Bill Gates produces an occasional interview podcast called Unconfuse Me. I listened to Episode 5 today with AI computer scientist Yejin Choi.
Few people are better at explaining the science of artificial intelligence than Yejin Choi. She’s a computer science professor at the University of Washington, senior research director at the Allen Institute for AI, and the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. I thought her recent TED talk was terrific, and I was thrilled to talk to her about how you train a large language model, why it’s so hard for robots to pick tools out of a box, and why universities must play a key role in the future of AI research.
My takeaway from the conversation was the thought that tools like ChatGPT continue to grow larger. But this makes the science of the query very important. After reviewing some other technologies, Choi posits that what will really progress into useful tools would be reducing the scope. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, what about working on special purpose AI models—say maybe a math tutor.
I thought immediately about my conversations with recently retired Mike Brooks and the ML technology deep within AspenTech. And that is not the only place within process control software where you will find machine learning (ML, which is an AI technology) working for us.
Forget hand-wringing about the future like our journalist friends like to publish. Try thinking making AI useful.
We are experiencing increasing partnerships as companies strive to provide more comprehensive solutions to customers. This partnership news concerns German sensor company SICK and Swiss measurement and automation technology specialist Endress+Hauser. Both companies are aiming for a strategic partnership for SICK’s process automation business segment and have signed a joint memorandum of understanding.
The goal of the partnership is to expand the Endress+Hauser product portfolio with process analysis and gas flow measurement engineering from SICK. The two companies intend to establish a joint venture for the production and further development of SICK process technology. The sales and service teams of SICK’s process automation business segment will become part of Endress+Hauser’s global sales network. In total, this segment currently employs more than 1,400 people in 28 countries and generates more than 350 million euros in sales annually.
The process technology offerings from both companies complement each other. The process analysis and gas flow measurement engineering from SICK – for emissions monitoring in flue gas cleaning processes or for gas flow measurements, for example – are employed particularly in waste incineration facilities, at power, steel and cement plants, in the oil & gas industry, in chemical and petrochemical production and in the marine sector. In the past, the companies have frequently worked together on an order, project and customer basis.
Both shareholder families, as well as the respective supervisory bodies of SICK and Endress+Hauser, are backing the planned strategic partnership. Using the memorandum of understanding as a foundation, experts from both companies are now conducting due diligence to determine how the collaboration can be accomplished and brought to fruition. The contract is expected to be signed before the end of the first quarter of 2024, while closing of the transaction is scheduled for the middle of next year.
Three recent items from Emerson just came my way. The essay on Emerson Process Experts about decoupling software, hardware, I/O in control systems piqued my interest as Emerson’s “response” to the Open Process Automation Forum’s work. I place response in quotation marks because I’m not sure when they really started development. I know that Honeywell, for example, began its development work even before OPAF.
Emerson also is playing at the Edge, while valves continue to be an important part of the product portfolio noted by the release of a valve-related product.
It’s Time to Break Up—Automation’s Future will be Defined by Decoupling by Todd Walden, Claudio Fayad
As Claudio Fayad explains in his recent article in Processing magazine, there are many exciting changes coming as Emerson embarks on its Boundless Automation journey and evolves the modern control system in to a next-generation automation platform. However, what might come as a surprise is that many of the coming evolutions will look familiar, as quite a bit of the important work is based in a decoupling journey—one that actually started a long time ago.
People who have been in the automation industry a long time likely still remember the days when I/O required termination on marshalling cabinets and I/O cards attached to the controller. The complicated interface meant project engineering was extremely complex—wiring diagrams needed to be created in advance of every project and though they could be changed later in the project, those changes could quickly become very costly.
To meet this need, Emerson designed an Electronic Marshalling solution. Electronic Marshalling decoupled I/O from the controller, empowering teams to define I/O on an as-needed basis and gave them the option to stay flexible even in the late stages of a project. And while that critical transformation took place decades ago, the decoupling of I/O from the control system is still relevant in one of the newest technologies that will form the foundation of the Boundless Automation journey: advanced physical layer (APL). APL brings the power and flexibility of Ethernet into the plant using the two-wire cabling that plants already have in place. As Claudio explains, using APL to further decouple I/O from the control system will bring big benefits,
Emerson’s New Edge Solution Democratizes Operational Data
Emerson has launched the DeltaV Edge Environment that expands the capabilities of the evolving DeltaV automation platform to provide an operational technology (OT) sandbox for data manipulation, analysis, organization and more. Teams can deploy and execute applications to run key artificial intelligence (AI) engines and analytics close to the data source with seamless, secure connectivity to contextualized OT data across the cloud and enterprise. The DeltaV Edge Environment empowers teams to more quickly deliver operational improvements tied to productivity, sustainability and other business objectives.
A single, encrypted, outbound-only flow of data helps authorized users ensure they have constant access to near real-time data without risk of users accessing the control system—a common risk with traditional custom-engineered solutions. Users can run applications for visualization, analytics, alarm management, digital twin simulations and other needs with the contextualized data available on the DeltaV Edge Environment. OT teams will know the rich data they use is a precise replica, always up to date and fully reflective of the current operating condition.
The DeltaV Edge Environment leverages open, common protocols such as OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) to provide contextualized data while standard application programming interfaces like representational state transfer architectural style (REST API) and scripting tools like Python provide the sandbox environment in which users can design and run applications.
Learn more on the DeltaV Edge Environment webpage.
New Valve Health App Provides Timely Plantwide Health Indicators
Emerson has announced the Plantweb Insight Valve Health Application, a powerful software tool that combines Fisher control valve expertise with advanced analytic algorithms. The new app makes it possible for users to visualize an entire connected fleet of valves, while prioritizing actions based on the health index of each valve. This helps plant personnel optimize valve repair activities, resulting in faster and better maintenance decisions, leading to reduced downtime.
The app allows users to prioritize repair and maintenance activities with five different indicators—Repair Urgency Status, Valve Health Index, Financial Impact, Criticality, and NE107 Alert Status—to meet specific needs. The app includes explanations, recommendations, and suggested time to take action. This last indicator is totally new to the market and is one of the app’s exclusive features.
I am still trying to compile notes and news from the Connected Enterprise part of Honeywell while this news comes from the process automation side. These new products bring process automation technology and application into the modern realm that MES companies have been exploring—solution suites. I’ve not been able to talk with any end users, but I have to imagine this is helpful in certain applications. It seems to be the trend for larger software applications. Or, as a P&G engineer pleaded with a room full of technology providers a couple of years ago, “Please make things less complicated.”
Honeywell introduced Experion Solution Suites (ESS) on Oct. 19, 2023, an end-to-end automation software package for licensed Honeywell UOP units. The ready-now technology offers embedded process solutions within Honeywell’s flagship ExperionPKS automation platform.
“Experion Solution Suites is a fully developed knowledge system which removes the risk of translation from process experts to control experts by embedding UOP Inside Honeywell Automation,” said Chad Briggs, vice president and general manager of Projects and Automation Solutions at Honeywell Process Solutions. “This offering de-risks investments and can increase schedule flexibility by 10 to 12 weeks allowing operators to get trained earlier and ready for any abnormal situation during start up and commissioning.”
Automating engineering labor allows Experion Solution Suites to accelerate project development during detailed design and implementation. This can also reduce the total cost of ownership over the lifecycle of the asset by decreasing hours of manual effort and human error that can lead to unplanned downtime.
Honeywell’s new technology includes pre-configured control design, graphics, alarms, startup/shutdown sequences and process digital twins within scope of UOP licenses. This design minimizes risk for owners to ensure day-one readiness and reduced time to full capacity.
ESS is currently available for Ecofining, Ethanol-to-Jet, Oleflex-C3 (PDH), Aromatic and Naphtha Complex technologies, and will soon be available for most UOP licensed units including Methanol-to-Jet, Carbon Capture and Hydrogen Purification units.
Emerson held a media/analyst presentation on its sustainability efforts. I remembered writing and swore it was for here. After much searching, I found a document that is my monthly column for Automazione Oggi, an Italian automation magazine.
In addition, Emerson also held a user conference called Exchange Immerse. The control and software organization held the event last week. I was not invited—budgetary constraints I was told. So, no report on the conference itself and anything happening there. The company did release a number of news items which I’ve noted briefly below.
Emerson recently gathered assorted media writers virtually to discuss its ongoing efforts with sustainability. Seth Harris, Emerson Director of Sustainability for the Americas, and Gerardo Muñoz, Sr. Solutions Marketing Manager for AspenTech (an Emerson business), discussed how advanced automation ensures integrity across the carbon capture value chain.
Emerson’s Framework includes: Greening Of—how they improve internal performance; Greening By—how they support and enable customers’ decarbonization and environmental sustainability; and Greening With—how they foster collaboration among many stakeholders.
The emphasis of this presentation included energy source decarbonization and energy management.
Carbon capture represents an estimated 15% of total CO2 reductions by 2070. These are achieved through both direct air capture and point-source capture. CO2 is captured from emissions and processed for deep well storage. The process includes four steps. First is separation and purification of complex toxic gas to yield high purity CO2. Next, the gas is compressed and liquified to an ideal stable state for transport. The liquified CO2 is safely transported to its destination for, fourth, stored in stable geologic formations.
My question for all of you inventive chemists out there is can’t this gas be used as a feedstock in order to make something useful?
This looks to me as Emerson’s response to the user-pushed initiative for Open Process Automation. Emerson has not been active with the Open Group’s work. But obviously they feel the customer pressure for software defined and more openness with connectivity and potential for upgrade. These are significant advancements proving out Emerson’s tagline as a software company. I find that doubly interesting given that a competitor has dropped software from its tagline. One of my more popular podcasts discusses “Software Eating Manufacturing.” Check these out.
Boundless Automation Vision Drives New Technologies for a Next-Generation Automation Platform
Emerson announced the first of a series of new technology releases that build upon its Boundless Automation vision and serve as the foundation of its next-generation, software-centric industrial automation architecture. The new technology releases will transcend a traditional control system, creating a more advanced automation platform that contextualizes and democratizes data for both people and the artificial intelligence (AI) engines.
Emerson’s DeltaV Edge Environment will provide more secure ways to move data from the automation platform to wherever it is needed – data lakes, data scientists, analytics applications in the cloud, enterprise resource planning systems, etc. – without losing valuable operational context.
Emerson also announced the release of technologies supporting the increased bandwidth and intrinsically safe connectivity of Ethernet advanced physical layer (APL).
Its new DeltaV PK Flex Controller allows users to leverage subscription-based services to use only the technologies they need, with the flexibility to add functionality at any time. Subscription options also enable teams to reduce capital costs and shift expenses to the operating expense budget. As a next phase, Emerson will add more than 16 services to its subscription portfolio to provide customers with more flexible business models, empowering them to drive innovation and growth with ease.
Emerson has also added new software-as-a-service, cloud-hosted solutions to bring data from the edge into the cloud, helping combine cloud data with AI tools to upskill personnel and offset experienced worker shortages. Those AI analytics tools, including AMS Optics and Aspen Mtell, will help teams build models for predictive and prescriptive maintenance strategies that unlock the autonomous plant, while simultaneously creating a new paradigm of centralized operations where highly skilled personnel work in tandem with AI.
As expanded connectivity brings more assets, devices and data into the fold, teams will need more powerful tools to help them manage and use the information coming in from many different sources. Emerson’s Ovation Green solutions, including asset management and supervisory control and data acquisition software, represent a powerful suite of technologies to combine a utility’s renewable energy assets into a single management tool, unifying data and setting the stage for holistic automation across the power grid. Similarly, tools like AMS Data Server unshackle reliability data, making it easier for users to get critical information out of the intelligent field and into cloud-based applications for use by cross-functional teams.
Emerson Forms Life Sciences Executive Board to Advance One-Click Technology Transfer Initiative
Emerson announced a new executive board of key life sciences leaders to help define, review and demonstrate prototypes for Emerson technologies that will safely speed life-saving drugs to market.
Collaborating through Emerson’s One-Click Technology Transfer Board, Emerson customers FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, Merck and Pfizer will lead the development of strategies, solutions and guidelines to convert today’s life sciences manufacturing recipe transfer process into a digitalized production platform. Digitalizing recipe technology transfer will reduce the time, effort and risk of managing, sharing and translating information to help get new drug therapies to patients faster.
Emerson will also open a dedicated research center to accelerate the development of One-Click Technology Transfer software. Located in the Singapore life sciences manufacturing hub that is home to 8 of the 10 global pharmaceutical companies, Emerson’s new research center will design, develop and verify the software and digitalized production platform.
Emerson’s One-Click Technology Transfer capabilities will help digitalize drug recipes and recipe management, from discovery and development to production at scale, providing valuable translations between drug recipe requirements and manufacturing processes while establishing best practices and creating a framework to unify disconnected systems into a holistic platform. The board will define reference data models and objects for one-click manufacturing, create the framework for a centralized recipe transport and translation platform that is scalable and extensible, and define and implement standards for version and quality control while simultaneously ensuring the overall system is easy and intuitive to use.
Emerson’s data scientists and software developers at the research center will use the latest computer software development technologies to perform rapid prototyping to test and verify concepts. The software platform developed through rapid prototyping will be tested and proven, working across the One-Click Technology Transfer Board company supply chains as appropriate.
The new board builds on Emerson’s globally recognized life sciences leadership combined with the industry’s most flexible and integrable solutions. Bolstered by its acquisition of the Fluxa PKM solution and AspenTech’s software capabilities including AspenTech DataWorks industrial information management software, Emerson is well positioned to develop the technologies and standards for a fully integrated end-to-end solution for the drug development pipeline.
New Digital Valve Controller First to Offer Embedded Edge Computing
Emerson has announced the Fisher FIELDVUE DVC7K Digital Valve Controller, a new design improving upon 30 years of field-proven innovation. The DVC7K features Advice at the Device technology with embedded computing and analytics that convert raw data into actionable information locally with Bluetooth capability, within the device. This means maintenance personnel can receive the data via their phone, tablet, or computer wirelessly without having to be in a control room at the plant location. The new valve controller technology improves the performance, reliability, and uptime of both on-off and control valves—and by extension an entire process plant or facility—in a wide variety of process industry applications, and provides the information required to create streamlined work processes.
Previously, digital valve controller data had to go to a host system to be processed and prepared for viewing, however, with the intelligence of this system, data is now accessible without requiring access to the host software. All information can be viewed at the DVC7K’s local user interface, nearby via Emerson Secure Bluetooth wireless technology, or remotely after it is transmitted via a wired digital network to a host, such as a distributed control or asset management system.
The local user interface provides indication of valve health at a glance via LEDs, and users can drill down from the interface home screen to find more information. Emerson Secure Bluetooth enables access to one or more digital valve controllers at distances up to 30 feet from any device capable of supporting Bluetooth, such as a smartphone or tablet. Whether the information is viewed locally, nearby, or remotely, plant personnel can use it to drive awareness of valve health.
While politicians blather about various aspects of sustainability and climate, businesses have discovered it’s simply good business. The world searches for better, more plentiful, and safer fuels. Hydrogen is a good bet. Generating hydrogen turns out not to be so simple. However, process automation companies have focused engineering teams on viable ways to produce green hydrogen (hydrogen produced without negative inputs).
In this news, Yokogawa Electric Corp. announces that its subsidiary Yokogawa Australia has received an order from Monford Group Pty Ltd. to supply an energy management system (EMS) for the initial phase (“phase 0”) of the Yuri Green Hydrogen Project (hereafter, Yuri), which is constructing an industrial-scale renewable hydrogen production complex in Australia.
The Yuri project is being undertaken in the Pilbara region of Western Australia by Yuri Operations Pty Ltd, a joint venture between ENGIE Renewables Australia Pty Ltd and Mitsui & Co., Ltd. A consortium consisting of the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning (EPCC) companies Technip Energies and Monford Group Pty Ltd. is constructing these facilities, which will consist of an 18-megawatt solar power plant, an 8-megawatt battery energy storage system (BESS), and a 10-megawatt electrolyzer. Using carbon-free solar energy, this facility will be able to produce up to 640 tons of green hydrogen per year. The hydrogen will be used as a feedstock to produce green ammonia at an adjacent ammonia plant operated by Yara Pilbara Fertiliser Pty Ltd (YPF). YPF is a wholly owned subsidiary of Yara International ASA, which is one of the world’s largest producers of nitrogen-based mineral fertilizers.
For the control of the solar power plant, BESS, and electrolyzer, Yokogawa Australia will supply an EMS that is developed by Yokogawa Group company PXiSE Energy Solutions LLC. This EMS will be combined with an integrated control system (ICS) centering on the Collaborative Information Server solution that Yokogawa will also be providing for phase 0 of this project, under a separate contract*1. Once these systems are installed and integrated, the Yuri facility’s renewable energy production will be autonomously managed to ensure consistent stability and power quality based on the operating requirements of the adjacent ammonia plant, the weather, and other factors.
PXiSE’s grid control solutions have already been highly evaluated at a Horizon Power project in Western Australia*2. Horizon Power serves the largest power supply area in the world, and following a successful rollout in Onslow, the solutions will be adopted in 34 additional Horizon Power microgrids. Also, the ability of Yokogawa Australia’s Technical Excellence Center in Perth, Western Australia, to provide technical support and engineering services backed by many years of experience in providing cutting-edge solutions to a wide range of industries in Australia was also evaluated.
Commenting on Yokogawa’s participation in this project, Koji Nakaoka, a Yokogawa senior vice president and head of the company’s Energy & Sustainability Business Headquarters and Global Sales Headquarters, said, “In a world in which systems are becoming closely integrated, based on the system of systems (SoS) concept, we will contribute to our customer’s ESG management by offering high value-added solutions, including the integration of plant control and energy management systems to enable the timely control of complex power systems.”