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.
The promise of the Internet of Things (IoT) is that devices, gadgets, and appliances we use every day will be able to communicate with one another. This potential is not limited to household items or smartphones, but also things we find in our yard and garden, as evidenced by a recent challenge from the element14 design community.
If you didn't realize that PowerPoint presentations are inherently hilarious, you have to see Don McMillan take one apart. McMillan -- aka the Technically Funny Comic -- worked for 10 years as an engineer before he switched to stand-up comedy.
The first Tacoma Narrows Bridge was a Washington State suspension bridge that opened in 1940 and spanned the Tacoma Narrows strait of Puget Sound between Tacoma and the Kitsap Peninsula. It opened to traffic on July 1, 1940, and dramatically collapsed into Puget Sound on November 7, just four months after it opened.
Noting that we now live in an era of “confusion and ill-conceived stuff,” Ammunition design studio founder Robert Brunner, speaking at Gigaom Roadmap, said that by adding connectivity to everything and its mother, we aren't necessarily doing ourselves any favors, with many ‘things’ just fine in their unconnected state.
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