Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Three "A"s of MTConnect - the Adapter, Agent and Application

As the former President and Chairman of the Board of the MTConnect Institute, I have given this 10 minute presentation countless number of times to explain the Three "A"s of MTConnect - the Adapter, Agent and Application.

As a reminder, MTConnect is the open, royalty-free manufacturing communications protocol which fosters greater interoperability between manufacturing devices and software. The MTConnect standard provides connectivity and the capability to monitor and then harvest data from the entire production floor: machines, cells, devices, and processes. The standard makes this possible, because its based on XML and HTTP Internet technology for real-time data sharing. 

The adapter is the piece of software and/or hardware that sits between the device itself, such as a machine tool, sensor, compressor, any MTConnect enabled device, and the agent.  The adapter needs to speak the specific language that the device understands and then convert that to SHDR (Simple Hierarchical Data Representation - a simple time stamped human readable stream separated by "|" symbols as delimiters.  The information is sent continuously from the device to the adapter and then to the agent. Please note that the SHDR protocol is not officially part of the MTConnect spec, but in reality, almost all of the adapters use SHDR to speak to the reference agent. The reference agent is the agent that is out at http://github.com/MTConnect that almost all of the implementations out there today use as their agent.

The agent can be thought of as a simple web server that on one side talks to the adapter and the other side talks to applications.  The agent is what translates the SHDR and makes it available in MTConnect (XML) format via http (how you access any webpage on the web today such as ESPN.com). The agent responds to simple commands from the apps or applications such as probe, current, sample or asset as examples.  The agent has a circular buffer for storing the data that is coming from the adapter.  Typically this is about 10 minutes of data.

The app or applications can be anything that wants to get information from the agent on what the MTConnect enabled device is doing.  Typically, the app is a shop floor monitoring app such as MERLIN.  Apps query the agent and typically store that information into a database as well as make that info available in dashboards, reports, email alerts and countless other ways.

I think these 10 minutes should give you a very nice overview of how MTConnect works and a deeper dive on what happens under the covers for MTConnect with the Adapter, Agent and Application.

As I stated in the webcast, you can learn more at MemexInc.net/MTConnect

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