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Exploring the Megatrends in Automation and Control

The megatrends in automation and control are long-term changes and shifts that will end up shaping the direction of industrial technology, processes and products.

Sessions at the recent ODVA Technical Conference provided insight into the megatrends that are shaping development of new solutions for automation and control applications. Source: Design News

The megatrends in automation and control are long-term changes and shifts that will end up shaping the direction of industrial technology, processes and products. Certainly, the concept of the Industrial Internet is the defining megatrend of our time, but there are other industrial control technologies being developed that will also have a lasting effect on specific areas within manufacturing companies.

At the recent ODVA conference in Florida, I had the opportunity to spend two days immersed in a series of topics and agenda that provided a snapshot of the broad trends.  Here are some of the highlights:

IIoT the Future of Industrial Automation

Edy Liongosari, Chief Research Scientist and Managing Director for Accenture Labs, delivered the keynote on “Building a Technology Strategy for the Industrial IOT World.” A key takeaway from his presentation is a survey of industry executives that found that, although more than 80% believe that IIoT can transform their business model, only 7% have a strategy in place to do so.

The IIoT has been around for more than a decade but his conclusion is that the continuing adoption of the Industrial Internet will be driven by incremental benefits in near-term and transformational, new business models over a longer term. He said this will be a multi-faceted and multi-step process that extends, not only from new equipment and facilities, but also fundamental changes to business processes, the materials supply chain and workforce.

He expects the evolution of system architectures to continue to emphasize integrated, loosely coupled platforms along with analytics at the edge that emphasizes device connectivity solutions and integrated security.

A PDF of his presentation is available on the ODVA website.

Time-Sensitive Networking

Several technical sessions explored different facets of Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) and its impact on industrial control moving ahead.

Deterministic Ethernet is already widely used in industrial control systems but now the new IEEE 802.1 TSN standards are aimed at the same class of problems encountered in industrial control and provide a mechanism to replace proprietary solutions with a standards-based approach. Specific use cases examined how emerging TSN standards can be applied to EtherNet/IP networks to provide improved determinism and performance. The technology is promising but significant challenges include the integration of PTP profiles and the convergence of EtherNet/IP traffic with scheduled TSN networks.

Time Sensitive Networking standards are also being considered for adoption by ODVA into EtherNet/IP. The ODVA Distributed Motion and Time Synchronization working group has identified those TSN-standards that would need to be integrated into ODVA specifications, and technology areas that require further development in order to facilitate the convergence of ODVA technologies with TSN in the future.

These areas include:

  • Continued development and promotion of Gigabit Ethernet
  • Inclusion of IEEE 802.1Qbu & 802.3br for frame preemption
  • Integration of IEEE 802.1 Qcc and other stream reservation services
  • Definition, development, and promotion of time gateways to allow for bridging of various time domains and time profiles

Ethernet in Process Automation

A final area that stood out at the conference was ongoing work being done in conjunction with NAMUR on integration of EtherNet/IP with process automation applications. Sven Seintsch, the Manager of the Test Laboratory at Bilfiger Maintenance, laid out a detailed technical review of joint activities between ODVA and NAMUR, an international user association of automation technology in the process industries, to advance the adoption of industrial Ethernet in the process industries.

The goal of NAMUR’s investigation into Ethernet is to extend its application to traditional process field devices. Effective and easy-to-use Ethernet communication systems between the field level and the higher system levels, such as EtherNet/IP, has the potential to be a key factor in modern IoT and Industrie 4.0 solutions for the process industry.


Innovation in industrial automation and control has many different facets, and other topics including new Cloud connectivity technology, the DeviceNet of Things and new standards in the areas of safety and security would be worthy of further investigation.

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