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Control has almost reached the stage where systems can be constructed independent of supplier, platform, control hardware, operating system, programming language, programming and configuration tool, and fieldbus.
There should finally be a set of tools from which engineers can choose the best in class and have confidence that they will work together. The irony of the situation is that there may well be fewer maim line sources, as more alliances form to cater for the 'sensor to boardroom' connectivity. But, at the same time, interoperability should make it easier for smaller entrants with quality products.
The most powerful negotiating tool, from the point of view of the control engineer, is supplier independence. This is likely to result from OLE and OPC (OLE for process control). This makes it possible to combine software components from any supplier on a single desktop. Thus you can choose the best tool for each task.
Platform independence is already a feature of many control systems, with the choice of workstations or PCs. Often this is down to using Windows NT. At the lower levels, there are moves …