In the January 2012 issue of Automation World, the “Innovation As You See It” article showcased reader and industry supplier input on the subject of automation technology innovation. After that article went to press, we were able to catch up with Honeywell Process Solutions Chief Technology Officer Jason Urso to get his input on the topic.
Urso concurred with many of the innovation topics addressed in the article, such as the increasing application of wireless mobility for operators. He also agreed with Siemens’ Helmuth Ludwig in recognizing that virtualization technology will transform production operations in much the same was as the technology has already done for the IT industry.
Beyond these key areas of agreement, Urso noted three other areas in particular where he expects significant innovative advancements to be made in the near term.
Universal I/O for safety and distributed control systems (DCS). The combination of virtualization and universal I/O gives automation project teams “significant flexibility to manage change during the course of a project,” says Urso. Because universal I/O can accept any signal type (analog, digital, input, or output), late arriving changes in the instrumentation package, as is commonplace in automation projects, can easily be accommodated through software configuration versus having to change out the hardware. “With universal I/O for both safety and process, project teams need only worry about I/O count and not I/O mix,” Urso adds.
Urso said he also expects a number of innovations to be forthcoming on the industrial cyber security front as the issue continues to become more prominent. “Security technology deployed with wireless standards like ISA 100 will be ported back to wired networks to assure individual authentication and encrypted communication,” he says. This combination of wired and wireless networks and standards will “make it more difficult for a cyber attack to be carried out.”
Finally, Urso noted that he sees the walls between process control systems and advanced applications being broken down in the near future.
“MES (manufacturing execution systems) and advanced control applications will increasingly become integrated parts of the process control system, allowing for operations staff to place greater emphasis on improving the business versus controlling the process,” Urso says.
For this level of integration to occur successfully, Urso says that further advances in cyber security technology are required to assure the benefits of segregation can be preserved while exploiting the opportunity for greater integration across systems and applications.”