Schneider Electric, create plug-and-play automation

Dec. 7, 2021

Schneider Electric reported Nov. 11 that it's joined other industrial leaders and pioneers to form (UAO), an independent, not-for-profit association managing the reference implementation of a shared-source runtime. For the first time, information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) software vendors, industrial end users, OEMs and academics will share a common automation software layer across their automation technology—regardless of brand. will drive the development of a vendor-agnostic ecosystem of portable, interoperable, plug-and-produce software that can run with almost any hardware. By decoupling software and hardware, sharing a reference runtime implementation of the IEC 61499 standard, and merging the IT and OT worlds, the organization seeks to create an entirely new category of industrial automation and unleash the full potential of Industry 4.0.

“ is the beginning of new era for industrial automation,” says Dr. Barbara Frei, executive VP of industrial automation at Schneider Electric. “Current architectures have done a great job of advancing industry to where we are now, but to reach next-generation sustainability, innovation and agility, we must embrace portable and interoperable software. Doing so requires a reimagining of our current systems and processes, and collaboration on a new scale, which the members have agreed to do.” 

Organizations involved in include Aalto University, Advantech, Asus, Belden, Cargill, eaw Relaistechnik GmbH, ESA, ETP, Flexbridge, Georgia-Pacific, GR3N, Hirschmann, HTW Berlin, Intel, Jetter, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Kongsberg Maritime, Lawrence Technological University, Lumberg Automation, Phoenix Contact, ProSoft, R. Stahl, Shell, VP Process, Wilo, Wood and Yokogawa. Others are expected to join soon, with the organization actively recruiting new members.

These members will work together to develop and adopt the next generation of universal automation solutions by collectively incrementing the runtime following shared-source principles. Members will have access and the ability to shape the next generation of automation. All entities looking to help advance industrial automation are encouraged to join.

“Industrial operations are undergoing a total transformation,” says John Conway, president of “As the IT sector has proven, advances in machine learning, augmented reality, real-time analytics and IoT hold great promise for step-change advances in performance, agility and sustainability. However, within industry, this promise is being held back by closed and proprietary automation platforms that restrict widespread adoption, hamper innovation, are challenging to integrate with third-party components, and are expensive to upgrade and maintain. Using a shared runtime changes all that.”

The organization's supporters argue that similar portability is already a reality in other markets. For example, mobile applications are developed to run across different smartphone vendors, enabling rapid advances through collective innovation. Until now, they add the industrial world has worked differently, with closed proprietary architectures and hardware-dependent software. 

 “ is hitting the reset button on automation technology," adds Greg Boucaud, chief marketing officer at "Using the IEC 61499 standard for distributed systems, we can create a new, open industrial environment that will lead to a more sustainable, efficient future. will remove the barriers to innovation in automation by decoupling hardware and software, and providing end users with the freedom they have been asking for—to easily integrate different technologies regardless of where they came from and fully optimize their automation systems.”