Today's technology purveyors predict tomorrow's giant leaps
Ethernet is just one of the hot topics at ISA 2001.
Phil Danner knows the Ethernet today is far different than it was five years ago. "Ethernet's fully capable of fitting in where your control networks and fieldbuses have been, giving you the ability to design deterministic Ethernet networks," said the vice president of technology for GE Cisco.
Danner is just one of the industry luminaries scheduled to give talks at ISA 2001, scheduled for 10-13 September in Houston. Danner will talk about "Leveraging Ethernet Technologies for Today's Industrial, Mission-Critical Process Needs" on Tuesday, 11 September, 9-10 a.m.
The importance of determining when a crane in a factory will swing around-when and where the operator wants it to-within 10 milliseconds is one example Danner offered. If it misses, he said, there is product damage, or the process breaks down. Ethernet is inherently nondeterministic, using carrier sense multiple access with collision detection instead, he explained. "Today there's a fully switched network and full duplex that allow you to design a network to avoid collisions," he said. "Ethernet is basically ready for industrial needs."
Danner will not only talk about Ethernet for communication from the factory floor to the boardroom but also stress communicating among several factories at once. If a tool builder whose machines are sold all over the world wants to monitor that machine to see when it needs supplies or when it's failed to pull real-time data and repair it, he can do so by remote monitoring and diagnostics. "If it's networked through Ethernet using wide-area network connectivity, we can connect you to that equipment," he said. "Now all of a sudden, your travel time and expense are eliminated. You're notified the minute the problem occurs instead of waiting for the customer to call you."
"We've already demonstrated we can build molecular switches and molecular memory. Now we're trying to come up with an architecture in which we can put all this together," said James Tour, Chao professor of chemistry, Department of Chemistry and Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University in Houston. Tour will speak on "Constructing a Computer from Molecular Components" on Wednesday, 12 September, 9-10 a.m.
"Consider a top-down fabrication technology, which is what silicon is," said Tour. "How does light eat away at silicon to make those features?" He said that since molecules are a bottom-up technology built from atoms, they will self-assemble in a higher-order structure when built correctly.
Tour will explain the problem behind designing a CPU, putting a particular molecule in a certain place with a precise orientation, and having it stay there. "If a molecule were the size of a pen on your desk," he said, "imagine the address lines that connect into those are the size of the room you're in. We've been using a million molecules under each access line, which doesn't take advantage of their small size. But now we've come up with an architecture in which we can take advantage of that."
Lowering costs and staying in step with Moore's Law (doubling chip performance every 11/2 to two years) are key advantages, Tour said. Every year performance doubles, but at a huge cost.
"Our architecture uses something analogous to the brain; there are a few inputs and outputs but massive computing within. We don't think about using particular parts of our brain-it just happens," he said.
Likewise the functioning of a molecular architecture: There are 20 input and output leads, "and we don't worry about the orientation during the fabrication," Tour said. "We just let them assemble how they want to, then we program them."
Building a new plant or even completely renovating an old one? You may be interested in what Charles Dusold has to say Wednesday, 12 September, 9-10 a.m. Dusold, senior manager for the International Space Station Communications and Tracking Systems with The Boeing Co. in Houston, will speak on "Transitioning to Wireless Telemetry."
Tour will talk about telemetry for plants and manufacturing facilities that collect data from sensors throughout a network. One main topic is the concept of data on demand. "You'd need this in cases that don't require constant monitoring," he said. For example, if you want to check the level of a tank that fills slowly (say in manufacturing chemical processes or an oil field), you go out only once a week or so. There isn't a constant flow of information on how the process is operating.
The key to Dusold's talk is "wireless communications such as Bluetooth or the IEEE standard 802.2 provide more capability than needed for a simple sensor collection network," he said. "The transition in going to wireless involves developing standards suitable for low-cost sensor implementation in a facility."
Most automation systems don't add significant value to manufacturing, said Peter Martin, vice president of Invensys Process Automation. In his Monday, 10 September, 10:15 a.m. presentation, "Measuring Bottom-Line Results of Automation Systems," Martin will discuss more than 40 years of automation technology trends.
He'll present research showing process manufacturing companies rarely calculated returns on automation investments. In fact, most manufacturers' accounting and quality systems were incapable of measuring the performance of process automation systems.
"The current manufacturing downturn was extremely predictable," Martin said. "Now manufacturers have to improve operations or shut down plants." Martin will draw from the work of management professors Thomas Vollmann, Peter Drucker, and others to provide a strategy for measuring and improving automation system performance that he calls "dynamic performance measures."
Imagine landing a spacecraft in a specified target area on a planet, also called the landing footprint or an elongated ellipse. Why land in a specified area? Scientists may know of what looks like a former outflow of water on the surface of a planet and want to put a robot in the middle of that to test it, said Robert Bishop, professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at The University of Texas at Austin. He'll speak on "Precise Orbit Determination and Navigation to Mars" on Tuesday, 11 September, 9-10 a.m.
Bishop will talk about 2007 mission Smart Lander, the first active, guided landing on Mars. In all previous unguided missions, spacecraft just "landed where it landed," he said. "There's a strong dependence on sensors with this guided landing. It's all done autonomously on board; it can't be controlled from Earth because of the time delays. So the onboard system will have to guide itself to the ground."
The Next Big Things
"Technology is no longer the servant of business but a peer," said Jeff Wacker, vice president and chief technical officer for Electronic Data Systems' Global Industry Groups and keynote speaker at ISA 2001. Wacker will focus on what it will take for companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors-understanding technology as a driver and creating new business models that would not have existed otherwise.
"Companies who wait for technology to come to them will be late adopters," forced to use mature technology, "which is less risky and costly but also becoming ubiquitous," he said. That's not necessarily bad if you're competing on the basis of cost. "But it's a problem if you're working on the basis of innovation or customer relationships," he said. "Your customer expects you to be on the leading edge, especially in the U.S., where we have a love for the new."
Mobility Phase II Moving beyond traditional cell phones, personal digital assistants, and wide-area protocol phones is one of the next steps of the technological future, said Wacker. It's important to empower a workforce with the right information when and where it needs it. Proactive health appliances, such as a piece of clothing that would measure body metrics (say, blood insulin levels in diabetics), would provide health assurance rather than health remediation, keeping employees in the workplace and cutting costs, said Wacker.
Digital delegation While the world is becoming more complex and human knowledge is doubling, we need to handle this cyber chaotic world. One way is to have computers handle more tasks for us. With all the communication channels through which we receive information-e-mail accounts, digital pagers, digital assistants, and voice mails-no wonder we have trouble prioritizing information.
Wacker said the key to digital delegation is setting up a rules base allowing the computer to understand business rules and communicate them using our own business logic and common sense. This is what he calls unified messaging. "I can have an e-mail come in that's automatically deleted or sent to one of my peers who is better able to answer," he said.
Ubiquitous computing "When you can put intelligence into trillions of things, you need a whole new paradigm of how to handle it," said Wacker. He pointed to the smart appliances in our everyday lives. Researchers are now studying ways to put in supermarket coolers smart chips that bid for electricity in the store based on business roles that allow ice cream to be frozen but don't limit the amount of electricity. It intermittently adjusts the temperature in relationship to everything else. IT
Matthew Lamoreaux contributed to this report.