5 Key Capabilities of Thingworx Edge Product Portfolio that Enable Successful IIoT Deployments

Written by: Shravan Sudhakaran

Read Time: 3 min

Edge is a core part of any IIoT deployment. Successful and scalable IIoT deployments must have capabilities that enable end-to-end lifecycle management of Edge agents and extensibility across various deployment scenarios to meet ever-changing business needs.

The ThingWorx Edge product portfolio supports flexible edge deployment scenarios, lifecycle management of edge agents, wide range of industrial protocols and so much more. The following are the top 5 critical capabilities present in the ThingWorx Edge portfolio to address your digital transformation needs.

1. Data Extraction

ThingWorx Kepware Server and ThingWorx Kepware Edge enable controls engineers to extract data from industrial systems such as PLCs, MES, and SCADA. ThingWorx Kepware Server (TKS) is available on Windows supports more than 150 protocols, where ThingWorx Kepware Edge (TKE) supports Modbus Ethernet, Allen-Bradley ControlLogix Ethernet, and Siemens TCP/IP Ethernet and runs on Linux operating systems. In addition, the OPC Unified Architecture (UA) Server Interface for ThingWorx Kepware Edge provides client applications (such as MES, SCADA, or Industrial IoT solutions) seamless and secure access to industrial automation data.

To extract data from mission-critical assets and systems that speak proprietary protocols and for on-device deployment scenarios, ThingWorx provides Edge SDKs and Edge MicroServer (EMS) to address those needs. ThingWorx Edge SDKs are available in languages such as C, .NET & Java, and Edge MicroServer (EMS) supports Lua Script Resource.

2. Edge Extensions

Edge Extension Framework present in ThingWorx Edge SDKs, enable users to deliver out-of-the-box integration to data sources and implement custom pluggable functionality. In addition, it reduces the time required to integrate an edge component with a data source by eliminating the requirement to write code.

Users can leverage Edge Extensions to perform advanced services such as modifying properties at runtime, composing a Thing dynamically at runtime, and executing a service on the ThingWorx platform. The Edge Extensions framework is an optional wrapper around the core SDK code base and does not change any underlying API.

3. Software Content Management

Software Content Management (SCM) capability enables maintenance engineers and managers to perform updates to the device firmware remotely, thus reducing associated maintenance costs. In addition, SCM allows users to push the firmware to the connected devices and execute updates on those devices.

SCM provides state definitions such as “created,” “wait for the download,” “start downloading,” “aborted,” etc. so that users can monitor the progress of updates across all connected devices remotely. In addition, the edge agent supports and prepares for reboot or shutdown so that the application manager can apply firmware, operating system, and application updates that require a device restart. Software Content Management is a critical component that needs to be implemented at the start. This capability is core to enable the frequent upgrades to the agent across its lifecycle.

4. Security

Security is a crucial component for an edge application. ThingWorx Edge agents communicate with the ThingWorx Platform using SSL/TLS protocol. ThingWorx Edge agents use OpenSSL, a robust, commercial-grade, and full-featured toolkit for the Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocols.

In addition, ThingWorx edge agents perform periodic certificate validity checks to maintain secure communication with the ThingWorx platform. Users can leverage the ThingWorx partner network to incorporate security solutions such as device authentication and authorization mechanisms to increase their security posture. Users can also leverage tools such as Software Content Management and Remote Access and Control to remotely address security issues across the agent life cycle.

5. Remote Access and Control

Remote Access and Control (RAC) capability enable maintenance engineers and managers to remotely connect to a device using SSH, VNC, Telnet, RDP, and control devices. The remote session with the edge device is be established directly from the ThingWorx platform or via ThingWorx Global Access Server (GAS).

ThingWorx Global Access Server enables users to perform remote sessions at scale by offloading the session to the GAS network located globally. As a result, users can establish multiple connections to the same asset situated in the field and perform remote sessions at lower transport overhead.

Bonus: File Transfer and Offline Message Store

File transfer enables users to send and receive content such as files, images, and videos bidirectionally with the ThingWorx platform. File transfers are queueable and controlled by either the edge agent or the ThingWorx platform.

Offline Message Store enables users to deploy edge agents in settings with unreliable network connectivity. Offline message storage queues up outgoing request messages for later delivery if the network is down. Users can configure the edge agents to store and forward the data upon reconnect or to schedule delivering the stored updates when required, for example during asset downtime.

In summary, there are many vital features present in the ThingWorx Edge product portfolio to enable users to build robust and flexible edge agents to meet their business goals successfully in a short period. Please refer to the table below that provides an overview of capabilities present in the ThingWorx Edge SDKs and Edge MicroServer.

*Please note that roadmap commitments are subject to change. For latest updates on the roadmap, please contact the ThingWorx Product Management team at iotpm@ptc.com

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Tags: Industrial Internet of Things Thingworx Smart Connected Operations Smart Connected Products Connected Devices Kepware Industrial Connectivity

About the Author

Shravan Sudhakaran

Shravan Sudhakaran is a product manager at PTC, where he leads the connected product portfolio of edge products and SaaS strategy for ThingWorx Edge. He started his career as an Industrial Engineer, where he led digital transformation initiatives and transitioned to Corporate Strategy & Development as a Strategy Analyst before moving into Product Management.

He holds a Master of Science in Engineering Management from Northeastern University in Massachusetts and a Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering from Anna University in Chennai, India.