Three Core Technologies Re-Architecting Automation

by , | Oct 21, 2021 | Digital Transformation, Technologies


The FieldComm Group held a 3 hour, 45 minute workshop, Harnessing Advanced Automation Technology for Digital Transformation Today. Emerson’s Chief Technology Officer for Automation Solutions Peter Zornio presented on 3 core technologies enabling a re-architecting of the traditional automation architecture.

Peter opened showing the traditional automation architecture with site, field control and levels 3 and 4 applications above the field devices, control and safety systems. One of the big changes coming is in the advanced physical layer (APL) which unleashes more data from the operations and enables a new field architecture. APL brings Ethernet to all the physical devices and unifies these devices much more closely with the control and safety systems to share richer amounts of data.

The second core technology are cloud-based environments. Where these environments have typically been used for IT applications and solutions, such as ERP, CRM, CMMS, PLM and Data Management, they are now expanding to include operational technology (OT) data coming from reliability, quality, health, safety & environmental (HSE), and production applications.

Beyond the cloud applications that manufacturers and producers have, the growing trend is to connect clouds from suppliers like Emerson that can provide software-as-a-service (SaaS) and connected services from experts located remotely to support their needs.

Enterprise Operational Technology (OT)The third core set of technologies are the “Enterprise OT System” with entirely new architectures and pathways being formed driven by digital transformation initiatives. This architecture includes process, environment, equipment, people and assets connected in wirelessly. Gateways provide this wealth of data through gateways to edge-based applications located on site. These gateways typically feed supplier clouds for analysis and expertise and can connect with OT data lakes which bring together data from siloed application across operations. Edge applications also connect with the date lake.

The OT data lake feeds operational analytics, mobile, workflow & visualization applications, and reporting dashboards. The OT data lake also feeds and receives data from the enterprise IT applications.

Ethernet-APL, the physical layer separate from the communications protocol layer, provides two-wire Ethernet and power with communication speeds at 10mbps up to 1km distance for trunk distribution and 200m for spur device connections. Trunk distribution can provide 15-90 watts of power and support up to 50+ field devices. Spur connections to devices are capable of being intrinsically safe with power delivery up to 540mW or 8 times the power versus traditional 4-20mA wiring.

The APL standards are defined in IEEE/IEC standards bodies with a wide consortium of automation suppliers including Emerson, ABB, Endress+Hauser, Krohne, Pepperl+Fuchs, Phoenix Contact, Rockwell Automation, Siemens, Stahl, Vega and Yokogawa supporting the Ethernet-APL Working Group.

The greater the complexity and amount of information a field device can provide the more likely it will be to adopt Ethernet-APL. Examples include gas chromatographs and other analytical devices, Coriolis flow, digital valve controllers, radar level, multivariable and other devices. At the other end discrete input and output devices may never adopt Ethernet APL due to higher costs. They would more likely be aggregated into a common APL aggregator.

Watch the video for more as Peter discusses the cloud applications and aspects of the Enterprise OT system. Follow the progress on Ethernet-APL on the FieldComm site.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.

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