Hot topics in Control Engineering for 2017

Think Again: Control Engineering readers choose hot topics of 2017 based on online traffic at the automation industry website. What can you learn from these top Control Engineering articles of 2017? Also see the top three covers of 2017.

By Mark T. Hoske January 9, 2018

Control theory tutorials took three of the top 10 hot topics in Control Engineering for 2017, with articles on proportional-integral-derivative (PID) learning, salary and career survey, and automation project management, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), motor selection, and industrial communications, among the leading topics. Also see the top covers as chosen by Mike Smith, Control Engineering art director, covering controller selection, robotic safety, and women in engineering. Review articles planned for 2018 at

Because measuring performance using the calendar year gives a numerical advantage to articles posted earlier in the year, this article online also links to top articles from August, October, and December, to better cover hot topics posted later in the year. This online version also contains the top 10 articles posted prior to 2017. (For a near-real-time analysis of hot topics, Control Engineering posts the top 5 articles of the week on Mondays.)

2017 articles: Hottest topics

Below are the hot control engineering topics of 2017, based on traffic at, January through December.

1. The PID learning process, Mar. 6: While there are many excellent loop tuning methods available, many practitioners prefer tweaking proportional-integral-derivative (PID) tuning constants or using rules-of-thumb rather than doing the required step test and data analysis. But having knowledge about how the individual PID components interact can go a long way to learning proper tuning theory and methods.

2. Control Engineering Salary and Career Survey, 2017, May 16: Control Engineering salary and career survey research shows an average salary of $96,045 in 2017, up slightly from the 2016 results; job satisfaction continues among respondents. Life-long learning remains critically important. To get youth interested in engineering, more investments in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and high-profile projects need to be made, respondents said.

3. Hot topics in Control Engineering for 2016, 2017, Jan. 11: Think Again: Control Engineering readers choose hot topics of 2016, and that online traffic points to key trends in Control Engineering in 2017. What can you learn from these top Control Engineering articles of 2016? New: See related articles of 2017 and top graphics of 2016.

4. Eight things to avoid in control system automation projects, June 14: Identifying missteps such as not building a cross-functional team and not defining responsibilities early in a project can help ensure that a control system automation project is successful.

5. What the oil and gas industry needs from SCADA, Feb. 11: Supervisory control systems aggregate data at key points in the supply chain. A list of industry suppliers are included.

6. How to select a motor for an industrial application, Feb. 8: Understanding the main types of loads, motors, and applications can help simplify motor and accessory selection.

7. What does time-sensitive networking and real-time Ethernet data mean for the future of industrial systems? Jan. 14: Avnu Alliance members explain how real-time communications enabled by Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) will strengthen the future of industrial systems.

8. Four aspects of good control panel design, Jan. 2: Good control panel design should feature strong layout and component placement, labeling, panel sizing and component spacing, and wireway design.

9. Exploring the basic concepts of multivariable control, Feb. 7: Multivariable controllers can balance competing objectives. Process controllers that can juggle multiple process variables simultaneously are becoming more common and more powerful, but they can still be difficult to design and implement.

10. To PID or not to PID, Sept. 1: The venerable proportional-integral-derivative (PID) algorithm can solve a variety of feedback control problems, but not all.

Best covers of 2017

Continuing in the “best of” theme, Mike Smith, Control Engineering art director, offered views on the best 2017 covers.

1. “Select the best controller for the application,” January 2017, is a, “Very strong cover based on graphic design and subject content. All the elements are balanced, coupled with interesting crops and positioning to integrate into the editorial message. Color design works to control readability and keep interest centered within design. Cover is bright and pleasing to the eye.”

2. “Reaching for robotic safety,” May 2017: “Simple, overall, is always a good recipe for a strong design. Robotic content and human element centered in the foreground allows the reader easy entry. Dark hole below subject’s chin allows for great readability, and offers an integrated editorial message.”

3. “Women in Engineering,” September 2017: “Content and position of human elements work together for a strong simple message about women in engineering. The neutral background, and Control Engineering logo work collectively to downplay context, while emphasizing, and pushing forward the human element in color as primary.”

See related articles and all the Control Engineering 2017 covers and link to each issue at

Top articles posted prior to 2017

The following represent the hot topics in 2017 among articles posted prior to 2017.

1. Fundamentals of cascade control, 2014: Sometimes two controllers can do a better job of keeping one process variable where you want it.

2. Open- vs. closed-loop control, 2014: Automatic control operations can be described as either open-loop or closed-loop. The difference is feedback.

3. Antenna basics, antenna types, antenna functions, 2014: Industrial wireless tutorials: What you need to know about industrial antennas, antenna functions, and antenna capabilities.

4. Tuning PID control loops for fast response, 2014: When choosing a tuning strategy for a specific control loop, it is important to match the technique to the needs of that loop and the larger process. It is also important to have more than one approach in your repertoire, and the Cohen-Coon method can be a handy addition in the right situation.

5. Understanding PID control and loop tuning fundamentals, 2016: PID loop tuning may not be a hard science, but it’s not magic either. Here are some tuning tips that work.

6. PLC vs. PAC, 2013: These technologies continue to evolve, making differences harder to distinguish. Here are some thoughts on what does what, and how to choose between a PLC and a PAC for your next application.

7. Tuning PID loops for level control, 2014: One-in-four control loops are regulating level, but techniques for tuning PID controllers in these integrating processes are not widely understood.

8. Applying heat exchanger control strategies, Jan. 4: Inside Process: Integrating control schemes, such as feedback, cascade, and feedforward techniques, can satisfy the control requirements of even highly challenging heat exchanger temperature control applications.

9. Tuning thermal PID loops, 2012: When dealing with critical temperature applications, PID controllers are a common regulatory approach, but tuning these often requires a different strategy than other types of loops. Auto-tuning features can help if you understand them.

10. Wi-Fi and the OSI model, 2014: Industrial wireless tutorials: The Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model is a conceptual model used to organize the various functions of data communications by segregating the distinct functions into a seven-layer model from the Physical layer. Learn how the OSI model relates to industrial wireless communications.


One more for 2017

Runner up for the top 10 of 2017 follows.

11. Safety instrumented systems: Applying measurement best practices, Feb. 13: The measurement part of a safety system tends to be the most troublesome. However, new technologies offer ways to overcome many common-cause problems.

Best products, integrators, leaders

Control Engineering awards programs also rank very high in the standings each year, but weren’t counted in these rankings.

February—2017 Engineers’ Choice Awards: Spotlight on innovation – Best automation, control, and instrumentation products in 28 categories.

September—2017 Engineering Leaders Under 40: The 2017 honorees share a common profession, but they have uncommon skills and interests.

December—System Integrator GiantsSystem Integrator of the Year.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media Traffic ranking based on analytics performed by Chris Vavra, senior production coordinator/editor, Control Engineering,

ONLINE extra

This online version contain more information than appeared in print.

Top 10 Control Engineering topics for 2018 are here, but don’t take my word for it; help write future history.

See links below for the Control Engineering hot topics of August, October, and December to see what our readers found popular in the second half of 2017.


Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.