White Paper Explains PLC Data Capture at the Edge for IoT

Opto 22 has created a white paper to guide users through the process of obtaining, using, and sharing data from programmable industrial controllers

Opto 22 has released the white paper, “Meet the Future: Edge Programmable Industrial Controllers,” which discusses how controls engineers can use PLCs to meet the demand for obtaining, using and sharing data. The white paper focuses on three main communication challenges: complexity, security, and expense.

Opto 22, EPIC devices, edge devices, ARM, Linux devices, PLC, IoT, edge computing, control engineers
The edge-based PLC was created to include a number of functions needed for network-based data capture, from traditioanl automation through IoT applications. (Image source: Opto 22)

IoT and other data-intensive automation applications usually require many steps and a lot of middleware: hardware, drivers, parsers, and custom software. These steps tend to be time-consuming to set up, difficult to maintain and change, and create major security concerns. This white paper was designed to explain how a new kind of industrial controller—an edge programmable industrial controller, or EPIC—can simplify and secure automation and IoT projects in a manner designed to reduce cost and complexity.

Realtime-Control for Traditional Automation

The edge-based PLC was created to include a number of functions needed for network-based data capture. “With traditional PLCs, many pieces and parts must be stitched together to achieve an objective. Until now it’s been many disparate systems pulled together,” Benson Hougland, VP at Opto 22, told Design News. “Groov EPIC is a dramatic shift to get all of these functions into a single design. It delivers better performance and reduces complexity as well as addresses security. It’s about getting the data where it needs to be simply and securely.”

EPIC devices are also used to provide real-time control for a variety of traditional automation applications. EPIC devices allow users to connect legacy systems and smart systems, get data, transform it into actionable information, visualize it on an HMI., and perform real-time control. “We’re starting to see other vendors take the same approach of combining functions on edge PLCs,” said Hougland. :You almost have to throw out what you thought you knew and think things through from a fresh perspective. These edge devices are innately expandable. We built it on a platform that is well known, using an ARM processor running a Linux operating system with real-time extensions.”

Using ARM and Linux for Compatibility and Expansion

The ARM with Linux combination offers a wide range of compatibility across automation systems. “The reason for ARM is that it’s commercially available and it runs cool. The Linux gives you the capability to expand,” said Hougland. “Off-the-shelf processors with an open source operating system provides many capabilities for future growth on the same hardware system. It’s come full circle from 25 years ago with PC-based control.”

Opto 22 created the white papers to give users a view into the value of a multi-function processor that operates on the machine level. “The purpose of the white paper is to introduce a new type of automation system that addresses the IoT and combines it with control,” said Hougland. “We couldn't just be call it a PLC or a PAC because it's much more than that. It’s a PAC, a database, an edge data processor, and an HMI. Past descriptions don’t work to describe this device. The white paper helps define what the device is and why you would use it.”

The white paper can be downloaded here.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

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