Year 2020 outlook from Maverick Technologies: Automation value is more connected, collaborative, secure

Maverick Technologies, among the three 2015 System Integrators of the Year, offers advice on automation, controls, and instrumentation looking 5 years ahead, in honor of CFE Media’s 5-year anniversary. The approach to automation, networking, new people, collaboration, and cyber security will change in 2020. Advice from a system integrator follows.


Advice on automation, controls, and instrumentation looking 5 years ahead Control Engineering, as part of CFE Media, continues to help subscribers envision and implement a more productive future starting with the technology tools available today in advanced automation, controls, and instrumentation. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Confollows from Maverick Technologies, among the three 2015 System Integrators of the Year. This is part of a Control Engineering July-issue celebration of CFE Media’s 5-year anniversary. Automation, networking, new people, collaboration, and cyber security are five practical areas that will change by 2020, when working with clients, large and small, across all the industries we cover. The ways we approach these areas will be different by the time we reach 2020, although changes have already started.

1. Automation creates value

First, users have to understand how automation creates value for their company by reducing costs, improving product quality, improving production, or all of the above. Automation vendors and service providers are very good at talking about technologies, but the people running the end user companies are tired of hearing about technology and want to know how some new device or networking capability is going to have a positive impact on their bottom line. If we return to a more basic approach of using automation to solve problems rather than using automation because it's a newer technology, it will be easier for us to put projects in the right terms. This will help convince the people who make financial decisions why they should proceed with a project, as the information will be based on hard facts and figures regarding operational improvements. We have to change the way we approach the situation and speak to executives using terms they understand, which are often financial. This is beginning to happen, and we should be more fluent in another 5 years.

2. More open networks, wireless

Second, networks will be more open and fewer devices will be wired. The walls dividing communication protocols are falling down, and by 2020 there will be hardly any left. New controllers are far more multilingual than they were in years past. It's common for a modern programmable logic controller (PLC) to communicate using a mix of Ethernet protocols simultaneously. It might speak Profinet to one group of devices, EtherNet/IP to another, and Modbus to a third. Greater computing power makes this much simpler and allows protocol translation on the fly. At the same time, the number and variety of wireless devices will also grow. Whether Wi-Fi, ISA100, WirelessHART, or some new protocol—wireless gateways will communicate using multiple protocols, and users won't realize the difference. If the information can get to where it needs to be, few will care about how it's done; similar to cellular networks where users just care about performance, not the underlying mechanics.

3. New people, new problem solving needs

Third, there will be new people running our plants. By 2020 the population of baby boomers still working will have fallen off and will continue to drop rapidly. The millennials taking their places will not be preoccupied with technology, but rather its use. There will of course be exceptions, but in general, millennials want information that helps them solve problems, and they aren't as concerned as their predecessors about the technical underpinnings. 

4. More collaboration

Fourth, the new generation of workers is going to want more information, different kinds of information, and information in different forms than older workers. Millennials trust technology and what it tells them. Baby boomers generally have always had an innate skepticism of technology, and this new generation does not share it to the same extent. Millennials are more collaborative by nature, and they are more used to the idea that collaboration does not require everyone to be in the same place. Just as several people can be in different places and all still play the same video game, operators can be in different locations and control the same plant. Making this work depends on getting all the information to all the people that need it in near real-time. By 2020, this kind of communication will be an everyday occurrence. 

5. Built-in cyber security

Representing the 2015 System Integrator of the Year in the large system integrator category is Paul Galeski, President and CEO of MAVERICK Technologies. Courtesy: CFE MediaFifth, cyber security will be built into all new infrastructure from the ground up, and "bolted on" to existing systems and networks. We keep hearing about new cyber attack vectors and methods, but defensive strategies and overall awareness of the situation among users and automation vendors is slowly beginning to increase. We've yet to reach the critical mass necessary to make cyber security a top priority, and it might take a major incident to get enough people's attention, but awareness and proactive defense measures will continue to increase. No defense will ever be air-tight, but new tools are emerging to detect intruders, and by 2020 it will be much harder for cyber criminals to move around our networks without being spotted.

- Paul Galeski is CEO, Maverick Technologies; edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

Key concepts

  • Groundwork technologies for year 2020 are here today, and system integrators can help.
  • Networking, communications, and collaboration will be pervasive.
  • Security will be built into automation, controls, and instrumentation.

Consider this

If you don't have a vision for enabling technologies, collaborate with a partner who can help provide a roadmap.

ONLINE extra

- Learn more about Maverick Technologies in the Global System Integrator Database.

- See more advice from Maverick Technologies in Real World Engineering tutorials.

- See additional advice on the past, present, and future of control engineering below.

Maverick Technologies is a CSIA member as of 6/30/2015

Anonymous , 07/11/15 06:37 AM:

I personally agree with Paul. New devices and networking capability is going to have a positive impact on plant bottom line but we need to make sure plants understand how.

Automation can solve problems with product quality, production throughput, availability, operations & maintenance, energy & utilities, waste, and HS&E compliance. Here are some thoughts on how a new generation of pure digital devices without the limitations of 4-20 mA and on-off signal devices can help:
1. System Interface Card: Connects more than 30 instruments and almost 100 real-time I/O signals in a single card
2. Open Network MOV: All real-time control and feedback signals over a single pair of wires using 2 terminals instead of more than 40
3. Networked On-Off Valve: Solenoid and feedback signals share a single pair of wires with power and alarms if the valve has a problem
4. Networked Positioner: Transmits position feedback in real-time on the same single pair of wires and instantly alarms instrument department if performance degrades
5. Networked Radar Level Transmitter: Stronger continuous wave signal for greater sensitivity and higher accuracy
6. Networked Remote Indicator: Displays information from many hard to access transmitters and valves at eyelevel
7. Networked Sampling System: Field mounted gas chromatograph and sampling validation sensors share the same single pair of wires
8. Networked Tank Gauging System: Power and all signals for radar level, pressure, multipoint temperature and bottom water level transmitter share the same single pair of wires
9. Networked Temperature Transmitter: 8 sensors in a single instrument transmitted over a single pair of wires
10. Firmware Download: A device can be upgraded from a central location to get new features
11. Virtual Controller: Valve positioner performs fast time-synchronized control with adjacent transmitter
12. Virtual Flow Computer: DP transmitter computes mass flow using pressure and temperature from adjacent transmitters
13. Virtual Marshalling: Connects devices to the junction box without adding home run cable, modifying marshalling and I/O cards
14. Virtual Remote Seals: Pressure transmitters use cable instead of capillary tubes or impulse lines
15. PROFIBUS Motor Drive: All real-time control and feedback signals over a single pair of wires using 2 terminals instead of almost 40
16. Auto-Ranging Sensors: Transmitters will have multiple sensors of different range switching automatically for maximum rangeability
17. Backlit Display: Will make LCD on two-wire devices easier to read
18. Safetybus Automatic Overfill Prevention System: Power and continuous level SIL signal will share a single pair of wires to prevent overfill
19. Networked Condition Monitoring System: Vibration, temperature, and pressure transmitters will share a single pair of wires to detect equipment faults
20. Networked Coriolis Flowmeter: Signal and flow tube power will share a single pair of wires even for sizes larger than 3"
21. Networked Flow Metering System: Signal and power for ultrasonic flow, pressure, and temperature transmitter will share the same pair of wires
22. Networked Gear Box: Used with MOV will alarm instrument department if problems occur
23. Networked Level Switch: Will alarm the instrument department if there is buildup on the fork
24. Networked Magnetic Flowmeter: Signal and flow tube power will share a single pair of wires even for low conductivity and sizes over 8"
25. Networked Mass Flow Metering System: Signal and power for Coriolis mass flow, pressure, and temperature transmitter will share the same pair of wires
26. Networked Multi-Axis Vibration Transmitter: Will use standard sensors and continuous sampling to capture pump cavitation quickly
27. Networked MV Coriolis Flowmeter: Will also measure and compensate for pressure without additional process penetration and wiring
28. Networked MV DP Flow Transmitter: Will have embedded computation of flow correction coefficients
29. Networked MV GWR level transmitter: Will also measure pressure and temperature without additional process penetration and wiring
30. Networked MV Vortex Flowmeter: Will also measure pressure and temperature without additional process penetration and wiring
31. Networked Radar Level Transmitter: Will also measure pressure and temperature without additional process penetration and wiring
32. Networked Safety Shower: Safety showers and eyewash stations will alarm the operators for first aid assistance if activated
33. Networked Ultrasonic Flowmeter: Signal and flow tube power will share a single pair of wires even for sizes larger than 8" to 12"
34. Networked Valve Diagnostic Software: Positioner will receive the PV in real-time and diagnostic software will correlate with the PV to detect problems
35. Onboard DD Files: Systems will automatically upload the DD file stored in the instrument
36. Safetybus Fire & Gas Detectors: Signal and power will share a single pair of wires for multiple detectors and other devices
37. Safetybus Level Switch: Power and discrete point level SIL signal will share a single pair of wires to prevent overfill
38. Web Store: Online stores will license features such as advanced diagnostics and function blocks
The first 14 are already available today with FOUNDATION fieldbus. The others are not available yet but systems based on FOUNDATION fieldbus are ready to accept such devices as and when they become available

These products will reduce costs, time, and risk for new projects. And they will improve product quality, production throughput, and availability while at the same time reducing the cost of operations, maintenance, energy and utilities, waste, and HS&E compliance.

I also agree networks will be more open. Proprietary networks for Motor Operated Valves (MOV) / electric actuators, tank gauging systems, and gas chromatographs etc. will be a thing of the past. All will use standard fieldbus, and it is already happening.

I also agree that devices that use Ethernet will have to support multiple application protocols since there is no single application protocol for Ethernet: Modbus/TCP, EtherNet/IP, HART-IP, FF-HSE, and PROFINET etc.

I too believe millenials will use technology such as digital sensor networking and computers to get the information that helps them solve problems and it will be real-time digital communication
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