At the ARC Forum Orlando, Schneider Electric has announced a collaboration with Intel to extend EcoStruxure™ Automation Expert by creating a Distributed Control Node (DCN) software framework complemented by an associated Intel processor-based DCN hardware offering for industrial users such as mines.
EcoStruxure is the company’s “open, interoperable, IoT-enabled system architecture and platform”, geared geared towards improving safety, reliability, efficiency, sustainability. It uses advancements in IoT, mobility, sensing, cloud, analytics, and cybersecurity to deliver various forms of innovation. It is used in the mining industry for, among other things, fuel management, truck maintenance, material handling, process automation and control, and environmental management.
By combining the performance, security and deployment capabilities of Intel Edge Controls for Industrial (ECI) technology with EcoStruxure Automation Expert, the DCN framework can simplify and speed the development of software defined control systems, according to Schneider Electric. Additionally, the DCN will enable EcoStruxure Automation Expert – the world’s first software-centric automation system – to scale faster and further in process industries, including energy and chemicals, mining, water/wastewater, pharmaceuticals and hybrid markets.
This DCN development will be based on Universal Automation (UniversalAutomation.org), an organisation that manages the implementation of a shared source runtime based on the IEC61499 standard. EcoStruxure Automation Expert represents the first of a new era of automation software based on this shared runtime.
Advances in machine learning, real-time analytics and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) hold massive promise for industrial enterprises and manufacturers, Schneider explained. However, the industry has suffered from the lack of a future-proof solution that can be easily upgraded to keep systems running at optimal performance.
A fundament feature of EcoStruxure Automation Expert is the ability to decouple software from hardware. This allows hardware to be upgraded as required to improve system performance while the application remains the same, thereby protecting the customer’s intellectual property and investments. The joint effort between Schneider Electric and Intel illustrates the industry’s transition from fixed-function hardware to software-defined, flexible, plug and produce solutions that deliver customers greater operational effectiveness, Schneider said.
“This is the direction for process automation,” Natalie Marcotte, SVP and President, Process Automation, Schneider Electric, said. “To fully realise the potential of next-generation industries, we must embrace a collaborative way of thinking. This collaboration with Intel greatly enhances the capabilities of EcoStruxure Automation Expert, enabling the platform to scale faster and further. To create a new wave of innovation, we must work with all parties to create a more modular software-defined industry.”
Christine Boles, VP, Network & Edge Group, General Manager, Industrial Solutions Division, Intel Corporation, added: “Software-defined systems that bring together the worlds of OT and IT are the future of process automation. The ability to mix and match leading software and hardware will allow customers to innovate quickly while still enjoying the operation performance they demand. Working with Schneider Electric in such a collaborative way, utilising Intel’s industrial specific processors and software, allows us to move quickly to develop and deliver new solutions that bring together innovative technologies that help customers achieve the benefits of Industry 4.0.”