23 Jul 2024

Modular architecture for process control systems

PICMG Announces Release of New InterEdge Standard for Open, Modular Process Control Systems

PICMG, a consortium for open hardware specifications, has announced the release of InterEdge, a modular architecture for process control systems (PCS).

PICMG says the IEC 61499 and IEC 61131-compatible InterEdge specification promises to revolutionise the industry with an interoperable, multi-vendor alternative to proprietary Industrial PCs (IPCs), Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), and Distributed Control Systems (DCSs).

“Business needs evolve at an ever-increasing rate,” said Francisco Garcia, Americas Regional Instrument Lead at ExxonMobil Technology & Engineering Company and member of the InterEdge technical working group. “InterEdge delivers an interchangeable base hardware standard for industrial manufacturers looking to adapt to changing business needs. As a result, providers can deploy and scale dedicated physical assets and focus on value-added software and services.”

InterEdge defines a vendor-neutral, open standard for edge computing and I/O module hardware. It segments hardware into Compute Modules, Switch Modules, and I/O Modules. All of these modules are connected via a common backplane, enabling easy customisation and expansion of industrial automation functions.

An overview of the specification and an architecture diagram are available at https://www.picmg.org/openstandards/interedge/. InterEdge 0 R1 supports both single- and multi-channel I/O implementations and a forthcoming specification will be optimised for single-channel I/O. The full specification is available to purchase. Interested parties are encouraged to participate in ongoing specification development efforts by joining the PICMG InterEdge working group by emailing info@picmg.org.

With its modular approach, InterEdge can flexibly incorporate the functions of disparate automation systems into a single platform. This common platform can be deployed across automation, chemical refining, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, metals and mining, pulp and paper, food and beverage, and a wide range of other process industries.

By replacing proprietary edge devices, InterEdge eliminates vendor lock-in, simplifies integration and maintenance, and enables online upgrades, all of which contribute to significant cost savings.

In the past, edge components remained in place for decades with static functional capabilities due to the difficulties of upgrades. In contrast, PICMG says the hot-swappable interoperability of InterEdge allows industrial organisations to quickly adapt to changing market demands and technological advancements and now manufacturers can improve their competitive position through emerging trends in AI, Industrial IoT, and Industry 4.0.

“InterEdge allows industrial manufacturers to transition from proprietary hardware to an open architecture where they can choose fit-for-purpose components, replace obsolete hardware, add computational resources, and upgrade hardware security in a running plant at virtually zero switching costs,” said Matt Burns, Global Director of Technical Marketing at Samtec and Chair of the InterEdge Technical Working Group,

“InterEdge does for industrial control systems what the Open Compute Project did for data centres.”

InterEdge originated as part of the O-PAS (Open Process Automation) Standard from The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), a consortium of 110+ leaders in process automation including system suppliers, engineering firms, governmental bodies, research institutions, and end customers.

With its new home in PICMG, InterEdge joins a growing family of multi-vendor hardware standards with a decades-long track record of success. PICMG and OPAF have committed to working together to push for the same widespread adoption of InterEdge.

“PICMG felt it was critical to release this because it lays the groundwork for subsequent iterations of the InterEdge specification that will address the broadest range of industry use cases possible,” says Jessica Isquith, President of PICMG. “We are eager to support the continued progress of InterEdge and its ability to revolutionise industrial edge environments.”



Company info: PICMG