Expect Far More from the Edge

 At one time, the existence of a PLC (programmable logic controller) was an important technology step at the machine level where the digital world meets the real world – otherwise known as “the edge.” As replacements for mechanical relays, drum sequencers and cam timers, PLCs greatly increased performance, speed and reliability in industrial control systems in a wide range of industries and still continue to perform their designated tasks. Today however, the edge has grown exponentially beyond just PLCs in both size and capability to meet end user needs, especially in the area of data management and analysis. In my recent article in InTech, I share that, “There are so many opportunities (at the edge) it can be hard to know where to start, or to realize the extent to which barriers have fallen. Instead of just performing older tasks better, advances in edge connectivity and real-time control expand the horizons of what is possible. Users can start with certain practical goals, but they should also actively consider new and perhaps even unconventional approaches.”

Today’s edge technology bridges the gap between operational technology (OT) and informational technology (IT), a much-needed capability in order to eliminate islands of automation on the plant floor and bring all equipment at the machine level into the decision-making process. Users will find an extensive portfolio available now for previously unheard-of operations at the machine level. This portfolio includes:

  • scalable hardware
  • flexible software
  • extensive connectivity
  • comprehensive cybersecurity
  • mobile accessibility

In my article, I also describe some of what’s now possible in each of these categories. Users should investigate the wide variety of hardware and software options, as well as the benefits of selecting these from a coordinated portfolio merging the best of OT and IT technologies. Building upon the right edge platform, the sky is the limit.

Read the entire article here.