• By Renee Bassett
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By Renee Bassett, InTech Chief Editor

It’s good to look back sometimes . . . to reminisce . . . to indulge in a bit of nostalgia about how times or people might have been sweeter or simpler or more exciting in the past. It’s also natural to review accomplishments and note lessons learned from the challenges we’ve faced. Anniversaries and disasters often spur the reverie, causing people to take stock of where they have been, where they are, and how they got there.

The year 2020 has been full of global disasters—the COVID-19 pandemic, inland and coastal flooding, civil unrest, refugee crises, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, and wildfires—but it also brought us the platinum anniversary of the founding of ISA, then the Instrument Society of America, now the International Society of Automation, and this special edition of InTech, its official publication. During a summer that seemed to stand still, we at InTech were looking back and looking forward toward what comes next.

InTech is a bit younger than ISA, given its start in 1954 as ISA Journal, but it has chronicled the passions and challenges of ISA members since the beginning. Members are the heart of ISA, and InTech is there for them. So, when 2020 became the year social distancing requirements made IRL (in real life) gatherings impossible and online meeting apps essential, InTech happily fulfilled a new role: a place to celebrate the anniversary and learn from those who’ve been with ISA through the years.

To give you a taste of the knowledge and history embedded in our leader members, we reached out to past presidents, ISA Fellows, and others willing to reminisce and remember (p. 24). Regarding the status of ISA standards work, we gathered stories from volunteers working on some of the most significant and influential, including ISA-88 (batch control), ISA-99 (cybersecurity), and others (p. 40). Automation.com’s Bill Lydon offers “Top Tech: 75 Years of Automation Milestones” and “Titans of Automation” (p. 10) to provide technological and human context for Society endeavors.

But we aren’t just looking back. ISA and this issue of InTech are looking forward. Global megatrends are disrupting the status quo and pushing industrial automation forward (p. 48), and we’re committed to helping automation professionals ride the waves of change into 2021 and beyond. For insight related to workforce development, safety and cybersecurity, standards, and manufacturing technology trends including digitalization and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), bookmark https://isaautomation.isa.org/isa-megatrends.

Speaking of IIoT, ISA’s newest division—Smart Manufacturing and IIoT (SMIIoT)—has grown to encompass more than 800 members and multiple topics, including industrial cloud technologies, machine learning, cyber-physical systems, digital twins, and more (p. 73). These technologies are the future of industrial automation, and ISA members are helping each other understand and apply them.

ISA Fellow Ian Nimmo, a part of our industry for more than 50 years (p.36), admits that “in the early days it was simpler: Everyone was focused on technology within a narrow bandwidth. Today, however, is different, and this creates new challenges for a society that has become so diverse and broad in discipline. The questions we face are: What is the next generation of technology and how does ISA as a society continue to support the needs of such a diverse membership? We need to focus on how ISA has and will continue to evolve with the evolution of its members—especially in an IoT world that answers almost any known question but is limited to what is, not what will be.

May we never stop considering what will be.

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About The Authors

Renee Bassett is chief editor for InTech magazine and Automation.com, 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.