Industrial Data Xchange (IDX) is a South African based ICT industrial company with a global focus specialising in the provision of data communication solutions. On this blog, IDX experts comment on industrial communication protocols, trends, and tips as well as what is on the go in the labs at IDX.
IDX 8 Tag Manager - Managing the unmanagable?
Tag management of real-time data systems can prove
challenging. As an industrial IT company we frequently come across the problem
where tags need to be migrated from one system to another or where tags need to
be synchronised and maintained between systems including historians. Generally,
this ends up being a manual process, often involving Excel and much diligence
and patience of the maintainer’s behalf.
IDX Unifig was the
first incarnation of a tool we designed with the aim to simplify the migration
and management of tags between systems. The tool worked, but with as with most
first editions of software tools, we could see the need for improvement and
refinement of the approach used. Thus Tag Manager was born, and has become the
key stone in the IDX 8 software suite. All other IDX 8 modules, such as Data
Exchange, Alarms and Events and the Historian use Tag Manager to store and
The comparison result we like to see - no changes.
Tag Manager employs a plugin methodology that allows various
sources and targets to be managed and synchronised. Currently, we mainly see
the use of the Siemens WinCC and CSV sources, usually synchronising with
WonderWare Historian (InSQL) and OSISoft PI Historian targets. The process of
synchronisation is rule and wizard driven and allows for comprehensive
comparison of tag data before synchronisation. These rules allow data to be
filtered, pivoted and “Regular-Expression-ed” into the required target format. That being said, there are still significant
obstacles to overcome when dealing with certain sources in particular, which
play a critical role in determining the overall simplicity of tag synchronisation.
For example, a common scenario we have is to synchronise
tags in WinCC with tags in PI Historian. It must be highlighted that the ease
of synchronisation is markedly affected by the rigorous adoption of a
standardised naming convention for tags. Without this, you can quickly become
bogged down in naming exceptions – while still do-able, usually means more
initial rule setup and configuration time. Also, certain systems complicate
matters further in that they use Tag names as the system unique tag identifier
(e.g. WinCC). This is a bad idea simply because it in no way facilitates the
ability to rename tags in the source without destroying the possibility of avoiding
additional manual intervention of synchronisation between other systems. WinCC
does have a tag identifier value associated with a Tag, but this identifier is
not stored in some kind of central configuration repository - it changes when a
full PLC download occurs which naturally breaks fully automated synchronisation.
In such cases, additional care must be taken to synchronise configurations.
It is mainly because of cases such as the above that Tag
Manager is not yet a fully automatic, click-once-and-forget affair (a request we
have received more than once – we are looking into it is all I can say at the
Tag Manager is used on an on-going basis for tag synchronisation,
usually in a WinCC to Wonderware Historian or more frequently, OSISoft PI
Historian configuration across the various Platinum producer sites in
The Netbiter® device along with its ArgosTM web service technology is becoming increasingly popular in South Africa. Already it has been implemented at numerous sites for monitoring water treatment rigs, heavy machinery and other metering equipment. Very quickly the user is able to connect some IO or MODBUS devices to the Netbiter® and view and control these values through a web-based graphical dashboard. The user is able to see the current state of their system, view historical data and even receive alarms from their system. No programming required! This is all done through the secure Netbiter ArgosTM Web Interface. It is a very powerful way to monitor a MODBUS device over the Internet and by using the IO Extender cards, the user is able to switch relays and monitor additional digital and analogue IO though a web browser. Netbiter® is truly a complete package that provides one of the most flexible solutions to monitor control devices over The Internet. Furthermore, as of Marc
Last week IDX were called to site at a large commercial residence building in Pretoria, South Africa. Where our client was implementing an IoT solution for remote monitoring and control of various HVAC and power systems in the building. The control system the SI chose in this case was a Modbus enabled Industrial Micro PC called the Revolution PI. The client had Modbus sensors connected to boilers, air conditioning systems, ventilation systems and power meters. The Modbus communications between the controller and the sensors were intermittently failing due to various installation and implementation faults: 1. Earthing and Shielding Within any fieldbus communication installation, one of the requirements to ensure uninterrupted operation is to implement adequate grounding and shielding techniques. Effective grounding and Shielding help to prevent electrostatic and electromagnetic pickup, which can lead to failed communications. Some of the shielding and grounding req
In this blog, I will discuss the steps involved in getting the Netbiter to record and display values coming out of the ComAp Generator Panel, so that one can do remote monitoring and control of the generator. The Netbiter Model used in this case is the EC220 and the panel used is the InteliLite AMF 26 P. The steps followed here can be applied to any MODBUS device due to the generic nature of the Netbiter. S tep 1 - Physical Connection Check that the Control Panel has a communication module attached to the back of it. You will need to establish the medium (RS458/RS232) and the protocol spoken (MODBUS RTU/ASCII) - all of this information will come from the user manual of the generator. Finally confirm the communication settings (baud rate, parity, stop bits, etc) - these can sometimes be changed so check what they are on the actual panel. In this case, we have the following settings: MOUBUS RTU over RS232 (you'll need an external converter to convert the RS232 to RS