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Tinder inspires automation diagnostics app

16 June, 2017

At the recent Hannover Fair, Rockwell Automation was demonstrating a variety of automation concepts that make use of consumer technologies such as virtual reality headsets, social media apps and interactive “bots”.

Dominating Rockwell’s section of the vast Microsoft stand was an IoT-enabled carton-assembly machine from the Italian manufacturer Cama which visitors could interact with, and control, via Microsoft’s HoloLens “mixed reality” headsets.

Wearing the headset, visitors could view “contextualised” information about the machine “floating” in front of them, control its speed using hand gestures, and explore a “digital twin” of the machine running in real time with the actual machine. Rockwell sees such capabilities as helping to visualise machine designs and functions before they are built, as well as being used for training and monitoring once machines are up and running.

Rockwell was also demonstrating an appliance, called FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices, which searches networks for devices, digitises their data and transforms it into diagnostic dashboards. It can spot if a device is out of specification and needs maintenance, and deliver “action cards” to a smartphone or tablet to let users know.

Depending on whether the user finds this information is “attractive”, they can swipe it left or right – in a similar way to the Tinder dating app. In this way, the system learns what you are interested in.

Rockwell was also demonstrating a “bot” called Shelby (based on Microsoft’s Cortana) which allows you to use spoken commands to request information about the health of machinery. The technology – which does not require a cloud or server infrastructure – links automation systems directly to smartphones or tablets running Rockwell’s TeamOne app.

Visitors to the Hannover Fair were able to control the speed of a packaging machine using hand gestures while wearing a Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality headset
Photo: Deutsche Messe

•  Since Hannover, Rockwell has released more information on the FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices appliance which, it says, can provide analytics within minutes of being connected to power and a local control system network. After the connections have been made, the application detects automation devices on the network without disrupting its operation. Plant-floor teams can access calls-to-action, instant device displays and the Shelby machine-learning-based chatbot, which are all available from within the appliance. The appliance learns what is important to users by analysing the devices on the network continuously and delivering recommendations to help maintenance and engineering teams to prevent unplanned downtime and to repair systems faster.

“Our customers are trying to figure out how to take their first steps toward analytics and the industrial Internet of Things,” says Rockwell global business manager, Michael Pantaleano. “This appliance is an excellent start to their journey, with tangible results that can help our customers within minutes.”

The FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices appliance can detect and perform a basic analysis on any EtherNet/IP device. It also has detailed analytics for more than 2,000 Allen-Bradley devices. Each appliance comes with a one-year subscription. Subsequent subscriptions will allow customers to receive updated analytics, features and device support, including for third-party devices.

Rockwell has also released a new edition of its FactoryTalk TeamOne app, dubbed the Standard Edition, which focuses on reducing mean-time-to-repair (MTTR). The new edition adds an alarm module, allowing teams to collaborate with live alarm details. They can view active alarms, and share alarms with specific team members or post them to the entire team.

As a smart node, the FactoryTalk TeamOne app requires no server, device-to-cloud gateways, or IT setup. There is a paid yearly subscription for the new edition, which expands the functions available in the free edition of the app, released in 2016. These functions include near-instantaneous transmission of incident and device data to plant-floor maintenance teams. The free version makes it easier for industrial teams to collaborate and solve issues using plant-floor data such as trends and device status. Teams will be able to mix the free and subscription versions.

Rockwell's FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices appliance (left) gathers data from network devices and turns it into analytics that can be viewed in a variety of formats

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