Schneider Electric forms UniversalAutomation.org association
By DE StaffAutomation Machine Building
Not-for-profit looks to enable control system application portability via development of IEC 61499-based runtime environment.
Schneider Electric announced it has joined other industrial partners to form UniversalAutomation.org (UAO), an independent, not-for-profit association managing the reference implementation of a runtime environment (RTE) based on the IEC 61499 standard.
An extension of the IEC 61131-3 standard, IEC 61499 defines a generic model for the use of event-driven function blocks in distributed industrial-process measurement and control systems. In addition to allowing for control of an application’s execution order and data flow, the standard also describes a method for bridging the gap between cyclic, scan-based OT systems and transactional, event-driven IT systems.
According to the UAO, association members will also work together to develop the IEC 61499-standard’s potentially most attractive quality to end-users; namely, a vendor-agnostic environment that allows software applications to become re-usable and portable across devices. By decoupling software and hardware, the runtime implementation will allow an application to run on almost any vendor’s hardware, provided it incorporates the UAO’s RTE.
“Industrial operations are undergoing a total transformation,” said John Conway, president of UniversalAutomation.org.“As the IT sector has proven, advances in machine learning, augmented reality, real-time analytics, and the IoT hold great promise for step change advancements in performance, agility, and sustainability. However, within industry this promise is being held back by closed and proprietary automation platforms that restrict widespread adoption, hamper innovation, are challenging to integrate with third-party components, and are expensive to upgrade and maintain. Using a shared runtime changes all that.”
For reference, UniversalAutomation.org’s efforts generally match that of the Eclipse Foundation’s 4diac project, an open-source implementation of the IEC 61499 standard that includes the FORTE runtime environment, integrated development environment (IDE) and function block library.
Beside Schneider Electric, other notable UAO members include Intel, Advantech, Phoenix Contact, Yokogawa, Shell, Belden, Cargill, Georgia-Pacific, Kongsberg Maritime, ASUS IoT, ProSoft, R. Stahl and VP Process. The organization says it is actively recruiting new end users/SIs/OEMs and vendors to implement the runtime in their products.