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Friendly, neighborhood controller, computer

March 3, 2021
Wago's Edge Controller and Edge Computer run Linux and support Docker container apps

It's a terrific, time-, bandwidth and cost-saving idea to do calculations locally, but can edge computing be reliable and secure? To give users local data processing they can depend on, Wago Corp. is launching two devices, Edge Controller and Edge Computer, which provide distinct advantages over the traditional PLCs and industrial PCs (IPC) of the past. They can take over data mining from controllers that need low latency and high determinism, perform control tasks that IPCs can't, and deliver close to real-time analytics and displays that would otherwise have to come from remote servers or the cloud.

"As automation and control progressed in recent years, many process applications expanded and multiplied, produced vastly more data, and consumed more bandwidth," says Charlie Norz, automation product manager at Wago. "However, PLCs designed for sequential operations and dedicated control often struggled with these new demands, and users had to go offline for data management, analytics and algorithm development. This wasn't what PLCs were designed for."

Norz adds that initial efforts to relay all production information to the cloud also proved too costly when users realized how much big data there was to send and process. "The market for edge computing opened up due to IIoT and the cloud, as users opted to aggregate process data before relaying it, which would reduce latency and expenses," he says. "Edge computing would still be a gateway to the cloud, but much of the data, calculations and analytics could now be handled locally in close to real-time."

Wago Edge Controller (752-8303/8000-002) consists of a quad-core ARM Cortex A1 processor at 1 GHZ, 2 Gbyte RAM, 4 GByte Flash memory, DIN-rail mounting, real-time embedded Linux, PLC functions via Wago’s e!Cockpit software engineering and programming tool and Docker container support. Its networking capabilities include two Ethernet ports supporting Modbus TCP/UDP, EtherNet/IP adapter, EtherCAT master, BACnet server, MQTT, OPC UA and Sparkplug, as well as three USB ports, one configurable RS232/485 port, one CANopen port and four configurable, 24 VDC digital I/O points.

Wago Edge Computer (752-9400) has a quad-core Intel Atom processor at 1.91 GHz, 4 Gbyte RAM, 64 Gbyte Flash memory, DIN-rail mounting, standard Debian Linux and Docker container support. It includes two Ethernet ports, four USB ports and one HDMI display port. Edge Computer can also add an SSD disk to expand its 64 GByte Flash memory for large data volumes. Even though it has an extended -20 °C to 60 °C temperature range, Edge Computer is fanless and compact, simplifying integration.

"Edge Controller has many of the characteristic of a PLC such as cyclical computing, but it's also a Linux-based edge device that can run Docker container apps, such as for security, OEE and other functions," explains Norz. "Edge Computer also has Linux and supports Docker containers, but doesn't have the PLC components, and does have a bit more processing power."

Beyond supporting Docker containers for running software apps in edge devices, Edge Controller and Edge Computer can also runs standard software, such as Node-RED flow-based software development tool for visual programming. "Docker containers let users run analytics-heavy calculations and artificial intelligence (AI) functions in edge devices, which are similar to the software apps mainstream consumers run on their smart phones," adds Norz. "Edge Controller can still execute PLC logic, but it can also run Docker containers in parallel. Meanwhile, while Edge Computer doesn't do PLC tasks, it's more of an IPC for users and process applications that need even more computing power. It can also run Linux applications and Docker containers inside industrial hardware, so users don't have to risk running a regular PC on their plant-floors."

For more information, please visit www.wago.com/us/controllers-bus-couplers-i-o/edge-controller/p/752-8303_8000-002 or ...752-9401

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