Author: James Butcher, IOTech Product Manager | EdgeX Foundry QA/Test Chair
New device connectivity tooling, available to the EdgeX community
One of the biggest challenges faced by developers implementing edge IoT solutions is how to efficiently collect data from the many different types of sensors and devices that exist at the edge. A business cannot make key operational decisions such as perfectly coordinating the timing of different machines on a production line or be able to predict machine failure before it occurs, without first having to access the data being produced by that edge equipment. It sounds obvious, but when there are literally thousands of different edge device manufacturers and hundreds of different edge protocols it can be a real challenge to collect data from a given set of devices in an efficient and future-proof manner.
Fortunately, IOTech’s edge computing software platforms are designed to support cases exactly like this. Based on the Linux Foundation’s open source EdgeX Foundry project, Edge Xpert and its time-critical sister product Edge XRT are modern microservice architectures with dedicated Device Service connectors that are designed to easily interface with the devices found at the IoT edge.
Configuration not Coding
The EdgeX Device Services provide a decoupling where devices and sensors speaking different protocols are easily connected to the platform via a standard code-free mechanism. To connect a device to EdgeX, the user just needs to configure the mapping between the device’s attributes and EdgeX. For example, for a Modbus device, we just need to describe which of its registers is the temperature and which is the pressure, etc. These configuration profiles are basically the templates that can be instantiated at run time so that the real devices can be connected and data can flow.
Long List of Protocols
The EdgeX community and commercial vendors like IOTech have produced Device Services for many different device and protocol types. In addition to the open source options provided by the Foundry, IOTech’s connector list includes wireless protocols like BLE and Zigbee, industrial protocols like OPC-UA, EtherCAT, EtherNet/IP, CANOpen, Siemens S7 and PROFINET, and even support for controlling IP cameras via its ONVIF Device Service. The list is growing with more being added in each product release.
Whilst these connectors are great time savers – compared to the other option of writing bespoke code to connect each protocol or device individually, you may still have a lot of devices that need to be connected. IOTech have developed graphical tooling to save further time and help users easily and more quickly create their device configurations. With IOTech’s Device Configuration Tool (“DCT”), you can create device profiles in literally a couple of minutes and share them with colleagues, partners and the wider ecosystem.
Save Time and Get Devices Connected Quickly
Our User Experience experts have developed protocol specific menus and wizards to make it a straightforward task to create new device configurations and get devices modeled quickly. With the help of validation and context-aware drop-down lists there are no more time-consuming mistakes or typos caused by editing text files by hand.
See these quick screenshots for example of the types of menus you can expect for configuring your devices:
Each protocol of course has its own specific options and menus coded into the tool. Here is an example for Modbus which lets you select the Modbus-specific options that you need.
Online and Free for the EdgeX Community
To coincide with the latest EdgeX ‘Hanoi’ release, IOTech are providing the DCT online as a free service for the EdgeX community.
Sign up online here https://dct.iotechsys.com and create new device configurations in minutes.
Even if you already have profiles created, we’ve added new options to import existing profiles into the tool so they can more easily be maintained and updated. We’re also adding a community library so that users can share and collaborate on device profile development.
Helping become EdgeX Ready
The online tool is also being used by the EdgeX community as part of the EdgeX Ready program. Users can create and model their EdgeX devices using the tool and then submit then to the EdgeX Ready team for validation and endorsement. Stay tuned for more details on this exciting program and watch out for video tutorials that show how easy it is to use this new tool.
I encourage anyone writing device configuration profiles for EdgeX, Edge Xpert or Edge XRT to get signed up and use the tool. It will definitely make your life easier!
Thanks for reading