Operator Is Focus of Latest System 800xA Enhancements

'Essential Automation' Portfolio Complements Feature Pack 4 Release

By Mike Bacidore

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ABB Automation & Power World 2013

"We see demographic change, fewer available operators and shorter attention spans," began Tobias Becker, senior vice president, global business unit manager, control technologies, for ABB in his review of the latest enhancements to company's 800xA automation platform at this week's ABB Automation & Power World event in Orlando, Fla. "You need to create an environment offering the best operator functionality available, the true power of integration, a truly attractive and ergonomic control room environment and one that enables consolidation and collaboration."

Many of the new features and capabilities added to ABB's flagship automation platform in Feature Pack 4 (for version 5.1) are intended to advance these very goals, Becker said, making the system better, faster, safer and more secure. "It's a major step forward in functionality," he said.

Feature Pack 4 makes it easier to create and configure a collaborative environment, continued Jonas Brannvall, global product group manager for the 800xA platform. "The latest release for 800xA 5.1 is easier to engineer and has improved change management, new communication capabilities, space-saving I/O modules and more flexible architecture," Brannvall said. Embedded video capabilities also are designed to improve collaboration and decision-making, Brannvall said.

Cybersecurity also is improved. "We're putting a lot of effort into securing our customers' control systems," said Brannvall. "With Feature Pack 4, we're introducing a lot of new features." For example, Industrial Defender connectivity and SE46 white-listing functionality have been added to help to mitigate the risk of cyber threats.

Many features included in this update add to System 800xA's focus on increasing operator effectiveness and visualization inside the control room and out. A mobile client configuration guide and a tablet workplace facilitate flexible collaboration between the field and control rooms, while ensuring safe and secure operations. Additional graphic elements have been added to System 800xA's graphics editor, making it easier to create a high-performance environment for improved situational awareness. An embedded video system and CAD drawing viewer help to increase visibility and enhance decision support. And an "Alarm Help" feature has been added to the alarm management portfolio, providing operators easy access to valuable instructions, as well as the ability to enter and review input from other operators.

Virtualized clients are now available in addition to all other system nodes, helping to minimize the labor involved with installation, setup and maintenance of operator and engineering client nodes. Among the other productivity-enhancing tools are a new, easy-to-use, diagram editor for process and safety applications that makes it easier to engineer and debug control applications. Libraries for both intelligent electrical devices (IED) and TÜV-certified machine safety were added to help reduce engineering and commissioning time. Further, an application change management option has been added that stores several versions of configuration data and allows for difference reporting. And updates have been made to 800xA's Load-Evaluate-Go (LEG) feature that allows users to evaluate application changes online — using actual process inputs — before they go live and affect outputs to the field.

For customers that don't need the full capabilities of System 800xA, the company also unveiled its Essential Automation portfolio. "Essential Automation is a new term," continued Becker. "We have customers who want to go beyond the DCS. And we have customers who don't want all of that. It's essential in terms of the basic things they want to have."

The Essential Automation portfolio includes established control solutions and products that are easy to install and deliver to improve the efficiency of small- to medium-sized processes in all industries. Essential Automation includes two main offerings: Freelance, the user-friendly, reliable and cost-effective DCS currently running thousands of applications ranging from water to chemical processes worldwide; and Compact Product Suite, a collection of products from ABB's former Compact 800 family of process and safety controllers, human-machine interfaces (HMI), field interfaces or I/Os and process recorders. It includes the AC 800M controller, Compact HMI, Panel 800 and the S900, S800 and S700 series I/O. The Compact Product Suite also includes the AC 700F microprocess controller, ScreenMaster videographic recorder and ControlMaster single- and dual-loop controllers.

These products may be used as stand-alone solutions or to complement an existing or customized system. This flexibility of use makes these control products suitable for system integrators and for OEMs to deploy in managed control environments.

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