Not long ago, the roles of industrial automation devices and systems were a little more straightforward. Most field devices and sensors were relatively “dumb” and were directly connected to controllers, which may have interacted with operator displays, and in rare cases some data may have flowed up to higher level enterprise systems. Today’s smart sensors, clever controllers, and more capable communications have improved upon this scenario, and end users are looking for the best ways to enable the enterprise host systems to access valuable field-level data.
The operational technology (OT) domain of sensors, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), and human-machine interfaces (HMIs) is converging with the information technology (IT) world of PC servers and cloud connectivity. These technologies are more intelligent than ever with a lot of overlapping functionality. This means users have more options for building or upgrading an industrial automation system to deliver integrated data. Applications where OT data is accessed with IT methods are often referred to as Internet of Things (IoT) implementations.