, you will speed up your response time, saving time and money along the way.

Check back to this blog for a continuation of this series where we’ll be talking about:

If you’re a MSA FieldServer customer and are open to getting a whole new level of support for you and your team, let’s talk about enabling the features you need.

If you’re not a FieldServer customer and want to swap waiting for some time-in-the-future service calls for real-time, remote automation support, contact us.

Case Study: Cortex

Commercial building owners and property managers face a number of fixed and non-fixed fees that cut into their profits and increase their bottom lines. These can include maintenance costs, cleaning costs, property taxes and upkeep of the grounds around their buildings. However, according to ENERGY STAR, the joint Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) program that promotes energy efficiency, one of these costs stands head and shoulders above the rest:

Energy use is the single largest operating expense in commercial office buildings, representing approximately one-third of typical operating budgets and accounting for almost 20 percent of the nation’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Of the many different systems and devices in a commercial office building that may consume energy, the largest energy consumer is inarguably heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). According to a 2015 report by the DOE, HVAC accounts for 35 percent of total building energy usage. The next largest consumer of energy is lighting, at just 11 percent.

This means that getting HVAC costs under control can have a significant impact on overall energy costs and help reduce the operating expenses for commercial buildings. That’s an attractive proposition for building owners, who are either paying that expense out of pocket to the detriment of their profits, or passing that expense on to their occupants, raising the cost to lease their space and making it difficult to compete in the marketplace – especially in places where commercial real estate vacancy rates are high.

But getting HVAC costs under control can be challenging. A building owner could simply turn down their systems during the hottest and coldest months of the year to obtain savings, but those savings would come at the cost of occupant comfort. Just a few days of insufficient heating or cooling could result in occupant complaints and – eventually – high turnover rates.

To make balancing the comfort of occupants and the cost of HVAC easier, Cortex launched a building analytics software solution that harvests and analyzes the data being generated by the HVAC devices and sensors in a building. Utilizing this data, the Cortex solution takes advantage of the advanced analytics and machine learning to generate actionable insights and intelligence that enables building owners and property managers to better manage their HVAC systems – allowing them to keep occupants comfortable while still cutting the energy usage of their HVAC systems and devices.

The Cortex application is so effective that it is currently in use by some of the largest and most recognizable property management companies, including: Savanna, CBRE and Empire State Realty Trust, which has saved approximately $800,000 per year in energy costs utilizing the Cortex solution in New York City’s iconic Empire State Building.

But, for the Cortex solution to function, it needs the ability to harvest device and temperature data from HVAC systems and sensors around the building. And that’s where a gateway solution becomes necessary.

Challenge
When entering or working with a new building for the first time, the Cortex team is literally going in blind – with little knowledge of which HVAC systems are in use and what sensors are present. The company also needs to get the data from those unknown devices – through the building management system (BMS) – if its application is going to be able to analyze it and deliver actionable insights to the user.

To accomplish this, Cortex was using one particular gateway solution, but that product was discontinued and became unavailable for purchase. Upon beginning the search for a replacement, Cortex found the MSA FieldServer BACnet IoT Gateway and decided to standardize on that solution for all of its new buildings and customers moving forward.

In fact, the device checked so many boxes and met Cortex’s requirements so effectively that the company made that decision quickly and without further exhaustive testing of other solutions in the marketplace.

MSA’s Solution
Utilizing a plug-and-play FieldServer BACnet IoT Gateway solution, Cortex is able to quickly and easily integrate with a new building or new customer’s BMS solution and begin to aggregate and analyze HVAC device data. But the FieldServer Gateway does more than just make the device information available for the Cortex application – it also fills another essential unique need that Cortex has – it serves as a de-facto BACnet discovery tool.

Cortex often enters new buildings and customer relationships with little preexisting knowledge of what is there. The MSA FieldServer BACnet IoT Gateway helps tremendously with this challenge by immediately exploring the building’s BMS solution to identify what systems are there and establish connectivity to them. And it is capable of doing so right off of the shelf.

Once installed, the Gateway establishes the systems and devices that are present in the building and allows Cortex to pick and choose the devices it wants to monitor through an easy to use Web interface.

Working with some of the largest property management companies and operating in some of the world’s most iconic buildings, data security was also of utmost concern for Cortex. MSA’s solution also met Cortex’s stringent cybersecurity requirements as the company’s solution and device cloud have been rigorously penetration tested and certified secure.

Benefits to Cortex

  • A “plug and play” IoT gateway solution that delivers the device and system data necessary for their software to deliver actionable insights to users.
  • The ability to quickly and easily identify the devices and systems on the building network and easily choose which devices to monitor – even when going into a new building with little insight into what’s present.
  • The rigorous cybersecurity testing and certifications required to ensure that Cortex users and customers are protected and their data is secure.
The Sierra Monitor solution checked a number of boxes for us. The most critical of which is that we go into a new building without a lot of prior knowledge of what’s there. We need a BACnet discovery tool and that’s what the product delivers. Right now, Sierra Monitor’s BACnet IoT Gateway is the solution of choice for when we go into a building. When we go in blind to a new building, we’re going in with Sierra Monitor. It’s what we use. - Rick Balsano, Cortex
MSA’s FieldServer Gateway Adds New OPC UA Driver

The launch of the OPC UA Driver for the MSA FieldServer™ Gateway provides engineers who are responsible for OEM equipment design, industrial processes, manufacturing lines, and building management a new powerful protocol option for cloud and SCADA applications.

For these engineers continuing their long odyssey seeking interoperable open system computing platforms coupled with compatible industrial equipment communication protocols, the elusive holy grail of open-system automation now appears to be in sight.  The innovative Open Platform Communication United Architecture (OPC UA) driver for MSA’s versatile FieldServer Gateway will simplify and enhance the journey to platform independent cloud-based automation.

This relatively new OPC UA technology brings together the productivity and cost advantages of machine-to-machine intelligence, the IIoT and cloud-based architecture.  This approach promises to greatly simplify the industrial automation migration path to the cloud while improving data security and much more.

With its pedigree going back decades, OPC UA is the latest generation of the classic version of OPC, which was borne of the object linking and embedding (OLE) technology that replaced ladder logic.  Classic OPC was the missing link allowing HMI/SCADA systems to interface by converting generic-OPC read/write requests into device-specific requests and vice-versa.

The Challenges

Developed by the OPC Foundation as an industry standard, OPC UA is used as a transport route and IT standard with integrated security. As an OPC UA client, the controller pushes data to cloud and SCADA applications.

Next-gen OPC UA provides: (1) platform independence, (2)  enhanced data security, (3) plant- to executive-floor integration, (4) IEC standard compatibility, (5) a simplified architecture, (6) a robust, but not technically restricted specification, (7) comprises a large amount of domain specific add-ons, (8) is scalable, (9) is future-proof, (10) and is easily deployed.

As systems engineers embrace next-gen OPC UA architecture on the way to the cloud or SCADA systems, they are still faced with some challenges.  They must integrate legacy automation systems running over BACnet, Modbus, EtherNet/IP DNP 3.0, etc, residing on installed controllers.  In a large facility, there are often thousands of I/O points and hundreds of programmable logic controllers (PLCs)–all managed by a distributed control system (DCS).

The Solution

To simplify the task, MSA’s FieldServer Gateway Interface family of communications products with its ProtoNode model’s OPC UA interface driver is designed to help engineers and technicians reach their cloud-based and SCADA industrial automation objectives with a minimum of delays or roadblocks.  With more than 140+ communication protocols, MSA’s FieldServer Gateway family of products provides the means for disparate devices to communicate in the cloud.

How It Works

The MSA FieldServer ProtoNode Gateway meets the requirements of the OPC UA driver as set by the OPC Foundation.  The FieldServer is designed with Serial & Ethernet ports, which can be loaded with any of the 144 protocols to then be connected to OPC UA network.

The ProtoNode Gateway can emulate both a client and a server. When configured as a client, the ProtoNode’s OPC UA driver will connect to the configured OPC UA servers and attempt to read the requested data points. This data is then mapped to any of the other protocols loaded in the FieldServer.

When the ProtoNode Gateway is configured as a server, the OPC UA driver creates an endpoint that other OPC UA clients can connect to.  It creates the OPC objects and attributes based on the configuration to make data from other protocols available to OPC UA clients.

Conclusions

The MSA FieldServer ProtoNode Gateway with OPC UA driver offers building, facility and plant engineers many advantages in terms of open system computing platform flexibility along with the integration of the most popular industrial automation communication bus protocols, including BACnet, Modbus, EtherNet/IP, etc.  It looks to truly be the satisfying end to a long industrial automation odyssey seeking to leverage the power of machine-to-machine intelligence, IIoT equipment and the cloud.

Achieving the Benefits of Remote Connectivity Faster and More Reliably

While the productivity and cost advantages of cloud-based building and factory automation systems are relatively easy to identify and quantify, the road to achieving those benefits includes hazard warning signs alerting you to the complexity of the task ahead.

The success of cloud-based building and factory automation projects depends on highly intelligent servers, reliable remote communication networks and engineering expertise.  Industrial companies today operate from multiple buildings or locations. Their systems control any number of functions, production lines or batch processes with a mix of newer and legacy equipment over communication networks and the industrial internet of things (IIoT).

When the advantages and complexities of cloud-based building and factory automation systems are presented to senior executives, among the first questions asked are:  “How much?” and “How long?”  The answers vary, but they hinge on the choice of cloud-based systems including the remote connectivity server solution and the team responsible for the project.

Solutions to the Challenges

The saying, “time is money,” applies when asking questions about the cost and turnaround time to implement cloud-based systems. It pays to consult a proven vendor team with ready-to-go technologies and equipment. For example, MSA FieldServer™, is partnering with a lighting control manufacturer, which is an IIoT company focused on building energy management solutions, including smart controls and intelligent lighting.

The lighting control company chose the MSA FieldServer ProtoAir IIoT Gateway as a versatile, reliable product that can add a Building Management System (BMS) to  its solution suite. They have a robust platform designed to enable a virtually unlimited number of IoT applications, including connected lighting IoT capabilities. The company’s lighting solution controls lights, saves energy, and enables additional IoT applications within industrial settings.

The FieldServer product line, with over 300,000 installed units at thousands of industrial and commercial facilities, provides multi-protocol gateways that offer numerous advantages, including ease of set-up that accommodates configuration changes or customization. The BTL certified FieldServer product suite also provides the industry’s widest choice of multi-protocol support that can be installed with confidence

MSA’s FieldServer team provides expert support and service for the 140+ protocols available with FieldServer, including BACnet, LonWorks, KNX, M-Bus, EtherNet/IP, and more.  With integrated remote access, FieldServer reduces truck-rolls to site(s), offering secure visibility and remote access into building and factory field devices through FieldServer IIoT gateways.

MSA FieldServer’s BACnet Router is a complete building management BACnet internetworking tool. Users can connect to BACnet devices and bridge all their device data needs. It comes with one or two serial ports for MS/TP, and there’s a Wi-Fi option too.

As versatile as it is intelligent, the MSA FieldServer product suite is compatible with a wide range of factory automation communication protocols, including Modbus, EtherNet/IP & DNP 3.0. From an architectural perspective, FieldServer is an advanced connectivity solution to programmable logic controllers (PLC’s), including those from Emerson and Rockwell.

Building and plant system analytics data, diagnostics and updates can be implemented quickly and reliably via the SMC Cloud or the third-party cloud of the customer’s choice.  For example, if unusually high temperatures require extra building or factory floor cooling, thermostat changes can be uploaded automatically via secure VPN lines to manage the HVAC system. If unforeseen product demand requires weekend overtime, the building security, lighting control and HVAC systems can be adjusted remotely via mobile applications on phones or tablets.

In the fast-paced IIoT world, firmware updates are frequently necessary for building and factory floor systems that operate facility infrastructure and factory. Again, the FieldServer is there to make updates to building equipment and factory equipment via VPN and the SMC Cloud.

In a world of on-demand expectations, FieldServer is delivering building and factory analytical data 24-x-7 around the globe.  Such data supports equipment preventative maintenance programs and systems that alert building and plant managers to points of required standard equipment maintenance or alert them to unexpected conditions that require back-up equipment to be turned on temporarily while maintenance crews go to work.

Conclusions

The MSA FieldServer suite of gateway products and the SMC Cloud with mobile applications access are providing the remote connectivity solutions needed to help companies fully automate their operations like never before.  They’re reducing costs, boosting profits and many times gaining a competitive advantage based on IIoT technologies. MSA’s highly proven FieldServer, SMC Cloud and mobile interface, along with its talented engineers and solution partners are there to help you transition your business to the cloud–on-time and on-budget.

Traveling the Road to Simpler, More Secure Industrial Automation in the Cloud

The launch of Industry 4.0 machine-to-machine (M2M) intelligence initiatives via the Cloud and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are well on their way to transforming the automation of commercial buildings, manufacturing facilities and industrial process plants.  The workplaces of today and tomorrow will increasingly operate through the Cloud and exhibit incredibly intelligent automation on a scale with here-to-fore unimaginable productivity gains at lower cost.

The Challenges

As process and plant engineers continue to transition their company operations into the Cloud, two of the biggest obstacles that they face are (1): keeping the Cloud interface pertinent and (2) maintaining robust security.  Failing to do so impedes the intended productivity gains and the cost advantages of the Cloud while leaving the front and/or the back doors open to intrusion.

For most of us, change is difficult.  Process and plant engineers are no different, but in their work-a-day world everything is much more complex.  The transition to the industrial automation in the Cloud of a large multi building corporate campus, or a hardware robotic assembly line, or a fluid batch process requires thorough, complex systems engineering, testing and validation.

In nearly all cases, the transition to Cloud-based automation is impeded by the existing equipment housed in commercial buildings, institutional facilities, and manufacturing and industrial process plants.   Inside every business location there is a huge amount of legacy equipment—some of it old, tough, reliable, but not all that intelligent . . . and some of it with cutting-edge intelligence.  The goal is to connect nearly all of it to the Cloud.

The Solutions

The systems, process and plant engineers responsible for the automation and operation of their businesses are also wary of the safety and business risks of change, especially rapid, transformative change.  Change, however, is the middle name of Industry 4.0 and the IIoT, and like some road trips in life it is easier to identify the end destination and route on a map than to travel the actual road that takes you there.

For this reason, MSA’s FieldServer™ Gateway Interface line of communications products with its OpenVPN Interface are designed to help engineers and technicians travel the road to Cloud-based industrial automation with a minimum of delays or detours along the way.  With more than 140+ communication protocols, MSA’s FieldServer Gateways provide the means for disparate devices to communicate in the Cloud.

MSA’s advanced OpenVPN interface establishes an encrypted and authenticated secure tunnel from a technician’s local PC or mobile device to remote devices connected to the FieldServer. The FieldServer then acts as a proxy, allowing access to the site devices.

How It Works

With OpenVPN running on a FieldServer Gateway, engineers and technicians can remotely access their Ethernet devices with local Windows management/configuration programs to perform diagnostics, download new firmware and reprogram the device without going to the site. Technicians can also connect to webservers located on remote Ethernet devices.

The OpenVPN interface establishes an encrypted and authenticated secure tunnel from a local PC or mobile device to remote devices connected to the FieldServer. The FieldServer acts as a proxy, allowing access to the site devices. OpenVPN software runs on both ends of the internet tunnel to keep data secure.

Benefits of OpenVPN

The simple, easy-to-use OpenVPN interface provides FieldServer Gateway access to the MSA Cloud or third-party clouds via Ethernet, Wi-Fi or Cellular communications.  It interfaces with site control systems via BACnet/IP, Modbus TCP/IP and Ethernet IP.  VPN clients and connection profiles can be quickly distributed from the OpenVPN access server.  User access and group access levels can be set up according to individual or team needs.

In terms of security, OpenVPN technology safeguards business processes, equipment, data and facilities from dangerous intrusions by hackers and the threats of malware, etc. It operates on both ends of the Internet tunnel to keep your data secure and it supports different unique IP addresses for both endpoints.  Should a problem occur, Cloud alarming is available via either or both SMS text messaging and standard email notifications.

The OpenVPN interface is available with both the ProtoNode and the ProtoAir communication gateway product lines.  The ProtoNode is an Ethernet gateway and the ProtoAir is a wireless gateway (Wi-Fi or Cellular), which both provide Cloud connectivity with instant deployment of multiple field protocols, enabling new or legacy devices to easily interface with other protocols.

Conclusions

When traveling the road to Cloud-based automation, your choice of travel partners makes a difference.  MSA FieldServer’s OpenVPN cloud interface, its line of FieldServer Gateway products and expert engineers can help you avoid any bumps in the road on your journey to Cloud-based automation.

Contact the FieldServer experts today to find out more.

Automation Systems Leader Overcomes Flow Meter Data Communications Protocol Challenge

The sophisticated process instrumentation and control systems that today automate the operation of everything from smart buildings to wastewater treatment plants are constantly evolving.  For example, the basic liquid and gas flow metering technologies that measure fluid flow rates and totalized flows are not only more accurate than ever, but now also must provide flow data over a dizzying array of standardized digital bus data communication protocols.

The Challenges

In a perfect world as seen through the eyes of flow meter design engineers, they would not only be the customer’s first choice for measurement accuracy and reliability, but would also be able to specify the choice of data communications bus, the choice of controllers and the full automation system.  That’s because it’s cost-prohibitive to provide all available standard communication protocols in a single flow meter transmitter.

For example if a flow meter manufacturer does not install the BACnet protocol on its transmitters, it will be challenging to address the full scope of the building automation market.  If a manufacturer’s flow, pressure or temperature instrument – or another piece of equipment such as an HVAC, lighting or security system – doesn’t operate over BACnet, then the instrument or equipment are not likely to be considered for use.

The same situation occurs at industrial plants such as municipal or industrial wastewater treatment facilities, where, for example, EtherNet/IP or Modbus TCP/IP have been installed on-site or where a new site must be compatible with the operator’s existing multi-site network. It is then up to the flow meter manufacturer to accommodate the plant’s previously installed choice of data communications protocol.

The Answers

All manufacturers of industrial instrumentation, controllers and automation systems must address the communications digital bus protocol challenge by operating flexibly in a world of multiple choices.  Providing all of the protocols is often impractical, though, because it requires extensive engineering, testing and third-party certification.  This process can take months or years, and the costs are considerable.

Of course, the customer’s choice is always the right one, and as an instrumentation supplier it is best to have a flexible solution that meets the needs of every new customer.  That’s where MSA’s FieldServer™ ProtoAir Wireless Gateway fits in: It provides industrial instrument and equipment manufacturers with a solution to their digital bus communication protocol challenges that is ready-to-go right out of the box with minimal commissioning.

The ProtoAir is an external, high-performance, low-cost building automation and industrial control Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) gateway for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). It provides instant multi-protocol deployment of field data communication protocols, enabling new or legacy devices to interface easily with other protocols.  In addition, it provides connectivity to the cloud for centralized operation and monitoring of remote sites.

With the ability to connect devices to the cloud over wireless and cellular connections and automatically support multiple known controller profiles, the ProtoAir is the fast, practical answer to the OEM’s customer needs and IIoT requirements. It includes Wi-Fi and LTE cellular connectivity options, acts as a Wi-Fi access point and facilitates local applications.  It helps decrease time-to-market, reduce development costs and minimize risks.

The ProtoAir offers all the benefits of MSA’s trusted FieldServer IIoT gateway and router family, such as flexibility with the world’s largest library of 140+ protocols as well as low installation and operating costs. The ProtoAir can connect to one or more FieldServer standard drivers via its serial or EtherNet port, enabling wireless connectivity to different devices and/or networks.

Solution Partner Experience

For Siemens SITRANS F flow meter product line, the ProtoAir was the best answer to customer requirements for operating over EtherNet to support municipal wastewater treatment applications.   The ProtoAir also provides BACnet compatibility for SITRANS F flow meters to support liquid and gas applications in the building automation industry.

The trusted Siemens SITRANS F product family offers versatile and reliable metering solutions for liquid, steam or gas, built to suit every industry and process.  The Siemens flow portfolio includes a wide range of measurement technologies along with all the options customers need to fully customize and optimize their installations.

Conclusions

The flow meter field engineers at Siemens were pleased with the ProtoAir’s ease of installation and MSA’s responsive engineering support. They were also particularly enthusiastic about the ProtoAir’s Wi-Fi connectivity feature, which gives them device remote access for flow transmitter set-up, configuration, maintenance and troubleshooting of flow applications.

Al Rayyan Stadium: World Class Power Management With Network Connections Via MSA’s EZ Gateway

Popularly known as Al Rayyan Stadium, this multipurpose complex in Qatar will be the site of the 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer matches. The stadium is currently home to the Al-Rayyan Sports Club and the Al-Kharitiyath Sports Club.

Originally built in 2003, the stadium had a seating capacity of 21,282, but will be expanded to 40,000 for the upcoming global soccer championship series. The planned renovation includes a huge media information façade with a membrane that will act as a screen for projections, news, commercials, sports updates, current tournament information and matches.

The Challenges

Located on the edge of the desert, preserving nature has long been a priority in Al Rayyan – and this arena fits the model perfectly as one of Qatar’s most traditional cities. Every part of the stadium district has been designed with environmental sustainability in mind.

Construction at the site in preparation for the World Cup event has been ongoing since the beginning of 2016. After the 2022 FIFA World Cup has come to a close, Qatar plans to remove almost half of the stadium’s 40,000 modular seats and give them to football development projects abroad.

The stadium’s Building Management System (BMS) features a sophisticated Honeywell Building Automation System (BMS).  The BMS includes the capability to monitor and manage power equipment located throughout the facility supporting the diverse range of critical infrastructure necessary to assure its complex operations for the safety and comfort of the guests and athletic teams.

Like all major stadium and entertainment complexes, Al Rayyan will require large amounts of electric power to operate at its new seating capacity.  Managing power to operate everything efficiently from entrance security systems to HVAC in stadium boxes, field lights and team locker rooms, to food and beverage areas to scoreboards, restrooms, informational displays and much more, is a huge potential cost.

In addition to reducing those utility costs, managing power efficiently is increasingly important and consistent with the stadium’s environmental sustainability initiatives.  Around the globe, building managers and operators are increasingly aware of the environmental carbon footprint and impact of the facilities they run on a wide range of pollution issues, including climate change, water quality and solid waste management.

The Solutions

To manage electrical power consumption and assure power quality for efficient power distribution throughout the stadium, dozens of Socomec Power Monitoring Meters were installed at the facility and connected to the BMS’s automation system.  These panel-mounted power monitoring devices are used to report electrical parameters to the automation system, such as the equipment voltage, current, energy use and power quality of the entire electrical system.  Their role is critical in terms of balancing equipment performance while also assuring power quality and efficiency.

Due to the stadium’s scale and array of automated equipment and systems, communications networking of the many, many devices also becomes a challenge for the BMS.  In addition the expansion and/or retrofitting of large stadiums, buildings, retail complexes, institutional facilities and industrial process or manufacturing plants, requires system integrator engineers to address the complexities of devices potentially operating on a mix of multiple legacy and current network automation communication protocols that are generally not all compatible.

Rather than retrofit all the installed and new equipment with a single matching communications bus, which would be prohibitively expensive, system integrators and automation system equipment suppliers turn to a network gateway solution that can accommodate the various communication protocols. The MSA FieldServer EZ Gateway was chosen for this role at Al Rayyan Stadium because of its ease of implementation, reliability and simplified commissioning.

The EZ Gateway Modbus to BACnet (FS-EZX-MOD-BAC) is an easy-to-use, high-performance building and industrial automation protocol gateway for integrators to interface Modbus devices, such as power meters, flow meters, and other Modbus-based controllers, to BACnet networks in commercial buildings, campuses, and industrial facilities. The EZ Gateway supports up to 1000 data points and can connect the various flavors of Modbus to BACnet, including: Modbus RTU, Modbus TCP/IP, BACnet/IP and BACnet MS/TP.

At Al Rayyan Stadium, up to 25 Power Monitoring Meters operating over the Modbus protocol were connected to each EZ Gateway for management over the BMS BACnet system.  The EZ Gateway collects 15 power management data points from each meter.    The BMS system uses the power data for graphic display and reports as part of its energy management program.

Conclusions

The system engineers responsible for the project appreciated that the EZ Gateway solution allowed them to copy the meter’s profile once and transfer it quickly to the other EZ Gateways to make the commissioning as easy as possible. With the EZ Gateway, an integrator or contractor does not need to be a protocol expert to connect any Modbus device to a BACnet system using either BACnet protocol.

Based on a long-standing association with Modbus, MSA consistently implements the latest Modbus innovations on its FieldServer protocol gateways and tests them thoroughly for interoperability. With tested Modbus features like bit extracting, 32-bit float/integer support and scaling, the EZ Gateway’s Modbus-to-BACnet interface works with virtually any Modbus device right out of the box.

The EZ Gateway Modbus to BACnet configuration features two RS-485 ports, enabling connection for fewer devices per port, which improves response time. With two RS-485 ports, up to 64 Modbus RTU devices can be connected to the EZ Gateway without the need of adding a repeater to the RS-485 network. Compared to single-port gateways, the dual-port EZ Gateway can reduce the cost of device connectivity or double the speed of connected devices.

This success story was recently featured by BACnet International.

Building Management Systems: Maintaining the Connection as 3G Technology Providers Say, “Goodbye” and Hang Up

Building managers, system integrators and equipment designers are facing communications challenges ahead as 3G wireless technology is exiting the stage while 4G LTE absorbs any remaining legacy networks and as 5G looms ever closer.   What do you do when your building management system (BMS) and equipment were designed 7-10 years ago for a 3G world that’s now skipped relatively quickly to 4G LTE (long-term evolution) technology?

Cellular connectivity is the critical link that allows today’s modern office buildings, corporate campuses, industrial factories, retail centers, institutional facilities and entertainment complexes to not only operate functionally, but also profitably.  Without cellular connectivity, a wide range of automated BMS local and centralized operations, such as equipment monitoring, diagnostics and predictive maintenance capabilities are potentially unable to perform routine daily tasks.

The fast pace of these communication technology developments along with the migration of automation systems and equipment to cloud computing and ever more intelligent devices with edge computing capabilities has the potential to leave everyone scrambling.  As building managers are notified that their 3G connection is being replaced with 4G LTE, they quickly recognize the need to upgrade their wireless communications systems and equipment and original equipment manager (OEM) designers find themselves in a similar predicament as they continue to add 4G LTE to their newest products and upgrade legacy products for customers.

Building managers typically call in a system integrator engineering firm first to evaluate the building’s infrastructure equipment and requirements to comply with 4G LTE cellular communications.  With the relatively long-life and expense of many building equipment systems, such as power, HVAC, security, lighting and safety, the chances are that the system integrator will recommend upgrading the wireless cellular communication system to 4G technology with the ability to accommodate the existing legacy building system equipment designed for 3G.

Meeting the Challenge

To simplify and speed the process of replacing 3G with 4G LTE technology, MSA’s FieldServer Automaton Gateway line of products is ready with a proven answer to the challenge for building managers, system integrators and OEM design engineers.  The MSA FieldServer ProtoAir 4G LTE Wireless Gateway covers the two major carriers in the USA (AT&T and Verizon), Vodaphone in Europe and many more around the globe.

The 4G LTE MSA FieldServer ProtoAir is an external, high-performance, low-cost building automation and industrial control industrial internet of things (IIoT) gateway developed for OEM design engineers that provides manufacturers connectivity into the cloud and instant multi-protocol deployment of field protocols, enabling new or legacy devices to easily interface with other protocols.

To simplify the process, the MSA FieldServer ProtoAir Wireless Gateway features a virtual private network (VPN) connection allowing OEMs to have remote access into Ethernet-based devices for programming and configuration with software on their local personal computer.   The security of the ProtoAir’s VPN access protects the BMS and its equipment from unwanted intrusions and the threats of malware, etc., as system engineers or OEM installation engineers complete the 4G integration process or later on should they need to load routine updates or new configuration software.

The ProtoAir is also protected from cyber attacks’ by MSA’s FieldSafe, which is a security feature set added to every MSA FieldServer gateway product. The FieldSafe feature set ensures device security in a world where cyberattacks are increasing in frequency and threats are becoming more sophisticated by securing the local hardware and the SMC Cloud application with some of the latest technologies that are currently available on the IIoT marketplace.

With the ability to connect devices to the cloud over wireless and cellular connections and automatically support multiple known controller profiles, the MSA FieldServer ProtoAir Wireless Gateway is the instant answer to the OEM’s customer’s needs and IIoT requirements. In addition to cellular 4G LTE connections, the ProtoAir provides Wi-Fi local connectivity and acts as an external Wi-Fi access point.  OEM design engineers will find the ProtoAir Gateway helps them decrease new equipment time-to-market while minimizing execution risk and lowering overall development costs.

Offering multi-protocol translation, the ProtoAir also provides OEMs with the ability to perform standard protocol translation between devices over a wireless network when wired networks are not available or difficult to access using Wi-Fi and cellular. This will enable access between devices or networks of devices to management systems or to the cloud for remote device management, control, and diagnostics.

A Proven Solution

OEM equipment design engineers can rest assured that the ProtoAir Wireless Gateway was designed with their needs in mind when it comes to providing wireless communications access to the cloud for building management and factory automation systems.  It supports both BACnet and Modbus for compatibility with the full range of today’s commercial building equipment, as well as industrial plant sensors, instruments and control systems.

The BACnet and Modbus data communications protocols have been de facto industry standards for decades because of their ease of implementation and high reliability. When they are combined with the ProtoAir Wireless Gateway, OEM designers can offer their customers the best of both worlds with an MSA Cloud-ready solution that’s already at work and proving itself every day.

Conclusions

MSA’s FieldServer ProtoAir Wireless Gateway and other network products support facility automation systems around the globe and are used by OEMs and system integrators to enable local and remote monitoring and control. With more than 300,000 products, supporting over 140 protocols, installed in commercial and industrial facilities, MSA provides the industry’s leading multi-protocol gateway to the SMC Cloud or any other third-party cloud.

Building managers, system integrators and OEMs alike will find the ProtoAir Wireless Gateway offers them efficient, reliable cellular access via 4G LTE technology.  From design to installation to upgrades, there’s a ProtoAir Gateway solution that delivers highly efficient cellular access locally or to the cloud while minimizing risk, reducing deployment time and offering superior value.

Helping OEM Engineers Enhance Building Equipment Cyber Security

The importance of Internet and cloud security can’t be understated when it comes to designing, owning and managing today’s large commercial buildings, institutional facilities, entertainment complexes and industrial plants. The potential impact of a serious security breach could affect or disable the automated systems providing building security, fire safety, communications, lighting, HVAC or equipment and instruments on the factory floor.

The Challenges

Cyber hackers and criminals know that today’s building management systems (BMS’s) and the equipment they control are highly sophisticated, complex and automated. They are constantly looking for back doors into building equipment and systems, the BMS or the cloud for myriad criminal purposes ranging from mischief to sabotage to theft or even terrorism. The consequences of a breach are potentially devastating in terms of damage or even loss of life.

No matter the communication protocol, a best-practice response to potential cyber threats always includes redundant layers of Internet security at multiple levels. At the top level, highly sophisticated and costly security systems are in place to protect the cloud, its communication networks and BMS operations. There are additional important precautions, however, further down at the device level that savvy original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can take to harden and support their customers’ BMS, LANs/WANs and cloud installations.

The OEM design engineers responsible for today’s advanced IoT equipment and systems are not only tasked with device functional performance, but must now also consider cyber threats to secure communications. As today’s highly intelligent equipment and systems report device status continuously to the BMS and to the cloud, including self-diagnostics for predictive maintenance, secure communication via LANs and WANs is essential to assure safe 24-x-7 continuous building operations.  The maxim cyber security is everyone’s job extends all the way to the OEM IoT equipment level.

One of these critical security vulnerabilities includes a common Local Area Network (LAN) for the wide range of on-site building infrastructure equipment and systems, which is often connected to the Internet.  This flat layered network exposes all devices to vulnerabilities on the LAN when an Internet or Wide Area Network (WAN) connection is made.

The Solution

For these reasons, MSA’s FieldServer ProtoNode Model FPC-N64 Gateway has been designed with two Ethernet ports, with one Ethernet port for the LAN and the other Ethernet port for the WAN (Internet).  This approach gives OEM design engineers the most cost-effective, secure interface to the BMS and the Cloud Port screening is a built in function in the FPC-N64 which adds an additional layer of security by preventing unwanted incoming connections.

Integration with SMC Cloud support enhances the ProtoNode Gateway’s value by enabling remote monitoring, control, cloud-based alarm notifications (SMS or E-Mail) for trouble or alarm conditions and data visualization through the SMC Cloud’s dashboards. Users can view data, configure dashboards, download historical data and provide remote monitor/control for any connected devices. Additionally, an SMC Cloud integrated ProtoNode dramatically reduces the time it takes for an OEM to implement its IoT product cloud strategy.

With two Ethernet ports, the ProtoNode Gateway allows data to move seamlessly and securely across disparate subnets using a dedicated port for each subnet and from a LAN to a WAN (Internet). This port isolation allows for enhanced LAN security from the BMS/WAN/Cloud. Besides connectivity to the Cloud the FPC-N64 also offers a secure VPN connection for remote diagnostics and maintenance of local equipment from a remote site.

Every ProtoNode Gateway is preprogrammed to seamlessly connect one or many OEM devices into BMS networks and instantly Cloud-enable building infrastructure equipment. In addition to the two Ethernet ports, the ProtoNode Gateway also includes one RS-485/RS-232 port and one RS-485 port.

Conclusions

With the ProtoNode Gateway, multiple serial and Ethernet devices can be connected to a wide range of field protocol networks including BACnet MS/TP, BACnet/IP, Metasys N2, SNMP, XML over HTTP, EtherNet/IP, DNP 3.0 and many others. OEM engineers will find this flexibility allows them to address virtually any customer’s network communication and BMS needs in a secure manner.

The ProtoNode Gateway allows for an easy connection to disparate subnets and for a secure remote connection to cloud connected devices putting the building owners mind at ease about cyber security.