Education and Collaboration are Keys to Success for Software-Defined Controls Transformation

Like many technologies, industrial control systems are undergoing a digital transformation that moves proprietary hardware systems to a software-defined infrastructure, which opens up new levels of flexibility, innovation, and interoperability like never before. In order for manufacturers to take advantage of innovations around artificial intelligence and machine learning, for example, their control systems need to be flexible enough through a software-defined approach.

Related Webinar: The Transition to Software-Defined Control Systems

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The recent A3 webinar, "The Transition to Software-Defined Control Systems," focused on several issues around control systems transformation. The webinar was part of the Intelligent Edge for Industrial Applications series, sponsored by Intel.

The idea of converting industrial control systems to a software-defined model has been discussed for many years, but the idea has gained momentum until recently;and, innovations in other sectors and companies looking for more flexibility are driving the transformation.

One of the biggest ways companies can begin moving to transform their industrial control systems to a software-defined model is to collaborate and get IT officials and OT officials in the same room. Educating IT officials about operations and OT officials about technology was a big step.

A big part of the transition is work that ExxonMobil and others are performing with the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), which is developing a standards-based, open, secure, and interoperable process control architecture. The group is currently working with systems integrator Yokogawa on deploying software-defined OPA-based pilot systems for a field trial in 2023, with the goal of removing an existing control system from a facility, deploying an open process automation system, and then bringing it back online. Lessons learned from this project will be used to help others and eventually finalize a standard that helps other companies with the controls systems transition.

Other topics discussed in the webinar included:

  • The security issue and how connecting systems to the Internet can be supported and enhanced at the foundational level, including technologies such as Trusted Platform Model (TPM), disk-based encryption, SSL and validation.
  • Whether companies need to upgrade older, existing equipment in order to deploy a software-defined control system and alternative methods for companies that can’t perform hardware upgrades.
  • How safety systems are being excluded from the initial transformation trial, but also the role of safety in other control systems, such as robotics.

To watch the complete webinar, click here to view it on demand.

The next topic in the Intelligent Edge webinar series, “Foundational Standards and Open Source to Realize the Promise of Industry 4.0”, is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 16, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. ET. You can register for free here.