More interoperability, less effort

Think Again: Highest level of interoperability includes the capability to plug in a device and—without additional configuration—have it do what it’s supposed to do. Standards, industry organizations, certifications, and a variety of organizations profess plug-and-play interoperability as a goal.


ONLINE extra

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Highest level of interoperability includes the capability to plug in a device and—without additional configuration—have it do what it’s supposed to do. Standards, industry organizations, certifications, and a variety of organizations profess plug-and-play interoperability as a goal.

With automation, controls, instrumentation, and enough system integration, almost anything can be made to connect and at least communicate at some level. Most people would rather spend time or effort adding value in other ways, hoping equipment and device manufacturers will help them avoid the plug-and- pray scenarios of the past. And it’s happening:

  • ISA88 Part 5 . Interoperability continues to be a key issue for participants working to create the Make2Pack ISA88 Part 5 standard, which aims to improve connections among batch, process, and discrete controls, as well as to expand the scalability and reuse of embedded programming. A tabletop equipment demonstration at a recent meeting showed controllers, two conveyors, photoelectric sensors, safety interlocks, terminal blocks, and an HMI interface using the latest in Part 5 thinking. “Interoperability is the hope,” according to David Chappell, Part 5 chairman, who discusses these points and others in the Standard profits: Make2Pack and ISA88 blog, accessible at .

  • Industrial networks . Fieldbus Foundation, kicking off its Americas seminar series, made it a point to note that its “Registration” effort aims to ensure interoperability among devices and hosts. (Read more about network certification, p. 54.) Easy to use will be more important; colleges now contain just one-third of the projected demand for engineers to replace pending retirements, says Chuck Carter, principle investigator/center director, Fieldbus Center at Lee College.

  • Software . OPC Foundation is working with system integrators and distributors to ensure implementations meet specifications. The foundation also works with test labs to “to ensure top product quality and reliability, particularly for OPC Unified Architecture components,” says Thomas J. Burke, OPC president and executive director.

  • Programming . Work by PLCopen and others on an XML schemas aims to create real IEC 61131-3 interoperable code among PLCs and in other areas.

Plug and play allows everyone involved to add value—beyond just making something do what it’s supposed to do in the first place.

ONLINE extra on interoperability

Think Again question: Does interoperability matter enough to you to specify compliance with specific standards in your requests for proposals to vendors? Please comment using the tool below.


Related reading

Beyond networks: Optimize information use, Fieldbus Foundation says


Better OPC interoperability: Help for system integrators


Real interoperability? PLCopen revives TC6 - XML for better translation

Closing the Skills Gap: Programs designed to inspire the next generation of engineers ensure that fresh talent is ready to work as today’s engineers begin to retire.

OMAC: Open technologies, sharing best practices help integrate discrete, process manufacturing

Why are we doing this? Greater efficiency

Think Again: Easier connectedness

Think Again: Comply or die

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