By Gregory Hale
New and different. Those two words do not see very much action in the manufacturing automation sector.
Yes, everyone talks about their new products, and yes, they talk about different approaches. But the reality is they are new products and different approaches that work off the same old thing. Complexity abounds.
Real change can’t happen because the installed base is just too entrenched. Think about it, ripping out old, tired technology for something new and different is just not going to happen. The cost benefit analysis just doesn’t add up. Systems stay up and running for 20, 30, 40 years.
Why make a change, it still works, plus, in a dangerous environment, you need to go with the tried and tested and true equipment. It only makes sense.
The only catch is an open technology environment sheds a new and different light on the entire subject. Cyber security is now a factor, and bolt on security to systems created well before the issue reared its ugly head, while effective, is not the answer.
While it may not happen for quite a few years, the days of systems staying put for 40 years will go the way of rotary telephone.
“Industrial automation is in jail, it is in a straight jacket. We want to break out of it. We want to disrupt industrial automation market with simple scalable and secure,” said Bob Honor, chief executive at Bedrock Automation. “People recognize technology can change the world. Security is going to become the most important problem we have to solve.”
Secure Automation Designed In
Back in July, Bedrock, a new player in the ICS industry, launched an industrial control system that united basic understanding of current systems, but also featured a pin-less, electromagnetic backplane and embedded cyber security.
“It operates like a PLC, but we are using the embedded approach,” Honor said back then.
The new system addresses control applications with fewer than a dozen part numbers, which cuts down on cyber attack vectors, cuts lifecycle costs and looks at simplifying engineering, commissioning and maintenance, Honor said.
“We used all the standards from a users’ standpoint,” Honor said. “We follow all user standards to introduce a radically different technology (users) can use in the same way.”
This is an automation system that talks about production, but in the end is secure.
“Vertical suppliers of automation today are big and good companies,” said Bedrock Automation CTO and engineering vice president, Albert Rooyakkers. “I think of them as the Jurassic cartel. They have the same mindset and move at the same speed. Sometimes progress is a poke in the eye.”
That “poke in the eye” is something the industry needs to move forward.
Bedrock is a small startup backed by an established semiconductor company and they think the manufacturing automaton sector is ready for some change.
“Some of the technology we are using wasn’t even invented two years ago,” Rooyakkers said. “If you don’t have the technology, you are not going to the ballpark.”
After launching its control system in July that united basic understanding of current systems, the newcomer unveiled a 10-channel Secure Universal I/O Module, SIOU.10, for its control system last week.
“Virtual marshalling via universal I/O is the new standard for control system engineering and optimal life cycle ownership,” Rooyakkers said.
The latest offering, the Bedrock SIOU.10, combines the equivalent functionality of multiple I/O module types into a single, software programmable module; all while delivering embedded digital and physical cyber security.
The SIOU.10 plugs into the pinless Bedrock Electromagnetic Backplane Module Interconnect (BMI) along with the Secure Control and Communications (SCC) Module and Secure Power Modules (SPM). The pinless BMI forms a galvanic isolation barrier for each of the ten SIOU.10 channels and takes advantage of the Bedrock Black Fabric cyber security architecture. The SIOU.10 delivers deeply embedded cyber encryption and authentication from within.
Is Technology Enough?
There is no doubt the technology behind Bedrock’s systems is sound. But good technology is not everything. For this, or any other new technology offering, to succeed it needs an early adopter ready to take a chance. Bedrock says they have some folks ready to take on the challenge.
This is a small step, but it could be the beginning of new and different.
“This is a small group of people that can make a change,” Rooyakkers said. “Why? Because we can.”