The Future of Automation is Boundless—and its Foundation is Software

by , | Nov 9, 2022 | Control & Safety Systems, Digital Transformation

Todd Walden

Todd Walden

Author and Blogger

As Emerson Exchange 2022 wrapped up, people were talking quite a bit about two new concepts they heard a lot about in their sessions: boundless automation and software-defined control. But as is the case with any announcement of a future vision, people were left with many questions.

Fortunately, Emerson’s Claudio Fayad has been happy to answer those questions across an expansive series of expert articles and in many presentations. In his latest piece, an article he wrote in Control Engineering, Claudio introduces some of the key technologies that will be foundational for the boundless automation future.

Claudio shared that many of the key future technologies exist at the IT/OT convergence.

“Gone are the days when almost every plant kept its operational technology separate from the internet. It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the performance benefits gained from connecting to the cloud.”

So how are users getting that data from the devices in the field to the analytics systems in the board room? And more importantly, how are they doing it securely? Through new technologies implemented at the edge.

Modern tools improve success

One of the key barriers to secure, reliable communication between OT and IT technologies has always been the complex infrastructure necessary to connect what are typically very different systems. But in today’s world of limited personnel, modern technologies are changing the paradigm. Claudio explains,

“Modern architectures and protocols such as Ethernet advanced physical layer and OPC UA are creating a bridge between OT and IT, enabling easier connectivity and more data flow. Smart sensors can use this advanced technology to collect data from a wide array of equipment and pass it directly to reliability and analytics software at the edge, simplifying engineering by completely bypassing the controllers.”

But none of that matters if it can’t be done securely. Cybersecure engineering is more important than ever, and, fortunately, there are solutions to that problem as well. The key is making sure outside forces never have contact with the control system. The OT architectures of the future will use secure, one-way communication through data diodes and zero-trust architecture to,

“connect to IT systems in the cloud or on premises, empowering teams across the enterprise with highly contextualized control system data, without the need for anyone to touch the DCS for information access.”

New strategies empower digital natives

Today’s personnel are digital natives, using their mobile devices for everything from ordering food to completing complex and secure financial transactions. The same technologies enabling the connected world today’s personnel live in will also bring the plant of the future to their mobile devices. Claudio shares,

“DCSs with HTML5 frameworks and application programming interfaces (API) will empower advanced users with the capability to create customized packages for specialized operations.”

And not only will this new technology increase the flexibility of the way operators and technicians interact with the control system, but it will also improve their mobility, untethering them from the control room and empowering them to monitor and operate their process at peak performance from anywhere they may find themselves.

The future is already here

The first steps towards Emerson’s boundless automation future are already visible in the new version 15 of the DeltaV™ distributed control system. Features such as IO.CONNECT, hyperconverged infrastructure, and updates to DeltaV Live all empower operators and engineers to maintain better visibility and drive improved performance across the enterprise.

If you want to learn more about Emerson’s vision for a boundless automation future, you can read the article in its entirety at Control Engineering.

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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.