TJ, I agree with you that these capabilities have been around for awhile, and actually go way back further than the introduction of PACs. Making it easy to collect information is one step, and also for users to gain confidence that the machine controller has both the processing power and flexibility to do multiple tasks without creating problems with machine control.
One of the biggest walls in embedded software development is the integration of low-level drivers with higher-level middleware and application code, but silicon vendors are stepping up to bring it down.
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