What is Unified Namespace
The 4th Industrial Revolution is here and reshaping the plant floor through digital transformation. Access to real-time data, cloud computing, and machine learning are the driving forces behind Industry 4.0. I subscribe to iiot.university, created by Walker Reynolds and Zach Scriven from 4.0 Solutions, and I learned quite a bit about their philosophy on digital transformation and achieving that through a tool called the Unified Namespace (UNS).
UNS has become such a hot topic that when UMass Amherst’s Professor Jim Lagrant asked Neomatrix, through our partnership with Inductive Automation and their University Engagement Program, to speak about edge, cloud, and the direction of the industry, I decided to focus on unified namespace and digital transformation.
To set the stage for digital transformation and unified namespace, I began the UMass presentation with the history of manufacturing. Manufacturing was born with the first industrial revolution, which used water and steam to mechanize processes for the creation of goods. Then the second revolution or “technological revolution” introduced mass production of goods through the creation of the assembly line.
In the 20th century, the computer era ushered in the third revolution with automation and automation equipment. Today, the 4th industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, builds off the third revolution to digitize, integrate, and unify data systems across the entire business thru the process of digital transformation.
Key elements of digital transformation include:
- Eliminating the need for paper and digitizing everything across the organization.
- Integrating and operating all layers of the business based on real-time data.
- Using machine learning and AI to predict and improve future outcomes and make recommended adjustments.
With Industry 3.0 business systems were integrated in a linear fashion from sensor to enterprise software. While this architecture worked, it was more complex to implement as all information would need to flow through all levels. It is also more difficult to maintain as it requires different skillsets to manage each layer of the software stack.
What is a unified namespace and how does it help in Industrial IoT
Simply put, a UNS is a centralized repository of structured data in which any application or device can subscribe or publish data to. The most common architecture for a UNS is to build it on an MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) broker. An MQTT broker is an intermediary entity that receives messages published by clients, filters the messages by, and distributes them to subscribers. The reasons most manufacturers use MQTT as the UNS are because it:
- Is open architecture and accessible by all consumers.
- Reports by exception. Only changes are reported (published/subscribed).
- Is edge driven and the intelligence pushes the payload.
- Is lightweight and doesn’t take down the network.
After the presentation, I invited the UMass students to participate in a hands-on demonstration using this technology. The students already had the Ignition platform on their laptops, so we added the Cirrus MQTT Transmission and Engine modules to allow them to publish and subscribe to a HiveMQ broker, which existed in the cloud.
Each student started the exercise by simulating some data and publishing it to a unique location in the broker. The aha moment arrived in the second step when the students subscribed to the information in the broker and all the data from each student was available to them immediately. This exercise gave them a better understanding of the UNS/MQTT central repository architecture and the exchange of industrial data, and the nimbleness of integrations.
It was a pleasure to meet all the UMass students. Two of them, Ian and Ethan, have created rStream, a start-up focused on recycling. Currently, with the support from Professor Lagrant, they are looking to commercialize robotic systems that waste management companies can deploy for clients to ensure waste types, like trash and recyclables, end up in the right place.
Waste management is barely at Industry 3.0, and there’s a huge opportunity to capture and report data about the waste stream. rStream would network that data back to the client site and waste management company creating something that has never been done before. Check out and follow them to support their entrepreneurial endeavors at rStream Recycling.
Industry 4.0 Manufacturing
While the promise of the digital transformation journey and unified namespace is exciting, weeding through the IoT trends in manufacturing and finding a place to start can be overwhelming. NeoMatrix can help evaluate your processes and business systems and interview your team to figure out a place to start and how your own Industry 4.0 manufacturing strategy can help increase your competitive position in the market.