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‘Groundbreaking’ control system ‘brings future to the present’

14 February, 2018

The Californian industrial controls developer Opto 22 has announced a “groundbreaking” industrial control technology that, it says, “brings the future of automation to the present” by combining I/O, real-time control, local and remote HMI, and industrial/IT data exchange in a single compact package.

Opto 22 says it has developed its new groov Epic system to help automation engineers and developers solve the challenging automation and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) problems that they are facing.

According to the company, current IIoT solutions typically require multiple moving parts, including stitched-together software technologies, bolted-on communications protocols, legacy controllers and I/O, and a medley of gateways. It says that these systems are costly to build, difficult to troubleshoot, require multi-domain expertise, and are “unsustainable over the long term”.

The new system helps to solve these problems by combining I/O, control, data processing, edge gateway and visualisation functions in a single, secure, maintainable, edge-of-network industrial system in a stainless-steel chassis. It will allow engineers and developers to focus on “delivering value, not on triaging loosely connected components”.

“We are a company of engineers inspired and driven to create products that unleash our customers’ imaginations,” says Opto 22 CEO, Mark Engman. The new system, he continues, “is a culmination of that mission, a response to industry requests to more wholly integrate IT and OT technologies, simplify development and deployment, and provide a platform for long-term growth now and well into the future.”

Benson Hougland, Opto 22’s vice-president of marketing and product strategy, adds that the new system “incorporates in one unit everything needed to connect and control field and operational devices and data, through on-premises IT databases, spreadsheets and other software, to cloud storage and services ­– and back again. This ability to easily exchange data and use it where needed opens opportunities automation engineers have not had until now. This is a truly new system that builds on the past, but looks fundamentally to the future of our industry.”

The groov Epic combines proven industrial hardware with modern software. It integrates “reimagined” intelligent I/O with an embedded Linux real-time controller, gateway functions, and a built-in display.

It can be used to: control processes; automate machines; connect legacy systems; subscribe to Web services; acquire and publish data; visualise that data where it is needed; and mobilise operators. It will also simplify commissioning and wiring and help engineers to develop and deploy installations rapidly.

The system can be used for process control, machine control, manufacturing, Scada, building automation and IIoT applications. Opto 22 predicts that it will also open up new options for tracking, storing and visualising data in commercial, retail, warehousing and distribution applications.

The company believes that its optional access to the Linux operating system through a secure shell (SSH) will be of particular interest to OEMs. This access, along with toolchains and interpreters for Java, C/C++, Python and more, will allow OEM developers to run their own custom-developed applications on the rugged, edge processing control system.

Hardware features of the new system include:

• An integrated high-resolution colour touchscreen with HDMI output for an optional external monitor

• Compact footprint with integrated power supply

• On-board system configuration, commissioning, and troubleshooting, without needing a PC

• Remote configuration and troubleshooting from a Web browser running on any device

• Dual, independent Gigabit Ethernet network interfaces

• Dual USB ports for serial communications, touchscreen monitors, or WiFi adapters

• Multiple power supply options, including AC, DC and pass-through

• Atex compliance and UL hazardous locations approval

• Wide -20 to +70°C operating temperature range

Opto 22's groov Epic control system will incorporate a high-resolution colour touchscreen

• Touch-sensitive pads on I/O modules for configuring, commissioning, and testing

• Spring-clamp terminal strips on the top of the I/O modules

• LED indicators for module health, and for individual discrete channels

• I/O module density of up to 24 channels per module

• Multi-functional analogue inputs supporting voltage, current, and loop sourcing in single module

• Analogue input resolution of 20 bits at 0.1% accuracy over span

• Channel-to-channel isolation available for most I/O modules

• Real-time, open-source Linux OS running on an industrial quad-core Arm processor

• 2GB RAM, 6GB user space on industrial solid-state drive

Software features include:

• tool-less configuration, commissioning, and debugging on-board and from anywhere on the network

• a flowchart-based control development environment with scripting and visual debugger

• a visualisation server for creating and viewing HMIs, trends, and events for any mobile device or web browser; also viewable locally on integral touchscreen

• a flow-based development environment and runtime for edge data processing, handling, and communications

• Ignition Edge from Inductive Automation with drivers to Allen-Bradley, Siemens and more

• MQTT/Sparkplug protocol for efficient, industrial publish/subscribe communications

• backwards compatibility with Opto 22’s SNAP PAC systems and Ethernet I/O

• secure shell access, SDKs, and cross-compiler for custom user-written applications

The groov Epic system due to be released in May 2018, with pre-orders starting in April. 

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