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Kim Dunn, 2008 Society President

2008: Fully in the information age

The year 2008 was the year of bailouts (Bear Stearns, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, Lehman Brothers); the stock market had the worst crash since the Great Depression; oil hit an all-time high of $147 per barrel, causing inflation and unemployment; Fidel Castro stepped down as prime minister of Cuba after almost 50 years of rule; Apple released the iPhone 3G; Google beta tested the Chrome browser; Hulu was launched; favorite television shows were American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, NCIS, Sunday Night Football, and Desperate Housewives. But the most controversial and hottest topic of conversation at the October leaders meeting of ISA had to be the Society name change.

It was not my idea to change our name from “Instrument, Systems and Automation” to the “International Society of Automation.” I simply picked up the flag and carried through what Steve Huffman had begun a year earlier. Today, as we enter what can only be known as the Information Age, it is hard to believe it was so difficult to come to consensus on something so fundamental as a name. I don’t believe the general public today has a better understanding of what automation professionals do, any more than they did in 2008, but they think they understand what the International Society of Automation means—and that is probably what counts.

In 2008, ISA was learning how to effectively use the World Wide Web to reach out to a new generation of automation professionals. As an organization, we had used Internet tools for years, but not to the full extent possible as a strong marketing arm. With a little coaxing from some very enthusiastic staff members, I am proud to say that I was the first Society president to have a presidential blog.

In 2008, a new standards war was also raging over a wireless communications standard, ISA100. It is amazing to me that what we have adopted today in our lives at home via Siri, Alexa, and Google Home is being adopted at a seeming snail’s pace by industry. I can operate my HVAC, garage door, lights, and even kitchen appliances remotely and wirelessly, but I still see operators with clipboards gathering data in plants. Go figure! However, plants are realizing the benefit of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), digital transformation, and extreme data crunching thanks to the foresight of people in 2008 and earlier who made “wireless” a relevant and important topic.

A few other firsts during my term: First woman to serve as Society president, ringing in an era of inclusion and diversity for ISA. The photos that line the lobby of ISA headquarters shifted from black and white to color in 2008. Most importantly, I was the first post–Baby Boomer who served as president—depending on when you declare the end of the Baby Boomer era and how much I fib about my age. But I have it on good authority that I am what is known as a “cusper”—one hovering somewhere between the Baby Boomers and Gen X on the generational spectrum.

My biggest disappointment from my term as ISA president must be not getting, “We Control the World” agreed upon as ISA’s slogan. Sure, “Setting the Standard for Automation” is a great branding statement and is much more professional and slightly less egotistical. But don’t we, as automation professionals, ultimately control the world today? Automation is everywhere and is advancing at a pace the founding members of the Instrument Society of America could never have imagined. And we are the lucky ones who design, build, sell, install, and operate the technology moving us forward. I will go to my grave believing that as members of ISA and the automation profession, We Control the World.

Kim Dunn, 2008 Society President

This article is part of September/October 2020 InTech—the ISA 75th Anniversary Special Edition