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EMAIL INTERVIEW – Matt Newton and Ken Sinclair
Matt Newton, Director of Technical Marketing, Opto 22
22 recently announced joining the Linux Foundation. Can you tell me
about Linux and why Opto 22 is joining the Linux Foundation?
Newton: Linux is an open-source operating system that was originally released in 1991 and today is used in a variety of applications. In fact, if you look around your home you’re likely to find it running on your ISP’s router, probably on your cable set-top box, and a variety of other devices. Linux has a pretty big following in the consumer space, and with the advent of the industrial Internet of Things, we’re starting to see it show up more and more in industrial devices and applications. In fact, I would guess that a lot of the devices in building automation applications may be running some form of the Linux operating system.
Opto 22 joined The Linux Foundation to help support the greatest shared technology resources in history. The Linux Foundation supports a wide variety of technologies beyond just the Linux operating system. For example, there’s the Open API initiative that focuses on evolving and promoting a vendor-neutral API (application program interface) description format based on the Swagger specification, and many other open technologies focused on improving system interoperability and getting things talking to each other more easily. Opto 22 felt that joining the Linux Foundation would give us an opportunity to help support those initiatives, while also accelerating the company’s technology and innovation through open-source leadership and participation. We have a rich history of adopting and supporting open standards-based technology, starting decades ago when we introduced the Optomux open standard and were a founding member of the OPC task force (later the OPC Foundation). In 1998, we introduced the first commercial Ethernet-based I/O unit, and last year we released a RESTful API and Node-RED nodes for our SNAP PAC automation controllers.
Sinclair: There was also a recent press release about Opto 22 being a founding member of the EdgeX Foundry. What is the Project?
Newton: EdgeX Foundry is a vendor-neutral, open-source project hosted by The Linux Foundation with the goal of building a common open framework for Industrial IoT edge computing. The EdgeX platform encourages the rapidly growing community of IoT solutions providers to work together to reduce uncertainty, accelerate time to market, and facilitate scale. By using an ecosystem of existing connectivity standards and a marketplace of interoperable developer components, EdgeX will simplify IoT development and deployment for a wide variety of applications. The initiative is aligned around a common goal: to simplify and standardize tiered edge computing architectures in the Industrial IoT market, while still letting solutions providers differentiate their offerings.
Sinclair: How does edge computing fit into the IoT?
Newton: IoT applications typically face three key problems: connectivity, big data, and architecture. For IoT applications to deliver value, the first step is to get legacy devices, like our existing industrial infrastructure, connected to the digital world of the Internet. This is a problem because most of those systems were designed and deployed long before the Internet was rolled out. They don’t have things like Ethernet connectivity or a TCP/IP stack built in. The next challenge comes from the massive volume of data those systems will generate when they are connected. Think of the billions of devices that are suddenly going to come online and start transmitting data. Our current Internet and network infrastructure aren't designed to cope with that amount of data. And the third problem is architecture. Right now for legacy systems to get connected to the digital world, there’s a lot of complex architecture involving protocol converters, OPC servers, and various middleware.
Edge computing attempts to solve those problems by pushing intelligence, data processing, and digital communication capabilities right to the edge of the network, where the data is first generated. So instead of flooding the Internet with all the data our legacy systems generate, we can do a lot of the processing right at the source and send to the cloud only the data we need. Edge computing also provides enough intelligence to make decisions for automation and control applications locally, without having to interrogate the cloud or other digital applications for instructions on how to handle a situation. For example, if a thermostat in a room needs to turn the HVAC on, it shouldn’t need to ask the cloud what temperature to set the room to. It should be able to handle tasks like that locally.
Sinclair: Where does Opto 22 fit into edge computing applications?
Newton: For the industrial IoT to reach critical mass, Internet protocols and technologies need to be driven into systems at the edge, where the physical world and the digital world connect. Layers of complexity must be removed from the communication process between digital systems and physical assets. Modern IoT system architectures need to be flattened, streamlined, optimized, and secured. If we drive Internet connectivity and data processing power into edge devices, we can greatly accelerate our time to insight and action in industrial IoT applications. And that’s where Opto 22 products come into play. Our reliable I/O provides the physical-to-digital conversion of data from legacy assets. Our SNAP PAC controllers with their Ethernet networking and RESTful APIs provide edge processing power. And our groov products give you data visualization as well as monitoring and control over mobile devices. Opto 22 has products and solutions to tap into the tremendous brownfield opportunities provided by legacy industrial devices.
Sinclair: Where can people find more information about Opto 22’s Internet of Things and Edge Computing solutions.
Newton: Our industrial Internet of Things and edge computing reference materials and application notes can be found at http://info.opto22.com/the-internet-of-things.
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