Systems Integration

Why You Come to

Don't Believe Everything You Read on the Web, But Do Trust Everything You Read Here

By Walt Boyes

"I know it's true! I read it on the Internet!" Well, no. There is a lot of information on the Internet that is just plain wrong. Unfortunately, some of the information that is very available on the Internet is also very plausible. However, in an engineering discipline, if you aren't careful, you can get seriously burned.

That's where we come in. Both in Control magazine and on, we are editors. That's much more than being spell checkers and grammar queens. We are fact checkers; we are purveyors of knowledge; and we are, fundamentally, the curators of the process automation space.

What's a curator? We think about curators with respect to museum exhibits, not magazines or websites. A curator is a person who is a content expert responsible for acquisition and interpretation of collections of information and material. Here we function quite a bit like a museum curator, but for the process automation space.

We collect information—articles, white papers, product and news announcements, blogs, tweets, special projects, videos, podcasts, ebooks and more—and we present them to you in an easily available format, sorted, edited, curated for your use. Sometimes we find this information, and sometimes we commission new works.

We can do this because we have put together a group of subject matter experts to work on our collections, people like Greg McMillan, Stan Weiner, Béla Lipták, Joe Weiss, John Rezabek, Dan Hebert, Jim Montague, Nancy Bartels, Katherine Bonfante, a host of other end users and knowledgeable vendors, and finally, your humble servant.

The difference between what you can find on Google (about 45 million results for "process automation") and what you can find on and in Control magazine is the value we bring to you—actionable information that you can use and that you can trust.

We aren't just passive accumulators of information. We go out and find what you need to know. We broke the Stuxnet story back in 2010 and have followed it all the way. We have curated a large body of material on cybersecurity. We followed the wireless standards imbroglio to try to keep you from being confused and we did it from the inside, by actively participating in the standards process.

We provide deep content on field devices, networks, wireless, final control elements, controllers and control systems, and we do it in a way you can trust.

Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

Among the real stars of are some of our most popular bloggers, Greg McMillan and Joe Weiss. Greg not only is half of the ControlTalk team and occasional feature writer, but the brains behind the Control Talk blog (not to be confused with the monthly column of the same name), which covers modeling and control.

In the last few weeks, Greg has been providing his readers with checklists for control issues. In his "Checklist for Cascade Control," Greg calls cascade control "an effective way of providing better feedback and feed-forward control. The peak error in the primary loop can be reduced by more than an order of magnitude for disturbances originating in the secondary loop. The nonlinearity of a control valve can be removed from the primary control loop. Flow feed-forward and ratio control can become more effective.

The other hit is "Checklist for Batch Reactor Temperature Control." Greg says, "Tight reactor temperature control enables the optimization of capacity and yield. What happens upfront in the reaction sets the stage for downstream processing and what ultimately ends up in the final product. Generally, increasing reactor temperature will increase reaction rate (capacity), but if the temperature is too high, side reactions may develop reducing reaction selectivity (yield). Oscillations and errors will prevent operating closer to the optimum temperature. This checklist offers questions to improve reactions by addressing the heating and cooling system design, thermal lags, split ranged discontinuities, tuning, reactant feed and the need for a measurement of fouling and conversion."

Our resident expert on cybersecurity is Joe Weiss. He is a principal at Applied Control Solutions and an authority on cybersecurity and control systems. In his "Unfettered" blog, he crusades for better, more effective security of critical infrastructure and process control systems.

Joe's most popular post of recent weeks has been "Lessons Learned from Aurora." He begins, "On the SCADASEC list, Ed Beroset stated the following: 'I've attended a number of security conferences at which speakers would gravely intone that ‘we have not yet learned the lessons of Aurora.

'I've found that there's a very wide range of interpretations as to what those might be. My questions for this group are: 1) what is the lesson of Aurora? and 2) what has been done about it? and 3) what's left to do?' In response to Ed, there are a number of lessons learned specifically from Aurora."

In his post, "Legacy Control System Cybersecurity/Reliability Test Bed," Joe reports, "There has long been a strong desire to find solutions for securing industrial control systems that go beyond simply exposing problems and risks. What is so difficult about finding solutions? The answer is technology, use and compliance. Solutions exist for some parts of the control system that have been adopted/adapted from the IT community."