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  • By Renee Bassett
  • May 31, 2020
  • Talk to Me

By Renee Bassett, InTech, Chief Editor

More than eight weeks into the disruptive force that is the COVID-19 pandemic, I am saddened by the effect the novel coronavirus is having on hundreds of thousands of families, businesses, and individuals around the world. But I am also impressed by the quick switch to new business models and operating procedures that some are pulling off in order to: help each other, stay afloat financially, protect employees, or provide useful services in novel ways.

From beverage distilleries churning out hand sanitizer to auto manufacturers pivoting to produce ventilators and face shields, organizations are reinventing themselves at a record pace. Some versions of these “new normal” activities may stay in place for a very long time. Others will give way to new versions of today’s experiments.

Preparing for a new normal is something that the staff and volunteers at the International Society of Automation are working on every day, and this issue of InTech contains snapshots of the times. We may not be on the front lines saving lives, manufacturing food, or keeping the proverbial lights on, but many of our members, customers, and volunteers work for and with organizations that are.

ISA already had a healthy set of webinars and online training in place before the pandemic, so we’re no strangers to virtual work or the automation that can support it. But like many organizations, we’re doubling down now. We’ve expanded our webinar offerings to deliver monthly online seminars in four broad categories: cybersecurity, IIoT & smart manufacturing, processing control & instrumentation, and digital transformation (see p. 8). We’ve instituted Zoom meetings to advance standards-making work (p. 53), and even joined in a virtual happy hour on 28 April 2020—ISA’s 75th birthday (p. 51).

The most exciting news involves our plans for virtual conferences. I had expected to talk with many of you in person in April at our inaugural IIoT & Smart Manufacturing Conference live event, or in May at our planned CSIC Cybersecurity Standards Implementation Conference. However, not long after stay-at-home orders were issued and mass gatherings appeared risky, ISA management made the decision to bring the virtual conference experience to the automation industry.

Partnering with a company called vFairs, ISA will be providing half-day professional conferences complete with keynote speakers, expert presentations, booths filled with demos, and chat areas for conversations and Q&A. Virtual conferences are a safe, convenient alternative to in-person conferences, providing attendees with insight into key operational and business topics from the convenience of their desktop or mobile computer.

ISA’s first Virtual Cybersecurity Standards Implementation Conference will be held 30 June 2020 from 10 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. ET. Find and register for any of ISA’s webinars or virtual conferences at I hope to “see” you there.

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About The Authors

Renee Bassett is chief editor for InTech magazine and, and publications contributing editor for ISA. Bassett is an experienced writer, editor, and consultant for industrial automation, engineering, information technology, and infrastructure topics. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism and English from Indiana University, Bloomington, and is based in Nashville.