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Software automates controller backups and detects changes

26 October, 2022

The US software developer Copia Automation has released a cloud-based product that automates backup and change detection for industrial devices such as PLCs and robots. Called DeviceLink, it extends Copia’s existing source control platform which allows controls engineers to take advantage of DevOps workflows to boost team efficiencies, code quality and uptime. The platform is based on Git – a free, open-source version control system.

“Once a machine is deployed to the factory floor, most manufacturers lose visibility into how control programs change,” explains Copia CEO, Adam Gluck. “Teams are focused on keeping machines running and not documenting the code tweaks and edits that always occur over time. DeviceLink automatically backs up these control programs to one centralised location giving teams code security, up-to-date visibility, and most important – change traceability.”

DeviceLink works with Allen-Bradley, Codesys, Beckhoff, and Fanuc controllers and can schedule code backups at any time or frequency. Support for Siemens devices is “coming soon”. Once the code is backed up, DeviceLink compares it to the last known version. If it detects changes, it creates a new version. The new edits can be reviewed, approved and merged into any development code.

DeviceLink builds on Copia’s Git-based source control and its ability to render control programs in standard formats, including ladder logic (LD), function block diagram (FBD), and structured text (ST). If changes occur, the software can highlight the difference between versions.

“Not only do you gain knowledge of when PLC or robotic code changes, but you can also immediately see the exact edits,” says Gluck. “This insight is crucial in determining whether the change was authorised and needs to be the restore point moving forward.”

DeviceLink adds to Copia’s mission of bringing modern DevOps practices to industrial automation, equipping control engineers with the same game-changing workflows used in traditional software development. The Git-based source controls allow engineers to work simultaneously on the same codebase, to review code efficiently, and to ensure that all changes are documented and accessible.

DeviceLink delivers email notifications that show which control devices have secure backups and whether any changes have been detected

One early adopter of DeviceLink is the US automation specialist, Konductive. “Regardless of how much equipment we’re managing and how many sites that equipment is spread across, DeviceLink shows us all the live control code in one place,” says the company’s founder, Kellen Murray. “We always have up-to-date restore points in case of failures and are proactively alerted to unauthorized changes.”

“By integrating Copia Automation’s platform into our daily workflow, we can better utilize our engineering resources to handle more projects and ensure the highest quality code development,” Murray explains. “DeviceLink builds on these benefits by providing the same level of visibility into the control programs running on the factory floor.”

Copia has publshed a blog explaining its reasons for developing DeviceLink.

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