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19-05-2020
6 min. read
Sjors de Kleijn

Frequently Asked Questions from our PLC Data logging Webinars

All questions and answers from our webinar-series ‘Deep dive into PLC Data logging and dashboards’

Our webinars on ‘Deep dive into PLC Data logging and dashboards’ caught a lot of interest. In this article, we’ve grouped all questions from this webinar series by category. Please contact us if you have any questions left unanswered.

Jump to answers:
PLC data logging | Dashboards | Data storage | Connectivity | Pricing & subscription | Other

If you were unable to join the webinar, please sign up for our on-demand webinars and watch the recorded videos (they’re also available in German, Dutch, French, Italian and Polish).

 

PLC Data Logging

What protocol is used to send data to IXON Cloud?

For live monitoring, the IXrouter makes use of modern IoT protocols such as MQTT and WebSocket. MQTT is a secure and lightweight protocol to transfer data to IXON Cloud. WebSocket is a full-duplex communication protocol for real-time data transfers.

Does the IXrouter support bidirectional communication to the PLC? Is it possible to send commands or algorithm results?

Yes, once you've established a VPN connection, communication with the external PLC is bidirectional. This means that you can send or receive PLC commands as you would normally do if they were connected directly to your laptop.

However, Cloud Data Logging can only be used to collect data from components. You can't use it to send data to PLCs. However, you can use the HTTP server in IXON Cloud to write data to Siemens PLCs.

Which industrial protocols does the IXrouter support and is each LAN-port capable of doing so?

The industrial protocols below are supported on each of the 4 LAN ports. You can even add a switch to support more devices.

The IXrouter supports many industrial protocols, such as Modbus, OPC-UA, Profinet, Siemens S7, Ethernet/IP, BACnet and Mitsubishi MELSEC. CIP Rockwell is currently (Q1/2020) not supported. 

An overview of all supported protocols can be found here

Is Profinet supported for Siemens S7 300/400/1200/1500 PLCs?

Yes, it is. The Profinet protocol is supported for Siemens S7 models. On our blog we'll explain how you can collect data from Siemens PLCs.

Does IXON also support data logging for Siemens LOGO! PLCs?

Yes, you can use Modbus TCP to collect data from Siemens LOGO! PLCs.

Is it possible to display data traffic and set data limits?

With regard to VPN, it is possible to view the data consumption in the VPN section of your device on the IXON platform. It’s not possible to set limits.

With regard to data logging, the number of data points that are logged depends on the way you log your data and in what interval. So you have complete control over the amount of data being collected.

Do I need to write code in the PLC for Data Logging?

No, setup and configuration are handled on the IXON Cloud platform (all web-based). No need for coding or programming the PLC. Just select the data source, communication protocol, data tags and triggers. This was also demonstrated in the demo during the webinar.

Is it possible to log PLC data to a USB stick, so you can keep a log of the history?

No, it isn’t. A USB stick is only used for configuration purposes.

Is it possible to log data from other industrial devices?

Yes, besides from PLCs, it's also possible to collect data from HMIs, IPCs, sensors, frequency inverters, industrial drives and much more. The only condition is that the device supports one of the mentioned industrial protocols and that you can connect to it.

 

Dashboards and data importing 

Can I visualize several values in the same chart?

Yes, it is possible to visualize several variables of a single PLC in the same dashboard.

Is it possible to view data tags live, without having to log/store them?

You need to separate 'live' and 'data reports' from the storage. The live dashboard only displays (as the name suggests) live data. If you close the window and open it again, the data that was displayed in the previous window will no longer be displayed. How long you want to store data is not determined by which dashboards you use, but by what you set when creating a tag. So the data is sent to the cloud based on the information in the ‘tag’ and stored for the duration you entered in the tag. You can then use that data to view its history (up to seven years) in data reports. Viewing data tags live, p.e. for configuration purposes, is currently not supported.

Is it possible to perform mathematical operations (e.g. sum) with multiple variables?

At the moment, Data Logging is currently not able to perform mathematical operations between variables, only on a single variable like a factor or average. Mathematical operations are usually carried out by the PLC, after which the IXrouter or IXagent reads that value.

Can you make two dashboards, one for users with limited variables and one for operators with all variables?

Yes, it is possible to create unlimited dashboards for different purposes and users.

How can I share a dashboard?

It’s very easy, just invite people to your devices in IXON Cloud by using their email address. These new users will get an invitation to the platform in their inbox and have access to the device and corresponding dashboards right away.

Can I share specific dashboards to specific users, such as an operator?

You can grant your customers access to their machine. Just invite them to the device.

We are currently expanding our permission system to enable more complex scenarios, so you can add specific user roles to specific dashboards.

If more than 50 values per hour pass by, will the first 50 values of that hour or the last 50 values be logged?

This depends on your settings. If you log a value every hour, you can choose to log the minimum, maximum or the average value.

How many blocks (widgets) can we add per dashboard?

There is no limit, we’ve seen dashboards with over 50 widgets. But we’d recommend not to put more widgets on a dashboard than fit on your screen. Otherwise it’s difficult to keep a good overview. Dashboards are usually created by topic or specific roles in the company. The number of dashboards is unlimited.

Can you mix historical with live data in a dashboard?

No, this is currently not supported.

How many users can access the dashboards of a machine at the same time? e.g. maintenance manager and production manager entering at the same time.

The number of users that can access machines or dashboards is unlimited (no additional cost).

Is it possible to insert custom code as algorithms linked to PLC variables tags and show any results in the dashboard?

At the moment it isn’t, this feature is added to our roadmap. Calculations are usually carried out by the PLC. The IXrouter or IXagent reads that value.

Can I create my own widgets? Or can images in widgets be replaced by your own? e.g. by SVG's or PNG's? 

Currently, we only support built-in widgets which are not customisable. This feature is on our roadmap.

When importing data tags from a CSV file: Do I need to adjust each tag afterwards or can I set it before (when to scan, how long)?

It's already in the CSV file. You can just import and click on save (or adjust after importing if incorrect).

Is there a template for how CSV’s should be structured?

Yes, we have documentation for both data tags and triggers. In the documentation you’ll find an example template to download.

Can I send automated emails with reports?

This is currently not supported. It’s on the roadmap though.

Can I receive a list of all PLC brands that work with IXON?

PLC remote access (VPN) works with any brand PLC. For data logging we support many communication protocols. If your PLC supports any of these protocols, it’s compatible with data logging, dashboards and alarms.

Can I send alarm messages via SMS?

In the IXON platform, an alarm is sent by email or push notification. But by using webhooks or the API, you can integrate external platforms such as Zapier or Pagerduty for sending SMS alerts.

Do dashboards scale well from monitor to tablet to mobile phone?

Yes, they do. Our complete platform is using responsive designs that will automatically fit your screen size. For smartphones and tablets we also have mobile apps.

 

Data storage and export

If I want to cancel my Cloud Logging subscription, what will happen to my data?

Before the end of the cloud logging subscription, you have the ability to export your data. After your subscription has ended, all machine data is deleted. Tax regulations require us to archive certain information about your business.

Where is the data stored and how safe is it?

The data is stored in a time series database cluster, which is hosted in a data center in Frankfurt, Germany. Data protection is IXON’s number one priority and the cornerstone of our everyday operations. All our safety measures are documented in our Security Whitepaper.

How does data storage work? Does the system have an SQL query tool in the portal or visualization of actual values?

All data is collected from PLCs, sensors and robots and sent via the IXrouter or IXagent to the IXON database cluster, where it is securely stored. In the IXON portal you can visualise the data in customisable dashboards (historical or live presentations). Data can also be exported via CSV files or API to external tools and platforms like Tableau or Power BI. It’s not possible to run database queries in our portal.

Where are the logged values stored? In the local IXON router, on IXON servers (in the "cloud") or elsewhere? 

All data is collected and prepared on the IXrouter and sent to the IXON Cloud platform. Once it's successfully transmitted, data is removed from the IXrouter. The data is stored in our database cluster in Frankfurt (Germany).

How and where is the data backed up, automatically "in the cloud", manually on an external (USB?) device, on a customer server or else?

For cloud Logging data, data is backed up on an hourly basis on two separate systems in the cloud. For all other data (users data, company data, audit logs, etc.) data is backed up every four hours and stored on two separate cloud systems.

Can you export the database?

You can export your data in two ways:

  1. Through a manual export generating a CSV file
  2. Through an automatic export using the API, generating a file that conforms to your needs.

For how long are recorded data and dashboards saved and available? Does it still work after a retention period of 5 - 10 years?

While configuring the data tags, you get to choose how many years data should be stored in the IXON platform. During that period you can rely on us that your data is secured and available in your dashboards or via the API.

Will it be necessary to migrate data to future versions? Who will migrate, you or us?

Every update of the server park or the databases is our responsibility. If IXON launches a new version of the platform and a data migration is required, we make sure that this is automated and easy for everyone to do.

Is it possible to access the IXrouter data, without using the platform?

Yes, you can use the IXON API.

Does the API allow you to write to the PLC?

Via the IXON API a VPN connection can be set up to the PLC. Once the connection is established, you have full remote access to the PLC network. Now you can write information to the PLC as you normally would, if it were directly connected to your laptop (e.g. uploading new software releases).

Historical data can be used to create artificial intelligence models, e.g. for predicting failure or final quality, if you have enough data. What is the maximum size of a CSV file that can be downloaded?

For larger amounts of data we suggest to use the IXON API to export the data.

Is there a limit to exporting data via the API?

No, there isn’t.

 

Connectivity

How many devices can be connected to a single IXrouter?

The IXrouter has 4 Ethernet ports, but you can use a switch to expand the number of connections to 255. The IXON Cloud account has no restrictions regarding the number of devices.

Does the IXrouter allow me to retrieve information from the PLC, or can it also be used for remote programming?

Both are possible.

What happens if the IXrouter's Internet connection fails? How is data stored? Is there a backup?

If the IXrouter's Internet connection fails, the data will be cached locally in the IXrouter's storage. This memory acts as a buffer and is able to store data for weeks. As soon as the internet connection is restored, the data is sent to the cloud and the cache is emptied.

 

Pricing and subscription model

Does cloud logging a one-off cost or does it use a subscription model?

With Cloud Logging, you take out a subscription per month or year. 

Are subscriptions linked to a machine or a park/plant?

In our pricing model subscriptions are linked to a machine.

Is the cost of the cloud modular depending on the number of devices and number of variables?

The cost of Cloud Logging depends only on the number of data tags read every hour by the IXrouter, it does not depend on the number of connected devices. We have different data packages for small and large usage. Please contact us for pricing information.

What does data point mean? A variable, no matter if Bool or Int?

We make a distinction in our licenses based on the number of data points/hour, but what exactly is "data points/hour"? Here's a simple example: if you log 1 variable every minute, you use a total of 1 x 60 = 60 data points/hour. If you're not sure how much data you need in your situation, it's best to activate and try the 30-day trial of data logging.

Do you need a license for testing data logging?

You can activate a trial period of 30 days to test the data logging. After the trial period, you will need to purchase a license to use it.

Is the Cloud included in the subscription?

Usage of the IXON Cloud platform for remote VPN connections, user management, HTTP Server and VNC Server is included in the price of the router. Cloud Logging is not included in the standard price and can be activated later on per device. Please have a look at our transparent pricing model.

How much does the IXrouter cost?

The IXrouter comes in 4 different models that support different kinds of internet connectivity (Ethernet, Wi-Fi and/or 4G/LTE). For pricing information, contact us and we will be happy to get you a quotation.

 

Other questions

Do you have a ship/boat certification?

On our website you can find all certifications for the IXrouter. 

We also have an extensive ISO 27001 certified Information Security Management System in place. The associated best practices guarantee that we always give information security the focus it deserves.

With Schneider and Vijeo, is it possible to give access via the platform to the HMI Magelis (equivalent to VNC)?

You can use the HTTP server from Schneider. This works only with a specific plugin called ActiveX in Internet Explorer.

Are IXON Cloud and dashboards also available in German?

Yes, our platform is available in multiple languages, among which English, German, Dutch, French, Polish, Italian, Turkish, Japanese, and Spanish. Dashboards are created by you, so you get to decide which names, labels and language you use.

Do you have a manual to set up a VNC server?

Yes, configuration steps can be found in this article.

 

Do you have other questions?

Try these articles to find you answer:

We are happy to help if you have other questions about our products. Please contact us or ask other IXON users in the IXON Community!

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