PC-based control is making a quiet comeback, in part because of an eroding dividing line between PLCs, PCs and ‘soft’ control. At least, that’s the opinion of David Humphrey, an analyst for ARC Advisory Group (http://rbi.ims.ca/4927-535) who reports on automation trends. PC-based control today ranges from software such as a ‘soft’ PLC delivered on a CD-ROM that runs as a task on a Windows platform, to PLC-like controllers running small footprint or embedded versions of Windows. The lines are blurring between PLCs and PC-based control, and the focus is on software integration. Humphrey uses a “Programmable Automation Controller”(PAC) to describe solutions that provide users with an integrated view of control tasks from a single tag database. New products are offering a variety of solutions, but ultimately the premium is providing users a unified environment for control.
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