Software Toolbox Technical Blog

Tech Support Corner: How to Script Wireshark Capture

By Rodrigo Restrepo on May 19, 2022 2:00:00 PM


As you may be aware, Wireshark is an incredibly useful freeware tool for capturing network traffic on a computer. Our support engineers find it to be invaluable for troubleshooting Ethernet communications issues, as it provides visibility into more than just the protocol data packets, including handshaking calls and responses.

Wireshark also provides options for specifying capture filters (for defining a smaller subset of data to be captured that you're interested in) or you can capture all traffic and apply a display filter to narrow down the traffic that is visible.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post covers how to go even further using Wireshark by defining scripted custom Wireshark captures for specific use cases, which is helpful for capturing infrequent issues without wasting a lot of unnecessary hard drive space.



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OPC Router Adds OPC UA Pub/Sub, UA Cloud Library & Docker Sample

By Kevin Rutherford on May 12, 2022 2:00:00 PM


OPC Router already includes a wide range of features that you may already be taking advantage of. You're likely also aware that OPC Router is regularly updated to add additional useful features and tools, and to resolve any known issues, as part of its continuous improvement process.

In this post, I will cover new features and enhancements available in OPC Router V4.27 including:

  • New plug-in for OPC UA Pub/Sub (Publish/Subscribe) for expanded OPC UA functionality with a new efficient method for transferring data
  • Support for the  OPC UA Cloud Library providing the ability to create and use centralized specifications based on OPC UA Companion Specifications
  • Easier Docker container support with an included, ready-configured Docker sample script


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Tech Support Corner: Using PowerShell to Troubleshoot TCP Ports

By Rodrigo Restrepo on May 5, 2022 2:00:00 PM


Do you find yourself in need of troubleshooting a TCP connection, but your IT department has everything locked down, so you're unable to install third-party Troubleshooting tools without permission? An often overlooked but effective tool for troubleshooting TCP socket connections is PowerShell.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post covers how to use PowerShell to effectively determine what issues you may be having with a problematic TCP Ethernet connection.



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Integrating LGH File Inspector via InTouch Scripting

By Kevin Rutherford on Apr 28, 2022 2:00:00 PM

A key feature of any HMI package is the ability to not only show the current state of your control system, but to then store that information for historic purposes. But being able to easily access that historical data is key for making important decisions.

LGH File Inspector enables scalable, fast access to local daily historical data files (*.lgh files) logged by AVEVA InTouch HMI and SCADA applications without the limitations imposed by other solutions.

In this blog post, we'll cover how to seamlessly integrate LGH File Inspector with InTouch using InTouch scripting using two different methods.



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Did You Know? How to "Simulate" Devices with OmniServer

By Kevin Rutherford on Apr 21, 2022 2:00:00 PM


If you're familiar with OmniServer, you likely already know how OmniServer is commonly used to retrieve information from devices that use ‘non-standard’ protocols to communicate such as weight scales, barcode readers, and printers either over serial connections or Ethernet connections.

But a common challenge is configuring an OmniServer but not having a real device physically available to test against. However, with a little extra configuration and a second PC with OmniServer installed, you can create a "device" version of the same protocol to test against.

Reviving our "OmniServer Did You Know?" blog series, I will cover how a second OmniServer can be configured to act as a test device for troubleshooting your protocol when a physical device isn't available.



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How to Easily Integrate Your OPC Router Data with Google Cloud IoT

By Zachary Parham on Apr 14, 2022 2:00:00 PM


The Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is Google’s cloud solution that brings all of Google’s cloud computing services together. Google’s own services, such as Google Search and YouTube, run on the GCP, but end users can also use their cloud services.

Google Cloud Platform, for the Internet of Things (IoT) area, offers their “Cloud IoT Core” services, which provide the functionalities to connect large quantities of devices via an integrated MQTT broker. In this blog post, we will show the necessary steps for connecting this Cloud IoT Core to the different data interfaces supported by OPC Router.



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Tech Support Corner: Running / Maintaining Cogent DataHub as a Service

By Nicole Knox on Apr 7, 2022 2:00:00 PM


Great job! You managed to configure Cogent DataHub® to fit your needs, and now you are ready to run it in a production environment, but you are left with one question – “How in the world do I run DataHub as a service?”.

Running applications as Windows services has multiple benefits but, perhaps, the most beneficial reason to run an application as a service is the ability to let the application/process run in the background without the need for a user to be logged on the operating system. For that reason, this might be why you are looking at how to run it as a service, whether you are tunneling, logging, aggregating, historizing data, and/or using Datahub as a Gateway.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, if you find yourself in this situation like other users over years, do not worry. This post will walk you through the process of running DataHub as a service as well as how to access its properties from a local and/or remote machine.



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OPC Data Client 2022.1 .NET 6, Win1021H2 Support, New Examples & More

By Ganesh Kalipershad on Mar 31, 2022 2:00:00 PM


Following on the recent OPC Data Client 2021.3 release a few months ago, the OPC Data Client toolkit has been updated again to give developers more options, help them deal with Microsoft technology changes, and add new functionality to their applications. We will cover the highlights here in this technically deep blog post.

Be sure to read about the DCOM hardening that Microsoft is performing and options to be ready, to get ahead of potential support calls from your users.



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Quick Start - AVEVA System Platform to TOP Server via OPC DA

By Zachary Parham on Mar 24, 2022 2:00:00 PM


TOP Server for AVEVA users are probably aware that TOP Server supports several methods for connecting AVEVA software solutions. TOP Server simultaneously supports SuiteLink, OPC DA Classic and OPC UA (as well as DDE for legacy applications). Users of AVEVA System Platform specifically commonly connect to TOP Server via either SuiteLink or OPC DA.

In this blog post, we will cover the basic steps to connect AVEVA System Platform to TOP Server via OPC DA, expanding connectivity options for AVEVA users. We'll also make our step-by-step quick start application note available for getting started.



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Licensing Enhancements - LGH File Inspector for AVEVA/Wonderware

By Win Worrall on Mar 17, 2022 2:00:00 PM

The LGH File Inspector software solution enables rapid query and export of Wonderware InTouch LGH files to Excel & CSV for analysis and reporting. With Version 3.0, the licensing architecture has been redesigned for greater flexibility and ease-of-use.

In this blog post, we'll explain in more detail how the new licensing model benefits new and existing users.



Topics: Wonderware CSV LGH
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DataHub V10: Integrating Data Sources with AVEVA Insight

By Win Worrall on Mar 10, 2022 2:00:00 PM


Cogent DataHub® (from our developer partner/publisher Skkynet) provides a wide selection of connectivity options to OPC DA, OPC UA, OPC A&E, Databases, Excel, ODBC, DDE, Linux, Modbus.  As you may have already learned recently, DataHub Version 10 now includes support for integration with a wide range of common external historians. This expands your options for which data sources are compatible for historization in your chosen historian solution beyond the historian's native interfaces.

In this blog post, we'll detail how to get started integrating your data sources accessible by DataHub with AVEVA™ Insight, by writing data to your AVEVA Insight instance while also making that same historical data available for trending, visualization and reporting for both DataHub and external historical clients supporting OPC UA Historical Access (HA). 



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Video Tutorial: Using DataHub to Convert OPC Classic A&E to OPC UA A&C

By Win Worrall on Mar 3, 2022 2:00:00 PM


Cogent DataHub enables a wide range of connectivity interfaces for different data sources such as OPC UA, OPC DA, ODBC, DDE and so much more.  This makes DataHub a flexible gateway commonly used for data integration by external software such as HMI, SCADA, MES, historians and other client applications.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to use DataHub V10's support for OPC UA Alarms & Conditions to enable OPC Classic Alarms & Events servers to work with newer OPC UA clients supporting Alarms & Conditions.



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Tech Support Corner: Troubleshooting AVEVA SuiteLink Connections

By Connor Mason on Feb 24, 2022 2:00:00 PM


Software Toolbox has a long-standing history of offering supplemental solutions that fit right in with AVEVA™ (formerly Wonderware®) projects. Many of you will be familiar with our TOP Server for AVEVA™ that offers a variety of device connectivity options, and a variety of client interface options like SuiteLink, OPC DA, and OPC UA.

SuiteLink is a communications protocol that runs over TCP/IP at the application layer, created by Wonderware to replace/succeed FastDDE, in the mid-1990's. Unlike OPC DA, SuiteLink doesn’t rely on COM or DCOM technology, making SuiteLink a common choice for remote connectivity to Software Toolbox solutions.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this post shares best practices and procedures to follow when attempting to troubleshoot a SuiteLink connection, specifically when it comes to using SuiteLink clients with TOP Server. While this post specifically uses TOP Server as the SuiteLink server, the same techniques and concepts also apply to OmniServer, which also has a SuiteLink client Interface and is commonly used with AVEVA solutions.



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Tech Support Corner: Understanding the Different TOP Server Components

By Jessica Dillon on Feb 17, 2022 2:00:00 PM


If you are reading this post, chances are that you are somewhat familiar with TOP Server as well as how to configure it to communicate with various devices. Perhaps, you are also familiar with how to configure different settings, OPC UA endpoint settings, Licensing, Stop and Start the Service, and, if you are a developer, you might be familiar with the development resources that TOP Server offers such as the Remote Config REST API and the OPC.NET interface.

However, during our daily interaction with end-users, we often find that there is a misconception of what the TOP Server application is composed of and how each component contributes to delivering the product that you interact with daily.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this short post will discuss the various components of TOP Server and clarify how each component contributes to the macro process that allows the application to deliver communication between your process devices and your various IT/OT systems.



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DataHub V10: Integrating Data Sources with AVEVA Historian

By Win Worrall on Feb 10, 2022 2:00:00 PM


Cogent DataHub is known for its extensive connectivity to OPC DA, OPC UA, OPC A&E, Databases, Excel, ODBC, DDE, Linux, Modbus.  As you may have already learned, the DataHub Version 10 now includes support for integration with a wide range of common external historians, expanding your options for which data sources are compatible for historization in your chosen historian solution.

In this blog post, we'll detail how to get started integrating your data sources accessible by DataHub with AVEVA™ Historian by writing data to your AVEVA Historian while also making that same historical data available for trending, visualization and reporting for both DataHub and external historical clients supporting OPC UA Historical Access (HA). 



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Five Ways OPC Router Bridges the Gap Between ERP and Plant Floor

By Kevin Rutherford on Feb 3, 2022 2:00:00 PM


For various reasons, many organizations still have one or more disconnects between the PLCs and other control devices closest to the ultimate process and the upstream systems responsible for coordinating efforts across the enterprise. In an ideal world, all data exchange between all systems in an enterprise would be automated for the greatest efficiency.

In this post (based on the article "Removing five critical media gaps" by our partner company, inray Industriesoftware GmbH), we will discuss five of the most common gaps where an organization's ERP system may still be disconnected from underlying processes and data sources. And we'll discuss how OPC Router provides the ability to eliminate those unnecessary gaps.



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2022 Automation & Control Software Learning Resources

By Kevin Rutherford on Jan 27, 2022 2:00:00 PM


2021 furthered the transformations of 2020 as industry worldwide continued to adapt to succeed in the face of new challenges such as supply chain, a growing labor shortage, and exploding customer demand.  

This post is our 5th annual sharing of references to learning resources and new technology releases that users have told us were the most helpful to them over the course of the last year.



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Key New Features - OmniServer V3.2.0.12

By Kevin Rutherford on Jan 20, 2022 2:00:00 PM


Updates are made to Omniserver several times a year, adding useful features and tools, as well as resolving any known issues as part of our continuous improvement process.

In this post, I will cover updates and enhancements available in OmniServer V3.2.0.12 that increase the usability of OmniServer with respect to migrating and saving configurations, monitoring statistics and keeping current with Microsoft technologies.



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Integrate Popular Historians with DataHub V10

By Win Worrall on Jan 13, 2022 2:00:00 PM


Cogent DataHub is known for its extensive connectivity to OPC DA, OPC UA, OPC A&E, Databases, Excel, ODBC, DDE, Linux, Modbus.  The latest Version 10 release expands connectivity to include a wide range of common external historian solutions for historizing industrial data and integrating historized data with other systems.

In this blog post, we'll highlight some specific key details about which historians are supported and how other DataHub functionality works with those historians to provide flexible options.



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TOP Server for AVEVA V6.11 Features to Be Excited About

By Kevin Rutherford on Jan 6, 2022 2:00:00 PM

In keeping with ongoing continuous improvement initiatives, TOP Server for AVEVA V6.11 adds drivers, as well as enhancing existing drivers and resolving known issues for over 30 drivers and plug-ins.

In this post, we'll cover the key features released in V6.11 in more detail, namely the new Siemens S7 Plus Ethernet driver with symbolic address support for S7-1500 and S7-1200 controllers, several powerful scalability enhancements for BACnet and important updates to several oil and gas drivers, including how they benefit you as a TOP Server user.



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Top 6 Key Features in DataHub V10

By Win Worrall on Jan 4, 2022 10:00:00 AM


Cogent DataHub is known for its extensive connectivity to OPC DA, OPC UA, OPC A&E, Databases, Excel, ODBC, DDE, Linux, Modbus.  The latest Version 10 release adds a huge amount of new or expanded functionality that further confirms our saying that "once the data is in DataHub, it can go anywhere".

In this blog post, I'll provide insight into key new features including support for OPC UA Alarms & Conditions, support for Sparkplug B for both the MQTT Client and Broker, support for reading and writing with multiple popular external historians and more. Not only will I cover what these new functionalities provide but how they can help you deliver secure, integrated connections within and between your plants, to the cloud and beyond, giving you the data and perspective you need to make critical decisions for your enterprise.



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Tech Support Corner: Secure UA Authentication with Cogent DataHub

By Win Worrall on Dec 16, 2021 2:00:00 PM


If you've seen our other, more detailed posts (specifically our Exploring OPC UA post and the DataHub OPC UA video how-to) on getting Cogent DataHub working with OPC UA clients and servers, you are probably already familiar with configuring Cogent DataHub for secure access from an OPC UA client. However, we are commonly asked how to quickly get the DataHub OPC UA server interface ready for an OPC UA client to securely connect for accessing data from the variety of other interfaces that DataHub supports.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this short post covers just the basics for setting up the Cogent DataHub OPC UA server interface to use the highest level of security and to require a client to specify a username and password for authentication.



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Tech Support Corner: Optimizing with ControlLogix Protocol Modes

By Connor Mason on Dec 2, 2021 2:00:00 PM


If you’re a user of the Allen-Bradley ControlLogix Ethernet driver in TOP Server for AVEVA, you may be familiar with the different protocol modes available during device configuration. The three distinct options of Symbolic, Logical Blocking, and Logical Non-Blocking provide users with advanced control over how data is read and addressed from the controller.

Configuring protocol modes is usually only suggested for advanced users who have a solid understanding of each mode, and how their Logix programs are structured. To that end, continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post will break down each of these protocol modes, while exploring their benefits and drawbacks, to provide you a clear understanding of each protocol. This post will provide the advanced knowledge needed in a usable way to best serve your own project!



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OPC Data Client 2021.3 - Windows 11, Server 2022, Examples & More

By Ganesh Kalipershad on Nov 18, 2021 2:00:00 PM


Following on the recent OPC Data Client 2021.2 release a few months ago, the OPC Data Client toolkit has been updated again to further extend it's OPC UA client functionality. 

The new updates provide developers of custom OPC client applications with new operating system support, even more examples including Powershell examples, and a large number of improvements to all the supported OPC interfaces to increase flexibility, troubleshooting, and user experience, while further decreasing development time. 



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How MariaDB Compares to MySQL

By Kevin Rutherford on Nov 11, 2021 2:00:00 PM


In a recent blog post about MongoDB, we discussed how non-relational database differ from relational databases like SQL and MySQL. The fact of the matter is, relational databases are widely used and still just as popular in the industrial automation space as ever. A popular alternative to SQL and MySQL is MariaDB which is an open source relational database.

This blog post (based on the article "What is MariaDB? A comparison with MySQL" by our partner company, inray Industriesoftware GmbH) discusses what MariaDB is, comparing it to MySQL so you can determine if MariaDB is a better database option for your company.



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OPC Router Adds Docker Support, Remote Config, InFluxDB 2 & More

By Kevin Rutherford on Oct 27, 2021 2:00:00 PM


If you're already taking advantage of the wide range of features in OPC Router, you're likely aware that OPC Router is regularly updated to add additional useful features and tools, and to resolve any known issues as part of its continuous improvement process.

In this post, I will cover new features and enhancements available in OPC Router V4.26 including

  • Expanded Edge device flexibility with support for Docker container instances
  • Remote configuration for management of one or more instances (including Docker instances)
  • Support for Influx DB2 and InfluxDB Cloud
  • Enhanced support for referencing and management of external libraries 


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Key New Features - OmniServer V3.2.0.11

By Kevin Rutherford on Oct 14, 2021 2:00:00 PM


As you may be aware, OmniServer is updated several times a year to add additional useful features and tools, and to resolve any known issues as part of our continuous improvement process.

In this post, I will cover updates and enhancements available in OmniServer V3.2.0.11 that enhance the usability of OmniServer Professional Edition for email alerts and reports and also an update that makes it easier to run OmniServer as a Windows service.



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MongoDB and How a NoSQL Database is Different

By Kevin Rutherford on Sep 30, 2021 2:00:00 PM


I think it's safe to say that when we're discussing databases in the context of industrial process control, SQL Server is where most of our brains tend to jump. The proliferation of SQL (and other traditional relational databases) across most, if not all, industries for process control applications cannot be denied. But SQL (and others) do certainly have some limitations.

This blog post (based on an article by partner company, inray Industriesoftware GmbH) discusses how MongoDB, a non-relational database (i.e. NoSQL database) are fundamentally different from the SQL Servers of the world and how MongoDB can be a good alternative to relational databases for some applications.



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Video Tutorial: Ignition SCADA to TPI Vibration Monitors w/ OmniServer

By Kevin Rutherford on Sep 16, 2021 2:00:00 PM


OmniServer's connectivity and data parsing capabilities are its primary job; however, they are only part of how OmniServer helps with integrating non-standard devices with Inductive Automation's Ignition HMI/SCADA.  How does the device data actually make it into Ignition and what devices can you connect Ignition to using OmniServer?

In this video blog, I'll show you how to use OmniServer for TPI to integrate vibration data into Ignition via an OPC UA client connection from Ignition to OmniServer - all without the expense and headaches of having to write custom code.



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Tech Support Corner: 5 Tips for Using OPC Quick Client

By Kevin Rutherford on Sep 2, 2021 2:00:00 PM


If you're a TOP Server for AVEVA (formerly Wonderware) user, you've certainly connected to a device configured in TOP Server using the included OPC Quick Client at one time or another. But if you've just been launching the Quick Client from the TOP Server toolbar, you may be missing some very useful features.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post covers five tips you can use to get the most out of your experience using the OPC Quick Client with TOP Server and other OPC DA servers.



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Easier Backup and Project Migration with OmniServer V3.2.0.10

By Kevin Rutherford on Aug 19, 2021 2:00:00 PM


You may be aware that OmniServer is updated several times a year to add additional useful features and tools, and to resolve any known issues as part of our continuous improvement process.

In this post, I will cover updates and enhancements available in OmniServer V3.2.0.10 designed to make it easier to backup and/or move your project configurations between machines (whether during migrations or new installations of OmniServer).



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Exploring OPC UA - Configuring OPC Router OPC UA Client & Server

By Kevin Rutherford on Aug 5, 2021 2:00:00 PM


Continuing our Exploring OPC UA blog series, we're still going into the specifics of OPC UA security configuration in key Software Toolbox solutions that are OPC UA capable.

In this ninth post of the series, we will focus on OPC Router, focusing on stepping through what the settings are in OPC Router and how to get connected both for your OPC UA clients and servers.



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Exploring OPC UA - Configuring OPC Data Client for OPC UA Servers

By Kevin Rutherford on Jul 22, 2021 2:00:00 PM


If you've been following our ongoing Exploring OPC UA blog series, we've been covering key Software Toolbox solutions and the specifics of configuring OPC UA security and connectivity.

In this eighth post of the series, we will focus on the OPC Data Client development toolkit, with the primary topic being how to exchange security certificates and establish a trust relationship between your custom OPC UA client and an OPC UA server.



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How to Easily Integrate Your Data with Google Cloud IoT Core

By Zachary Parham on Jul 8, 2021 2:00:00 PM


IoT, IIoT, MQTT, Connectivity of Things, Big Data, The Cloud - by now, you've heard these terms in some way, shape or form.  Perhaps you're working on a project requiring you to push and/or pull important process or business data to/from a cloud solution. Big data analytics applications ranging from predictive maintenance to "smart" manufacturing, amongst many other use cases, are becoming more and more common.

And Google© is a household name both in the private and professional world. Chances are, you got here using Google – whether through a Google search, or by using Google Chrome (or both). But did you know that Google has their own cloud solution called Google Cloud IoT Core©? Amongst many other things, Google Cloud IoT Core acts as an MQTT broker for storing and sharing important data in a secure cloud along with artificial intelligence and analytics and many other IoT services.

But how do you go from your data sources to Google Cloud IoT Core? In this second post in a series about connecting DataHub to IoT solutions (if you missed our first post on connecting to Amazon AWS IOT Core©, click here), we'll step through how you can configure Google Cloud IoT Core and connect it to your process and business data sources using the Cogent DataHub IoT Gateway©.



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OPC Data Client 2021.2 - OPC UA Functionality Extensions

By Ganesh Kalipershad on Jun 17, 2021 2:00:00 PM


Following on the recent OPC Data Client 2021.1 release a few months ago, the OPC Data Client toolkit has been updated again to further extend it's OPC UA client functionality. 

The new updates provide developers of custom OPC client applications new options to interact with even more OPC UA servers or more richly with existing OPC UA servers. This blog post teaches you how OPC UA PubSub security is different from regular OPC UA security, how to improve JSON/OPC UA PubSub interoperability with a new utility, and why you might care about OPC UA File Transfer. 



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Exploring OPC UA - Configuring OPC Data Logger for OPC UA Servers

By Kevin Rutherford on Jun 3, 2021 2:00:00 PM


If you've been following our ongoing Exploring OPC UA blog series, we've been covering key Software Toolbox solutions and the specifics of configuring OPC UA security and connectivity.

In this seventh post of the series, we will focus on OPC Data Logger, specifically stepping through settings related to security, endpoints and certificate management and connecting OPC Data Logger to OPC UA servers for logging data.



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Exploring OPC UA - Configuring Cogent DataHub OPC UA Client & Server

By Kevin Rutherford on May 20, 2021 2:00:00 PM


As you may have seen in our recent posts in our ongoing Exploring OPC UA blog series, we've been going into the specifics of OPC UA security configuration in key Software Toolbox solutions that are OPC UA capable.

In this sixth post of the series, we will focus on Cogent DataHub, focusing on stepping through what the settings are in DataHub and how to get connected both for your OPC UA clients and servers.



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Exploring OPC UA - Configuring OmniServer for OPC UA Clients

By Kevin Rutherford on May 6, 2021 2:00:00 PM


In our ongoing Exploring OPC UA blog series, we have shifted the focus from general concepts about how OPC UA certificates and security work to looking at practical usage of OPC UA in specific Software Toolbox solutions. Last time, we focused on configuring TOP Server for OPC UA connectivity.

In this fifth post of the series, we will focus on OmniServer, our solution for getting data from non-standard devices into OPC UA and other client applications. We'll step through what the settings are in OmniServer and how to get your OPC UA client applications connected.



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Exploring OPC UA - Configuring TOP Server for OPC UA Clients & Servers

By Kevin Rutherford on Apr 22, 2021 2:00:00 PM


So far in our ongoing Exploring OPC UA blog series, we have primarily taken a general look at OPC UA Certificates and security and how they are used by OPC UA clients and OPC UA servers to keep industrial data secure.

In this fourth post of the series, we take the series down a more specific path by starting to look at the settings and configuration of OPC UA for specific Software Toolbox solutions. This post focuses on TOP Server for AVEVA. We'll step through what the settings are in TOP Server and how to get connected both for your OPC UA client and servers.



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Tech Support Corner: Adding Friendly Topic Names in TOP Server

By Kevin Rutherford on Apr 8, 2021 2:00:00 PM


If you're a TOP Server for AVEVA (formerly Wonderware) user, you've certainly connected to a device configured in TOP Server using a topic name. But did you know you can create custom topics called aliases with any meaningful name you would like to represent your devices?

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post covers how to easily add define meaningful aliases for your devices in TOP Server for use as topics in your client applications.



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OPC Data Client 2021.1 - Developer Productivity, .NET 5 Support & More

By Ganesh Kalipershad on Mar 25, 2021 2:00:00 PM


Developers of custom OPC client applications have new options, enhanced troubleshooting tools, runtime configuration flexibility, and improved utilities to help them in the recently released 2021.1 (5.60) version of the OPC Data Client Toolkit.

In this technically hot blog post, we will cover the release highlights with links to documentation, and, as always, the full detailed release notes are available in our knowledge base. Also if you did not see the 2020.3 (5.59) release post, that one was packed with technical details.



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Integrating Fluctuating Energy Prices using OPC For Process Decisions

By Win Worrall on Mar 11, 2021 2:00:00 PM


While the recent winter storm in Texas and its rolling energy shortages has brought the subject of the availability of affordable energy and deregulation of power markets to the forefront of the conversation, this has been a problem in many areas of the world for a long time. This is mainly because of the large fluctuations in the price of energy that both residents and businesses have to endure.

It's ultimately the law of supply and demand driving such issues - when energy supply is eclipsed by extraordinary demand for it, an inconvenience during the best of times becomes a crisis in the case of extreme situations such as unexpected winter weather, devastating storms, hotter than normal summers and other unpredictable situations.

In the case of manufacturing and other industries that rely on energy as an input for operations, the cost of energy can literally determine whether a production run is profitable or not. This post discusses methods for monitoring energy costs in real-time from your HMI, SCADA or MES system using OPC UA or OPC DA, for decision support to prevent avoidable losses. 



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How to Easily Integrate Your Data with Amazon AWS IoT Core

By Kevin Rutherford on Feb 25, 2021 2:00:00 PM


IoT, IIoT, MQTT, Connectivity of Things, Big Data, The Cloud - I'm sure you've at least heard these terms in the course of your day (whether in the scope of your job or in an advertisement during a football game you happen to be watching).  Maybe you're even working on a project requiring you to push and/or pull important process or business data to/from a cloud solution - possibly for big data analytics applications ranging from predictive maintenance to "smart" manufacturing, amongst many other use cases.

And Amazon© - well, I'd wager there isn't a single person out there who doesn't know who Amazon is. But did you know they have their own cloud solution called Amazon IoT Core©? And maybe you didn't also know that Amazon AWS (Amazon Web Services©) IoT Core acts as an MQTT broker for storing and sharing important data in a secure cloud along with artificial intelligence and analytics and many other IoT services.

But how do you go from your data sources to AWS IoT Core? In this post, we'll step through how you can configure "things" in Amazon AWS IoT Core and connect them to your process and business data sources with the Cogent DataHub IoT Gateway©.



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Virtual Training: Adding OPC UA to Your Custom OPC DA Server

By Ganesh Kalipershad on Feb 11, 2021 2:00:00 PM

With OPC DA Classic having been the de-facto standard for integrating industrial automation systems for so many years, I'm sure there are quite a few of you who might have custom developed OPC DA servers using SLIK-DA. Now, of course, migrations to OPC UA are on the rise with its enhanced security, encryption and efficiency.

Of course, the prospect of replacing that OPC DA server entirely with a replacement that supports OPC UA might be less than ideal. But have you considered adding an OPC UA server interface to that existing OPC DA custom application?

In this video blog, we teach you how to add an OPC UA Server interface to your existing OPC DA Server interface using the SLIK-DA/UA rapid development toolkit with your custom software application (NO ADDITIONAL CODE). If you missed our last post on how to add an OPC DA interface to your custom software, click here.



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Virtual Training: Making your Custom Software an OPC DA Server

By Ganesh Kalipershad on Jan 28, 2021 2:00:00 PM

So your organization has a custom developed application that is performing some important task and you've been tasked with providing access to that software for an OPC DA client or clients. Adding an OPC DA server interface to a custom application that either you've developed or that you've taken over from someone else can be a daunting task.  This is especially true if you're unfamiliar with the low level nuts and bolts of the OPC DA Classic specification.

In this video blog, we teach you how to add an OPC DA Server interface to your custom software application using the SLIK-DA/UA rapid development toolkit.



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2021 Automation & Control Software Learning Resources

By Kevin Rutherford on Jan 14, 2021 2:00:00 PM


2020 was an extraordinarily challenging year for the world and, as a result, a phenomenally transformational year in manufacturing as industries worldwide had to adapt to succeed in the face of new challenges. 

We start each year off, in the spirit of a new year, with sharing references to learning resources that users have told us were the most helpful to them over the course of the last year. This year's post contains an extraordinary amount of virtual technical training opportunities.



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OPC UA PubSub, OPC Classic Updates+More in OPC Data Client 2020.3

By Ganesh Kalipershad on Jan 7, 2021 2:00:00 PM


With the recently released 2020.3 (5.59) version of the OPC Data Client Toolkit, developers of OPC Classic client applications can now use .NET Core and have more flexibility in managing optimizations in their applications. Developers using OPC UA PubSub have more methods and options to aid in their development.  More example programs will help new users get started faster or existing developers leverage other functionality in their applications.

In this technically hot blog post, we will cover the release highlights with links to documentation, and, as always, the full detailed release notes are available in our knowledge base.



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Virtual Training: Using Writebacks in the OPC Data Logger

By Tyler Lindsey on Dec 17, 2020 2:00:00 PM

An often important task when logging important process data to a database or even to the cloud is verification that the data has been logged. This ensures that data has been successfully logged and will not be lost when overwritten in the downstream process.

In this video blog, we'll step through the configuration required in the OPC Data Logger for logging important process data to a database on condition related to a monitored item and how to perform a writeback to the OPC data source confirming the data has been successfully logged.



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Virtual Training: Flexible Logging of OPC Data to SQL & Azure SQL

By Tyler Lindsey on Dec 3, 2020 2:00:00 PM


With the advent of cloud-based solutions in every industry, it's only natural that you might need to migrate from a traditional locally-hosted SQL database for logging your process data to Azure. Fortunately, logging both to traditional SQL and Azure SQL are similar in many ways and OPC Data Logger makes it possible to log to both for OPC UA and DA data sources.

In this video blog, we'll review the basic setup and architecture for OPC Data Logger and then step through the configuration required for logging to SQL and Azure SQL from an OPC server.



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Video Tutorial: Convert OPC DA Servers to OPC UA using TOP Server

By Kevin Rutherford on Nov 19, 2020 2:00:00 PM


TOP Server for AVEVA™, formerly Wonderware provides connectivity to hundreds of device types and protocols, but that's not all.  With the TOP Server OPC Client Suite, it's also possible to use your existing classic OPC DA and OPC XML-DA servers with OPC UA clients.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to make a secure OPC UA connection from OPC UA clients supporting the Data Access profile to TOP Server for integrating process data from OPC DA Classic servers using the TOP Server OPC DA Client driver.  I cover the basics of connecting to your OPC DA server and making an OPC UA connection using an OPC UA test client.



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Tech Support Corner: Sharing XML Data With OPC Router

By Kevin Rutherford on Nov 12, 2020 2:00:00 PM


If you're following our blog posts on integrating XML data, we're discussing methods our tech support team suggests when asked how to integrate XML (eXtensible Markup Language) data with other systems such as OPC clients or servers, databases, devices or even the cloud.

Continuing this discussion on Integrating XML Data (part of our continuing Tech Support Corner blog series), this post covers how to integrate XML data with a variety of other systems including OPC clients and servers, databases, IIoT and more using the OPC Router. 



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Tech Support Corner: Sharing XML File Data With Cogent DataHub

By Win Worrall on Nov 5, 2020 2:00:00 PM


If you've read our other posts on sharing XML data, you'll remember that our tech support team regularly gets asked how to integrate XML (eXtensible Markup Language) data with other systems such as OPC clients or servers, databases, devices or even the cloud.

Continuing our discussion on Integrating XML Data (part of our continuing Tech Support Corner blog series), this post covers how to integrate XML data with a variety of other systems including OPC clients and servers, databases and more using the built-in scripting engine and interfaces of Cogent DataHub. 



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Tech Support Corner: Sharing XML File Data With Custom Applications

By Ganesh Kalipershad on Oct 29, 2020 2:00:00 PM


If you read our last post on sharing XML data, you may recall that our tech support engineers are regularly asked how to take data provided in an XML (eXtensible Markup Language) format (file or data stream) and share it with other systems such as OPC clients or servers, databases, devices or even the cloud.

In this Integrating XML Data sub-topic of our continuing Tech Support Corner blog series, this post covers how to easily integrate XML data with OPC systems when designing a custom developed application. 



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Tech Support Corner: Sharing XML File Data With Other Systems

By Kevin Rutherford on Oct 22, 2020 2:00:00 PM


A question our tech support engineers get asked quite regularly is how to take data stored in an XML (eXtensible Markup Language) file and share it with other systems such as OPC clients or servers, databases, devices or even the cloud.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this post covers a high level review of what options are available for integrating XML file data with your other systems. As part of this series, we'll have supplemental posts on each of the options discussed covering how to use them in more detail. 



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Key New Features - OmniServer V3.2.0.5

By Kevin Rutherford on Oct 15, 2020 2:00:00 PM


As you may be aware, OmniServer is updated several times a year to add additional useful features and tools, and to resolve any known issues as part of our continuous improvement process.

In this post, I will cover updates and enhancements available in OmniServer V3.2.0.5 to help you with increased flexibility for implementing protocols and updates for OPC UA client connectivity for integrating all of your non-standard devices.



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Firewall Ports: There's More to It and Why Your IT Team Has Concerns

By Win Worrall on Oct 8, 2020 2:00:00 PM

In follow up to my teammate Marc’s post last week around OPC UA and network traffic, this week I’m going to explore firewall ports in more detail. My goal is to help you understand where IT is coming from when they get concerned about any open inbound ports on firewalls. There is more to it than the obvious which is why they ask a lot of questions. This is especially true when one is talking about a connection that is coming from outside the plant firewall, but also even when it’s a port between a business and a production network.

Through understanding more, you’ll be able to have collaborative discussions with your IT team, where you can weigh the risks with IT as your partner, look for options that address the risks, and accomplish the movement of data required to run your business in ways that address your application-specific security concerns.



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Tech Support Corner: When Your IT Team Asks about OPC UA and It's Potential Network Impact

By Marc Holbach on Oct 1, 2020 2:00:00 PM


The adoption of OPC UA technology continues to grow more with each passing year.  And for good reason.  OPC UA provides a means to encrypt data as it is transferred between client and server that other client interface options simply do not. But when it comes time to have that discussion with your IT department around whether they are going to let you run OPC UA inside the firewall on a network, they likely will have concerns centered around common IT concerns in networks. 

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this post covers some common concerns that our support engineers have encountered from process engineers collaborating with their IT department about OPC UA client's and servers running on their network and the factors to consider in those discussions. 



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How to Convert MQTT Client Data to OPC

By Win Worrall on Sep 24, 2020 2:00:00 PM


As you may already be aware, the Cogent DataHub has a wide range of flexible connectivity options between different data sources such as MQTT, OPC UA, OPC DA, ODBC, DDE and so much more.  MQTT client and broker functionality in particular allow DataHub to integrate MQTT data sources with HMI, SCADA, MES, historian and other systems that don't natively support MQTT.

In this next installment of our Cogent DataHub Virtual Training series, we will cover step-by-step how to easily connect 3rd party MQTT clients to the DataHub MQTT broker and convert their data for access by your own systems with OPC UA or OPC DA client capabilities.



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Integrating RESTful Web Services with OPC and SQL

By Marc Holbach on Sep 17, 2020 2:00:00 PM

Access to various industrial data via RESTful web services is increasingly becoming necessary in this era of inter-connectivity and big data. From sources such as devices with self-hosted web services to relevant market data such as weather information and pricing for commodities and energy, there is a host of relevant data to be integrated from such RESTful web services.

In this video training blog post, we will cover step-by-step how to easily connect to and consume data from RESTful web services and then push that data to OPC and SQL systems with the OPC Router.



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Need to Export LGH File Data from a Remote InTouch System?

By Marc Holbach on Sep 10, 2020 2:00:00 PM


Many of the great questions in life begin with the word ‘where’. Where do we come from? Where are we going? Where should I install my LGH File Inspector?

While I cannot provide a whole lot of input on the first two questions, I do have some suggestions on where to install your LGH File Inspector.

In this Tech Support Corner blog post, we will explore some common factors that we have seen impact, or drive, the ideal placement of an LGH File Inspector installation – a question that we get quite commonly from users like you.



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Using MQTT to Stream OPC data to Digital Twins in Azure IoT Hub

By Win Worrall on Sep 3, 2020 2:00:00 PM


Cogent DataHub is always expanding its wide range of flexible connectivity options between different data sources such as MQTT, OPC UA, OPC DA, ODBC, DDE and so much more.  With the advent of IIoT and its increasing adoption across industries, connectivity to various traditionally non-IIOT data sources via MQTT is key.

If you're not familiar with the concept of a virtual or digital twin, it's the idea of virtual modeling a physical asset or system.  Ultimately, the key motivators for creating digital twins is having the ability to accurately model and predict what will happen with the real-world physical equivalent of that digital twin.  Digital twins are extremely beneficial towards predictive analytics used for pro-active maintenance and process optimization across industries.

In this next installment of our Cogent DataHub Virtual Training series, we will cover step-by-step how to easily connect and push data from OPC data sources to digital twins in the Azure IoT Hub including how to optionally do so through a network DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone) using an additional DataHub as a proxy server for even greater security.



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Video Tutorial: Connecting TOP Server with other OPC UA Servers

By Kevin Rutherford on Aug 27, 2020 2:00:00 PM


While TOP Server for AVEVA™, formerly Wonderware provides connectivity to hundreds of device types and protocols, that is only part of how TOP Server helps with integrating industrial process data with external software such as AVEVA™ System Platform, formerly Wonderware and other client applications.

You're likely aware that TOP Server is an OPC UA server.  But TOP Server can also act as an OPC UA client for integrating with other OPC UA servers, as well.  For situations where you have a UA server to integrate but you're not quite ready to move to OPC UA for all of your client applications, this provides the flexibility you need.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to make a secure OPC UA connection from TOP Server to other OPC UA servers supporting the Data Access profile.  We cover the basics of configuring the OPC UA Client driver in TOP Server and making an OPC UA connection to another OPC UA server.



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Converting an OPC DA Server to OPC UA with DataHub OPC Gateway

By Win Worrall on Aug 20, 2020 2:00:00 PM


Cogent DataHub enables a wide range of flexible connectivity options between interfaces for different data sources such as OPC UA, MQTT, OPC DA, ODBC, DDE and so much more.  This is why we commonly refer to DataHub as a "gateway", as it is frequently utilized for data integration by external software such as HMI, SCADA, MES, historians and other client applications, including for IIoT integration.

In Part 1 of our Cogent DataHub Virtual Training series, we will cover step-by-step how to easily connect OPC UA (Data Access Profile) client applications to your OPC DA Classic server data sources.



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How to Develop Custom OPC Clients with Minimal Code

By Ganesh Kalipershad on Aug 13, 2020 2:00:00 PM

As we discussed in the first post of this series, the term "OPC client" often refers to off-the-shelf HMI or SCADA applications.  OPC clients can also be other custom developed software applications in your enterprise that could benefit from access to OPC process data.  Or there might be a new custom application you need to develop that requires access to OPC process data.  In those situations, you need a reliable, straightforward method to enable those applications as OPC clients.

In Part 2 of our series on How to Develop Custom OPC Clients, we will cover step-by-step how to use low-code techniques to read, write and subscribe to OPC process data through building a basic OPC client application in Visual Studio.NET.



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Top 4 Benefits of Using a Hardware Key with OmniServer

By Kevin Rutherford on Aug 6, 2020 2:00:00 PM


Software-based licensing is a commonality among software solutions across all industries, not just industrial process control.  It's flexible, doesn't require physical shipping and is very reliable. But some system architectures can ultimately benefit from another licensing option - hardware keys.

Hardware key licensing is invaluable for high-availability systems for a number of reasons.  We've recently expanded licensing support in OmniServer, the proven OPC solution for integrating non-standard devices that don't have an off-the-shelf driver, to include optional hardware key support.

In this blog post, we'll cover the key reasons that hardware key licensing is beneficial for many OmniServer users.



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How to Develop Custom OPC Clients with No Code

By Ganesh Kalipershad on Jul 30, 2020 2:00:00 PM

When you hear the term "OPC client", you may initially think of off-the-shelf HMI or SCADA applications.  However, it's common in enterprises across most industries for there to be other custom developed software applications that could benefit from access to OPC process data.  Or perhaps there is a new custom application you're working on that needs to access OPC process data.  The question, then, is how to enable those applications as OPC clients.

In Part 1 of our series on How to Develop Custom OPC Clients, we will cover step-by-step how to use no-code techniques to bind production data to various types of user interface elements for reading, or writing, or both to build a basic OPC client application in Visual Studio.NET.



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OPC Router Basic Training - Writing SQL Data to OPC Servers

By Marc Holbach on Jul 23, 2020 1:45:00 PM

As we discussed in Part 1 of our OPC Router Basic Training series, it is quite common for process industry projects to require logging of industrial process data to a database such as Microsoft SQL.  On the other side of the coin, it is also quite common for information such as recipes or other data to be stored in a database such as SQL and to then need to push that data down to process devices.

In Part 2 of the series, we will cover step-by-step how to write stored SQL data to OPC UA and DA servers based on flexible scripted trigger conditions with the OPC Router.



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5 Key Considerations For Choosing Tunneling Solutions for Remote OPC

By Win Worrall on Jul 16, 2020 2:00:00 PM


OPC continues to be the standard of choice for interoperability between software and hardware in the multi-vendor real world, with wide adoption of OPC DA Classic still in the majority compared to OPC UA. Accessing remote OPC Classic data sources (i.e. OPC clients and servers are on separate machines and, sometimes, even networks) can be challenging due to a reliance on Microsoft DCOM technology for security and authentication on remote OPC connections.

Anyone who has ever heard of or dealt with configuring DCOM security for remote OPC connections knows it has its challenges.  The good news is that there is an alternative to DCOM for remote OPC Classic connectivity - a solution referred to as OPC tunneling.  In the blog post, we'll discuss five of the key considerations to remember as you're evaluating the best OPC tunneling solution for your projects.



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OPC Router Basic Training - Connecting SQL to OPC Data Sources

By Marc Holbach on Jul 9, 2020 2:00:00 PM

Logging industrial process data to a database such as Microsoft SQL is a common requirement of many projects across industries.  One of the key applications for storing industrial process data is providing historical context and reporting of the process so that better decisions can be made.

In Part 1 of our OPC Router Basic Training series, we will cover step-by-step how to easily connect to OPC UA and DA data sources to SQL databases for logging process data with the OPC Router.



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Why use an OPC Server Development Toolkit?

By Ganesh Kalipershad on Jun 25, 2020 2:00:00 PM


As technical consultants at Software Toolbox, we are often approached by users who need to expose data from a software application they have written, or are writing, to communicate from systems they own to a client, HMI/SCADA, or historian. And, in many cases, there are dozens of applications at different sites that the data needs to reach. The question we are then presented with is, “how can I accomplish this quickly and efficiently while staying within budget?” 

Continuing our OPC Development Toolkits blog series, our hope is to answer this question and share from our experience with OPC since 1996, what our users have told us are the common reasons why they chose to use a commercial OPC server toolkit, and to help readers determine what factors to consider for their specific situation and circumstances.

In the first part of this series, we covered the basics of commercial OPC client development toolkits, with a dive into the benefits of using one, while here in part 2, our focus is on OPC server development toolkits. If you read our blog on OPC client toolkits, you will likely notice a clear overlap in the benefits you gain from using both types of commercial OPC toolkits.



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Accessing Industrial Data from OPC & SQL Sources with HTTP Clients

By Marc Holbach on Jun 18, 2020 2:00:00 PM

Having ready access to the wide array of industrial data available in an enterprise is increasingly important these days, for a variety of reasons.  With ever-expanding applications for using "big data" towards efficiency initiatives such as digital twins, predictive analytics and predictive maintenance, having the ability to bring all of your industrial data together is essential.

In order to analyze that data, however, the upstream systems performing that analysis need access to the actual data - data that is typically widely dispersed geographically and even departmentally within locations.  One interface that is relatively common for such systems is the ability to act as an HTTP (or REST) client.

This blog post will provide an overview of an easy and secure way to share industrial process data available common OPC UA, OPC DA and SQL database sources with big data and other systems that can act as an HTTP / REST Client using the OPC Router. You'll also have a chance to download our free guide with step-by-step instructions.



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Key TOP Server for AVEVA V6.9 Features to Be Excited About

By Kevin Rutherford on Jun 11, 2020 2:00:00 PM

In keeping with ongoing continuous improvement initiatives, TOP Server for AVEVA V6.9 expands connectivity support for several existing drivers.  This is in addition to other updates to over 25 drivers and plug-ins.

In this post, we'll cover the key features released in V6.9 in more detail, including updates to OPC UA Client driver data types and tags for EUROMAP 77 compatibility, support for additional GE Fanuc Focas parameters, expanded Torque Tool Ethernet message IDs and more, including how they benefit you as a TOP Server user.



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Connect Your Barcode Scanners to Barcode Printers

By Kevin Rutherford on May 28, 2020 2:00:00 PM

Barcode scanners and printers are devices that are very common in a variety of industries, whether it's for use in a manufacturing process or a multitude of other possible uses.  But how do you go from scanning a barcode to printing that barcode?

In this video, we will cover how to connect to both a Datalogic barcode scanner and a Zebra barcode printer, as well as, transferring the scanned barcode data to the printer automatically.



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Why use an OPC Client Development Toolkit?

By Ganesh Kalipershad on May 21, 2020 2:00:00 PM


A common question we are asked as technical consultants at Software Toolbox is “why should I use an OPC toolkit when there is free sample code and other free solutions available to me?” That’s a fair and logical question, but this post takes a different approach. 

Instead, with this 2-part blog series, our hope is to share from our experience with OPC since 1996, what our users have told us are the common reasons why they chose to use a commercial OPC toolkit, and to help readers determine what factors to consider for their specific situation and circumstances.

In the first part of this blog series on OPC development toolkits, we will cover the basics of commercial OPC Client Development Toolkits, with a dive into the benefits of using one, while in part 2, we will look at OPC Server Development Toolkits.



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Tech Support Corner: Protecting Your TOP Server OPC UA Process Data

By Tyler Lindsey on May 14, 2020 2:00:00 PM


With the rising security demands of Industry 4.0, OPC UA provides us with the means to encrypt data as it is transferred between client and server. But what if encrypting data to prevent outside extraction is not enough? What if UA client applications become compromised? What tools do we have to protect against deliberate or even accidental manipulation or consumption of data?

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this post covers how to leverage the built-in TOP Server User Group Security settings, alongside OPC UA username and password authentication, for greater control over which users have read/write capabilities as well as what tags a user is permitted to access.



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Exploring OPC UA - Key Concepts of a Layered Security Model

By Marc Holbach on May 7, 2020 2:00:00 PM


So far in our ongoing Exploring OPC UA blog series, we have taken a primarily general look at OPC UA Certificates and how they are used by OPC UA clients and OPC UA servers to keep industrial data secure.

In this third post of the series, we'll take a step back and look at OPC UA security in general with respect to the layered approach that is employed to cover aspects such as authentication, confidentiality and the integrity of communications.



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Top 5 Time-Saving Features of the OmniServer Visual Protocol Editor

By Kevin Rutherford on Apr 30, 2020 2:00:00 PM


If you know nothing else about OmniServer, you probably know it is commonly used for accessing information from devices that use ‘non-standard’ protocols including such devices as weight scales, barcode readers, and printers either over serial connections or Ethernet connections.

From its beginnings 25 years ago, OmniServer was designed to save time and effort when integrating your "other" devices, especially when compared to the time, effort and cost of alternatives such as custom code.

In this blog post, we will step through the 5 most time-saving features of OmniServer's Visual Protocol Editor, including short demo videos of each feature, highlighting how they can help you save up to 40% more of your time and effort when configuring an OmniServer protocol to communicate to your other devices.



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Accessing AVEVA (formerly Wonderware) from OPC UA Clients with DataHub

By Kevin Rutherford on Apr 23, 2020 2:00:00 PM


Cogent DataHub supports a wide range of connectivity interfaces for different data sources such as OPC UA, OPC DA, ODBC, DDE and so much more.  With those interfaces, DataHub is a flexible gateway commonly used for data integration by external software such as HMI, SCADA, MES, historians and other client applications.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to access data from AVEVA InTouch (formerly Wonderware) or AVEVA System Platform (formerly Wonderware) from OPC UA clients supporting the Data Access profile using the DataHub OPC Gateway.



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Top 3 TOP Server OPC UA Client Use Cases

By Kevin Rutherford on Apr 16, 2020 2:00:00 PM


Standards-based industrial device connectivity such as OPC has become the norm over the last 20 years.  What used to be achieved by individual HMI/SCADA vendors with their own native drivers can now be easily accomplished with OPC drivers that are HMI/SCADA vendor agnostic.  TOP Server offers connectivity to thousands of device types and protocols while making those devices accessible via a variety of standard interfaces including OPC UA, OPC DA and SuiteLink.

But what you may not be aware of is that TOP Server for Wonderware has an available driver suite called the OPC Client Suite that allows it to also act as an OPC UA client, OPC DA client and OPC XML-DA client.  In this post, I'm going to go through the top 3 most common use cases for the OPC Client Suite that we see users take advantage of.



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Top 7 Dream Report Features to Be Excited About in V5.0 R20-1

By Kevin Rutherford on Apr 9, 2020 2:00:00 PM


If you haven't used Dream Report previously, Dream Report is a real-time report generator and dashboard solution that is quickly and easily configurable for data collection, archival of data and alarms and also analysis.

In this post, we'll go through 7 key features of the V5.0 R20-1 release of Dream Report and how those features benefit existing and new Dream Report users.



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The Benefits of Secure Remote Access to Industrial Process Data

By Kevin Rutherford on Apr 2, 2020 2:00:00 PM

It can be tricky in this era of increasing cross-connectivity of anything and everything, from a lowly household appliance to IT/OT hybrid systems applying predictive analytics to an industrial process, to balance connectivity everywhere and the required security to mitigate cyber threats.  In the past, remote access to industrial process data often required network access to the actual HMI or SCADA system on the process network.  But why do you need network access to your SCADA system, when all you really need is just to access the data?

In this blog post, we'll discuss a few of the key benefits to having remote access to your industrial process data, which can be essential to making timely business decisions and discuss a flexible solution for enabling remote access without exposing your industrial process network to outside threats, including how to sign up for a free account for a limited time.



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Video Tutorial: Using OmniServer with Ignition SCADA via OPC UA

By Kevin Rutherford on Mar 26, 2020 2:00:00 PM


OmniServer's connectivity and data parsing capabilities are its primary job; however, they are only the part of how OmniServer helps with integrating non-standard devices with Inductive Automation's Ignition HMI/SCADA.  How does the device data actually make it into Ignition?

In this video blog, I'll show you how to make an OPC UA client connection from Ignition to OmniServer for integrating process data from all of your "other" devices that don't have a standard, off-the-shelf driver - and all without the expense and headaches of having to write custom code.



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Video Tutorial: Real-Time Collection for Mitsubishi Ethernet

By Kevin Rutherford on Mar 19, 2020 2:00:00 PM


If you're reading this, you likely have at least one Mitsubishi PLC being used in your industrial process and need to integrate data from that process.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to get started using our Mitsubishi Ethernet driver to connect and gather real-time process data from Mitsubishi PLCs for AVEVA formerly Wonderware applications.



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Accessing AVEVA formerly Wonderware Software from OPC UA Clients

By Kevin Rutherford on Mar 12, 2020 2:00:00 PM


Have you ever been in a situation where you were working with both AVEVA formerly Wonderware software and some other client (HMI, SCADA, other) and needed to share data?  Perhaps your company acquired another company or assets and a non-Wonderware HMI/SCADA came as part of the assets.  Or perhaps your company merged with another and now your Wonderware system is expected to play nicely with some other system.  Your options for sharing data largely depend on what software interfaces this "other system" supports.

In this video blog post, we walk through step-by-step how to share your AVEVA formerly Wonderware software data via OPC UA for situations where you're working with an OPC UA capable client application that needs access to process data in your Wonderware system.



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Video Tutorial: Using Cogent DataHub with OPC UA Client Applications

By Kevin Rutherford on Mar 5, 2020 2:00:00 PM


Cogent DataHub enables a wide range of connectivity interfaces for different data sources such as OPC UA, OPC DA, ODBC, DDE and so much more.  As such, DataHub is a flexible gateway commonly used for data integration by external software such as HMI, SCADA, MES, historians and other client applications.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to make a secure OPC UA connection from OPC UA clients supporting the Data Access profile to DataHub for integrating process data from a myriad of data sources.



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Video Tutorial: Using TOP Server with OPC UA Client Applications

By Kevin Rutherford on Feb 27, 2020 2:00:00 PM


TOP Server for AVEVA™, formerly Wonderware connectivity to hundreds of device types and protocols is only part of how TOP Server helps with integrating industrial process data with external software such as AVEVA™ System Platform, formerly Wonderware and other client applications.  How does the device data actually make it into the client?

In this video blog, I'll show you how to make a secure OPC UA connection from OPC UA clients supporting the Data Access profile to TOP Server for integrating process data from the wide variety of device vendors and protocols that TOP Server supports.  We cover the basics of configuring the OPC UA server interface in TOP Server and making an OPC UA connection using an OPC UA test client.



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DataHub Enables Modular Procedural Automation at Air Liquide

By Win Worrall on Feb 20, 2020 2:00:00 PM


If you're unfamiliar with Modular Procedural Automation (MPA), it helps automate start-up, shutdown and other data-driven procedures in a process, increasing efficiency, optimizing production, and reducing wear and tear on equipment.  Additionally, MPA helps increase operator productivity and confidence.

Adapted from the case study in Control Magazine, this blog post covers how Air Liquide, a world leader in chemicals manufacturing, is migrating to MPA using OPC UA and OPC bridging to lower startup time by over 60% and increase production to over 500 additional tons of liquid oxygen (LOX) resulting in increased profitability.



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Video Tutorial: Using OmniServer with OPC UA Client Applications

By Kevin Rutherford on Feb 13, 2020 2:00:00 PM


OmniServer's connectivity and data parsing capabilities are only part of how OmniServer helps with integrating non-standard devices with external software such as HMI, SCADA, MES, historians and other client application.  How does the device data actually make it into the client?

In this video blog, I'll show you how to make a secure OPC UA connection from OPC UA clients supporting the Data Access profile to OmniServer for integrating process data from all of your "other" devices where there isn't a standard, off-the-shelf driver - all without the cost and effort of having to write a custom driver.



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Exploring OPC UA - Symmetric vs Asymmetric Encryption

By Marc Holbach on Feb 6, 2020 2:00:00 PM


In the first post of our ongoing Exploring OPC UA blog series, we covered the three functions that OPC UA Certificates (also known as Application Certificates) serve in the context of OPC UA security.

In this second post, we'll take a look at what happens to messages after you have trusted the application certificates and have enabled security on the OPC UA endpoint. Specifically, what does Sign&Encrypt mean on an endpoint and how can we be sure that the data is truly secure.



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New 2020 Automation & Control Software Learning Resources

By Kevin Rutherford on Jan 30, 2020 2:00:00 PM


It’s a new year and a new decade and, as everything moves faster, we all have to keep our knowledge and skills current.

In this blog post, we provide a quick reference to learning resources that users have told us were the most helpful to them over the course of the last year.

If you aren’t already subscribed to our blog, we encourage you to subscribe . We publish new content about once a week, sometimes more often, and you can control when you are notified of new content.



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Exploring OPC UA - OPC UA Certificate Basics

By Marc Holbach on Jan 23, 2020 2:00:00 PM


The use of certificates in cryptographic applications and online communication protocols is nothing new and can practically be traced all the way back to the 1970's when the "framework" for public key encryption (more on this in a future blog) came into being. With the (now-not-so-recent) Industry 4.0 movement coming out of Europe, and the design and operation changes brought about by the IIoT phenomenon, we are seeing more and more systems – that have traditionally been air-gapped and kept offline – being brought online to take advantage of the digital revolution in which we find ourselves.

Despite how you feel about this (r)evolution there are several exciting changes that are being brought about, including the one I want to discuss is the increased adoption of OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) in automation systems.

In this first post in our ongoing Exploring OPC UA blog series, we will look at what OPC UA Certificates are and what they provide and subsequent posts will further explore how they are used in OPC UA, how they fit into the security ‘stack’ of OPC UA and will then look at how OPC UA Certificates are utilized and managed in several Software Toolbox applications. First thing’s first however; what are OPC UA Certificates and what are they used for?



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Lower Your Non-Standard Protocol Configuration Time by Up to 40%

By Kevin Rutherford on Jan 16, 2020 2:00:00 PM


Those of you even somewhat familiar with OmniServer are likely aware that OmniServer is frequently used for accessing information from devices that use ‘non-standard’ protocols including such devices as weight scales, barcode readers, and printers either over serial connections or Ethernet connections.

Over the past several years, we've been working to evolve the OmniServer user experience with the goal of making it easier and more efficient to build a non-standard protocol/driver.

In this video blog post, we will step through the most powerful features of the new visual protocol editor for OmniServer, demonstrating the key enhancements to the user experience that will make integrating your non-standard devices easier and faster than ever.



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Tech Support Corner: DCOM Resources for Easier Troubleshooting

By Kevin Rutherford on Jan 9, 2020 2:00:00 PM

DCOM security and its headaches continue to be a popular support topic - our DCOM tutorial videos consistently receive the most visits each month.  Speak to any OPC Classic user in the industrial automation space and they always have their own horror stories about fighting the woes of DCOM.

In our continuing Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post provides you with a high-level review of the troubleshooting resources we make available to our users including a DCOM companion checklist that can be used with our DCOM tutorials.



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Key TOP Server for Wonderware V6.8 Features to Be Excited About

By Kevin Rutherford on Dec 19, 2019 2:00:00 PM


You more than likely just received one of my emails recently or possibly heard from a colleague about our latest TOP Server release.  Either way, you'll want to continue reading about the new features in TOP Server V6.8 for Wonderware.

In this post, I'm going to go through some of the key features released in V6.8 in more detail, including the continued focus on the highest level of security, updates for ControlLogix firmware support, enhancements to the Torque Tool Ethernet driver, EFM driver updates, DNP3 updates and more, including how they benefit you as a TOP Server user.



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Tech Support Corner: TOP Server Basics and Quick Start

By Kevin Rutherford on Dec 12, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're a new TOP Server for AVEVA (formerly Wonderware) user, or just a user that's been away from TOP Server for awhile, perhaps you need a quick refresher on how to get around in TOP Server.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this video blog post covers the basic components of TOP Server and how to familiarize yourself with using TOP Server via the simulation project that installs with TOP Server. If you're looking for more advanced or driver specific TOP Server videos, visit the TOP Server Video Library



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OPC UA PubSub and 4 More Key Updates in OPC Data Client 2019.2

By Ganesh Kalipershad on Dec 5, 2019 2:00:00 PM


With the recently released 2019.2 (5.56) version of the OPC Data Client Toolkit, developers of OPC UA custom client applications can now add the latest extension to the OPC UA specifications, PubSub, short for Publish-Subscribe, to their applications. This version also brings items of value for developers of any type of OPC client application, and also highlights some updates from a 2019.1 release we did last month to prepare for this big release.

In this blog post, we will cover the most significant updates to OPC Data Client and how they will benefit you and your custom OPC client projects.



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Top 5 Dream Report Features to Be Excited About in V5.0 R19-3

By Kevin Rutherford on Nov 21, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you've used Dream Report, you know it is a real-time report generator and dashboard solution and how quickly and easily configurable it is for data collection, archival of data and alarms and also analysis.

In this post, we'll go through five key features of the V5.0 R19-3 release of Dream Report and how those features benefit existing and new Dream Report users.



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Phone & Intercom Integration with HMI / SCADA

By Kevin Rutherford on Nov 14, 2019 2:00:00 PM


Another common non-standard device integration scenario that we encounter is integration of phone and intercom systems with the control system.  There is normally a control application provided by the system manufacturer but that adds another system that the user has to know, use and maintain.

In the next blog post of a series on OmniServer user stories, we’ll discuss a specific use case of a system integrator working with a correctional facility needing direct integration of their Telecor phone and intercom system with Wonderware.  And we'll discuss how OmniServer provided a driver to the Telecor system without the need for custom code, eliminating the need for an additional control application.



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Optimizing Heat Reclamation Process with OPC Data Logger

By Marc Holbach on Nov 7, 2019 2:00:00 PM


At Software Toolbox, we commonly hear from users seeking a solution for connecting and gathering data from this or that type of hardware.  Beyond that, though, is what users do with the data once they have it.  A common need is reliably logging process to a database such as Microsoft SQL server.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss a specific use case of a German R&D firm needing to collect data from multiple OPC data sources and log that data to a SQL database for further analysis geared towards a pilot project developing a model for optimizing Combined Heat & Power Partnership (CHP) technology for transferability to many enterprises where heat and power generation are essential to the process.



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Direct Printer Integration with MES and HMI / SCADA

By Kevin Rutherford on Oct 31, 2019 2:00:00 PM


A common non-standard device integration scenario that we encounter is needing to integrate devices that are not currently automated in any way.  There is some manual process to send data to or retrieve data from these devices which, as always, introduces greater risk of error due to human factors.

In the next blog post of a series on OmniServer user stories, we’ll discuss a specific use case of a user in consumer packaged goods needing to automate printing directly from Wonderware using data from their MES system.  And we'll discuss how OmniServer provided a driver without the need for custom code, eliminating their inefficient manual printing process.



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Tech Support Corner: Adding Drivers to an Existing TOP Server Install

By Kevin Rutherford on Oct 24, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're a TOP Server for Wonderware user, it's possible you've gone to configure a channel using a driver you've never used before but couldn't find it in the available driver list.  This can be confusing, especially if you weren't the user that installed TOP Server.  It is, however, an easy fix.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this video blog post covers how to easily add additional drivers to an existing TOP Server install from the long list of available drivers.



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Video Tutorial: Key New Features - OmniServer V3.1.0.9

By Kevin Rutherford on Oct 17, 2019 2:00:00 PM


As part of our continuous improvement process at Software Toolbox, OmniServer is updated several times a year to add additional useful features and tools, and to resolve any known issues.

In this video blog, I will cover updates and enhancements available in OmniServer V3.1.0.9 to help you with flexibility and testing while connecting to all of your non-standard devices.



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Integration of Weight Data to Wonderware with OmniServer

By Kevin Rutherford on Oct 10, 2019 2:00:00 PM


Another common device integration scenario that we frequently encounter at Software Toolbox is needing to make weight data from a scale, weigh bridge or other weighing equipment available in an HMI or SCADA such as Wonderware.  Whether it's manufacturing, food and beverage or other industries, weight data is, for all intents and purposes, very similar regardless of what is being weighed.

In this second blog post of a series on OmniServer user stories, we’ll discuss a specific use case of a food and beverage producer needing to integrate their GSE scale data with Wonderware and SQL and how OmniServer provided a driver without the need for custom code.



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LGH History Data Facilitates Predictive Maintenance

By Marc Holbach on Oct 3, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're interested in LGH history data and are reading this, you likely have your own use case for working with InTouch LGH history files.  Given that LGH files are a classic method for InTouch users to log historical process data, the use cases for LGH history data are similar to any other use cases for historical data.  Trending and predictive analytics can be key methods that utilize historical data for identifying process issues and resolving them in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

This blog post covers a specific use case involving an engineering research student working on a condition and performance monitoring system for subsea hydraulic systems targeted at identifying the health of the system and supporting predictive maintenance.



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Direct Control of Zebra Label Printers from HMI / SCADA

By Kevin Rutherford on Sep 26, 2019 2:00:00 PM


One of the most common device integration scenarios that we encounter is needing to control a printer and/or label applicator directly from an HMI or SCADA such as Wonderware.  And printers can be tricky, with most having similar but still different communication protocols - so how does one account for that kind of variability?

In this first blog post of a series on OmniServer user stories, we’ll discuss a specific use case of a paper products manufacturer needing direct control of their printing and labeling process directly from Wonderware and how OmniServer provided a driver without the need for custom code.



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Top 4 Dream Report Features to Be Excited About in the V5.0 R2 Release

By Kevin Rutherford on Sep 19, 2019 2:00:00 PM


As you are probably aware, Dream Report is a real-time report generator and dashboard solution that is quickly and easily configurable through an easy-to-use interface with flexible options relating to not only collection and archival of data and alarms but also for analysis.

In this post, we'll go through four key features of the V5.0 R2 release of Dream Report and how they benefit existing and new Dream Report users.



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Video Tutorial: Real-Time Collection for Omron NJ & NX Controllers

By Kevin Rutherford on Sep 12, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're reading this, you likely have at least one Omron NJ or NX Series controller being used in your industrial process and need to integrate data from that process.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to get started using our Omron NJ/NX Ethernet driver to connect and gather real-time process data from Omron NJ and NX controllers for Wonderware applications.



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Migration to State Based Control Increases Production via OPC UA

By Kevin Rutherford on Sep 5, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're unfamiliar with state based control, it's a process automation design that essentially defines that all process facilities should operate in a recognized, definable state with previously defined normal and abnormal conditions with defined actions for each.  State based control is intended to allow company's in virtually any process industry to greatly reduce factors of human error and inconsistency, significantly increasing the efficiency of all processes.

In this blog post, we cover how a large chemicals manufacturer migrated to state based control using OPC UA and increased their efficiency, production levels and profitability as a result.



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How to Log Data From Your S7-1500 via OPC UA using OPC Data Logger

By Tyler Lindsey on Aug 29, 2019 2:00:00 PM


With the relatively recent availability of OPC UA server capabilities in Siemens S7-1500 PLCs, access to live production data is now open to third-party applications. As a result, those applications can now communicate with hardware that was formerly locked behind proprietary communication drivers.

The OPC Data Logger's OPC UA client interface allows users to quickly and easily connect to S7-1500 PLC’s and log data to their preferred data storage option without the need for intermediate applications. This blog post covers the high-level steps involved with logging data from an S7-1500 controller and you can then download the free hands-on guide with detailed steps.



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Easy-to-Use Interactive Reports and Dashboards Helps Minimize Downtime

By Kevin Rutherford on Aug 22, 2019 2:00:00 PM


In the industrial automation industry, more and more companies are looking for ways to increase profitability through minimizing downtime and the lost productivity associated with it.

In this blog post, we discuss how actively monitoring and tracking downtime occurrences can empower you to reduce or even eliminate such productivity-killing situations.



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OPC Data Logger Features to Be Excited About in the V3.7.0.1 Release

By Marc Holbach on Aug 15, 2019 2:00:00 PM


As you are probably aware, OPC Data Logger is an OPC lab-certified solution for dynamic, event driven logging of process data to standard SQL/ODBC databases, including Microsoft Azure SQL, or text/CSV files.  As part of the continuous improvements process for OPC Data Logger, we have regular product releases that provide updates to existing features and new functionality.

In this blog post, I'll cover some flexible new features that you may not be aware of from our most recent releases of the OPC Data Logger available now in V3.7.0.1.



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Video Tutorial: Real-Time Collection for Siemens S7 Ethernet

By Kevin Rutherford on Aug 8, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're reading this, you likely have at least one Siemens S7 PLC on your network being used in your industrial process and need to integrate data from that process.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to get started using our Siemens TCP/IP Ethernet driver to connect and gather real-time process data from Siemens S7 PLCs for Wonderware applications.



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Did You Know? OmniServer Can Integrate Most Printers with Your Process

By Marc Holbach on Aug 1, 2019 2:00:00 PM


Whether your role is IT or OT, there tends to be an almost universal dislike of having to work with printers. It is likely, for this exact reason, that when tasked with integrating a printer (be it a laser jet printer for labelling packaging, or a label printer to track your products) many users are simply forgoing the integration completely.  That might mean opting for limited integration with a PLC on the line or simply choosing to not integrate at all while continuing to make any configuration changes manually.

In this blog post, continuing our OmniServer Did You Know series, we’ll discuss several methods that users have implemented over the years when needing to use printers in a process and how OmniServer provides an off-the-shelf, easy-to-use alternative for direct integration of most printers with your process control systems.



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Tech Support Corner: How Application Reports Help Us Help You

By Kevin Rutherford on Jul 25, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're a TOP Server for Wonderware user, I won't assume that you've ever had the need to contact Software Toolbox for a technical support issue.  I've spoken with users over the years who indicated that after they installed TOP Server for their particular device type, it just worked and had been running with no issues ever since.

However, it's always best to be prepared for the worst case scenario in most situations.  To that end, it's a good idea to know what tools are at your disposal should you ever have any issues with TOP Server for Wonderware requiring you to contact our knowledgeable technical support engineers.



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Tech Support Corner: To Format or Not to Format OmniServer Items

By Kevin Rutherford on Jul 18, 2019 2:00:00 PM


In case you're not familiar with OmniServer, it is a user-configurable I/O server solution that you can configure through a user-friendly interface to communicate with various devices that do not already have off-the-shelf drivers written for them.

A question that our support engineers at Software Toolbox sometimes receive from both new and veteran OmniServer users alike is whether an item in the OmniServer sequence builder, which is used to build the send and/or receive message for a device protocol, requires a formatting code or not.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post covers under what situations a formatting code is required for an item defined in the OmniServer sequence builder of a protocol and when a code isn't required.



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Keeping Process Control Decision Makers in the Know

By Win Worrall on Jul 11, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you've heard of the Cogent DataHub, you may be aware that it supports email and/or SMS notifications of defined conditional events based on a variety of data from it's various supported interfaces (MQTT, OPC UA, OPC DA, DDE, ODBC and more).  Having the right people receive alerts (such as when a tank has reached a critical level or a critical piece of machinery is offline) in a timely fashion can be the difference between simple downtime and a major liability.

This blog post will discuss how to use variable distribution lists in conjunction with the Cogent DataHub's Email/SMS capabilities to ensure the right decision makers will always receive important notifications as quickly as possible.



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Key TOP Server for Wonderware V6.7 Features to Be Excited About

By Kevin Rutherford on Jun 27, 2019 2:00:00 PM


Hopefully you received one of my emails or possibly heard from a colleague about our latest TOP Server release.  If not, you may not have heard about the key new features in TOP Server for Wonderware V6.7.

In this post, I'm going to go through some of the key features released in V6.7 in more detail, including a continued focus on security enhancements, updates to the Configuration API capabilities, enhancements to the Torque Tool Ethernet driver and more, including how they benefit you as a TOP Server user.



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Latest OPC Data Logger Features to Be Excited About in the Current Release

By Kevin Rutherford on Jun 20, 2019 2:00:00 PM


As you may be aware, OPC Data Logger is an OPC lab-certified solution for dynamic, event driven logging of process data to standard SQL/ODBC databases, including Microsoft Azure SQL, or text/CSV files.  The wizard-based interface provides easy, flexible configuration that easily scales for project both large and small.

In this blog post, I'll cover some exciting new features that you may not be aware of from recent releases that are available in the current version.



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Turning Data into Information for More Informed Decisions

By Kevin Rutherford on Jun 13, 2019 2:00:00 PM

With industrial processes, it's only possible to manage what is being effectively measured.  Without keeping tabs on key metrics in a process, you'll never be able to determine if the efficiency of the process is getting better or worse.

In this short blog post, we'll discuss the progression from raw process data to information to the actions that can be taken and decisions that can be made using that information.  We'll also discuss how the context (or how you're looking at data) can affect the information you're consuming.



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Tech Support Corner: DCOM Horror Story - Part 2 - Locked Out With No Key

By Kevin Rutherford on May 30, 2019 2:00:00 PM

DCOM Security and the headaches it tends to create are undoubtedly familiar to any OPC Classic user in the industrial automation industry. Stories about experienced DCOM woes are just part of the territory.

In this second part of a "DCOM Horror Stories" sidebar to our continuing Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post covers a DCOM user scenario where the user was a little too thorough in locking down their DCOM configuration, resulting in a locked out system. And it includes a reminder of options that help you avoid DCOM configuration altogether.



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Top 3 Dream Report Features to Be Excited About in the V5.0 Release

By Kevin Rutherford on May 23, 2019 2:00:00 PM


You may or may not be familiar with Dream Report - a real-time report generator that is quickly and easily configurable via a very easy-to-use interface with a ton of flexibility relating to not only collection and archiving of data and alarms but also for analysis and options for report generation.

In this post, I'll review three of the top features released in the recent V5.0 release of Dream Report and how they benefit you, either as an new or existing Dream Report user.



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Tech Support Corner: DCOM Horror Story - Part 1 - When Cortana Loses Her Voice

By Kevin Rutherford on May 16, 2019 2:00:00 PM

Any OPC Classic user in the industrial automation industry has almost certainly had their interactions with Windows DCOM security.  And most, if not all, are stories that we all shake our heads at and nod in understanding of the difficulties of traversing the pitfalls of DCOM security configuration.

In this first part of a "DCOM Horror Stories" sidebar to our continuing Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post covers a DCOM user scenario involving the Microsoft Windows Cortana search capabilities being sidelined by DCOM security misconfiguration. Additionally, it covers what options are out there for avoiding DCOM entirely for situations like this.



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Improving Productivity and Profitability with Faster, More Consistent Decisions

By Kevin Rutherford on May 9, 2019 2:00:00 PM

To manage a process well, it's about more than just producing.  It's necessary to measure how efficiently that process is producing.  A process increases in profitability as it runs more efficiently (producing the same amount using the least amount of resources).

In this short blog post, we'll discuss some of the metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) that should be available for a particular process and how measuring those KPIs can increase the profitability of your operations.  And we'll discuss how you probably already have the raw data sitting there and how you can turn that raw data into actionable information.



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Did You Know? OmniServer Supports CSV Import/Export

By Kevin Rutherford on May 2, 2019 2:00:00 PM


OmniServer's main purpose is enabling connectivity without custom code for devices that use ‘non-standard’ protocols to communicate such as weight scales, barcode readers, and printers.  And OmniServer does that in a more efficient and cost-effective manner than writing custom code.

Furthering the goal of efficiency and cost-effectiveness, you may or may not be aware that OmniServer supports CSV import and export for speedy configuration of many things including topics, devices and, in the actual protocol itself, items, registers, topic variables and even messages.  On larger projects, this provides a substantial time savings.

In this post continuing our "OmniServer Did You Know?" blog series, we will cover how to use CSV import and export in OmniServer to facilitate faster configuration on larger protocol implementations.



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Tech Support Corner: Defining a TOP Server Administrator Password

By Kevin Rutherford on Apr 25, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're a TOP Server for Wonderware user, you may or may not be aware of the built-in User Manager that allows you to define user roles and associated permissions when accessing your TOP Server configuration.  As security continues to be a key focus for many process industries, keeping your process communications secure is as important as ever.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post covers how TOP Server for Wonderware now prompts users to specify an Administrator password during the installation process to ensure your TOP Server is as secure as possible.



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Tech Support Corner: Virtualization Best Practices for TOP Server for Wonderware

By Kevin O'Connor on Apr 18, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're familiar with the term high availability, then you're also more than likely at least aware of virtualization environments such as VMWare and Hyper-V.  As computer hardware specifications have grown exponentially over the years, virtualization is more and more becoming the norm for hosting of automation control systems.

A common question that our support engineers at Software Toolbox receive from new and veteran TOP Server for Wonderware users alike is whether TOP Server supports virtual environments, which ones and what are the best practices.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post covers best practices with respect to using TOP Server for Wonderware in virtualization environments such as VMWare and Hyper-V.



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Preview the Future of Non-Standard Protocol Creation

By Kevin Rutherford on Apr 11, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're familiar with OmniServer, you know that OmniServer is frequently used for accessing information from devices that use ‘non-standard’ protocols to communicate such as weight scales, barcode readers, and printers either over serial connections or Ethernet connections.

With the advent of touchscreen technology and the increasing availability and familiarity with drag-and-drop functionality across computer systems and applications, we feel it is important to evolve the OmniServer user experience to be more inline with current technologies and user expectations regarding ease-of-use.

In this blog post, we will cover a visual protocol editor we've been working on for OmniServer, showing you the key enhancements to the user experience that will make integrating your non-standard devices easier than ever.  And you'll be given the chance to download the free trial.



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Tech Support Corner: "It has to work, I can ping it, right?"

By Marc Holbach on Apr 4, 2019 2:00:00 PM


As you are probably aware, the Ping command is one of the most widely used diagnostics tool when troubleshooting communication issues on Ethernet networks. I would accredit this popularity to the fact that everyone knows how to use the command, it's extremely simple to execute, and the results are not really open to interpretation (i.e. it either works or it doesn’t); or are they?

When troubleshooting communication issues, the most common line we hear when something isn’t working is “but I can ping it” as if this alone should serve as definitive proof that everything is working as expected and the communications server is choosing to not communicate.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post covers some common misconceptions about the Ping command, particularly how it can be used efficiently, and when it may not be the best tool for the task, as well as, better alternatives to Ping that actually provide actionable data.



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Tech Support Corner: Did You Know about TOP Server Language Support for German, Chinese and Japanese?

By Kevin Rutherford on Mar 28, 2019 2:00:00 PM


Our technical support engineers at Software Toolbox work with users like you from around the globe to keep their TOP Server for Wonderware implementations running with the highest performance and reliability possible.  Yet, many engineers pride themselves on their ability to self-help, as well.

To that end, in a continuance of our "Tech Support Corner" blog series, I'd like to review TOP Server localized language support for German, Japanese and Chinese that is included with TOP Server.  For our users whose primary language is not English living in regions speaking one of the supported localized languages, I'll show you how to take advantage of this support to enhance your overall user experience and self-help journey.



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Video Tutorial: Real-Time Collection for Omron FINS Ethernet

By Kevin Rutherford on Mar 21, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're reading this, you likely have at least one Omron PLC being used in your industrial process and need to integrate data from that process.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to get started using our Omron FINS Ethernet driver to connect and gather real-time process data from Omron FINS Etheret PLCs for Wonderware applications.



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Tech Support Corner: Why You Need Your TOP Server Emergency ID

By Kevin O'Connor on Mar 14, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're a TOP Server for Wonderware user, when you ordered your license, you've always received a serial number, a Permanent Activation ID and an Emergency Activation ID.  But what is your Emergency Activation ID used for, exactly?

Continuing our “Tech Support Corner” blog post series, this blog post covers why your TOP Server Emergency Activation ID is important, how to use it and what to do when you need to then re-register your permanent activation.



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How to Integrate Your S7-1500 via OPC UA using TOP Server for Wonderware

By Marc Holbach on Mar 7, 2019 2:00:00 PM


In recent years, many of our users have let us know they are adopting the latest Siemens technology, particularly S7-1500 controllers.  And, with that adoption of those controllers, users have been asking for connectivity via the symbolic optimized block addressing.  So we added a Siemens Plus Suite to enable connectivity to new and legacy Siemens devices.

This post focuses specifically on the general steps required to integrate S7-1500 controllers by connecting to their embedded OPC UA server using TOP Server for AVEVA.  



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3 Reasons to be Excited About LGH File Inspector 2.0 for Wonderware LGH File Analysis

By John Weber on Mar 1, 2019 8:14:50 AM

The LGH File Inspector software solution enables rapid query and export of Wonderware InTouch LGH files to Excel & CSV for analysis and reporting. With Version 2.0, user feedback on how they use the tool has been incorporated to add functionality in three major areas: Flexibility, User Experience, and Global User Support.

In this blog post, we review what’s new and why you want to upgrade to Version 2.0, and how you can upgrade.



Topics: Wonderware CSV LGH
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Video Tutorial: Redundant OPC Connectivity with Cogent DataHub

By Win Worrall on Feb 21, 2019 2:00:00 PM


For many industries, where having access to process data is critical, it's common to implement redundancy on many levels to ensure there is no disruption to data collection.  While there are different levels of redundancy, the one we see users most interested in is with OPC data source redundancy.

The following short video blog demonstrates step-by-step just how easy it is to configure the Cogent DataHub to handle redundant failover between OPC UA data sources, OPC DA data sources and more.



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Did You Know? How to Integrate Virtual COM Devices with OmniServer

By Kevin Rutherford on Feb 14, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're familiar with OmniServer, you likely already know how OmniServer is commonly used to retrieve information from devices that use ‘non-standard’ protocols to communicate such as weight scales, barcode readers, and printers either over serial connections or Ethernet connections.

However, with the advent of USB connectivity, many such devices that would have traditionally been a serial/COM device now physically connect to a machine via USB, instead.

Continuing our "OmniServer Did You Know?" blog series, we will cover how OmniServer can easily connect to USB or serial-to-Ethernet devices that are mapped virtually as Serial/COM devices.



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Tech Support Corner: Using Wireshark as a Supplemental Troubleshooting Tool

By Kevin O'Connor on Feb 7, 2019 10:22:24 AM


You may or may not be aware that our technical support team at Software Toolbox maintains, updates and adds new content to an extensive knowledge base built from answers to all of your questions from over the years.  We like to frequently review which of our knowledge base articles have been used the most to see what users like you need help with and what is most relevant.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post covers the why's and how's of using the popular and powerful network analysis tool called Wireshark as an additional tool in your troubleshooting arsenal.



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Video Tutorial: OPC to Azure IoT Hub with Cogent DataHub V9

By Win Worrall on Jan 31, 2019 2:00:00 PM


You've likely already heard about Cogent DataHub Version 9 and it's new MQTT integration capabilities.  The DataHub V9 MQTT Client goes beyond just generically connecting to MQTT Brokers by providing smart connectors for Azure IoT Hub, Google IoT and Amazon IoT Core MQTT Broker services.

The following short video blog demonstrates step-by-step how to easily configure the DataHub MQTT Client for publishing OPC UA and OPC DA data from DataHub to the Azure IoT Hub, as well as, pushing data from the many other data sources supported by Cogent DataHub (such as ODBC, DDE, Modbus and more).



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Video Tutorial: Configuring DataHub V9 as an MQTT Broker

By Win Worrall on Jan 24, 2019 2:00:00 PM


As you are likely already aware, Cogent DataHub Version 9 expands the assortment of data sources you can integrate to include IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) with MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) support.  As with its many other supported data sources (such as OPC), DataHub V9 can act as both a "client" and a "server" for MQTT - with a "server" being an MQTT broker.

The following short video blog demonstrates how truly easy it is to configure the DataHub MQTT Broker for acting as a "gateway" between MQTT Clients in your IIoT cloud and other supported interfaces including OPC, DDE, ODBC and many other data sources.



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New 2019 Automation & Control Software Learning Resources

By Kevin Rutherford on Jan 22, 2019 2:00:00 PM


The New Year is a time of renewal, new projects, new challenges, and for some of you, new roles, or new people on your teams.

In this blog post, we provide a quick reference to resources from the past year that should be helpful to you and your colleagues.  If you aren't already subscribed to our blog, we encourage you to subscribe. We publish new content about once a week, sometimes more often, and you can control when you are notified about new content.



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Video Tutorial: Publishing and Subscribing to MQTT Brokers with Cogent DataHub V9

By Win Worrall on Jan 17, 2019 2:00:00 PM


With the release of Cogent DataHub Version 9, we've expanded the multitude of data sources you can integrate to include IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) with MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) support.

The following short video blog demonstrates step-by-step just how easy it is to configure the DataHub MQTT Client for publishing data from DataHub to any MQTT Broker, as well as, subscribing to data from any MQTT Broker for integration into your systems via DataHub's supported interfaces (such as OPC).



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Cogent DataHub V9 Provides Secure Remote Configuration Built In

By Win Worrall on Jan 10, 2019 2:00:00 PM


While Cogent DataHub is, of course, primarily known for its extensive connectivity interfaces, just as important is how you, the user, are able to intuitively use and configure the functions in DataHub, both locally and remotely.

In this first blog post of a detailed series on specific DataHub Version 9 features, I'll provide insight into the new Remote Configuration capabilities and show you how Cogent DataHub V9 provides a secure, reliable and easy-to-use configuration experience locally and remotely.



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Did You Know? How to Test OmniServer Protocols Prior to Building Your Client Application

By Kevin Rutherford on Jan 3, 2019 2:00:00 PM


When working with non-standard protocols based on protocol documentation from a device vendor, there will always be some expected amount of testing, trial-and-error and troubleshooting in order to fine tune communications with a device.

Continuing our "OmniServer Did You Know?" blog series, this blog post focuses on how to use the built-in Item Values window in the OmniServer diagnostic tools and the included OPC Test Client to test communications using OmniServer.



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Tech Support Corner: Answers to Your Questions about TOP Server OS and Version Support

By Kevin O'Connor on Dec 20, 2018 2:00:00 PM


The technical support team here at Software Toolbox maintains an extensive knowledge base built from answers to all of your questions from over the years.  Each month, we like to review which of our knowledge base articles have been used the most to see what users like you need help with.

With our monthly series called “Tech Support Corner”, we will bring you those most popular answers with additional helpful details and tips.  This month’s blog post covers the ins and outs of TOP Server operating system support by version, including how to identify your support/maintenance expiration, the importance of applying support/maintenance renewals and more.



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Demystifying Modbus Function Codes

By Kevin Rutherford on Dec 13, 2018 2:00:00 PM


With the wide range of devices that use Modbus for their communication protocol, you'll find many different interpretations, terminology and labels with respect to how to access different types of data in those devices.  Sometimes a device manual might only refer to the supported Modbus function codes and the range of offsets available for those function codes.

In this blog post, I will step through the specifics of Modbus function codes and how they pertain to addressing, and how they affect what addresses to use in TOP Server for Wonderware applications.



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LGH File Inspector Enhances Global Log File and Time Support

By Marc Holbach on Dec 6, 2018 2:00:00 PM

The LGH File Inspector is used for many different application types as a way for users to gain added value from Wonderware InTouch local history or LGH files.  With our global user base, it’s common to have different time zone and time format requirements.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some key enhancements in the LGH File Inspector Version 1.4.2 release that increase flexibility for users with unique time zone and time format needs.



Topics: Wonderware CSV LGH
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Key TOP Server V6.6 Features to Be Excited About

By Kevin Rutherford on Nov 15, 2018 2:00:00 PM


If you haven't received one of my emails or heard from a colleague about our latest TOP Server release, you may not have heard about the key new features in TOP Server V6.6.

In this post, I'm going to go through some of the key features released in V6.6 in more detail, including further security enhancements, a new EUROMAP 63 driver, enhanced CNC machine access, telemetry performance, and how they benefit you as a TOP Server user.



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OPC Data Client Development Toolkit Update – UA Platforms, Security, & Interoperability

By John Weber on Nov 13, 2018 10:00:00 AM


The 2018.3 release of the OPC Data Client toolkit continues to make OPC UA client development easier, more secure and interoperable, while continuing to support OPC DA, A&E, and XML-DA development.

In this blog post I have taken the release notes and boiled it down to the key benefits that might drive you to upgrade, get back on support, renew support, or, if you’re new to OPC client development, try our OPC Data Client toolkit.



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Did You Know? How to Recover from Device Errors with OmniServer Error Messages

By Kevin Rutherford on Nov 7, 2018 2:00:00 PM


With any communication server for collecting process data, there has to be a reliable mechanism built-in for dealing with error responses from the underlying devices.  This is true even for OmniServer as a user-configurable communication server.

Continuing our "OmniServer Did You Know?" blog series, this blog post focuses on how to use error messages and notification items in an OmniServer protocol to properly handle error responses or conditions received from your non-standard process devices.



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Cogent DataHub V9 Adds IoT to OPC Connections, Remote Config, & More

By Win Worrall on Oct 31, 2018 2:00:00 PM


Cogent DataHub is known for its extensive connectivity to OPC DA, OPC UA, OPC A&E, Databases, Excel, ODBC, DDE, Linux, Modbus.  The new V9 takes our saying that "once the data is in DataHub, it can go anywhere" to a new level with IoT connectors and more as listed below.

In this blog post, I'll provide insight into these new features and show you how Cogent DataHub delivers secure, scalable, integrated connections within and between your plants, to the cloud and beyond.



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Automated KPI Reporting Helps Maximize Your Productivity

By Kevin Rutherford on Oct 25, 2018 2:00:00 PM


In the industrial automation industry, more and more companies are looking for progressively better tools to enable their employees to gain insights and improve their business decisions.

In this blog post, we discuss how KPIs and how they’re generated can empower your employees to make smart business decisions to improve your company’s performance results.



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Video Tutorial: Key New Features - OmniServer V3.1.0.5

By Kevin Rutherford on Oct 18, 2018 2:00:00 PM


As part of our continuous improvement process at Software Toolbox, OmniServer is updated several times a year to add additional useful features and tools, and to resolve any known issues.

In this video blog, I will cover updates and enhancements available in OmniServer V3.1.0.5 to help you with usability, performance and troubleshooting while connecting to all of your non-standard devices.



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Demystifying Modbus Register Addressing with TOP Server for Wonderware

By Kevin Rutherford on Oct 11, 2018 2:00:00 PM


I'm sure you've all at least had some interaction with Modbus, working in the automation industry.  It's one of the most widely used protocols (if not the most widely used) in the world.  Which is both its blessing and its curse, to some extent.

Given how long Modbus has been around and in use as an "open" protocol (starting in 1979), there have been many different interpretations of Modbus throughout the years.  And with those different Modbus interpretations, much confusion about the different terminology for accessing data.

In this blog post, I will step through the basics of Modbus addressing including how offsets come into play, and how they affect what addresses to use in TOP Server for Wonderware applications.



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Did You Know? How to Setup Chained Messages in OmniServer

By Kevin Rutherford on Oct 4, 2018 2:00:00 PM


In a nutshell, OmniServer's purpose is to retrieve information from devices that use ‘non-standard’ protocols to communicate such as weight scales, barcode readers, and printers.

Sometimes with some protocols, simply sending one message to a device, or doing nothing but simply transferring data to a client isn't enough. There are some more complex protocols where you will need to send a series of messages to the instrument, or respond to an event coming in from the device or to handle a sequence of handshaking messages. This is where "chained messages" come into play in an OmniServer protocol.

In this second post of a follow-up to our "OmniServer Did You Know?" blog series, we will cover how to chain multiple OmniServer command/request messages together in a protocol to flexibly handle such complex protocols.



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Comprehensive EFM Data Collection and Export for PGAS, Flow-Cal, CSV & Database

By Kevin Rutherford on Sep 27, 2018 2:00:00 PM


If you're reading this post, you're more than likely working in the oil and gas industry, and you probably have flow computers and devices from different vendors storing historical EFM (Electronic Flow Measurement) data.  And, if your company is anything like the other companies in that industry, you use that EFM data for analysis, custody transfer and production optimization using one of the common EFM flow measurement analysis packages such as Flow-Cal, Quorum PGAS or even CSV or SQL.

In this blog post, I'll cover the video how-to resources available to help you get started using our EFM Suite for TOP Server to poll and export collected EFM data from various flow computers for Wonderware applications.



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Did You Know? How to Setup a Heartbeat Message in OmniServer

By Kevin Rutherford on Sep 20, 2018 2:00:00 PM


As you probably know, OmniServer is used to retrieve information from devices that use ‘non-standard’ protocols to communicate such as weight scales, barcode readers, and printers.

In some situations, device protocols need to be designed to where the client application (HMI, SCADA or other), and not OmniServer, is in complete control of the polling. But before you send out the next message, how do you know if the device is still connected?

In this first post of a follow-up to our "OmniServer Did You Know?" blog series, we will cover how to create what is known as a heartbeat message to confirm your device is "listening" before sending the next message.



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Linux MES to OPC Operations Data Integration in Aluminum Smelting Operation

By John Weber on Sep 13, 2018 2:00:00 PM


Recently we worked with an aluminum smelter operation that has doubled in size since it first opened and has made a significant positive impact on the local economy by supplying aluminum to local industries which has fueled their growth.

Like any growing business, this user is always seeking ways to improve operations and reduce risk of downtime. In the end they need to deliver returns to their shareholders while continuing to support the local community, all of which requires consistent predictable operational results.  In this blog post, we'll cover how they used an off-the-shelf solution for integrating varied systems to reduce life cycle costs.



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Video Tutorial: EFM Export for PGAS, Flow-Cal & Generic CSV and Database

By Kevin Rutherford on Sep 6, 2018 2:00:00 PM


If you're in the oil and gas industry, you're aware that, flow computers and devices from different vendors store historical EFM (Electronic Flow Measurement) data that is used for analysis, custody transfer and production optimization.  To that end, oil and gas companies use several EFM flow measurement analysis packages such as Flow-Cal, Quorum PGAS or even CSV or SQL to store and analyze that collected EFM data.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to get started using our EFM Exporter plug-in for TOP Server to poll and export collected EFM data from various flow computers for Wonderware applications.



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Video Tutorial: Using OmniServer with Wonderware Historian via SuiteLink

By Kevin Rutherford on Aug 30, 2018 2:00:00 PM


OmniServer's connectivity and data parsing capabilities are only part of how OmniServer helps with integrating non-standard devices with Wonderware.  How does the device data actually make it into Wonderware?

In this video blog, part of a series on connecting Wonderware to OmniServer, I'll show you how to make a basic SuiteLink connection from Wonderware Historian to OmniServer for historizing process data from all of your "other" devices where there isn't a standard, off-the-shelf driver - all without the cost and effort of having to write a custom driver.



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Video Tutorial: Using OmniServer with InTouch via SuiteLink

By Kevin Rutherford on Aug 23, 2018 2:00:00 PM


OmniServer's connectivity and data parsing capabilities are its primary job; however, they are only the part of how OmniServer helps with integrating non-standard devices with Wonderware.  How does the device data actually make it into Wonderware?

In this video blog, part of a series on connecting Wonderware to OmniServer, I'll show you how to make a basic SuiteLink connection from Wonderware InTouch to OmniServer for integrating process data from all of your "other" devices that don't have a standard, off-the-shelf driver - and all without the expense and headaches of having to write custom code.



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Namibia Brewing – Enterprise Data Integration Update & Award

By John Weber on Aug 16, 2018 2:00:00 PM


Earlier this year, we shared the story of how Namibia Breweries Ltd is using off-the-shelf open OPC software in their operations management system.  In that story, we shared how we had learned making beer in one of the world’s driest places takes some unique approaches to power sourcing, water management, and really all resources.

We visited with Namibia Brewing again recently when they attended the X-Change 2018 conference in the beautiful Central Drakensberg region of South Africa.   I had the chance to sit down with Annemarie Kruger, Renaldo Du Pisani, and Andre Engelbrecht and, in this blog post, you'll learn about how they have continued to evolve their system since I visited their site in 2017.



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Video Tutorial: EFM Collection for OMNI Flow Computers

By Kevin Rutherford on Aug 9, 2018 2:00:00 PM


If you're reading this, you're probably aware that, in the oil and gas industry, flow computers and devices from different vendors store historical EFM (Electronic Flow Measurement) data that is used for analysis, custody transfer and production optimization.  OMNI Flow computers are frequently used EFM devices for both gas and liquid EFM applications.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to get started using our OMNI Flow Computer driver to connect and gather real-time and EFM data from OMNI Flow Computers for Wonderware applications.



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Top 5 Dream Report Features to Be Excited About in the Current Release

By Kevin Rutherford on Aug 2, 2018 2:00:00 PM


In case you aren't familiar with the Dream Report reporting solution from Ocean Data Systems, Dream Report is a real-time report generator that is quickly and easily configurable via a very easy-to-use interface with a ton of flexibility relating to not only collection and archiving of data and alarms but also for analysis and options for report generation.

In this post, I'm going to go through five of the key features released in 2018 for Dream Report and how they benefit you, either as an existing Dream Report user or as a process industry professional looking at reporting solutions.



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Video Tutorial: Using OmniServer with System Platform via SuiteLink

By Kevin Rutherford on Jul 26, 2018 2:00:00 PM


While OmniServer's core connectivity and data parsing abilities are its primary function, they are only the first step to integrating non-standard devices with Wonderware.  How does that device data then make it up into Wonderware?

In this video blog, part of a series on connecting Wonderware to OmniServer, I'll show you how to make a basic SuiteLink connection from Wonderware System Platform to OmniServer for integrating process data from all of your "other" devices that don't have a standard, off-the-shelf driver - all without the expense and headaches of having to write custom code.



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Video Tutorial: Using OmniServer with System Platform via OPC

By Kevin Rutherford on Jul 19, 2018 2:00:00 PM


OmniServer's core connectivity and data parsing abilities are only part of the equation when integrating non-standard devices with Wonderware.  How does that device data then make it up into Wonderware?

In this video blog, part of a series on connecting Wonderware to OmniServer, I'll show you how to make a basic OPC DA connection from Wonderware System Platform to OmniServer for integrating process data from all of your "other" devices that don't have a standard, off-the-shelf driver - all without having to write custom code.



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Video Tutorial: EFM Collection for ABB Totalflow

By Kevin Rutherford on Jul 12, 2018 2:00:00 PM


In the oil and gas industry, flow computers and devices from different vendors store historical EFM (Electronic Flow Measurement) data that is used for analysis, custody transfer and production optimization.  ABB Totalflow flow computers are frequently used EFM devices for both gas and liquid EFM applications.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to get started using our ABB Totalflow driver to connect and gather real-time and EFM data from Totalflow meters for Wonderware applications.



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Three Key Ways Dream Report provides ROI through Business Intelligence

By Kevin Rutherford on Jun 28, 2018 2:00:00 PM


Today’s automation professional is tasked not only with continuous improvement of the automated processes he or she is responsible for, but also doing it with less resources and a lower budget. Labor is expensive and over-tasked.

With all of the core business tasks an engineer faces today, they simply may not have the time to sift through the all of the options available in the marketplace for gathering “business intelligence”.

A key buzz term used in the front office of many companies, business intelligence needs on the automation side of an enterprise are centered around Industrial applications. While business intelligence tools are great at dealing with counts and currencies, automation processes need that and more.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the three main reasons to have a business intelligence solution and, also, the three key ways that Dream Report delivers nicely on the greater needs of hybrid industrial/business data analytics requirements to provide business intelligence for making key decisions regarding a process to save time, money and expenses.



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Top 5 TOP Server V6.5 Features to Be Excited About

By Kevin Rutherford on Jun 21, 2018 2:00:00 PM


If you haven't received one of my emails or heard from a colleague about our latest TOP Server release, you may not have heard about the key new features in the TOP Server V6.5 release.

In this post, I'm going to go through the top 5 key features released in V6.5 in more detail and how they benefit you as a TOP Server user.



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Video Tutorial: Getting Started with the OmniServer Topic Wizard

By Kevin Rutherford on Jun 14, 2018 2:00:00 PM


For the past few releases, OmniServer has had a powerful usability enhancement that you may not be aware of - a Topic Wizard – which was designed to increase your efficiency and the ease of getting started when you're working with OmniServer to integrate your non-standard process devices.

For new users, the new Topic Wizard in OmniServer Version 3 and above should feel very intuitive and lessen the learning curve if you've never touched an OmniServer before. Even for existing users, the wizard is very user-friendly and users will likely appreciate the time-savings made possible by being able to step through a wizard to configure your communications.

In this video, I step you through the very easy process to configure your OmniServer to communicate with your non-standard devices using the Topic Wizard.



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Industrial Information Portals & Decision Support Trends Drive Needs for More than Spreadsheets

By John Weber on Jun 7, 2018 2:00:00 PM

It is well known and accepted that, to manage a process, we need to measure the results of that process.  If we start measuring the production output of a machine, the people responsible for running and maintaining that machine are more likely to pay attention and take the necessary decisions to improve its performance.

Every business with any focus on continuous improvement has some system that works for them and has evolved as they have traveled their journey. Some use paper, some use paper and spreadsheets, others use custom solutions, and others use some form of off-the-shelf software.

For over 20 years we’ve helped users get the digital data they have into these various systems, but in the process of doing that, we’ve heard some things from them and seen some patterns we will share in this blog post.



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Video Tutorial: Conditional Logging to Database from Non-Standard Devices

By Kevin Rutherford on May 31, 2018 2:00:00 PM


OmniServer Wedges are included with OmniServer Professional Edition.  Wedges are built-in components providing additional useful capabilities that expand the functionality of OmniServer beyond its core connectivity and data parsing abilities for non-standard devices.

The OmniServer Database Wedge allows you to log your device data to any ODBC-compliant database, including SQL, with a highly configurable format and flexible conditions.  And this ability is built into OmniServer, eliminating the need for separate external components or applications.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to get started using the OmniServer Database Wedge to easily log process data based on specified conditions, making it possible to monitor trends in your process and easily report on your process data or troubleshoot any issues that are discovered.



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Video Tutorial: EFM Collection for Fisher ROC

By Kevin Rutherford on May 24, 2018 2:00:00 PM


In the oil and gas industry, flow computers and devices from different vendors store historical EFM (Electronic Flow Measurement) data that is used for analysis, custody transfer and production optimization.  Emerson / Fisher ROC flow computers are frequently used EFM devices for both gas and liquid EFM applications.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to get started using our Fisher ROC Suite to connect and gather real-time and EFM data from ROC meters for Wonderware applications.



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Building Custom CRCs for Non-Standard Protocols

By Kevin Rutherford on May 17, 2018 2:00:00 PM


If you’ve been following our blog series on custom error detection, you’ll remember that OmniServer provides a large number of pre-defined Error Detection Codes (EDC) for use in different protocols for non-standard device communication.  And, again, it’s not uncommon to find an EDC from a vendor that is not pre-defined due to some specialized handling by the device manufacturer.

As we covered in our previous posts on creating a custom checksum and LRC, OmniServer gives you the ability to build custom EDCs in an OmniServer protocol to handle these situations.  This post, the final of three on custom Error Detection Codes, covers the basics steps to creating a custom CRC (Cyclic Redundancy Check) in an OmniServer protocol.



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Video Tutorial: EFM Collection for Enron Modbus

By Kevin Rutherford on May 10, 2018 2:00:00 PM


Common in the oil and gas industry, flow computers and devices store historical EFM (Electronic Flow Measurement) data used for analysis, custody transfer and production optimization.  Enron Modbus, which is a version of the open Modbus protocol, is a frequently used communication protocol by many EFM devices including but not limited to Schneider SCADAPack, ThermoScientific AutoPilot, Cameron NuFlo Scanners and many others.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to get started using our Enron Modbus driver to connect and gather real-time and EFM data from Enron Modbus devices from Wonderware applications.



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Video Tutorial: Conditional Logging to Text File from Non-Standard Devices

By Kevin Rutherford on May 3, 2018 2:00:00 PM


OmniServer Wedges, included with OmniServer Professional Edition, are built-in components providing powerful, supplemental capabilities that expand the functionality of OmniServer beyond its core connectivity and data parsing abilities for non-standard devices.

The OmniServer File Wedge allows you to log your device data to any text file, including CSV, with a highly configurable format and flexible conditions.  And this ability is built into OmniServer, eliminating the need for separate external components.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to get started using the OmniServer File Wedge to easily log process data based on specified conditions, making it possible to monitor trends in your process and easily troubleshoot any issues that are discovered.



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Building Custom LRCs for Non-Standard Protocols

By Kevin Rutherford on Apr 19, 2018 2:00:00 PM


You may be aware that OmniServer provides a wide variety of pre-defined Error Detection Codes (EDC, also known as CRC, LRC and Checksums) for use in protocols for non-standard device communication.  However, it’s not uncommon to find an EDC that isn’t pre-defined due to some specialized handling by the device manufacturer.

To handle such situations, OmniServer provides the ability to build your own custom EDCs in an OmniServer protocol.  This post, the second of three on custom Error Detection Codes, will cover the basics of creating a custom LRC (Longitudinal Redundancy Check) in OmniServer.



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Video Tutorial: Easy Integration of Your OPC DA/UA Data with MS Excel

By Win Worrall on Apr 5, 2018 2:00:00 PM

With DDE (Dynamic Data Exchange) fast becoming obsolete technology (Microsoft superseded DDE with OLE years ago), OPC DA and, more recently, OPC UA data sources have become the primary go-to for process data integration.  Recently, Microsoft even disabled certain DDE functionality in MS Office applications due to security concerns and malware exploitation targeting the DDE interface.

But the usefulness of MS Excel for data analysis across many industries even today is still undeniable and the primary mechanism for MS Excel to connect to a data source is via DDE.  So what do you do if you're still using MS Excel for process data analysis and reporting via DDE?  What's the alternative?

The following short video blog demonstrates step-by-step how to easily read/write data from process data sources (OPC DA and OPC UA Servers) using MS Excel (without DDE) with the Cogent DataHub.



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Video Tutorial: Sending Email/Text Notifications from Non-Standard Devices

By Kevin Rutherford on Mar 29, 2018 2:00:00 PM


OmniServer Plug-ins (or Wedges), which are included with OmniServer Professional Edition, are built-in components that provide powerful, supplemental capabilities that expand the functionality of OmniServer beyond its core connectivity and data parsing abilities for non-standard devices.

The OmniServer Email Plug-in / Wedge allows you to send your device data as an email message or text in a highly configurable format with configurable conditions.  And it provides this ability built into OmniServer, eliminating the need for separate external components.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to get started using the OmniServer Email Plug-in / Wedge to send timely email or text notifications to your key personnel based on specified conditions, allowing those individuals to quickly take the appropriate action to minimize any related loss or downtime that might occur. This includes configuring secure SSL or TLS encryption with a configurable port, as well as, a new test function for confirming email server settings work correctly.



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Video Tutorial: Integrating IIoT Data using MQTT

By Kevin Rutherford on Mar 22, 2018 2:00:00 PM


The Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT) standard is a lightweight publish/subscribe model communications protocol used widely for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) integration of edge devices across a wide variety of industries around the world.

In this video blog, I'll show you how to get started using our MQTT Client driver to interface to an MQTT broker or server (including devices acting as a broker or server) to integrate data from your IIoT data into Wonderware applications.



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Building Error Detection Codes for Custom Protocols

By Kevin Rutherford on Mar 15, 2018 2:00:00 PM


If you’ve worked with OmniServer to connect your non-standard devices in the past, you may be aware of the large number of pre-defined Error Detection Codes (EDC, also known as CRC, LRC and Checksums) available.  However, as is the nature of custom protocols out there, it’s not uncommon to find an EDC that isn’t pre-defined due to some specialized handling by the device manufacturer.

To that end, OmniServer provides the flexibility to define your own custom EDCs in an OmniServer protocol.  This post, the first of three on custom Error Detection Codes, will cover the basics of creating a simple custom checksum in OmniServer.



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Video Tutorial: Tracking the Health of Your Servers

By Win Worrall on Mar 8, 2018 2:00:00 PM

Knowledge is power and knowing the current state of your underlying server hardware for your process can be very powerful indeed.  Keeping a pulse on information like CPU usage, available memory, memory consumption by a process and whether or not critical process are still running can be the difference between hours of downtime with thousands of dollars in lost production and being able to proactively avoid any downtime.

The following short video blog demonstrates step-by-step how easy it is to use the Cogent DataHub to monitor vital system statistics on your servers that can be shared in real-time via supported client interfaces such as OPC DA and OPC UA or even send email/SMS notifications.



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Namibia Breweries Ltd leverages off-the-shelf OPC software for sustainable manufacturing in a tough environment

By John Weber on Mar 1, 2018 2:00:00 PM


When you live in a remote region that is one of the most arid places on earth, you import your raw materials, and you’re making millions of hectoliters of beer a year, you have to make the most of all the resources you have and leverage what is in abundance in your location.  Namibia Breweries Ltd. (NBL) has a long history of success in a tough environment at their Windhoek, Namibia location.  They have received numerous awards for their innovative approaches to meeting their information system needs.

In this blog post, we’ll share their look into how they use off-the-shelf software and their teams' intellectual know-how and creativity to empower their manufacturing success.  If you read the stories in Automation World or Pro Food World, you learned about how Andre Engelbrecht, manager of industrial control systems at NBL, and his team unlocked data sources and built a digital smart manufacturing platform across the entire facility.  In this article, we’re going to share the rest of the story of NBL’s integration points, problems solved, and how they leveraged Software Toolbox’s full value proposition as part of their team effort.



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Integration of Vibration Monitoring Hardware into HMI, SCADA, MES, & Historians

By John Weber on Feb 21, 2018 2:00:00 PM


Software Toolbox has worked with integrators, users, OEMS and distributors of Wonderware Software products since 1997.  At a Schneider Electric Software conference in 2017, they met a hardware supplier new to the Wonderware user community, Test Products International, also known as TPI.  It turns out TPI is not new to the vibration monitoring space, though, and has a long history of providing handheld test and measurement equipment. In this video blog...



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3 Reasons to Be Excited about OPC Data Client 2018.1 Release

By John Weber on Feb 14, 2018 2:00:00 PM


Our latest release of the OPC Data Client development toolkit provides some exciting new features for leveraging powerful OPC UA technology features including OPC UA complex data support.

In this post, we will cover some of the key reasons the OPC Data Client 2018.1 is an easy, effective method for bringing the power of OPC UA to your custom client applications.



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Did You Know? Four Key OmniServer Tips For Easier Protocol Creation

By Kevin Rutherford on Feb 8, 2018 2:00:00 PM


As someone who has worked with non-standard device connectivity using OmniServer for over 10 years, I sometimes take for granted the knowledge that I have gained over that time.  If you're anything like me, once you figure out the data you need from your device's protocol document, you just want to get your protocol knocked out as quickly as possible so you can start communicating.

In this post, I'm going to cover 4 key tips that I've learned over the years when working in OmniServer to build a protocol that you may not have realized and that could add convenience and save you a lot of time, which is time you can be spending on other important tasks.



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Your Data Logger Wouldn’t Just Throw Away Data. Or Would It?

By Marc Holbach on Feb 1, 2018 2:00:00 PM


What is the most important feature for any data logger to have? At the end of the day, we are trusting a data logger to take our data and store it.  Now whether that is for reporting, optimization, legal reasons, or simply to retain process data over some period of time in case it might be needed later, we expect the data to be logged without any losses.

This is particularly true in the industrial automation space, where the amount of data that is being logged is growing almost as exponentially as the speed at which the data is needed in order to have a business impact. As such, the prospect of losing data can very quickly result in lost jobs, thousands of dollars in lost production, and legal or financial penalties in case of an audit.

So how much do you trust your data logger to really be logging 100% of the data that it should be? In this blog post, I will address these concerns and highlight the ways OPC UA provides capabilities that software applications can leverage to provide peace of mind.



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Video Tutorial: Sending Email & SMS Alerts Triggered by Process Values

By Win Worrall on Jan 25, 2018 2:00:00 PM

Timely notifications about abnormal conditions in your process are vital to minimizing downtime and the costs associated with it.  Automating the process based on the condition of specific process variables gets you the information you need for making decisions as quickly as possible.

The following short video blog demonstrates step-by-step how easy it is to use the Cogent DataHub to establish a connection to an OPC data source and then define various flexible conditions for triggering email and/or SMS text notifications based on values collected from that OPC server.



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Automation & Control Software Learning Resources for the New Year

By Kevin Rutherford on Jan 18, 2018 2:00:00 PM


The New Year is a time of renewal, new projects, new challenges, and for some of you, new roles, or new people on your teams.  The last year has been one where our team has grown and worked to deliver the relevant content you need to learn more about software for automation & control, how to use our products, and the type of problems we solve.

In this blog post, we’ll provide a quick review of some key items from the last year that can help you or your colleagues in the coming year.  If you aren’t already subscribed to our blog, we encourage you to subscribe. We publish new content at least once a week, sometimes more often, and you can control the frequency of when you are notified of new content.



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How to Connect, Integrate, or Communicate between Control Systems

By John Weber on Jan 11, 2018 2:00:00 PM

Our Automation 101 blog series is designed to help professionals that are new to the industrial automation space whether at the start of their careers, or moving into the operations technology (OT) world from an IT or other background.

One of the common challenges in Industrial Integration is communications between different brands or manufacturers’ control devices (PLC, DCS, Drives, RTUs, smart sensors).  While most control devices have methods of communication, and some industry standards have helped, they don’t all communicate using the same methods or protocols, and even if they both have the same serial or Ethernet wiring the difference in communication protocols prevents them from passing information.  It’s the same problem you have if someone calls you on the phone, but doesn’t speak the same language.

While, as humans, we may be able to overcome a difference in dialect, machine communication has to be precise and exact.  Small differences in addressing or data formatting can be enough variation to create communications failure. So how do people overcome this challenge?



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How to Connect a Non-Standard Device with No Code

By Kevin Rutherford on Jan 4, 2018 2:00:00 PM


l ask you to remember back to our blog post last month where took the information we pulled from a device’s protocol document (in the prior month's blog) and created a custom protocol in OmniServer.  As you’ll recall, our protocol has now been designed.

But how do you go about testing the protocol and proving that it works? This final post in the series takes you through the steps of getting connected and actually troubleshooting your OmniServer protocol.



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How to Implement a Custom Protocol for a Non-Standard Device with No Code

By Kevin Rutherford on Dec 21, 2017 2:00:00 PM


So remember in our blog post last month where you just have a protocol document from the manufacturer for a device you need to integrate with your control system?  And for this new device, there is no existing, off-the-shelf connectivity driver or server available.

And remember asking yourself, “How do I connect to this non-standard device?”  With custom software development being very expensive and time-consuming, we discussed a better way using OmniServer.

This post, the second of three, goes beyond the protocol details we gathered from the document in our blog post last month to provide the basics on how to actually use those details to build a working protocol in OmniServer without custom code for a fast, affordable solution with industry-standard client interfaces including as OPC DA and UA.



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Top 3 TOP Server V6.4 Features to Be Excited About

By Kevin Rutherford on Dec 14, 2017 2:00:00 PM


If you haven't received one of my emails or heard from a colleague about our latest TOP Server release, you may not have heard about the key new features in the TOP Server V6.4 release.

In this post, I'm going to go through the top 3 key features released in V6.4 in more detail and how they benefit you as a TOP Server user.



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Can your OPC systems tell you when something is wrong?

By Win Worrall on Dec 4, 2017 4:23:13 PM

In this edition of OPC Talk with Win and Marc, we’re going to discuss when things go wrong and how do you know?  No matter what OPC software you’re using, there are many things that can happen that could cause system problems.  Most people would rather know about a problem before it ruins their day, week, month, or career, right?



Topics: OPC
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Enabling System Health Tracking in OT Software Applications

By Win Worrall on Nov 30, 2017 2:00:00 PM


The heart of any control system is the computers and servers that run your automation software.  For example, when PLCs talk to AC drives over Ethernet, the drives will shut down if they lose communications for more than a second, sometimes even milliseconds.  Drives shutdown = Line shutdown = Plant shutdown.  What IT calls a blip for plant operations can mean downtime, scrapped product and even your company’s reputation due to missed delivery deadlines.

Traditionally, server maintenance and upkeep is the role of IT.  However, when these systems go down, it affects operations (OT) with different pains than IT sees on the business side.  IT has systems to monitor their own assets, on the standards they need for the business, but they need the OT side to expand monitoring of their own systems and self-reliance in order for OT to meet operational needs, while bringing in IT as a resource.

This blog post will discuss how to get information about health of servers and PCs that runs the automation software OT users need without having to rely solely on IT.



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Got OPC Redundancy Questions?

By Win Worrall on Nov 28, 2017 4:00:00 PM

In this edition of OPC Talk with Win and Marc, we’re going to address some common questions we get about redundancy involving OPC software.  If you’re new to the industrial automation space and want to learn more about redundancy in automation in general, visit our Demystifying Redundancy in Automation blog post.



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Yes, You Can Integrate Business & Other Databases with Control Systems

By Win Worrall on Nov 16, 2017 2:00:00 PM


It is common for companies to use databases for long-term storage of their critical information.  In our experience, we also see machine setup information, short term operational data and much more besides traditional historical data put into shop floor databases in the operations technology or “OT” world.

Over on the business side or the “IT” world, everything somehow ends up in a database: Production plans, forecasts, orders, it’s all there.  Increasing business demands and IT/OT convergence are driving more real-time integration between these databases and control systems.

This blog discusses some of the key reasons users like yourself need this information and then shows how the DataHub can help move this data from a database to your control systems via OPC DA, OPC UA, Modbus and other interfaces or protocols that are common in the automation layer.



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OPC Data Client Toolkit Update Speeds OPC UA, DA, A&E, XML Client Development

By Colson Dunlap on Nov 15, 2017 11:30:00 AM

I’m excited about the recent release of the OPC Data Client development toolkit – and you should be too if you’re an active developer of custom OPC Client software applications. This post is highly technical, but hopefully our developer readers will find it useful.



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What is OPC – 10 Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

By Win Worrall on Nov 14, 2017 4:00:00 PM

We’ve been working with the OPC software interoperability standards since 1996, and it’s easy to forget that others who are new to this space often find the whole discussion around the OPC standard and all the different standards confusing. 



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Your Protocol Document and Integrating a Non-Standard Device

By Kevin Rutherford on Nov 9, 2017 2:00:00 PM


So you've been tasked with bringing data from a new device (maybe a weigh scale or barcode scanner or RFID system) into your HMI/SCADA system.  But you just have a protocol document from the manufacturer.  And for this new device, there is no existing, off-the-shelf connectivity driver or server available.

So what now? Do you contact a custom software development house?  That gets very expensive and time-consuming very quickly.

This post, the first of three, goes through what to look for in that protocol document from the manufacturer to know how to begin using OmniServer to integrate your device without requiring custom code in a fast, affordable manner that provides industry-standard client interfaces such as OPC DA and UA.



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Get It Your Way with DataHub

By Win Worrall on Nov 2, 2017 2:00:00 PM


What's "It"?  The "it" can mean a lot of things. What we mean is solving software and information integration challenges the way YOU want to solve them, and not being totally limited by the fill in the blank configuration settings in software. 

Whether you are a system integrator or a sophisticated user, you know there are times where fill-in-the form software configuration makes things easy, but can also constrain you.  Whether it's scability of large configurations, enhancing existing product features to satisfy YOUR NEEDS, or even adding functionality to a product, you don't like being limited by fill-in-the blank software.  

The most powerful functionality of the Cogent DataHub is its balance between fill-in the blank quick configuration for most users, and the freedom to "Get it YOUR WAY" for others.  Cogent DataHub does this through the free scripting engine that is included in every license. 



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Logging Smarter - Dynamic Table Selection at Runtime

By Marc Holbach on Oct 26, 2017 2:00:00 PM


Does your data logging software force you to define the location where you're logging your data ahead of time?  Wouldn’t it be nice if your logging software could evaluate your data and make a decision on where the data should be logged?

In this first of two posts in a series on dynamic SQL logging, I'll show you how the OPC Data Logger can easily be configured to switch between SQL Tables at runtime, reducing any post-log sorting you have to do in SQL and saving you time and effort in the process.



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