Software Toolbox Technical Blog

5 min read

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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1 min read

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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7 min read

How to Connect, Integrate, or Communicate between Control Systems

By Colin Winchester 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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8 min read

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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6 min read

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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3 min read

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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10 min read

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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5 min read

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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7 min read

Making Your Smart Phone Smarter with Email/SMS Alerts

By Win Worrall on Sep 21, 2017 2:00:00 PM

In the automation and control world you need to know about problems immediately.  If problems are not recognized early enough, they can cause unexpected downtime, damage to machinery or environmental impacts.  In other words, these problems can cost you a lot of money.

Fortunately, these days most of us have 24/7 access to email or texting through their laptops and smart phones which has made receiving alarms in a timely fashion much easier than in the past.

In this third post of our “I Can Do That?” blog series, we’ll cover how to get alerts to problems ASAP and also share some specific use cases for email/SMS notifications using Cogent DataHub.

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6 min read

Logging Only The Data You Need When You Need It

By Marc Holbach on Sep 14, 2017 2:00:00 PM

Do you need to log specific process data to a database or text file based on some predefined variable or condition? We typically refer to this concept as "conditional" or "condition-based" logging.  It sounds simple enough but without a plan, it can be a tricky task to implement.

In this post, I'll introduce you to the considerations involved with conditional data logging and cover how OPC Data Logger can easily be set up to log data based on a variety of conditions without a lot of headaches.

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5 min read

Bridging the Gap between OPC, DDE, ODBC and Other Data Sources

By Win Worrall on Sep 7, 2017 2:00:00 PM

Do you need to directly connect data points or variables in different equipment, processes, or software? This concept is commonly referred to as ‘point-to-point bridging,’ and the DataHub bridging capability allows multiple data sources to communicate with each other in real time.

In this second post of our “I Can Do That?” blog series, we’ll help users like you get the most out of your DataHub by understanding the bridging feature in detail and how this feature can often be combined with other features to accomplish some very powerful automation tasks.

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5 min read

Break Down Your Obstacles to OPC Standard Interoperability

By Win Worrall on Aug 24, 2017 2:00:00 PM

OPC has been around as an industry standard since 1996.  If you’ve been working in the space very long, you have probably heard all the different acronyms thrown around.  If you’re new, well there are different specifications in the OPC software interoperability standards that are used to meet different information integration needs.

In this first post of our “I Can Do That?” blog series, I’ll explore examples of the connections between different OPC standards we hear about from users, ways to address them using OPC Gateway software, and use cases highlighting solutions we’ve seen other users implement successfully.

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Working in industrial automation since 1996, the Software Toolbox team has seen a lot. The level of automation system sophistication of our integrators and users has evolved, each driven by the demands of their market and clients.  Everyone's learning continues as technological change accelerates.

This blog is about sharing from these journeys.  From tips on implementing software, successes our clients have experienced, or new ideas and things to consider in your journey, we'll be sharing them here.

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