Connectivity is increasingly reliable, rugged, and easier, all good for automation optimization

People used to say, “Just once, I’d like to plug it in and have it work.” Industrial connectivity isn’t what it used to be, and that’s a good thing.

While three recent indicators point to increased investments in automation, increasing connectivity information flow is almost always a good idea in any market. The first positive indicator was a recent Control Engineering survey indicating that more system integration investments are expected next year, compared to this year. Second was a set of three PMMI market studies released at Pack Expo Las Vegas on Sept. 23. While not every metric was up after the large rebound last year, those presenting the numbers expressed optimism for 2014 based on strong monthly outlook surveys with PMMI members. Finally, attendance at Pack Expo was up 7% on the first day of the show, with record attendance of over 26,000 (expected to grow more by day 3).

Among key areas of coverage for Control Engineering and Plant Engineering are reliability, optimization, and energy savings. All of these rely on reliable communications to turn data into information. The control loop itself, at the heart of Control Engineering’s coverage, sense-decide-actuate, requires reliable communications between sensors and logic devices, logic devices and actuators, and actuators and sensors, to ensure reliable closed-loop control. In open-loop control, humans help at one or more decision points, as a human-machine interface presents information for a decision or to receive an alarm when the system exceeds the ability for logic to recover and restore order. Networks and software tie it all together.

Since most communication failures occur at the point of connection, secure, easy-to-use connections are key to ensuring reliable connectivity among sensors, logic devices, and actuation in the control loop.

All of us at CFE Media would like to congratulate Molex at “75 years of Innovation,” as we look forward to celebrating 60 years of Control Engineering next year. Thanks for your increasing role in helping to ensure reliable communications worldwide.

– Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering content manager since 1994, also contributes to Plant Engineering and Consulting-Specifying Engineer, the two other CFE Media publications.