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‘Ground-breaking’ technology links legacy devices to IIoT

21 July, 2016

The Californian industrial automation manufacturer Opto 22 has released a free firmware update for its Snap PACs (programmable automation controllers) which, it says, will give users access to billions of existing sensors, machines and devices that are currently unable to connect to the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things). It claims that this “significant and ground-breaking” innovation will allow rapid development of IIoT applications, cutting time-to-market when designing machines and systems, and leading to faster deployment of automation and control projects.

The technology is based on the Rest (representational state transfer) network architecture. Opto 22 asserts that its “the first and only industrial automation and controls manufacturer to offer this industry-changing technology” and to implement Rest on an off-the-shelf PAC.

Opto 22’s RESTful API gives developers secure access to new or existing physical assets through control variables and I/O data using any programming language that supports JavaScript Object Notation. The API includes an HTTP/S server accessible from any HTTP/S-compatible client.

According to Opto 22, there are billions of legacy devices and machines holding untapped data that could be used to improve business processes and decisions. The new platform will allow developers to design and deploy applications to link these existing assets to the IIoT and to share their data, capabilities, and resources with other connected systems and assets.

Opto 22 suggests that there is currently a disconnect between the physical and digital worlds that is slowing down the adoption and rollout of the IIoT. Digital systems cannot communicate with existing industrial assets that use signals based on current and voltage levels, without using layers of gateways and middleware. As a result, businesses have been slow to reap the rewards of IIoT applications and technologies.

The new API, combined with HTTP/HTTPS access, eliminates the need for such protocol converters, gateways, and middleware, and will provide IIoT developers with secure access to the billions of legacy devices, minimising integration time and cost of implementing IIoT applications.

Opto 22 says that the RESTful server for its Snap PACs will accelerate the adoption of the IIoT by simplifying connections to billions of devices that are currently unable to connect digitally.

“The industrial automation and control industry is in transition right now,” says Benson Hougland, Opto 22’s vice-president of marketing and product strategy. “Vendors who have relied on a product development strategy based on proprietary and closed technologies have become outdated. The future of the industrial automation and process control industries lies in the rising API and data economies made possible through open standards-based technologies.

“Our objective with the rollout of these new features is to enable IIoT developers to build their applications faster using well-known Internet tools and technology,” he continues. “Through a RESTful API to our PACs, we’ve enabled our customers and partners to rapidly design and roll out IIoT applications using the language and tools they're familiar with, while at the same time future-proofing their technology investments for decades to come.”

“We built this platform to provide our customers and partners with a solution that offered three key characteristics,” adds Bob Sheffres, Opto 22’s vice-president of sales. “First, it had to be tough enough to survive the harsh environments of industrial applications. Second, it needed to appeal to both industrial automation and information technology practitioners – bridging the IT/OT gap – as well as tap into the millions of developers who know and apply these technologies every day. And finally, and most importantly, we wanted to provide the platforms, technologies, and tools that allow our customers, partners, system integrators, and OEMs to distinguish themselves from their competitors, future-proof their technology investments, accelerate their time to market, and solve tough automation problems more quickly than ever before.”

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