Today, technology gives us a great opportunity to communicate to others quickly and no matter where we are, and that’s one of the most important accomplishments if we consider communications throughout our human history. This technology is completely open and accessible for everybody who would like to create new applications and solutions; all this thanks to the need for communicating between people.
But all those features are part of the human behavior; every person can communicate their thoughts, their feelings, what they see or what they believe with a single click. Could it be possible for a PLC to communicate its information socially? Let’s define social, if we say “social” we are involving in a group of entities able to share information with other entities of the same kind, with similar interest or sharing similar experiences; now, if “social” is share information in that way to others, is it possible that an electronic device such as a PLC could share relevant information with other devices, with or without a trigger, just for enhancing it’s own capabilities? or even the group capabilities?
Let’s imagine a simple PLC network, using Modbus over Ethernet (or other protocol of your preference), in which every controller could send information in a random broadcasting to a specific PLC message server, or could just listen to or gather this information from others as clients, random clients, random consumers of this information that could be relevant for those which are processing similar information, or just to know the “feelings” of their neighbor (like a gossip PLC), the consequences are unimaginable, we are not creating a neural PLC network, we are creating a neighborhood of “social” controllers that transmit and gather information randomly to enhance its common behavior or to create an automatic tuning of its processes depending on their neighbors and depending on their own needs for information. A simple and useful application could be the management of traffic jams (that could be really useful, don’t you think?)
I assume that you are thinking that in Ladder, FBD, or ST languages it is impossible to develop that behavior, because a PLC is just a logic controller, and their programming languages are very limited for those functions, but we should take a look beyond IEC 61131-3 standard, did you know that some PLC’s have a high level language such as Java integrated in their servers? Did you know that you can program and link variables of PLC’s directly through a Java Applet for monitoring on a web page, and that it could be accessible for everyone around the globe?
Today we have the technology for developing a “neighborhood of social controllers”, collaborating with others to enhance its process, sharing information about common situations or conditions, empowering our process automation solutions, and the most important part, sharing information to make the most of our energy every day, all we need to do is imagine it.
Can you imagine other “social network” solutions for an automation system?