The 2015 Rockwell Automation Fair was held at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. Stephanie attended the event to get an inside look at the industrial automation world, after having attended several building automation shows over the past few years. The industrial and building automation sectors are converging in many ways, and seem to be moving in similar directions.
A big theme of the Automation Fair, and one that we’ve seen repeatedly in the BAS marketplace, is data. Data, data, everywhere – and it’s here to stay, from the looks of it. Of course, data is only as useful as you make it. Rockwell Automation addresses this basic truth with several products that were demonstrated during the fair. EnergyMetrix is a web-enabled energy management tool that allows users to capture, analyze, store, and share energy data, and respond accordingly, saving on energy costs through interventions like tweaking schedules to take advantage of favorable energy rates and making repairs/improvements to improve power quality.
Another Rockwell product on display was their PlantPAx system, which has the ability to monitor plant equipment off-site, and can even provide assistance to technicians in the field in responding to alarms or other support needs via Rockwell’s own team of professionals available 24/7, a phone call away. During a live demo, a tech on the support team called to respond to an alarm that was triggered, unaware that they were part of the demonstration. The human element is one that is easy to forget when we’re all so focused on numbers and cost savings, but it’s important. Getting support from an actual person, without having to go through automated operators and menus, can save time and money, too, especially for smaller operations that may not have the staff or expertise available on site.
With more data being collected and reported, increased used of web-based applications for analytics, and remotely accessible systems, network security is also a hot topic, perhaps more so in industrial automation than building automation at this time. These industries will likely converge in this way, too, and we will probably see more emphasis on security in the building automation world.
The Rockwell Automation Fair was impressive, as were the people and products. The sheer size of this event, along with the number of educational sessions and lab sessions available to attendees, means there is a lot to see and do in just two days’ time.
Next year’s Automation Fair will be held in Atlanta, Georgia, November 9-10.
The S4 Group offers an OPC SNMP integration product line, Obermeier Software’s SNMP OPC Server and SNMP OPC Enterprise Agent (eAgent). Look for new releases of these products with major enhancements in 2016.
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