Systems Integration / Wireless / Fieldbus

Technology Development Continues to Escalate

Technology is Now Developing So Fast It's Almost Impossible to Get Through a Day Without Having Your Socks Knocked Off

By Paul Studebaker

Does anyone else have the sense that technology—not just IT, but the real-world, hands-on ways we mine, make, buy and use stuff—is now developing so fast it's almost impossible to get through a day without having your socks knocked off?

A few astute readers may have noticed our series of "25 Years" articles, covering the progress of process control technologies during Control magazine's first quarter-century. From analytic instrumentation to asset management and enterprise connectivity to smart instruments, the year-to-year timelines show incremental and, if you were there at the time, rather predictable progress. Some of the greatest advances have suffered frustrating delays due to marketing ploys, politics or costs, but in every case, we've progressed continuously, and our tools are much better than they were 25 years ago.

Also read "Wireless Wisdom: What’s Your Strategy? Where’s Your Committee?"

Even the large-brained Béla Lipták says that finishing the latest edition of his handbook is becoming more challenging simply because he keeps finding more to add.

Now many of the same technologies we've been covering since 1988 are converging with accelerating trends in materials, information and communication to open an enormous array of possibilities. Hardly a day goes by without someone sending me at least one news story, video link or announcement showing a creative application that leverages a new generation of materials for better batteries, solar cells or high-temperature applications, or the next level of precision, versatility, speed or accessibility for manufacturing, or incredible information integration to optimize productivity, logistics, energy efficiency—you name it.
Many of these are not coming through PR agencies from big companies whose names you'd recognize. They're from small groups and individuals using their own experience, intuition and the Internet to find and solve a problem, and then Kickstarter or social media strategies to gain support and notoriety. It used to be fairly easy to tell which innovations had potential and which would fail, but not so much anymore. Yesterday's impossible is today's pragmatic and tomorrow's commonplace, and there are far more projects in the works than hours in the day to learn about them.

Wireless technology is full of such examples, and we'll be including it in our June article on 25 years of industrial networking. Meanwhile, as this month's cover story points out, "Even though wireless doesn't stay wireless for long, the fact that it can go airborne has opened up a world of new process control capabilities that most engineers, integrators and end users have only started to mentally catch up with in the past couple of years." Friends, it's clear we'll never catch up. Nobody will.

"BIM on the Run" can only try to begin to wrap your mind around the developments in what used to be called building information management systems. For this article, I listened to folks from software company CEOs to managers of process instrumentation documentation, and have rarely seen their level of excitement at what's being built on the foundation of 3D CAD. A collection of technologies with deep roots in P&IDs has gone off, grown up and come back ready to revolutionize the way you design, use and maintain control systems, and you need to know about it.