Not long ago I wrote a news item about a trend I have seen developing around increased use of software as a critical component of automation systems design and application strategy. The key aspects focused on in that article included the move to connect PLM data with MES and HMI systems as well as the incorporation of plant control operations in the testing and development of real-time embedded systems in automation devices. You can access the full article here.
Backing up my assertions of this growing trend at the crossroads of software and automation is a recent report from Cambashi (a market research, industry analysis and consulting firm based in Cambridge, UK and Boston, MA). In the report, Cambashi notes that technical software spending is rebounding in 2011, particularly in the aerospace and defense, process and utility industries. The software application areas Cambashi sees picking up the most speed across these industries are AEC (architecture, engineering & construction), geospatial (GIS) and manufacturing (CAD/CAM/CAE and PDM/PLM).
The regional outlier in this report is the Americas, where the leading industry purchaser for technical software is the automotive industry. Industries in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and APAC (Asia-Pacific) regions that are expected to spend the most on software are, in order of predicted spending: pharmaceutical, process and utilities. Aerospace and defense is the one industry that performed well across all geographies.
As a software engineer I am surprised by the lack of an emphasis on security in light of the Stuxnet worm. I would expect a lot more emphasis on testing any automation systems related to process controls and infrastructure.
I spend a lot of time testing software. Good software testing has come a long way recently with the advent of test frameworks and coverage tools. One item I place a lot of emphasis on is very thorough and detailed testing, 100% coverage and 100% success rates in automated testing. I have found many interesting issues in the last few percentages of thorough testing. Perhaps prime among these is that if it is hard to test it is not so good a design.
Increased automation offers an excellent cost savings and quality improvement opportunity. The benefits will be greatest when increased automation is thoroughly tested and made as secure as is warranted by the application.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
The IEEE Computer Society has named the top 10 trends for 2014. You can expect the convergence of cloud computing and mobile devices, advances in health care data and devices, as well as privacy issues in social media to make the headlines. And 3D printing came out of nowhere to make a big splash.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.