Hard Consulting Corporation specializes in researching, developing and deploying solutions to industrial control challenges.
We have over 20 years of experience implementing advanced industrial monitoring & control algorithms, and communications systems. Our personnel have designed and implemented novel, state-of-the-art components included within major SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) software systems, which have been used to develop monitoring and control software deployed world-wide in Traffic, Oil & Gas, Water & Waste-water, and Scientific applications.
Our wireless LAN systems empower remote facility operators to control widely dispersed equipment in some of the harshest environments on the planet, and our modern web-based user interfaces to traditional PLC-based systems provide mobile and remote system operators with access to your existing control systems. We have also implemented Solar/Geothermal residential heat management systems, which are some of the most advanced (and comfortable) systems of their kind.
EtherNet/IP CIP Protocol Support in Python 2.7 or 3.7
EtherNet/IP protocol is growing rapidly as an industrial control standard. However, custom Python software development for industrial control has been hampered by the lack of a reliable, inexpensive method for accessing EtherNet/IP-capable hardware, such as Rockwell ControlLogix or MicroLogix PLCs. Our cpppo -- https://hardconsulting.com/products/6-cpppo-enip-api module for Python on Linux, Mac or Windows makes it easy to access EtherNet/IP Controllers such as PLCs as a client, and to add EtherNet/IP protocol support to existing applications and devices.
For a limited time only, we are offering combined Annual Support + Commercial Licensing for just USD$1,250.00/yr! Don't miss out -- add EtherNet/IP protocol support today.
PLC Data Simulation
For most industrial installations, PLCs are both necessary for day-to-day operations, and challenging to secure, test and develop software for. Providing access to PLCs for new SCADA software, user interfaces or other related software is extremely risky, since most PLC protocols do not provide meaningful security or access selectivity. A software error in new systems interacting with the plant PLCs can be disastrous, or even fatal!
What if you could simulate all of your installations PLCs, providing access to real-time plant data, and full PLC I/O capability, with full safety and assurance that no error of any kind could result in access to your plant's PLCs?
Now you can safely test and develop new plant software against real-time plant data, with full safety. Our PLC Data Simulator -- https://hardconsulting.com/products/18-plc-datasim provides massive scalabilty, multiple simultaneous PLC protocols, historical data recording and playback, and full IP network failure simulation.
SMC Electric Actuator Control from Linux
The widely used line of SMC Electric Actuators has been difficult to integrate with Python automation software. We have developed a flexible alternative to SMC's EtherNet/IP, FieldBus and DeviceNet Gateways. Easily control one (or up to a hundred!) SMC Electric Linear or Rotary Actuators directly, using their Native Modbus/RTU protocol over RS-485 serial, using our cpppo_positioner -- https://hardconsulting.com/products/12-smc-actuator
Improving the security, performance and flexibility of your plant control system can have a direct impact on your profitability. If you could maintain your existing investment in Rockwell (Allen-Bradley) and Schneider (Modbus) compatible PLCs and operator interfaces, and add secure mobile (iPad/iPhone) and remote (web based) operator interfaces for monitoring and control, how much more powerful and valuable could your control system become?
We have decades of experience in secure PLC communications, and have developed powerful PLC communications and real-time user interface software developed by our industry-leading team of developers.
We can deploy solutions for you in weeks rather than months and are capable of providing a full-stack solution, from PLC and sensor wiring all the way to your mobile device.
Robust Control Systems
Traditionally, control systems for industrial systems have depended on "backups"; a primary system is used, and when it fails, a backup systems is employed. In the more advanced embodiments of this strategy, the switchover is automatic and transparent -- the operator doesn't realize the failure has occurred, and is simply informed (if necessary) of the switch.
The most damaging types of failures affect all available systems. If a system is exploited by an adversary, for example, it is often the case that the same exploit can allow the adversary to own all the systems, including any backups. The ideal adversary will then exploit the system (without informing you, of course) to accomplish his nefarious goals; destruction of property (see: Stuxnet), industrial espionage, etc.
There have been spectacularly exciting breakthroughs recently that allow us to build systems that are robust against even these kinds of Byzantine failures; fully exploited system nodes where the attacker is capable of taking over the exploited nodes and using them to collude in accomplishing his goals. There have simply been no option available to you as an automation and control system owner which would allow you to acquire a system which can detect and reject such attacks -- until now. We have been tracking the research in this area for over 20 years, and are capable of applying these advanced techniques to your controls challenges.
Robust monitoring and control of remote facilities and mobile equipment is important to many organizations. In fact, the ability to monitor the performance of remote processes is becoming a determining factor in achieving safety and financial performance goals.
Now that IP (Internet Protocol) communications are readily available virtually everywhere, how can your organization apply Cellular, Fixed wireless, Satellite and Terrestrial wide-area networks to maximize your competitive advantage? You can be assured that your competitors are aggressively pursuing improved communications -- are there technologies available that might allow your organization to outperform the "industry standard", average company?
Error & Loss Encoding
Most field communications are based on technology developed for point-to-point voice telecommunications. Beginning with existing audio modems and "serial" communications links, most organizations simply ported their old communications strategies onto the Internet IP network. This has led to solutions that use only the most basic capabilities of the IP network -- and actually add additional risks, which are often only encountered at the worst possible moment: in communications "upset" conditions such as an Internet disruption or cyber-attack, or during an actual equipment malfunction when unusually large amounts of field data are generated.
Instead of improved communications, what is experienced is:
- Intermittent (or complete loss of) control or monitoring.
- Delayed control signals, causing operator actions to occur many seconds -- or even minutes -- late.
- Manual operator intervention to initiate "backup" communications, often failing to recover communications.
Using techniques originally developed for deep-space probes, and loss and error encoding algorithms only now being deployed beyond military and advanced R&D facilities, your organization can obtain the following benefits:
- Use every available communications channel simultaneously to achieve massive thruput and reduced latency.
- Retain strict control ordering and timeliness guarantees (just like the old serial communications channels), even over modern best-effort and non-guaranteed IP networks.
- Automate communications fail-over completely, by using algorithms that are mathematically guaranteed to only reduce communications risk when applied -- unlike most industry standard communications fail-over strategies.
- Allow your operational staff to focus on the state of your remote facilites during upset conditions, rather than losing concentration by tending to communication related issues.
Low Cost, Powerful Wireless LANs
Very recently, the price/performance ratio of radio IP network gear has improved dramatically. Field IP communications gear that cost $10,000 only a couple of years ago can now be replaced (and even exceeded) in capability by tough and reliable gear costing mere hundreds of dollars! Has your organization taken advantages of a 2 order-of-magnitude reduction in cost and increase in performance, in your field network strategy?
This is not a small change! Imagine if every remote facility was wired for secure, high-speed LAN communications. Even facilities spread over many kilometers -- across rivers, over forests and mines -- can be quickly and reliably covered with a robust blanket of high-speed, securely encrypted communications. Your operations staff can easily access remote equipment -- possibly allowing you to re-deploy your current, existing staff to new tackle new projects.
By empowering your operations and maintenance personnel with secure and reliable access to the monitoring and control capabilities they need, whenever and wherever they they need it, your organization can gain multiple competitive advantages:
- Greater flexibility and convenience, both for the operator and for your company.
- Higher workplace satisfaction, and improved work/life balance.
- Ability to bring senior operators on-line immediately in crisis situations, potentially averting huge financial losses, or even saving lives.
- Reduced cost and complexity, by eliminating many of the failure prone PCs from your control facilities.
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My formal education is a B.Sc. Computer Science, 1989, from the University of Calgary.
I have been programming professionally for 30 years; over 20 years specifically in real-time industrial control and communications.
Hewlett-Packard; Globally deployed SCADA infrastructure.
Designed, developed and improved significant components of the RTAP SCADA platform. This product is used globally in the monitoring and control of traffic systems, oil pipelines, offshore drilling platforms, etc. Applied DFA (Deterministic Finite Automata) state machines to real-time control of large, distributed systems.
Enbridge Pipelines; Continent-wide secure communications infrastructure.
Designed and implemented the communications system used to monitor and control the over 20,000 km of pipeline, including hundreds of remote pump stations and storage facilities. Architected an entirely novel, cryptographically secure multi-route IP communications framework, using Reed-Solomon FEC (Forward Error Correction) and Fountain Codes, to allow transparent redundancy and failure over multiple IP routes, while maintaining strict determinism over remote commands and telemetry.
Thermodynamic system modeling and simulation.
Implemented novel thermal storage and control systems, used in advanced residential heating systems. Using low cost sensor networks, implemented real-time thermodynamic simulation of the target system, providing access to many "simulated" sensors, where only a few input sensors were affordable/possible.
Traditional Industrial Control.
Implemented plant-floor control and monitoring using traditional PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) I/O. Hundreds of high-voltage I/O, implemented for the client with no external royalties payable. This is very significant for clients wishing to implement systems they can resell; most system integrators depend on off-the-shelf SCADA systems, exposing their clients to high per-system royalties, payable on every unit they sell. This is unacceptable for high-volume industrial products.
Advanced Industrial HMIs.
Implement high-performance real-time operator interfaces using modern web browser technology. Once again, the capability to even implement this scale of performance has only existed for less than 2 years; there are no traditional industrial control vendors producing products that are capable of employing this technology for industrial HMI purposes.
We are located in Spruce Grove, Alberta (near Edmonton) but the internet is everywhere! This means we are not limited by geographical location. If you are on the other side of the world and you have an industrial communications or control problem that needs to be solved, we can help you find the path to your solution!
Our contact information is:
Hard Consulting Corporation
74 Greystone Crescent
Spruce Grove, Alberta T7X 0A7
Phone: +1 (780) 970-8148
We recently completed a motor automation project for a paper pulp plant. Multiple NEMA-4X 19" touch panel control stations were installed, displaying and controlling the status of 65 motors. This is an example of a very light-weight user interface solving their (quite simple) motor control needs. This user interface runs on the embedded workstation selected, and is also usable on mobile devices.
These controls are very, very simple -- by design. Do not be deceived. This technology is fully capable of rendering on the order of 1,000 visual operations per second, with full SVG rendering, allowing extremely detail-rich (and interactive) visualizations of very complex control scenarios. This particular demo is so simple and low bandwidth, that we don't even use Websockets (which can maintain a full binary-clean bidirectional high-bandwidth communications channel) between the browser and the controls software -- simple AJAX polling was adequate to yield the interaction required. The operators wear gloves, and use these touch-based controls in a wet and pulpy industrial setting.
On an iPad or a Google Chrome web browser (or even your iPhone, although the controls will be tiny), visit:
Resize your Chrome browser window "vertically" (taller than it is wide; shape it like a monitor oriented sideways), for the best representation of how the controls appear to the actual plant operator. (You can also go to http://pulp.hardconsulting.com/ to select either the "Chest" or "Holey" area of control.) An SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic) image of the plant will appear, and then controls for the plants motors will be overlaid on it.
Touch (or click) on a motor control symbol to activate the pop-up controls to Start, Stop or Reset a motor. Note that the PLC simulator (or other visitors controlling the demo) may alter the state of random motors at any time!
This is a live demo, controlling a running real-time simulation of the plant's motors! It is actually interacting with a simulated Modbus PLC, which is being polled and updated precisely like the actual plant PLC. If you open multiple controls windows, you will note that motors started and stopped on one display will be updated on the other display(s).
The SVG plant graphics are taken directly from the design drawings of the plant, and maintain 100% of their original detail -- they are "resolution independent", and will utilize 100% of the precision of the display regardless of what size and/or resolution it is capable of. The pop-up controls are also implemented dynamically in the browser using SVG.
Our Operator User Interfaces uses the latest standard HTML5 browser technologies not available in older/non-compliant browsers. Do not use Microsoft Internet Explorer; the UI will not work, as these browsers do no implement these standards correctly. Apple Safari (iPad/iPhone), Firefox or Google Chrome implement these standards correctly, and these browsers can be used to implement industrial controls.