Emerson, through its Plantweb digital ecosystem, shared its vision of a new software-defined automation architecture.

This ‘architecture’ utilizes “boundless automation” to manage, connect and deliver operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) data across the enterprise. Moving data freely and securely across OT and IT domains—from the intelligent field to the edge and cloud—will reportedly enable operational and business performance optimization across the enterprise

Emerson shared this vision to accelerate manufacturing at its Emerson Exchange convening approximately 3,000 industrial experts to discuss ways to optimize business and sustainability performance through advanced automation. This vision follows the latest expansion of Plantweb with the Aspen Tech industrial software portfolio, states Emerson.

“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,” says Mark Bulanda, executive president of Emerson’s Automation Solutions business. 

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 presents 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, the company says.

Leveraging automation 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 a demand for a new automation paradigm where a unified software environment streams data across the enterprise effortlessly, when and where it’s needed.

This software-defined, data-centric and app-enabled architecture Emerson outlined at its conference will reportedly “democratize” data. The automation architecture will gather data from devices and modern edge-based technology control systems and move it to today’s cloud-based enterprise for analysis, trending and forecasting—enabling collaboration between information technology and OT, Emerson explains.