New Automation Architecture to End Siloed Data

Automation firms like Emerson are developing new ways to improve the path to digital transformation

Automation technology and software company Emerson has a new vision for software-defined automation architecture to help create what it calls “boundless automation,” connecting the layers of operational data created in a manufacturing environment. 

This next-generation architecture will manage, connect and deliver operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) data seamlessly and across the enterprise. Moving data freely and securely across OT and IT domains—from the field or shop floor to the edge and cloud—will enable operational and business performance optimization.  

“The industrial sector is facing a pivotal moment, with the intersecting priorities of safety, productivity and sustainability forcing a crossroads between ‘the way things have always been done’ and the tech-powered vision of tomorrow,” said Mark Bulanda, executive president of Emerson’s Automation Solutions business. “As an automation leader with expanding software capabilities through our AspenTech addition, Emerson is well-positioned to help the industries we serve navigate a path to a digital future.” 

The automation architecture currently used across the world’s most essential industries was purpose-built with operational data isolated from hardware and software systems. This siloed approach is a barrier to meaningful data use because separate layers of automation – including sensors and software, cloud-based applications and artificial intelligence – block data access from one layer to the next. 

Leveraging automation to its fullest potential requires secure OT data access to put data to work across layers to optimize process, reliability, safety and sustainability simultaneously. New technologies and applications combined with market needs – including “born digital” companies, decentralized operating models and the move toward self-optimized plants – have created demand for a unified software environment streams data across the enterprise effortlessly, when and where it’s needed. 

Emmerson says this software-defined, data-centric and app-enabled architecture will “democratize” critical data, gathering data from devices and modern edge-based technology control systems and securely move it to today’s cloud-based enterprise for analysis, trending and forecasting to aid collaboration between information technology and OT. 

“The shift to a software-defined architecture across the cloud, edge and intelligent field will eliminate functional and architectural silos, creating a ‘boundless automation’ platform. Such a platform is required to truly enable all the benefits promised by digital transformation applications and programs,” said Peter Zornio, chief technology officer for Emerson’s Automation Solutions business.