What defines a smart device? First and foremost, smart devices communicate. Outside of their basic function, such as circuit protection, they share valuable data. They enable collection of data, even high speed data, via Ethernet and managed switches. Smart devices share diagnostics (time running, temperature, others). This data can be used to improve both process performance and reliability. The data can also be combined with other process data points to yield insight into forecasting and optimization.
Smart device examples:
The concept of connected devices sharing data has been around for years, and began making progress with the introduction of DeviceNet in the U.S. But useful upstream data integration was spotty at best, requiring multiple utilities, patches and other application layers. There are three major developments driving more rapid adoption of smart devices today:
- EtherNet/IP Standardization. Major manufacturers of automation and power management have adopted EtherNet/IP as a standard protocol.
- Data Collection Applications. Rockwell Automation, for example, offers Vantage Point, which provides direct integration to the plant floor and a bridge to MES levels.
- Mobile Integrations. It has become easier than ever to port plant floor data directly to your phone.
Smart devices not only communicate, but usually feature capabilities that improve system reliability, process quality and portability:
- HMIs have traditionally provided control access and view ports into process. Some provide native trending, and over the years onboard I/O and control functionality have been introduced by some manufacturers. Newer, smart HMIs are going further. Rockwell ViewPoint, for example, allows you to publish your PanelView HMI screens directly to HTML. Then you can navigate to the PanelView screens on your device, be it your phone or tablet. The same HMI you created for the plant floor can live right in your pocket.
- Motor control devices are treasure troves of data, providing for both control and power analytics. Smart overload relays, such as the Eaton Insight, offer advanced motor protection and the ability to share the data. The Insight has multiple level alarm settings and thresholds, providing much better motor protection than standard electronic overloads. But power analytics, such as KVAR, current and temperature are also fully accessible. This data can be correlated with other system variables such as process speed and used for optimization. The implications to plant metrics, like OEE, are real.
What is the litmus test for a smart device?
There are no actual specifications available today, though they will likely emerge in the near future. What is certain is that the device must be able to serve the functional needs you have today as well as provide the insight you will need tomorrow.
Our suggestion is to develop your own list of requirements. Start simple from a list of common smart devices. For each device type, consider the various applications and ask:
- What diagnostic data points about the device itself do you need?
- What device features are most important?
- What data could you gather that would provide insight into process performance?
This is where a technology update is really helpful. Getting a clear, up-to-date understanding on the state of technologies can inspire thinking. Most automation vendors are happy to comply with this request.
Defining a specification for smart devices is a major step in planning progression. As existing devices fail or require upgrades, this specification can be distributed to ensure that a better choice is made for replacement.
Network support. What network is your primary for control and information? As stated earlier, EtherNet/IP has become the dominant network in the U.S., and recently surpassed Profinet globally (though by a small margin). If you wind up with both, Profinet devices with an EtherNet/IP standard, there are converters available and suitable for data acquisition and monitoring. Ideally, you will have a network plan in place to help steer device specification.
Control level considerations. What is the basis of your primary control architecture? For example, if your PLC architecture is built around Rockwell Automation then choosing devices with Logix support will make integration and support easier. The exciting news is that you are not limited to any one vendor, and there are already hundreds of devices to choose from. Furthermore, device manufacturers may provide “add-on” Logix instructions and other tools to enhance integration. The selection of devices will evolve over time, eventually becoming entire systems, for example an air compressor with direct Logix integration.
Features. A final consideration is features, which is a combination of function, for example performance capability in a VFD, and diagnostics. Based on your filtering by network protocol and control integration, which devices will meet your requirements? Will your requirements change based on application and cost? As an example, smart circuit breaker costs vary significantly by capability. It’s not uncommon to have multiple models in a single panelboard, varied by feeder/load application. The device specification should consider both functional requirements and cost suitability by application.
Once you have your specifications in place, opportunities will arise to introduce smart devices. Perhaps it’s an upgrade of an old MCC. Or new drives being installed on a greenfield project.
- You don’t have to make full use of network capability immediately — just getting it in place is progress.
- You will need someone to help lay out your network, considering performance requirements. This is where a developed network design standard would be very helpful.
- Hardware, such as connections and switches, is critical. Too many industrial environments are ripe with standard office hardware. It’s a reliability issue waiting to happen.
- Find a good partner to work with for installation and troubleshooting. Be wary of IT value-added resellers (VARs). They are great at the MES level, but industrial automation is a leap. Lean on vendors who understand control and the environment first.
Justifying the added cost of smart devices can be an issue, especially early on during experimentation. With a little creativity, you can build a smart device solution around a functional problem. It starts with objectives.