The Impact of Information Technology on Industrial Automation – A Critical Evaluation

  •  Joshy George    
  •  Stanislaw MAJ    


Information Technology (IT) now impacts on all aspects of modern society (personal, commercial and industrial). The advances in IT may broadly be categorized into the following subsets of technologies: integrated circuits, communications, software engineering and Graphical User Interfaces. In the context of Industrial Automation (IA) it can be seen that some communication protocols, for example Modbus which was first introduced in the 1970’s, has under gone numerous updates driven by IT developments with associated considerable improvements in performance and capability. By contrast some, for example HART which was first introduced in the 1980’s, whilst it has undergone revisions it does not fully utilize the capabilities that IT can provide. For higher level IA systems they can be divided into four generations which can each be associated with specific IT developments. The first generation IA system is based on simple Proportional, Integral and Derivative (PID) controllers and ruggedized microprocessor based Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC). IA systems expanded in both complexity and scope through these generations to include Distributed Control Systems (DCS’s) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). The fifth generation of IA systems may be associated with IT developments both on and over the horizon that include: Cloud Computing, Cyber Security and Internet of Things. Responses to these technologies include: General Electric (GE) Predix and Siemens MindSphere. Regardless of how IA is categorized there can be no doubt that IT is responsible for major technical developments – a process that is likely to continue. 

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