Photo by Keith Larson
“Boundless Automation with AI will unleash even more tools and streamline even more workflows.” Emerson’s Claudio Fayad led a press briefing on the company’s latest innovations in the field, at the edge and in the cloud.

The Boundless Automation toolkit

Oct. 5, 2023
Emerson’s Claudio Fayad led a press briefing on the company’s latest innovations in the field, at the edge and in the cloud.

A journey with no boundaries grants tremendous freedom, but such a long trip also requires serious commitment and capable tools.

For instance, Emerson embarked on its Boundless Automation a year ago, and is already well on its way to overcoming the traditional barriers that make it hard for end users to gain efficiencies and streamline operations.

“We’ve been busy breaking down the silos between control, networking and safety, and doing the same for silos that generally align with the multi-layer Purdue reference model for industrial control systems,” said Claudio Fayad, technology VP for process systems and solutions at Emerson. “Our vision is to replace those silos with a cohesive platform for intelligent field, edge and cloud devices that will allow users to optimize their assets. We’re bringing that vision to life by combining remote terminal units (RTU), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), distributed control systems (DCS), manufacturing execution systems (MES) and safety instrumented systems (SIS) in our rebranded DeltaV process automation platform.”

Fayad presented the “Boundless Automation Unleashed” press event, along with Erik Lindhjem, reliability solutions VP at Emerson, and Kristel Biehler, life sciences VP at Emerson, at this week’s Emerson Exchange Immerse event in Anaheim, Calif.

“Boundless Automation is a software-defined, data-centric, flexible automation platform that includes key innovations in three main areas—intelligent field and edge and cloud computing,” explained Fayad. “This unifies our broad portfolio, combines our deep experience, delivers consistent user experience, and shapes the future.”

Intelligent Field innovations

Lindhjem reported that Emerson’s Intelligent Field innovations primarily expand connectivity between sensors and applications. This includes new field devices that cost less to install, can be easily added to running processes, and are simple to integrate into existing systems.

Chief among these smarter field solutions is DeltaV IO.Connect that was released in October 2022, and reduces DCS modernization costs, complexity and time by preserving I/O connections and introducing third-party I/O as DeltaV natives.

Maintaining links to legacy I/O, such as Honeywell’s TDC 3000, can reduce project schedule by 90%, and cut modernization capital spending by 40%. IO.Connect also simplifies and speeds up transitions to DeltaV control technologies and software, future-proofs operations by allowing opportunistic I/O updates, and enables flexible subscriptions.

Likewise, the DeltaV PK Controller gained native PROFINET, Modbus TCP, OPC UA, EtherNet/IP and Ethernet-APL connectivity in September, which enable a more flexible approach for I/O integration and communication. They allow the DeltaV PK Controller to:

• Support up to 250 devices,

• Simplify installation,

• Employ star, ring, hybrid and APL network topologies,

• Seamlessly connect with AMS (coming soon), and

• Support S2 redundancy (coming soon).

Launched this past July, AMS Device Manager data server is a digital enablement tool for smart field devices that can:

• Replicate AMS data outside the process control network,

• Integrate with other data sources for advanced analytics and machine learning,

• Perform continuous, automated collection of field data, and

• Operate a centralized management program with a secure infrastructure, and

• Use instrument diagnostics for early detection of underperforming equipment.

“AMS Device Manager connects data from intelligent field devices to any application, which simplifies maintenance, reduces complexity, and democratizes data,” explained Lindhjem. “This means there are a lot fewer configuration tasks and hurdles.”

Likewise, Emerson is also working on wireless devices that are easier to drop in for pervasive monitoring. They’ll run on 5G and feature increased density, longer range, reduced costs, wider geographic dispersion, anytime communications and more rugged products.

Thriving on the edge

A step up from the field, the edge computing realm is where operations technology (OT) personnel typically meet up and clash with their information technology (IT) counterparts. To ease these former conflicts, Fayad added that Emerson’s innovative DeltaV Edge solutions simplify networking, enhance security, democratize data, accelerate co-creation efforts, better align IT with OT and improve overall robustness.

“We’ve always been on the edge, but the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has been changing approaches. What makes the edge powerful is it lets us rethink how OT and IT can work together,” said Fayad. “Data that used to go from the edge to the cloud can now come back with responses and instructions, and use of more of the edge’s layers. We’re working with several partners to reassess what the edge can do. This can include simplifying networks and/or enhancing security.”

The solid foundation that Emerson’s present and future edge solutions are built upon is a virtualized, hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). Released in September 2022, Emerson’s HCI can be built with two, three or four servers. Software running on HCI eliminates the need for much of the hardware necessary for traditional virtualization architectures, creating a more unified virtualized system, incorporating compute, network, and storage into a single, tightly integrated software system to reduce overhead and improve performance. This allows users to perform easy, scalable virtualization with improved performance. It also lets them:

• Reduce deployment time by 50%,

• Easily maintain, expand and upgrade applications,

• Improve performance by more than 20%, and

• Reduce energy use and carbon footprint.

“Many users collect huge amounts of data, only to throw away 99% of it later because they didn’t figure out how to use it,” explained Fayad. “The edge lets users democratize data, and distribute it more easily, so anyone can use it, instead of tossing it. This also fuels co-creation that can bring OT and IT together. The edge aligns them because, instead of one or the other owning particular data and problems, they all own them together. We want to help them both with solutions.”

HCI and its servers also act as the base of Emerson’s Software-Defined Control System that it’s developing to allow easier upgrades and reduce carbon footprint. This innovation was launched in September 2023 for DeltaV DCS and PK Flex Controllers, and includes flexible, subscription-based licensing, and decoupled hardware and software. This strategy will be released for DeltaV DCS in the next 12 months with a software-defined controller for the process and hybrid industries. It will also be released for Emerson’s Ovation DCS in the second quarter of 2024.

“This software is still tied to the controller, but it’s more flexible, and can run on an HCI like VMware,” said Fayad. “This means no more bottlenecks at the controller for DeltaV or Ovation.’

Fayad added that Emerson’s efforts at the edge are aided by its recent acquisition and integration of AspenTech, which is driving synergies between their portfolios that can improve operations. For instance, Emerson is integrating AspenTech’s historian, advanced control and analytics platforms software. This will soon allow AspenTech’s software to run on virtual machines in Emerson’s HCI, deploy quickly and easily via DeltaV, and scale up and expand data sources with IP.21 Historian.

Even though its other on-the-edge innovations are impressive, Fayad reported that the most important innovation is likely its DeltaV Edge Environment that’s launching now, and delivers enhanced OT connectivity and runtime capabilities. Its features include:

• DeltaV DCS runtime and configuration data,

• Handles up to 300,000 parameters,

• Bridges IT and OT technologies and policies, and

• Enables both centralized and remote management.

“We’re the most excited about DeltaV Edge Environment because it really changes the role of the DCS,” stated Fayad. DeltaV’s first Linux-based node, the Edge Note is secured with a data diode. “And once data gets to Edge Node and is available, users can work with it using Python, Power BI, RESTful API or other analytics or programming tools, and allow other users to easily see it via MQTT publish-subscribe protocol, or feed dashboards in the cloud,” Fayad said. “In fact, users can even install 10 or 20 Edge Nodes, and deploy them anywhere with one click.”

Cloudy connections

Once field and edge processes and networks are secure, Fayad reported that links to cloud-computing services can enable consistent services across large regions. Emerson’s latest Cloud innovations create a connected enterprise system that can perform fleet management, collaboration, reduce upfront costs, ease deployments, scale limitlessly, and centralize security monitoring and management.

For example, Emerson’s Integrated Engineering Environment (IEE) leverages the cloud for improved project engineering, easier acceptance of late changes, improved project speed, seamless collaboration, data sharing between disciplines, and security by design. Its parts include:

• E&I Studio for browser-based I/O configuration,

• Sequence Studio for automated sequence data and configuration management,

• Project Data Link for common single instance data and configuration generation, and

• Test Studio that enables remote factory acceptance tests (FATs) and management.

Likewise, Emerson’s Guardian software and subscription-based, lifecycle-management and support uses similar methods, such as single sign-on (SSO), software downloads, subscription management, personalized and enterprise dashboards, and AI-powered search and recommendations, said Fayad. “Boundless Automation with AI will unleash even more tools and streamline even more workflows.”

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control.