Who are the automation thought leaders?

Which automation thought leaders are in your INBOX?
Nick Denbow
Nick Denbow muses over thought leaders and publications in the Automation Sector on both sides of the Atlantic.
(This article appeared in the July 2013 Issue of his publication Industrial Automation & Process Control Insider.)
Current Issue

Today was a brilliant day, a sunny day, but one at the month-end when I should be writing. So in an unusual day off, a few things became clearer. That ‘Automation Thought Leader’ – why should we only look at suppliers? There are plenty of others who make a call for attention in the automation community. But the ones with a major part to play are the editors and commentators, both on paper and on-line.

The thing about such editors is, mostly, they just don’t want to shut up. In comparison to the company ceo or technical guru, who retires, or steps down, one way or another, at – well maybe 60, possibly as late as 65, but often at aged 55 – these editors just keep on going. Maybe because the writing and opinionating is in their blood, but maybe because they need to keep earning some publication fees: one way or another they keep going.

But while we have seen a major change in the respected ceo list recently, fully reported, maybe another change in the editors and commentators, the major industry pundits, has also been happening, and we have changed some of our normal sources? So look at what you now read, and think whether the major media sources you follow, and people who you listen to, have changed in the last few years?

Plus, break your normal reader silence and tell me who you listen to, maybe we can learn something from one another!

INSIDER leads the pack
Looking close to home, it was around three years ago that Andrew Bond retired as the Editor of the INSIDER, after 14 years, in September 2010. In May 2012, Jim Pinto stopped his weblogs and automation newsletter (INSIDER, May 2012 page 5). As a part of the media hiatus following the crash in 2008 and the turmoil following the rise of the internet, the very successful UK-based Talk websites, where I was an editor from 2002 to 2010, all crashed out, after being acquired by a panicking publisher. Maybe the media publishers are still trying to find their new position in the world, after riding through that downturn of 2008, but not having the right approach for the internet based age that followed.

Patrick Raleigh

So in the UK we have the Process Engineering paper magazine that was about to be chopped, bought out of the publishers by a management group, who retained the services of the editor, Patrick Raleigh (right). Always a champion of reports written from the customer point of view, Raleigh has now decided to leave them and start a freelance venture of a newsletter in this format. (Though he remains in an advisory capacity – More on this story!)

USA-based magazines
Maybe the automation and control printing industry in the USA has embraced online content and websites better than in Europe and the UK. Or maybe they have more reserves, deeper pockets, and less freelance competition. To an ‘outsider’, it does seem that the main freelance web-based competition from the USA is more specific, topic led, like the blogs from Eric Byres at Tofino Security, or Black Hat and others.

However, there are two people that stand out, in editorial circles in the USA, and these are Walt Boyes from Control Global, and Gary Mintchell from Automation World. It was in the March 2013 issue of the INSIDER where we reported that Mintchell was stepping down from his role as editor-in chief at the magazine, the one he founded 10 years ago. While his photo still appears on their website, Gary has started a personal blog, Manufacturing Connection, as a freelance vehicle.

What was more of a concern earlier this year was that Walt Boyes’ regular contributions to his ‘SoundOff’ blog on  seemed to tail off! Lucky guy, he seems to have been able to take some time out. Now, despite some really off-putting major bugs in the ControlGlobal website over the last month, he seems to have come back in full voice, which is reassuring for us all. (Note: He had other things on his mind – including his wedding!) One of his interesting blog comments was that he was disappointed to not have Darius Adamczyk of Honeywell answer any of the Control magazine pre-submitted questions in the press briefing held at the end of May. Needless to say Adamczyk did not answer the question posed by the INSIDER either, but a written answer did follow, as reported last month, from Jason Urso. Where did the questions come from, that Adamczyk did choose to answer, one wonders?

The aging issue
These two guys in the USA, and at the moment, the INSIDER from the UK, and Read-out from Eoin Ó Riain, firmly grounded in a beautiful part of the west of Ireland, are the main editorial based sources from, with respect, relatively aging editors who don’t have to toe the company line any more, so are more than likely to say what they actually believe.

What seems to happen in UK magazines is that the ‘Publishers’ use relatively young (low cost?) editors, typically from another industry, to edit their automation/control magazines. Plus their actual column inch space for editorial is very restricted, the suppliers write most of the articles and pay for the pages. Plus after cutting their teeth in automation/control for a year or so, they are moved on to a different industry.

Where we can find exceptions in the UK and English language magazines are in the UK with Suzanne Gill, editor on Control Engineering Europe, and from Germany with Frank Jablonski on Process Worldwide. But whose articles do you read and appreciate? Let me know, I can’t read them all. In the USA, I have been impressed with some of the past reports from Renee Robbins Bassett, on Automation World, but I have not found many of her on-line articles traceable here recently.

So let’s look at some of the more interesting comments in the last month: Walt Boyes on the ISA topic – again To be honest Boyes was preaching to the converted when I read his comments on the appointment of the new ISA ‘presidentelect/ secretary’. On 23 June his report, said that he had stopped writing about the ISA some years ago, but this new event needed a comment. Back in the March 2013 issue of the INSIDER I also took up a similar issue with the ISA when suggesting in a review of their approach to wireless standardization that their commercial interests in the WCI organization had been the main factor behind their rejection of any WirelessHART compromise.

But the new guy, selected to be the future president of the ISA, is reported by Boyes to be an investment banker, someone in whose hands hopefully the investments of the large reserves of cash propping up the ISA will be made safely: he has already attained the leadership of the ISA investment committee. So maybe the ISA is to become a financial vehicle pure and simple, and ignore the membership: Walt knows about these things, as unlike me, he is still a member. Maybe the new president will also consider another name change – I suggest to the Investment Society of America – but probably that will not be on behalf of the membership.

• Readers might also like this blog item from ControlGlobal: Next-Gen Process Control Leaders (16/7/2013) and Process Automation Generations Talk to Each Other (5/8/2013)

A handy compilation of expert cybersecurity resources!


“…the latest cybersecurity strategies, recommendations and tools that can immediately be applied to protect your industrial control systems and process control networks..”

A complete list of inclusions in the Cybersecurity Tech Pack.

Technical papers
cybersecurityshieldCyber Security Implications of SIS Integration with Control Networks
Practical Nuclear Cyber Security
Establishing an Effective Plant Cybersecurity Program
LOGIIC Benchmarking Process Control Security Standards
Stronger than Firewalls: Strong Cyber-Security Protects the Safety of Industrial Sites
Integrated Perimeter and Critical Infrastructure Protection with Persistent Awareness
Applying ISA/IEC 62443 to Control Systems
Establishing an Effective Plant Cybersecurity Program
Getting Data from a Control System to the Masses While Maintaining Cybersecurity–The Case for “Data Diodes”
Reconciling Compliance and Operation with Real Cyber Security in Nuclear Power Plants
Wastewater Plant Process Protection—Process Hazard Analysis
Water/Wastewater Plant Process Protection: A different approach to SCADA cyber security
Using Cyber Security Evaluation Tool (CSET) for a Wastewater Treatment Plant
Improving Water and Wastewater SCADA Cyber Security
An Overview of ISA-99 & Cyber Security for the Water or Wastewater Specialist

Technical books
Industrial Automation and Control Systems Security Principles by Ronald L. Krutz
Industrial Network Security, Second Edition by David J. Teumim

InTech magazine articles
“ISA Fully Engaged in Cybersecurity”
“Leveraging DoD wireless security standards for automation and control”
“13 ways through a firewall: What you don’t know can hurt you”
“Defense in Depth”
“Executive Corner: What’s on YOUR mind?”
“The Final Say: Securing industrial control systems”
“Uninterruptible power supplies and cybersecurity”
“Physical Security 101: Evolving ‘defense in depth’”
“Web Exclusive: Control network secure connectivity simplified”
“The Final Say: Network security in the Automation world”
“Executive Corner: Defense in depth: It’s more than just the technology”
“Web Exclusive: Stuxnet: Cybersecurity Trojan horse”

To help manufacturers and plant and facility operators improve their cybersecurity defenses and better confront the growing dangers of cyberwarfare, the International Society of Automation (ISA) has produced the ISA Cybersecurity Tech Pack.

“The ISA  Cybersecurity Tech Pack is an assembly of the latest technical papers, PowerPoint presentations, technical books and InTech articles developed by some of the world’s leading experts in cybersecurity and industrial automation and control systems security,” says Susan Colwell, manager of publications development at ISA. “These materials—which can be downloaded from the ISA website—include the latest cybersecurity strategies, recommendations and tools that can immediately be applied to protect your industrial control systems and process control networks.”

As a widely recognized, world leader in cybersecurity standards development, training and educational resources, ISA provides the proven technical expertise and know-how to help safeguard industrial automation and control systems.

For instance, the ANSI/ISA99 (IEC 62433), Industrial Automation and Control Systems Security standards—developed by a cross-section of international cybersecurity subject-matter experts from industry, government and academia—represent a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity in all industry sectors. ISA and its sister organization, the Automation Federation, is currently assisting the Obama administration and US federal agency officials develop the initial version of a national cybersecurity framework—as called for by President Obama in February of this year.

The ISA Cybersecurity Tech Pack also includes two cybersecurity-focused ISA books: the popular Industrial Network Security by David J. Teumim; and the recently introduced Industrial Automation and Control Systems Security Principles by Ronald L. Krutz, Ph.D. As an added bonus, the compilation includes many highly relevant and informative cybersecurity articles published in InTech magazine, ISA’s bi-monthly magazine for automation and control professionals.

• See also our ICS & SCada Security page

Insider manages to come out on time!

Battles with hardware and virtual software overcome as leading independent automation and process control publication meets deadline even with a new format.

One of the publications we look forward to, and we know we are not alone in this, is the arrival of Industrial Automation & Process Control Insider.  Indeed we have been receiving this since it was first published under the editorship of Andrew Bond. For some years now it has been edited by by his worthy successor Nick Denbow.

A few days ago something happened.  Nick wrote, “This month the INSIDER comes with a new format and style, basically because of a PC failure that meant the aging software did not run properly any more…” Our heart went out to Nick as one of the great fears in using computors is the dreaded “update.” Invariably one finds that not all the programs which  have jollied along together smoothly suddenly up and complain.

I’ll let Nick himself explain his problem:

VMware comes to the aid of the INSIDER, as cybersecurity uses virtual machines to replace hardware

Topics in this issue!New management
appointed at

Closures and future
plans in the UK power

Natural gas offshore
for Cyprus and Japan?
Plus developments in

RuggedCom for the
power industry

Honeywell responds
over ISA100

Siemens targets
improved margins

New high-efficiency
motor designs

Major PAS conference
on human reliability

Blame the cold weather, or even the run down state of British industry, but actually a couple of computer failures brought forward a change of format and operating system for the INSIDER this month.

The new two column rolling format on a smaller page width should hopefully make this newsletter easier to read on a hand-held device, while for those who wish to read a printed version, the text is still legible after printing a group of four pages on one standard sheet.

VMware used to run the INSIDER More interesting was the procedure needed to make possible a simple transfer of the original Pagemaker publishing programme onto the currently available Windows 7 software, a problem possibly faced on various plant operating systems when updating servers. This has currently been solved by creating a virtual workstation on the new PC, using the free of charge personal use VMware Player, a component of the VMware Fusion Professional system. More often used perhaps to create new operating systems on old machines, to test out the operation of current software on the next generation system, this time the need was to go backwards to either XP or Vista to run the Adobe Pagemaker adequately, because despite what the screens might suggest, Windows 7
does not want to run this older generation software.

The result was interesting, in that it gave an on-screen instant demo of how operating systems have progressed, and become smoother and faster. For the moment it is just reassuring to have the INSIDER editing process up and running again.

Talking to him later he recounted his adventures including frustrating PC failures, and incompatabilty issues. He eventually stuck at it making his deadlines.

The full page version

The full page version

So why did he do it? With the proliferation of mobile appliances, intelligent phones and tablets, he sensed a certain demand for a format which satisfied this cohort of his readers. He thought a 50:50 ration would be there. 50% for full page size and 50% for the smaller “mobile” version. “At first it was US people and editors who wanted the mobile version, and Europeans who wanted full page or paper format. These latter were maybe office based people. But then the whole response pattern reversed, and quite a few Americans went for the paper version!” The new format lacks pictures a he feels the quarter page format can’t display pictures well but this may change.

In short as he says himself “VMware came to his aid of the INSIDER, as cybersecurity uses virtual machines to replace hardware!”

He has learned a lot in developing this new format, and no doubt earned a few more grey hairs. Mercifully the quality of the articles in this issue are up to the usual high standard as can be seen in the list of contents in the box on the right.

He ends his item on the traumatic experience in getting this issue out with the request, “As ever, write in and say what you think! And whether you can read it – at all!”


Energy efficiency report


New report challenges simplistic claims for energy efficiency in automation processes


The energy report provides a simple introduction to the subject of efficiency with pneumatic and electric drives.

Festo has published a new report which evaluates energy efficiency measures in the automation and positioning technology fields. The report helps manufacturers to better understand and identify methods, tools and the alternative advantages of pneumatic and electric drive technologies for improving energy efficiency in automation processes.

The report provides a simple introduction to the subject of efficiency with pneumatic and electric drives. The paper has been produced as part of a joint ‘EnEffAH’ project, part of the German Government’s energy research programme, and clearly outlines a broad range of technical and organisational topics. It explores the basic principles and measures for increasing energy efficiency and shows that the correct selection of technology (effectiveness) and the correct operation (efficiency) are critical.

“Energy is an ever-more important issue and this guide is an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with pneumatic and electric drives systems as a whole,” says Steve Sands, Product Manager at Festo. “The research shows that the requirements of the application entirely determine the right technology mix for energy efficiency.”

“As one of the leading automation technology companies, we have a deep understanding of both pneumatic and electric drive technologies. Through this report we can share our knowledge to help our customers make informed decisions on the correct selection of technology to maximise their energy efficiency.”

Steve concludes: “There are no quick-fix solutions for increasing energy efficiency, as it must be viewed in an overall context. Trying to save money at a component level without considering the overall system is in-effective and parameters must be looked at in detail to provide lasting efficiencies and savings. Life time costs really must be considered; it makes no sense for it to take 10 years to achieve a payback on an initial investment through improved efficiency if the expected life of the machine is only five years! Selecting the right measures and using drive technology correctly, means notable energy and cost savings can and must be reached.”

The secret is in the mix: the most energy-efficient solution will often be a mixture of electric and pneumatic drive technology

The secret is in the mix: the most energy-efficient solution will often be a mixture of electric and pneumatic drive technology

Floreat Jim Pinto!


Many readers of Read-out, and followers the Read-out Instrumentation Signpost and our assorted blogs look forward to Jim Pinto’s insights as narrated in his newsletter, Connections for Growth & Success™, which is published now at varyingly regular or irregular times. The September issue has just hit our mailbox and is as usual filled with interesting and thought provoking insights.

For many years he hosted what were called Automation Company Weblogs, originally intended as an aid to the improvement to the running these companies by showing what people thought should be done. The companies themselves rarely appreciated the good intentions behind these writtings and observations which, I think, meant that these descended into a collection of gripes, real and imagined, into the activities and/or idiosyncracies of these enterprises.

He comments: “Many regular JimPinto.com website visitors will have noticed that, after 10 years, I stopped the automation company weblogs. The consistent negativity was getting me down, and I’m happy I stopped. Some cynics actually wondered if I’d been “bought off”, while most others wrote with positive support and understanding. I must tell you, I did consider giving up on eNews. But, I’m a writer. As my friend Jack Grenard said, “a writer cannot not write”. So, I’ve decided to continue to write the “irregular and irreverent” JimPinto.com eNews. But, the tone and flavor will change. It won’t focus much on automation business commentary. So, those who’ve signed up for automation company news may not wish to stay on the list. For those, please send me a simple email with “Remove from eNews” in the subject line or text.”

However we need not fear that he is, like all good rugby players, in any danger of fading away. In fact I think he is more active than he ever was in his eventful life in automation! And again to streach my rugby analogy still ready for a set scrummage any time! “I’ll continue to write my monthly column for Automation World – I’ve been doing that for about 10 years now and I’ve witnessed the magazine’s emergence to US leadership in the automation business. Founder and editorial director Gary Mintchell feeds me with ideas and I enjoy his regular demands to come up with original, challenging editorial. Your regular feedback is gratifying  – thank you! Being a Technology Futurist remains my primary avocation, so you’ll read more of my prognostications. In addition, I’ll include commentary on societal trends (I’ll avoid politics) and global economic shifts (related to futures). And anything else I can sniff out; wherever my nose leads. In addition to my writing, I do an occasional consulting gig with people or companies I like. Plus my regular speaking engagements which often generate enjoyable world travel. Hey! If your company needs an entertaining and motivating speaker for your sales meeting or industry gathering, please get in touch.”

I have heard him speak and what he says in no idle boast, he is interesting, entertaining and above all challenging. Book him and tell him Read-out told you to.

And our message to Jim Pinto is simple, “Floreat!”

Rising demand and competition drives proximity sensor market


After the devastating recession in 2009, the market for proximity sensors recovered quickly in 2010 and marginally exceeded pre-crisis levels in 2011.  In 2012, we see a slowdown in growth but positive momentum will continue to dominate the market developments from 2013 onwards.  Overall ARC expects a CAGR of around 8 percent during the forecast horizon.

The market for proximity sensors is strongly connected to the business cycle and the overall performance of automation markets.  During the last few years, most products have commoditized and reached a mature state, the only exception is ultrasonic sensors.  The latter still offer the potential to technically differentiate from competitors, and markets are growing fast despite falling prices.  For inductive and capacitive sensors, prices have nearly bottomed out.

“The proximity sensor market is mature, highly competitive, and hosts a large number of suppliers.  This has created a market that appears settled, but actually has a lot of movement going on beneath the surface.  This especially includes brand labeling and partnering agreements,” according to Analyst Florian Güldner, the principal author of ARC’s “Proximity Sensors Worldwide Outlook”.

IO-Link Further on the Rise
Smart sensing is a market that we expect to grow at an above average rate during the forecast horizon.  The technology enables new applications and enhanced performance in existing applications.  Proximity sensors are normally not equipped with a microcontroller for signal processing simply for cost reasons.  We talk about smart proximity sensors if:

  • A sensor communicates more than its measured variable
  • A sensor has built-in intelligence to self-adjust to the environment or the detected object
  • A sensor can communicate with the controller or other devices to receive parameters
  • A sensor is enabled for band-sensing

The definition includes all devices using IO-Link.  The additional intelligence also adds complexity and cost, and ARC sees ultrasonic, photoelectric, and capacitive sensors as the first target markets for smart sensors.  IO-Link has a strong value proposition for end users, sensor manufacturers, and also machine builders.  “We see this technology growing much stronger during the forecast horizon,” according to Florian Güldner.

Ultrasonic Sensing Grows Faster than Market Average
Ultrasonic sensors is a fledgling market in the discrete sensing sector.  The technical challenges, combined with relatively high R&D costs, have kept many suppliers of low-cost products from entering the market.

Compared to other discrete sensor markets, technological advancements are still possible.  As the technology gets more reliable and accurate, many applications which have previously relied on photoelectric and capacitive technologies now use ultrasonic sensors.  These can lead to increased competition with capacitive sensors and photoelectric sensors.  The high growth rates, in turn, will certainly attract new market participants. In general, extensive brand labeling is one of the key characteristics in the ultrasonic sensor market.

New editor in chief for automation journal


Dr. Ahmad B. Rad is to be the new editor-in-chief of ISA Transactions, beginning January 2012, when he succeeds Dr. R. Russell Rhinehart.

Dr Ahmed Rad

ISA Transactions is a journal of advances and state-of-the-art in the science and engineering of measurement and automation, of value to leading-edge industrial practitioners and applied researchers.

“Dr. Ahmad Rad has been one of the key participants in managing reviews, soliciting manuscripts, and seeking both scientific excellences with a practice balance,” said Dr. R. Russell Rhinehart, ISA Transactions past editor-in-chief. “During Dr. Rad’s 10 years as an Associate Editor, he energetically and creatively shaped the direction and continuous improvement of ISA Transactions.  I am sure that his leadership will continue, and that ISA Transactions – The Journal of Automation will rise to even greater international impact.”

Dr. Rad received the B.Sc. degree in engineering from Abadan Institute of Technology, Abadan, Iran, the M.Sc. degree in control engineering from the University of Bradford, Bradford, U.K., and the Ph.D. degree in control engineering from the University of Sussex, Brighton, U.K., in 1977, 1986 and 1988, respectively. He is currently a professor at the school of Engineering Science of Simon Fraser University, Canada.

Prior to this appointment, Rad served as chair of Robotics and Mechatronics at the Faculty of Engineering and Industrial Sciences of Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia, and as professor of Electrical Engineering at the Department of Electrical Engineering of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong. He has also worked as a control and instrumentation engineer in the oil industry for seven years from 1977 to 1984.

Dr. Rad’s research interests include autonomous systems, robotic systems, intelligent process control, time delay system identification and adaptive control. He has served as a member of editorial board and an associate editor of ISA Transactions since 1999.

“We are very pleased that such a distinguished scholar as Dr. Ahmad Rad has agreed to fill the formidable space being left by Dr. Russ Rhinehart after 14 years at the editorial helm of ISA Transactions,” said Eoin Ó Riain, vice president of the ISA Publications Department. “Dr. Rhinehart is a hard act to follow but we know that in his experience in working with Russ on ISA Transactions, Dr. Rad has a keen grasp of the journal, how it has developed under Dr. Rhinehart’s editorial leadership and the correct mix between practice and theory, which has made it the success it is. We look forward to seeing Dr. Rad’s own insights and the further development of ISA Transactions in the years of his editorship.”