There were several product announcements at this year’s ISA Expo, but ISA itself stole the limelight with the announcement that this is the last ISA Expo. In the face of declining attendance, declining floorspace sold to exhibitors, little-to-no interest by the major systems suppliers in supporting the show, ISA has decided to switch to a conference format for 2010.

The new name is Automation Week and is dubbed a “knowledge-based conference event, focusing on delivering critical knowledge on application of automation technologies in processing and manufacturing environments to top professionals.” It will be held October 4-7 (note the extra day), 2010 at the Westin Galleria in Houston. It expects to continue to attract top educational, vendor-neutral speakers and serve as a central location for standards working group meetings.

“It’s all about knowledge,” says ISA President Jerry Cockrell. “ISA is a knowledge society. We have 30,000 members and we train, we educate, we run seminars and symposia, we have standards, books, educational programs — everything we disseminate is based on knowledge. We’re excited about what ISA Automation Week can offer,” he adds.

The conference planners envision a scaled-down exhibition hall with 10-foot booths in a ballroom. For comparison, I suppose you could imagine it as a much larger ARC Forum. I guess it remains to be seen if it will be a gathering place for the media–or if I get the week off.

Although this year’s edition wasn’t a “ghost town,” it is surely a small trade show occupying less than half the ballrooms allocated to it. And tremendously smaller than its heyday years. ISA simply couldn’t offer a value proposition to the large systems companies to bring back their large, expensive booths (and bring in their customers) in competition with the companies’ own user conferences, which have grown significantly over the past six years.

Facing declining revenues for several years, ISA also outsourced its association magazine, Intech, and its electronic publications/email newsletters.

So, what is the future of ISA? Feel free to comment.

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