Collaborative engineering on an App-Store?

Could the concept of collaborative automation engineering platforms be as simple as an App store? With flexible engineering, sky is the limit

What if one day you had a craving for custom-made beer with a spicy flavor? At a beer store the conversation might go like this:


This interaction sounds strange in a beer store, but not in the world of manufacturing where customers expect to be able to customize nearly any product at will. In this world rapid customization is a rule, not an exception.

These are the kinds of expectations to bear in mind when evaluating integrated engineering environments. Users can design and engineer automation systems with tools that have specific functions, but often these tools are not easily customizable to users’ specific needs without adding significant costs. For example, engineers may automate an IO (Input – Output) allocation by writing a small program, using their domain knowledge and skills. If it is useful enough, they might then distribute it to colleagues who could reuse it in their own projects. This kind of collaboration, sharing and instant response are actually the future of engineering, but to make it possible, we need tools that make it happen – and these tools need to be flexible and extendable. Furthermore, there would have to be a way of securely sharing and distributing such creations within a selective group of colleagues or participants.

Recent technological advancements have made dreams of enhanced collaboration between automation engineers a reality. Today we have mobile computing systems with flexible application distribution infrastructure enabling users to develop specific, targeted application components for widespread distribution. Of course, we`re talking about the App Store and Google Play, designed to provide customers with a vast array of choices and custom designs. But why couldn`t we extend the ideas that built these platforms and delivery systems, and evolve a collaborative engineering infrastructure designed for automation projects?

Such a flexible engineering solution would enable users to customize functions as apps, and by uploading them to a common shared infrastructure make them available to a selective audience. Subscribed users could then be notified of new uploads based on their areas of interest. Recommendation and ranking systems would help identify top-ranked apps, which could then be further refined and integrated within our core system functionality. A seamless innovative platform that collaboratively engages users could easily evolve into a thriving ecosystem of engineering tools, tightly focused on specific needs and requirements. It would be a valuable resource for engineers, providing a trusted system of mutual aid to help overcome the inevitable roadblocks and impediments of day-to-day engineering work. The end result is better than a cold spicy beer – more productive and efficient engineering teams.

S+ Engineering is envisioned to integrate such a customizable app environment and provide a unified engineering platform for DCS and SCADA applications, capable of administrating, engineering, configuring, commissioning and maintaining any Symphony Plus component – from field devices, electrical devices, control & I/O to operator workplace.


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About the author

Sudhakar Govindarajulu

I am the Product Line Manager responsible for the introduction of the new intuitive efficient and scalable S+ Engineering tool. This development is very much in line with ABB’s ongoing commitment to technology and innovation.
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