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Unified Namespace

Seamlessly connect and communicate across shopfloor equipment, IT/OT systems, and microservices.

The Unified Namespace is a centralized, standardized, event-driven data architecture that enables for seamless integration and communication across various devices and systems in an industrial environment. It operates on the principle that all data, regardless of whether there is an immediate consumer, should be published and made available for consumption. This means that any node in the network can work as either a producer or a consumer, depending on the needs of the system at any given time.

This architecture is the foundation of the United Manufacturing Hub, and you can read more about it in the Learning Hub article.

When should I use it?

In our opinion, the Unified Namespace provides the best tradeoff for connecting systems in manufacturing / shopfloor scenarios. It effectively eliminates the complexity of spaghetti diagrams and enables real-time data processing.

While data can be shared through databases, REST APIs, or message brokers, we believe that a message broker approach is most suitable for most manufacturing applications. Consequently, every piece of information within the United Manufacturing Hub is transmitted via a message broker.

Both MQTT and Kafka are used in the United Manufacturing Hub. MQTT is designed for the safe message delivery between devices and simplifies gathering data on the shopfloor. However, it is not designed for reliable stream processing. Although Kafka does not provide a simple way to collect data, it is suitable for contextualizing and processing data. Therefore, we are combining both the strengths of MQTT and Kafka. You can get more information from this article.

What can I do with it?

The Unified Namespace in the United Manufacturing Hub provides you the following functionalities and applications:

  • Seamless Integration with MQTT: Facilitates straightforward connection with modern industrial equipment using the MQTT protocol.
  • Legacy Equipment Compatibility: Provides easy integration with older systems using tools like Node-RED or Benthos UMH, supporting various protocols like Siemens S7, OPC-UA, and Modbus.
  • Real-time Notifications: Enables instant alerting and data transmission through MQTT, crucial for time-sensitive operations.
  • Historical Data Access: Offers the ability to view and analyze past messages stored in Kafka logs, which is essential for troubleshooting and understanding historical trends.
  • Scalable Message Processing: Designed to handle a large amount of data from a lot of devices efficiently, ensuring reliable message delivery even over unstable network connections. By using IT standard tools, we can theoretically process data in the measure of GB/second instead of messages/second.
  • Data Transformation and Transfer: Utilizes the Data Bridge to adapt and transmit data between different formats and systems, maintaining data consistency and reliability.

Each feature opens up possibilities for enhanced data management, real-time monitoring, and system optimization in industrial settings.

You can view the Unified Namespace by using the Management Console like in the picture below, which will automatically aggregate data from all connected instances / brokers; it shows the topic structure and which data belongs to which namespace. The picture shows data under the topic umh/v1/pharma-genix/aachen/_historian/wheather/wheather, where

  • umh/v1 is a versioning prefix.
  • pharma-genix is a sample enterprise tag.
  • aachen is a sample site tag.
  • _historian is a schema tag. Data with this tag will be stored in the UMH’s database.
  • wheather/wheather is a sample schema dependent context.

You can find more detailed information about the topic structure here.

Data Dashboard
Data Dashboard

You can also use tools like MQTT Explorer (not included in the UMH) or Redpanda Console (enabled by defualt, accessible via port 8090) to view data from a single instance (but single instance only).

How can I use it?

To effectively use the Unified Namespace in the United Manufacturing Hub, start by configuring your IoT devices to communicate with the UMH’s MQTT broker, considering the necessary security protocols. While MQTT is recommended for gathering data on the shopfloor, you can send messages to Kafka as well.

Once the devices are set up, handle the incoming data messages using tools like Node-RED or Benthos UMH. This step involves adjusting payloads and topics as needed. It’s also important to understand and follow the ISA95 standard model for data organization, using JSON as the primary format.

Additionally, the Data Bridge microservice plays a crucial role in transferring and transforming data between MQTT and Kafka, ensuring that it adheres to the UMH data model. You can configure a merge point to consolidate messages from multiple MQTT topics into a single Kafka topic. For instance, if you set a merge point of 3, the Data Bridge will consolidate messages from more detailed topics like umh/v1/plant1/machineA/temperature into a broader topic like umh/v1/plant1. This process helps in organizing and managing data efficiently, ensuring that messages are grouped logically while retaining key information for each topic in the Kafka message key.

Recommendation: Send messages from IoT devices via MQTT and then work in Kafka only.

What are the limitations?

While JSON is the only supported payload format due to its accessibility, it’s important to note that it can be more resource-intensive compared to formats like Protobuf or Avro.

Where to get more information?