It used to be that developments in industry found their ways into our homes. Today, the reverse is true more often than not. The technologies we touch in our homes impact industrial product developments. In today’s guest post, Emerson’s Anand Iyer, a control systems project manager, shares perspectives on this change.
Time was when you had a high tech computer at office (a PC-XT in 1990) which was exorbitantly priced (20X monthly salary). Parts could be so expensive that you could have a person working in your company, specializing on that one piece of hardware.
And likewise, sensors, logic components, logic were developed for industry- space research or for some military application and then one waited for things to become ridiculously cheap so as to bring them to the personal space.
As we look around today, we find the following:
Though some pioneering effort in all this may have happened in a handful of instances, the overall trend has definitely reversed and now we are waiting for personal space technologies to be industrialized. The rapid development of IT seems to have brought about this change. An interesting question is will this trend reverse again or is it to be a permanent feature of the future?
- Your home laptop is probably becoming a junk device as you move to iPhones, Android phones and tablets. But operators still use the 22″ monitor and desktop machines. They may move to large screens with inbuilt CPU’s but a move to a tablet like operator interface that you can move around with and operate the plant while in your cafeteria is still not in popular sight.
- While we can play with our Xbox Kinect and make use of such advanced motion sensing technology while we play games, both voice commands and motion sensing devices on monitors or such applications in industry are still to be thought of. Maybe when Kinect is released for windows, such a development could be more easily (economically) feasible.
- Our home TV’s are becoming 3D, while plant visualization still remains 2D.
- A future environment would be where u can see a reactor in 3D and the room temperature mirrors (scaled down version) the temperature profile of the main reactor, or a leak sensor somewhere releases some odour from the A/c informing personnel that there is a leak…
- In short, the control system makes use of all of the operators’ senses to alert him/her of dangers… Again, here gaming technologies may release 4D-5D-6D versions in personal space followed by such technologies moving to industrial space.
- Use of communicators (AOL, Yahoo, Gtalk, Msn Messenger—1990’s) and later to Office (Office Communicator 2000-2010) and maybe later to industry (secure control system communicator to pass authorization between Supervisors and operators or instructions between operators etc)…
Control systems seems to be a victim of this trend reversal as we spend time in adapting older simpler technologies and algorithms to different IT platforms. A lot of things imagined between colleagues in early 90’s like being able to create multitude of controllers for different plant scenarios, extrapolate data from 123 spreadsheets to control systems and so on, seem to be caught in the engineering-costs- approvals trap. But the future looks interesting and a few examples where the reverse movement of technologies could bring in great new things, seem to be:
- Stock Markets would likely advance the algorithms of trend analysis and at a later date parts of such algorithms may get used in Predictive analysis from trend analysis and extrapolation with some time based feedback in a very economical way.
- A switch from SLMC devices where you had AI, PID, and AO to a complex set of PID’s controlling many AO’s or different parameters controlling the same AO is still to become popular. Personal space data collection and analysis technologies could probably be adapted to industrial use.
- As gaming and personal space technologies start using sensors in huge scale, Sensors could lose size and cost. At some time the pressure transmitter diaphragm would look somewhat like an old-fashioned bulb replaced with sensor clusters (like LED clusters) in contact with the process fluid at least in the ambient temperature range, followed by high pressure- high temperature applications.
- Further, the sensors would become wireless and charging in a wireless environment (like the magnetic field charging of mobile phones) in personal space. This could be from body heat or magnetic fields or other methods yet to be thought of. And later we could have tadpole like sensors inside a cage/special arrangement inside the pipeline, in direct contact with the process fluid, transmitting process values to the transmitter mounted on the pipe and communicating wirelessly. Also, this could mean drawing power wirelessly from the transmitter. This could do away with complex sealing requirements and make sensors very cost effective.
Assuming that the next trend reversal is some time away (or never), successful companies would probably focus more on adapting personal space technologies to industrial use.