Bill’s Deep Dive: Siemens MindSphere Cloud Leverages OPC UA

August 092016
Bill’s Deep Dive: Siemens MindSphere Cloud Leverages OPC UA

By Bill Lydon, Editor, Automation.com

Open ecosystems are a rapidly rising trend in the industrial world, and Siemens is jumping on board with its latest innovation. Siemens’ MindSphere, a cloud offering that links physical products and production facilities with digital data, and which leverages OPC UA, was a major feature at the 2016 Siemens Automation Summit. 

“Software is changing the world, connectivity everywhere and changing business models,” explained Siemens’ Managing Board Member, Klaus Helmrich at the Summit. Relatedly, MindSphere is a major element of Siemens Digital Enterprise Software Suite, which enables users to implement modern manufacturing including Industry 4.0. “Digitalization is knocking on the door of all manufacturing sites in discrete and process industries,” noted Helmrich, “It is a must that we think about how we can make our factories and entire processes faster, more flexible, higher quality, and increase efficiency.”  He further described how this level of production requires a holistic view, which integrates all aspects including design, manufacturing, quality, and supply chain. “In the automotive industry, for example, they are driving the market by introducing every one or two years a new model making time-to-market essential,”  Helmrich discussed, “The complexity is increasing because they have to build these new versions into the manufacturing site and quality issues are increasing.” 

Pictures Provided by Siemens



Klaus Helmrich, Member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG (Advanced Manufacturing - Driving the Digital Enterprise) emphasized, “Digitalization is knocking on the door of all manufacturing sites in discrete and process industries.”

Open Ecosystem

MindSphere has been designed as an open ecosystem, which industrial companies can use as the basis for their own digital services, in fields such as preventive maintenance, energy data management or resource optimization. 



Figure: Siemens MindSphere services include data recording, transmission and safe storage, and offer the framework for a development environment.

MindSphere’s open infrastructure is based on SAP HANA and open OPC UA (Unified Architecture) web services for commutations.  The SAP HANA Cloud Platform is an open platform-as-a-service that provides in-memory database and application services for high performance.   OPC UA is a platform-independent, service-oriented architecture that integrates all the functionality of the individual OPC Classic specifications into one extensible framework. The advantages of open interfaces, such as OPC UA, is that it enables products, like MindSphere, to be used with automation and control systems from any manufacturer. 

To enable MindSphere integration, Siemens has also offered a connector box called "MindConnect Nano".  To further enhance connection options for the MindSphere, Siemens also plans to release a Software Development Kit (SDK), a software agent and integration into Simatic products, in the future.

MindSphere demonstrations included a clever display of moving balls with constantly changing colors to signify data in the information cloud. 

MindConnect Nano

MindConnect Nano is a preconfigured, industrial blind node PC brick, which enables connectivity to the MindSphere cloud.  This device transmits data, encrypted through a secure internet connection, to MindSphere allowing the creation of cloud-based applications and services. Data defined by the user, connected using the Mind Connect Nano, is then transmitted to MindSphere at fixed time intervals.   The MindConnect Nano supports standards such as OPC UA and Siemens’ S7 protocol.  In the future, this function will be integrated into all communication-capable products in the Siemens portfolio.  

Opportunities

Typical applications created using MindSphere, include remotely-monitored machines which can improve service and reduce downtime.  The MindSphere platform is the basis for data-based services from Siemens, including preventive maintenance of machine tools (Machine Tool Analytics) and integrated drive systems (Drive Train Analytics).   MindSphere provides users with the capability to build new business income models by developing digital services, applying them and offering these to customers.

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