June 2008

Objects of design

By Allan Martel

In a culture of rapid change in the automation industry, part of the challenge for industries is the requirement to reconfigure existing systems. You are not sure on any given day what production will be. You must remain agile, able to change your automation systems, while trying to figure out ways to make the process faster and easier.

When working with embedded systems, it is especially important to reduce system design time. To help improve productivity in developing embedded control systems within the industrial automation sector, packaging partners in Europe have embarked on a new approach for high degrees of functionality through improved interoperability of subsystems.

These partners are in the midst of forming a project focused on the model-driven embedded systems design environment for the industrial automation sector (MEDEIA). The focus of the MEDEIA project is on automation objects or automation components as the basis for developing a model-based embedded systems design environment. The objective is a radical improvement in productivity for the development of embedded control systems within the industrial automation sector.

MEDEIA is a European Commission funded research project in the 7th Framework Program led by Profactor and includes several European industrial and research partners, including but not limited, to an automatic packaging machine builders cluster made up of CRIT, IMA, G.D, SACMI, and SELCOM.

It is also expensive to change your automation system. You have to consider reconfiguring, portability, and interoperability. It is difficult to verify system design; there is no automatic code generation.

MEDEIA wants to provide a framework that starts with automation components delivering a framework to reduce system design time by basing everything on open source and open standards. The framework has modeling methods, which give you a flexible open tool. So it should save time. Instead of having to reconstruct the boilerplate, the MEDEIA model resembles a modular house. If you can buy pieces to move already assembled, you can build it quickly. But this is a set of automation systems.

It begins from an automation component in a major design part. It has software and hardware components. The result is 25% reduction in the time it takes you to design an automated system.

You can also benefit from further cost reductions in the shorter time to market and more agile adaptation to market conditions. So you can meet more market deadlines.

We will achieve the project goal of reducing system design time by 25% by developing:

  1. A formal framework for model-driven component-based development of embedded control
  2. An easily understandable modeling method designed for use by domain experts
  3. An integrated modeling of diagnostics
  4. The integrated simulation and verification of systems design
  5. An automatic, embedded, and platform specific code generation for the deployment of control software to heterogeneous automation hardware
  6. A series of proof-of-concept demonstrations on real-world applications by project partners in the application domain of robotics, manufacturing, power generation, and automatic packaging

Through its automation components focus, the project will create a powerful method to design and maintain long-term operational installations as well as automation solutions in environments with rapidly changing demands. To ensure wide use of the project results, we will develop a prototypical design tool as an open source solution. In the works is a possible user case scenario with OMAC. We would like to inform American Corporations about why there is an open source need so they will be able to modify the design tool to their uses.


Allan Martel is chief operating officer at OOONEIDA Inc., an international network of networks to advance distributed industry automation. He is also vice president of O3neida Europe, an official MEDEIA project partner.  Contact him at allanmartel@oooneida.org or visit www.medeia.eu.