It's a terrific, time-, bandwidth and cost-saving idea to do calculations locally, but can edge computing be reliable and secure? To give users local data processing they can depend on, Wago Corp. is launching two devices, Edge Controller and Edge Computer, which provide distinct advantages over the traditional PLCs and industrial PCs (IPC) of the past. They can take over data mining from controllers that need low latency and high determinism, perform control tasks that IPCs can't, and deliver close to real-time analytics and displays that would otherwise have to come from remote servers or the cloud.
"As automation and control progressed in recent years, many process applications expanded and multiplied, produced vastly more data, and consumed more bandwidth," says Charlie Norz, automation product manager at Wago. "However, PLCs designed for sequential operations and dedicated control often struggled with these new demands, and users had to go offline for data management, analytics and algorithm development. This wasn't what PLCs were designed for."
Norz adds that initial efforts to relay all production information to the cloud also proved too costly when users realized how much big data there was to send and process. "The market for edge computing opened up due to IIoT and the cloud, as users opted to aggregate process data before relaying it, which would reduce latency and expenses," he says. "Edge computing would still be a gateway to the cloud, but much of the data, calculations and analytics could now be handled locally in close to real-time."
Wago Edge Controller (752-8303/8000-002) consists of a quad-core ARM Cortex A1 processor at 1 GHZ, 2 Gbyte RAM, 4 GByte Flash memory, DIN-rail mounting, real-time embedded Linux, PLC functions via Wago’s e!Cockpit software engineering and programming tool and Docker container support. Its networking capabilities include two Ethernet ports supporting Modbus TCP/UDP, EtherNet/IP adapter, EtherCAT master, BACnet server, MQTT, OPC UA and Sparkplug, as well as three USB ports, one configurable RS232/485 port, one CANopen port and four configurable, 24 VDC digital I/O points.