Hot topics in Control Engineering

Research: For 2021, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), control system integration, instrumentation, industrial wireless, industrial PCs, industrial Ethernet, and advanced process control are among hot topics; 18 topics are in the top 10; 62 are in the top 20.

By Mark T. Hoske August 17, 2020



Learning Objectives

  • Top 5 contains seven topics.
  • Top 10 has 18 topics.
  • Top 20 has 62 topics.

Breadth of automation engineering knowledge matters. Control Engineering subscribers want to learn about an amazingly wide array of topics in automation, controls, and instrumentation. To help prioritize Control Engineering’s 2021 editorial calendar, a survey asked subscribers to check off the most important topical areas of coverage. (Thanks to those who participated.) The diverse topical ranking follows, as respondents stuffed 18 areas of coverage into the top 10 and an incredible 62 topics into the top 20.

18 top 10 Control Engineering topics

  1. Programmable logic controllers (PLCs)
  2. Control system integration
  3. Instrumentation, industrial wireless – tie
  4. Industrial PCs, industrial Ethernet – tie
  5. Proportional integral derivative and advanced process control
  6. Loop control
  7. Energy efficiency, drives, machine control, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) – tie
  8. Process control, motors – tie
  9. Process sensors
  10. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), power supplies, COVID-19-related engineering topics – tie

62 top 20 topics: Long tail of engineering interest

If you thought Control Engineering subscriber interests in automation, controls, and instrumentation might narrow after that, think again. Topics broadened considerably. To get through the top 20, when accounting for ties, subscribers ranked another 44 topics.

The 2021 editorial calendar will be available soon, reflecting that wide breadth of interests, but before planning for 2021, please consider sharing your expertise with peers through 2020. Thank you to those who have.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

KEYWORDS: Control Engineering 2021 hot topics

Top 5 contains seven topics.

Top 10 has 18 topics.

Top 20 has 62 topics.


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The research demonstrates what I’ve heard consistently from subscribers in one form or another since I joined the team in 1994: Sometimes I don’t know what I need to know until I read it in Control Engineering.

Write-in comments from the Control Engineering subscriber survey on 2021 editorial topics included:

  • All topics related to industrial automation.
  • I appreciate every topic you share.
  • Keep it up!
  • Try your best. Stay safe. Enjoy your life.

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.