Who will set future industrial automation standards?

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  Who will set future industrial automation standards?

By Bill Lydon, Editor, Automation.com

Technology has made transition inevitable. The ability to enhance the efficiency of industrial and process automation through the application of real-time enterprise computing, cloud applications, and IoT devices has never been so clear. Industry and process automation vendors accepting these changes in technology and system architecture will be winners. But these suppliers should expect new challenges in the new environment. There are likely to be a number of new providers in this environment with unpaired new architectures, analogous to what was seen in the advent of the computer industry with PCs and open software. This makes investment decisions difficult for users of industrial and process automation systems. While transitions can be costly, a long delay can make you unable to compete with other manufacturers in your industry. But why do you have to face this future on your own? Such a future seems logically to require cooperation between automation organizations and suppliers with enterprise computing and the new IoT industry.

The Wild Card for Automation – the Computer and IoT Industry

While such investments may be gambling, the cards are in the automation industry. A flood of new technologies and open source application tools lowers costs and improves usability, and accelerates the introduction of IoT in industrial automation. This enables a burgeoning enterprise computing community to more effectively execute middleware software capabilities for industry and process automation. Cloud computing of names like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, etc. provide platforms that are more efficient to achieve historians, analytics, and advanced optimization. In addition, existing IoT devices for a variety of non-industrial applications often meet the same environmental and performance requirements needed in industrial and process automation.

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Why are traditional providers resistant to change?

Not so long ago, major industrial automation vendors have opposed the use of Windows in the factory floor. But then, users have started to decline supplier offerings and bought Windows-based industrial software from startup companies like Wonderware. Same story with ethernet for controller communication. That was fought in the industry and has still prevailed. Even today, industry resistance is manifesting itself in many amazing ways. We've already seen vendors of industrial automation who have threatened to terminate users' system guarantees when these users are using virtualization … until customers have proven that it works. These were just incremental enhancements to existing architectures. Today, there are fundamental system-level changes driven by technology.

Is the established industrial automation supplier a negative reaction to change, analogous to the resistance of mainframe and minicomputer companies that led to the PC revolution with new, more responsive new suppliers?

In the book "Innovation: The Advantage of the Attacker" by Richard N. Foster on the history of industrial change, two types of companies are discussed: Attackers try money by changing the order of things and Defenders protect their existing cash flows extracted by customers. In today's automation industry, these Defenders are some of the established providers of industrial automation that are not buying open systems in the technology industry that have led to big advances.

The last fundamental technological changes in industrial automation were PLC, DCS and open industrial networks.

A clear way forward?

It seems that the way for the industry is clear. Open source multivendor interoperability – including seamless peer-to-peer integration between multivendor controllers in a single application platform – accelerates the industrial automation industry. If the vendors of industrial automation do not work together to achieve this, the computer and IoT community will. Simple and easy.

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Automation Controllers & Word Processors – Embrace Technological Change or Die

The influx of new technologies has revolutionized industrial automation. The Industry 4.0 vision of "flexible contract manufacturing" is just one example of what can be achieved with these technologies. The competition is already building up. Producers in developed countries are increasingly facing competitors from other parts of the world who welcome Industry 4.0 and other new architectures and reap the rewards.

Low labor costs are no longer the decisive competitive factor, but rather new automation devices and architectures.

But here is the chance for the traditional providers. These rapid advances have created not only value, but also a "Wild West" that could observe an increase in industrial supplier struggles to displace traditional providers of automation and control. When industrial and process automation companies come together, they can set the standards that enable mutual growth and productivity for all. Whatever they will do, IoT solutions will continue to spread across edge devices for sensing, controlling and computing. These devices can increasingly be seen in highways, medical, smart cities and other applications that meet the requirements for a wide range of industrial applications. With the advent of enterprise computing and the increasing absorption of middleware industry software capabilities, external IoT standards could become de facto standards for industrial automation. With or without the input of traditional providers.

Does IT / OT convergence create new system models that produce better results?

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts: [email protected]

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