Cisco, HPE and Intel join National Instruments in test lab
The “internet of things” is connecting more than robots and sensors; it is also connecting companies that normally guard their tests and prototypes from competitors. Test equipment maker National Instruments has brought competitors Cisco and Hewlett Packard Enterprise together as sponsors of its new industrial IoT lab in Austin, Texas. Other sponsors include Intel, Analog Devices, Kalypso, OSIsoft, PTC, Real-Time Innovations, SparkCognition, Semicron, Viewpoint Systems, and Xilinx.
“No one company can serve all the needs of the industrial internet of things,” explained NI’s Jamie Smith, director of embedded systems. “Many companies are coming together to form test beds to validate that an end-to-end solution is complete and can solve a real business challenge out on the factory floor or at the power plant, or maybe in a mobile fleet.”
The lab is a test bed for real world IoT applications for buildings, power grids and factories. One of the projects being trialled is synchronization of operational technology networks with informational networks. This initiative is spearheaded by a the Avnu Alliance, headed by Kevin Stanton, a senior engineer at Intel with an expertise in time-sensitive networking. The Avnu Alliance is working to synchronize and control devices on standard Ethernet, and NI’s Smith said the goal is to deliver the same levels of security and data movement that are present in today’s corporate IT networks. The other goal is predictability.
“We’re getting synchronization to around 150 nanoseconds, 0.15 millionth of a second,” said Smith. “Once you have synchronization you can then precisely time when a packet leaves a device to go to another device. If you know when it left and you know when it’s supposed to get there you can make sure it gets there on time.”
HPE’s focus in the NI lab is on pushing premise server technology out to the factory floor, Smith said, so that advanced analytics can occur at the machine level instead of in the cloud or at an on-premise data center. He said HPE is capitalizing on its partnership with PTC, creator of Thingworx.
Smith noted that NI’s partnership with Intel is key, because the chip maker’s embedded applications reside at the edge of the network where the sensor data is collected. He said Intel has also helped NI with open source software to help enable the adoption of time-sensitive networking.
National Instruments itself provides the glue that binds these and many other disparate elements of the developing internet of things. The company makes field programmable gate arrays that connect to sensors to collect data, and it creates software to analyze that data.
“We pride ourselves at National Instruments on being at the center of an ecosystem,” said Smith. He said National Instruments has created the industrial IoT lab by leveraging its relationships with analytics companies, technology companies, enterprise vendors and middleware providers. “National Instruments and our ecosystem partners are going to change the world of the industrial internet of things,” he said.
“The immediate challenge which has the ability to have the most business impact right now is in the area of condition monitoring and predictive maintenance of heavy industrial equipment,” Smith said. “So we’re doing a lot of work at bringing in sensor data, extracting the key features around those sensors and then moving it into advanced machine learning algorithms and building these models that will not only detect anomalies that something’s about to go down, but then predict when in the future there will be a problem. So power plants going down or equipment within a plant or facility failing may become a thing of the past.”
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