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Working Group Aims to Evolve Standard for Process Automation

Automation and process automation will help society face major future challenges, including achieving sustainable, efficient, and interoperable production. For this reason and others, the market is poised for growth. According to Acumen Research and Consulting, the global intelligent process automation market is projected to reach nearly $28 million by 2030, which is up from less than $11 million last year. Acumen suggests the quick pace of change in the digital workplace is pushing the market forward, and intelligent process automation technology represents a huge opportunity for “step-change improvements in customer experience, productivity, and efficiency.” A push for further standards in the space will help lay the foundation for sustainable, efficient, and interoperable production by helping to eliminate automation protocol dependencies and simplifying the integration of IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology) systems.

Intelligent production depends on interoperability, and major organizations in the process automation space have come together to achieve just that. The FieldComm Group and OPC Foundation—original co-owners and co-developers of the PA-DIM (Process Automation Device Information Model) standard published in March 2020—recently announced new collaborative work to evolve the PA-DIM specification. PA-DIM aims to optimize process automation and end users’ management of data from field devices, FieldComm says. Participants in the working group include ISA100 WCI, an industrial wireless network standard for the process automation field; NAMUR, an association of user companies that represents interests concerning automation technology; ODVA, a standards development and trade organization; PI, an interest group for industrial automation technology; VDMA, which represents about 3,500 German and European mechanical and plant engineering companies; and ZVEI, which promotes the industry’s economic, technological, and environmental policy interests on a global level.

The FieldComm Group says one of the principal benefits of PA-DIM is the ability to map protocol-specific parameters to globally standardized terms for these parameters. The existing specification includes an information model and semantic identifiers for common process automation instrument types, including pressure, differential pressure, temperature, level, flow, and valve positioners. The working group’s goal will be to create enhancements and extensions to the original PA-DIM specification. In particular, the working group will focus on extending the model to include process analyzers. FieldComm Group’s president and CEO Ted Masters says: “PA-DIM helps bridge the gap between IT and OT systems in a protocol-agnostic way. This, coupled with the extensive use of semantic identifiers, provides an ideal solution to allow end users to access instrumentation data from both the installed base and newly installed instruments.”

Each participating organization will share ownership of the specification. By collaborating to extend this important standard, participants are working toward greater information standardization within process automation, which will allow for more seamless data analysis and prognostics. Stefan Hoppe, president and executive director of the OPC Foundation, says: “Digitization needs a secure transfer of globally accepted information models across industries, technologies, and applications. No single organization can achieve this alone!”

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