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WinCC OA: Simulator Objects

By Shawn Sandoval | 07/17/2019
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When developing an HMI/SCADA application, sometimes you may not have access to data sources (i.e. PLC, sensors) however, you still have the need to test your io datapoint connections. In this blog post, I will quickly show you how to set up a WinCC OA Simulator Object. The simulators generate different curve shapes and can, for example, send values for testing purposes instead of a PLC.

Step 1

In the Graphical Editor (GEDI), make sure “Catalog for All Objects” is selected. This will add a panel with a bunch of pre-built objects.

Step 2

Create or use an existing panel and select the data point you would like to simulate. In this example, I created a new panel, added a trend widget, and selected the datapoint that I wanted to simulate.

Step 3

Navigate to “STD_SIMULATORS” located in your catalog of objects. Select the “RandSim” simulation object and add it to your panel. 

Step 4

Save the panel and quick test.

This is a simple exercise to help with awareness of the simulator tools. Learn more about the simulator objects via the WinCC OA online help chapter Graphics editor (GEDI) > STD_symbols > STD_SIMULATORS.

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WinCC OA 127E

WinCC OA: SIMATIC 127E and WinCC OA

By Shawn Sandoval | 07/09/2019
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James and I had the chance to check out the new SIMATIC 127E Box PC this week, and we are happy to report that it packs a punch! The SIMATIC 127E is tiny and provides endless application possibilities. In this blog, I will discuss a couple of standard applications and a few exotic ways you could apply this tiny device.

First, let’s talk about two standard possibilities.

  1. WinCC Open Architecture (OA) Client
  2. WinCC OA Distributed System

WinCC OA is a Siemens HMI, SCADA, MES, and IoT development platform. One of the benefits of WinCC OA is a common installer for single board computers up to high-end server systems. Standardizing on one platform across the enterprise allows you to consolidate systems, reduce maintenance, and reduce your overall total cost of ownership.

SIMATIC 127E as a WinCC OA Client

The SIMATIC 127E exceeds the minimum WinCC OA software and hardware requirements to be used as a client device. The 127E industrial PC contains no moving parts and offers long-term availability of 11 years. Why is this important? Moving parts attribute to failure in the industrial world and standard (non-industrial) PCs typically offer a 3-7 year lifecycle at best. By leveraging an industrial-grade PC and long-term availability offered by Siemens, you can increase lifecycle and reduce your overall total cost of ownership.

SIMATIC 127E as a WinCC OA Distributed System

The SIMATIC 127E industrial PC extends the range of WinCC OA’s distributed architecture by supporting a full installation. You can now leverage a WinCC OA distributed application that provides user-interface, alarming, data processing, and data archiving all on the SIMATIC 127E. Imagine if you will, a location with a minimal amount of data that you need to acquire. By adding this tiny device with an installation of WinCC OA, you can start to capture your data, visualize it locally, then connect it to a higher level WinCC OA or 3rd systems. Having highly capable commercial off the shelf (COTS) software that is supported on a small IT footprint, enables you to quickly acquire and standardize your data.

Now let’s talk about a few somewhat “exotic” ways we can apply the 127E device.

  1. IoT Data Gateway
  2. Edge Device
  3. On-Premise Architecture (OPA) IoT Device

IoT Data Gateway and Edge Computing

One of the decisions you have to make when creating a “device to a cloud” system, is where you process your data. In one scenario, you can send all of your raw data to the cloud and let the algorithms turn your data into information. Your costs will most likely surround your cold/hot storage, and network bandwidth decisions.

In another scenario, you can take a hybrid approach, to whereas you process your data on-premise (edge-near the data source), and in turn, only send “select” data to the cloud. Taking this approach can mitigate your costs and speed up information flow. Essentially, with the hybrid approach, you are reducing your storage and network fees associated with sending data to the cloud.

Last but not least, both the 127E and IoT 2040 industrial PCs can be set up as a “device to cloud” subscription service to Siemens IoT platform, MindSphere. The MindSphere platform offers a software agent that can be installed on your chosen device to enable quick cloud connectivity.

WinCC OA On-Premise Administration (OPA) IoT Device

Not yet released, but coming soon, is the WinCC OA On-Premise IoT Suite. The suite essentially gives you two main tools.

  1. The ability to manage on-premise devices through a web-based interface
  2. Simple WinCC OA data gateway devices configurable through a graphical user interface

Functionally, the WinCC OA IoT Suite provides auto-tag import, built-in rules engine, and automatic graphics generation. Both the SIMATIC IoT 2040 and now the SIMATIC 127E extend the Siemens hardware portfolio and are perfect for the WinCC OA OPA IoT Suite of software. If this sounds interesting, check out this video from WinCC OA User Days to learn more.

Do you have an application in mind?

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SIMATIC 127E

News & Updates: SIMATIC IPC 127E by Siemens

By KAASM | 07/03/2019
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Coined as an IoT edge gateway, the new SIMATIC IPC 127E delivers quite the punch considering how small it is. Just how small is it? Ask these guys!

With up to 4GB RAM, 128GB solid-state drive and Intel Atom chipset – this tiny box PC can be used in a range of applications. Here are a few ideas for you:

  • Edge-device for preprocessing of data.
  • WinCC Open Architecture sub-system (e.g. Utility lift station).
  • HMI thin-client station.

As an open platform, the SIMATIC IPC 127E offers a reliable connection between production and the Internet of Things. And in true Siemens fashion, this device has long-term service and support availability of up to 11 years. This translates into low maintenance and increased lifecycle.

If you are looking to purchase one of these dandy little devices, feel free to contact us.

Here is the detailed product link for your perusal: SIMATIC IPC 127E

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Nephophile featured image

Company Culture: Are you a Digital Nephophobe or Nephophile?

By KAASM | 07/01/2019
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Nepho what?! “Nepho” is Greek for cloud. So, I will ask in layman’s terms, are you afraid of the cloud or do you love the cloud? We use the cloud every day, but what about SCADA in the cloud? There are a lot of advantages to putting SCADA in the cloud, but there are also a lot of risks.

We hear and see buzz words all around us listing the benefits of SCADA in the cloud. Scalable, secure, cost-effective, reliable, quick installation, highly accessible, IT and maintenance services done by third-party professionals…sound familiar? All sound good to me! What are the drawbacks then? Why are people so hesitant to put SCADA in the cloud?

Robert M. Lee “SCADA and Me”

Let’s take a look at the risks. How vulnerable is your process? How precious is your data? Let’s face it. Security breaches happen all around us. Sometimes they are malicious cyber attacks (e.g. the Target, Home Depot or Chipotle debacles resulting in the theft of millions of consumers personal information). Or sometimes they are caused at the end user level due to a misconfiguration of security protocols on hosted infrastructure (e.g. the Accenture or Time Warner Cable security breaches due to AWS misconfigurations). Other risks to think about with cloud-hosted SCADA systems are reliability and system performance. If there was a problem with connectivity to the system who would you contact?  Is it a local connection issue (onsite IT team)? Is it an ISP latency or outage issue (your ISP)? Or is it an issue with the cloud service network (cloud services provider)? You might have to contact three different folks before seeing a resolution. What’s that downtime cost you?

Would it make sense to expose the controls of a city’s water supply to these vulnerabilities? How can consumers take advantage of the benefits of cloud-hosted solutions and the advanced applications available in the market, without exposing their control systems to the wide area network? One way might be to host a SCADA server locally, leaving the controls on the local area network, but allow less sensitive information to a cloud-hosted solution for easier access and visibility. There are a lot of users moving to these types of hybrid systems to utilize the benefits of cloud-hosted solutions while mitigating the risks of exposing their controls to potential vulnerabilities. 

What is your company doing? Are you a Digital Nephophobe or Nephophile?

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ORM Featured Image

WinCC OA: Applying Object-Relational Mappers

By Shawn Sandoval | 06/30/2019
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ORM icon

What are Object-Relational Mappers (ORM)? To put it simply, it’s a tool that allows you to use your preferred object-oriented programming language and replace the need to write database queries.

What’s the big deal?

First and foremost, this makes application development a lot easier. Second, ORMs also enable the functionality to move external data in and out of WinCC OA SCADA/MES systems seamlessly. This type of integration can also deliver tremendous value to customers.

Want to learn more?

Vertech made a video about how they use their WinCC OA ORM tools. Check it out!

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WinCC OA: S7 Plus Driver FAQ

By KAASM | 06/27/2019
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This FAQ post was written for WinCC OA version 3.16.

Which type of controller and simulation can I work with?

  • S7-1200, S7-1500
  • S7-1500 Software Controller
  • PLCSIM
  • PLCSIM Advanced

Is there a performance difference compared to the old S7 driver?

The S7 Plus driver uses symbolic addressing only. On the same machine, we observed a performance increase of about factor 5-10 compared to S7 driver TIA Symbolic (in WinCC OA 3.14).

What is the S7 Plus driver licensing model like?

S7-1500

The underlying S7DOS layer counts total connections to unique IP addresses (of PLC Communication Processors CPs). The pool of licensed connections is shared with every SIMATIC software on the same computer. Therefore online-connections from TIA Portal or any WinCC at the same time will reduce the remaining licenses for WinCC OA and vice versa. See attached a small table to calculate the licenses for your needs. We have also added H-PLC as well as we know they are currently not available.

Licensed Connections (per WinCC OA Server)Single PLCRedu LAN or H-PLCRedu LAN and H-PLC
8842
64643216
512512256128

What do I need the SIMATIC SCADA Export Plugin for?

As the S7 Plus driver uses symbolic addressing, access to the engineering data of the connected S7 PLC is required. This data is provided by the TIA Portal Export Plugin, which integrates into TIA Portal V13 SP1, V14, V15, V15 SP1 via project or PLC station context menu.

You may also use online browsing. When selecting this option, you have to specify the IP address and PLC type in the configuration panel.

NOTE: S7Plus alarming cannot be used if you enable online browsing.

How many connections do I need to connect to one S7-1500?

Only one single connection on the S7DOS layer is established per S7 PLC.

Does redundant LAN work? How many connections do I need to connect to an S7-1500 with redundant LAN?

Yes, the S7 Plus driver also supports redundant LAN. As a consequence two connections on the S7DOS layer are established per S7 PLC.

Does the S7 Plus driver support alarming?

Currently, no. Alarming support is on the agenda for the next release, V3.17.

Can I connect to S7-300/400 using the S7 Plus driver?

No, only controllers from the S7+ series i.e. S7-1200 and S7-1500 can be connected.

Does the S7 Plus driver run on Linux?

Yes, the S7 Plus driver is available for all delivered WinCC OA platforms.

Can I use optimized Datablocks in my TIA Portal project?

Yes, optimized Datablocks (Instance-DB or Global-DB) can be used. 

Can I use User-Defined Types and Arrays in my TIA Portal project?

Yes, User-Defined Types and Arrays can be used separately and combined for Datablock variables and Tags.

Is my TIA Portal engineering know-how somehow protected? Can I use protection levels on the S7 PLC?

The intellectual property is protected in two ways:

  1. The TIA Portal Export Plugin exports the engineering data in a securely protected way producing an encrypted export file. Additionally, the export file contains only relevant information for SCADA or HMI applications and not, for instance, the complete function block source code.
  2. The S7 Plus driver can communicate with protected S7 PLCs, i.e. having an activated protection level. The necessary password for accessing a protected S7 PLC is stored safe and encrypted in WinCC OA.

Why do I need the S7DOS component?

S7DOS is the standard communication layer for all Siemens Software Products connecting S7 PLC. Therefore also the S7 Plus driver shares this functionality.

Can I use own S7DOS Access Points instead of “S7ONLINE”?

Yes, you can define own Access Points by opening the “Set PG/PC Interface” from S7 Plus Connection Panel or Windows Control Panel.

Can I upgrade from using a classic S7 driver to S7 Plus driver?

S7 connections using “TIA Symbolic” can be merged into the new S7 Plus driver by using the “S7+ Migration” Panel from System Management. All other types of S7 connections have to be upgraded manually.

Can I use my S7 driver license to run the S7 Plus driver?

No, because the S7 Plus driver uses another license keyword [s7plus]. Nevertheless, there are up to 8 included connections possible even in case of an invalidated license.

Can I use TSPP with the S7 Plus driver?

No, TSPP cannot be used. Instead, subscriptions can be used. 
NOTE: TSPP can be configured using the standard S7 driver.

What is the difference between poll groups and subscriptions?

Using poll groups – the S7 PLC is periodically requested to send a set of associated variable values. The subscription functionality allows the S7 Plus driver to subscribe for variable values on the PLC side once (i.e. “configuration”) and have the values sent automatically by the S7 PLC either periodically or on change of some subscribed variable value without the need of actively requesting any variable value. However, the number of subscriptions and subscribed values are limited by the S7 PLC.

What does the log entry “Active connection for XY (condition [1-4]) switches from A to -1” mean?

This log entry indicates a change of the currently active connection named XY from previous state A (possible values -1,0,1) to a new state -1. Connection -1 means no active connection at all.

What does the log entry “The integrity of the project is broken” mean?

In general, this log entry means that something between the “offline” configuration (i.e. TIA Portal Export file and internal DP configuration) and the online connected PLC is inconsistent. The error might, for example, mean that PLC type is set to “S7-1200” but the IP address points to some S7-1500.

Why can I connect to an S7 PLC although the PLC type is invalid?

This only happens when there already was some valid connection established for the PLC type in question since driver startup. This behavior is due to some internal details of the used communication library.

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Creative Dissatisfaction

Company Culture: Creative Dissatisfaction

By KAASM | 06/25/2019
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As someone with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I decided to take an eLearning course from Udemy. It was the perfect way to pass time during my exhilarating commute to Seattle. While listening to a lecture about company values and culture, the concept of “Creative Dissatisfaction” was particularly thought-provoking.

Werner Von Siemens
LL Von Siemens

Creative Dissatisfaction is a personal and cultural mindset of always wanting to improve. It is the gap between where you, your team, or your company, are; and where you could be. Someone who is creatively dissatisfied is always striving towards excellence, which leads to innovation. Constantly challenging yourself to improve your performance or processes is the foundation of being successful, and this can be applied in all aspects of your life.

When you become satisfied, complacency sinks in and you lose the passion for innovation and forward thinking. I don’t think I have ever met an ambitious person that is content with being “good enough.”

Imagine how the “instant parties of the 80s” would have been affected had it not been for Werner von Siemens’ “Creative Dissatisfaction”. He invented the moving-coil transducer, which is one of the foundations of loudspeaker technology. Dope!

Would you consider yourself creatively dissatisfied? What about where you work?

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