Tuesday, August 16, 2016

KEPServerEX and ThingWorx Integration Furthers Industrial IoT

Posted by John Harrington

In KEPServerEX® version 5.21, Kepware’s industrial connectivity platform expanded interoperability with the ThingWorx® IoT Platform, the industry’s leading application development platform for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Both KEPServerEX and ThingWorx are extremely flexible, and can be deployed in many different environments and integrated with a variety of solutions to meet customer needs. To support this wide range of use and application, Kepware extended the integration options available for connectivity between the platforms—providing users the ability to select the best integration method for their systems.

By taking a look at how users plan on implementing blog-thingworx-interface-diagram.jpgthe ThingWorx IoT Platform, we can get a better sense of the best integration strategy between KEPServerEX and ThingWorx. For example, if you plan on utilizing ThingWorx in the Cloud for applications like visualization, analytics, mobile, data mashups, for quality, productivity, reliability monitoring, and material tracking, you may choose a different strategy than if you were implementing a real-time, closed-loop, on-premise solution for monitoring and control of your industrial automation systems.

Complementary Solutions for the IoT

The ThingWorx IoT Platform provides great tools for modeling your industrial Things. You can model just about any Thing within your industrial environment—a sensor, PLC, robot, or even an entire line. KEPServerEX, on the other hand, provides device connectivity, protocol translation, and tools for efficiently moving industrial data from many devices to many applications. It does not provide tools for modeling the data. For example, KEPServerEX can tell you the current value of a temperature tag but it does not model the temperature sensor as a discrete sensor.

When integrated, KEPServerEX provides real-time access to industrial data to developers creating applications in ThingWorx. To support tight integration across multiple use cases, Kepware has developed two different connectivity options to ThingWorx: the ThingWorx native client interface and the ThingWorx Agent in the IoT Gateway.

ThingWorx Native Client Interface

The ThingWorx native client interface provides a direct connection to the ThingWorx IoT Platform with minimal configuration. This interface includes a new KEPServerEX Extension available in the ThingWorx Marketplace that identifies all the KEPServerEX services available from within ThingWorx. Once connected, users can model their data points into meaningful Things using a set of services for browsing, adding, and removing tags—all from within the ThingWorx IoT Platform. The client interface provides bi-directional communication, meaning that users can read and write to tags (known as data properties in ThingWorx) after they’ve been modeled into Things. This solution is ideal for those real-time, closed-loop applications where you want to rapidly model Things within ThingWorx utilizing KEPServerEX tags.

IoT Gateway

The IoT Gateway’s ThingWorx Agent allows administrators to manage and control the environment by identifying what tags in KEPServerEX will be sent to one or multiple ThingWorx applications. KEPServerEX with the ThingWorx Agent allows users to model their Things and map them to unique Remote Things within the ThingWorx server. It is a publish only interface that does not allow writing back to KEPServerEX—ideal for monitoring analytics applications where you do not need closed-loop control of the automation process.

Similarities between the Two Options 

Both connectors leverage the ThingWorx AlwaysOn™ protocol, which provides efficient and secure communications within a local network or across wide area networks. They also include the ability to configure individual tags’ poll rates, tag Deadband, and an integration publish rate.

Best Strategies for Selection

Although there is overlapping functionality, there are advantages to using one connectivity option over the other.

The ThingWorx native client interface is the most efficient:

  • For environments where the primary visualization application is ThingWorx
  • When administrators want to setup KEPServerEX and then perform all of their configuration from ThingWorx

The IoT Gateway’s ThingWorx Agent is better suited:

  • For solutions that have multiple clients connecting to a single KEPServerEX instance
  • When administrators need control over who will access which data
  • For highly-efficient communications to the ThingWorx platform, which may be off premise

What’s Next?

Interested in learning more about the ThingWorx native client interface and other updates included in the release? Register for the KEPServerEX Version 5.21 Webinar for technical information, live demonstrations, and opportunity for Q&A with Kepware Product Managers and Applications Engineers.

Once you're ready, download a free demo to get started. Our trial software is fully-functional and only limited in its runtime to 2-hour periods. It provides access to over 150 device drivers, client drivers, and advanced plug-ins, which can be licensed directly from the demo based on your connectivity needs. Additional licenses can be added at any time as your needs evolve.

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