Manufacturing AUTOMATION

News Factory Automation Industry 4.0 & Smart Manufacturing
Schneider Electric forms UniversalAutomation.org to drive growth in vendor-neutral plug and play automation


Schneider Electric has joined forces with other industry leaders and pioneers to form UniversalAutomation.org (UAO), an independent, not-for-profit association managing the reference implementation of a shared source runtime. IT and OT software vendors, industrial end-users, OEMs and academics will now be able to share a common automation software layer across their automation technology.

UAO aims at developing a vendor-neutral ecosystem of portable and interoperable “plug and produce” software that can run with almost any hardware. The organization will work towards creating a new category of industrial automation by decoupling software and hardware, sharing a reference runtime implementation of the IEC 61499 standard and merging the information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) worlds. This could help harness the full potential of Industry 4.0.

“UniversalAutomation.org is the beginning of a new era for industrial automation,” said Dr. Barbara Frei, executive vice-president of industrial automation at Schneider Electric.”Current architectures have done a great job of advancing the industry to where we are now, but to reach next-generation sustainability, innovation, and agility, we must embrace portable and interoperable software. Doing so requires a reimagining of our current systems and processes, and collaboration on a new scale, which the UniversalAutomation.org members have agreed to do.”

The following organizations are part of UniversalAutomation.org: Aalto University, Advantech, Asus, Belden, Cargill, eaw Relaistechnik GmbH, ESA, ETP, Flexbridge, Georgia-Pacific, GR3N, Hirschmann, HTW Berlin, Intel, Jetter, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Kongsberg Maritime, Lawrence Technological University, Lumberg Automation, Phoenix Contact, ProSoft, R. Stahl, Shell, VP Process, Wilo, Wood and Yokogawa.

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UAO is actively recruiting new members and is expecting more organizations to join. UAO is encouraging all companies and organizations that are looking to advance industrial automation.

UAO members will work together to develop and adopt the next generation of universal automation solutions by collectively incrementing the runtime following shared source principles. Members will have access and the ability to shape the next generation of automation.

“Industrial operations are undergoing a total transformation,” said John Conway, president of UniversalAutomation.org. “As the IT sector has proven, advances in machine learning, augmented reality, real-time analytics, and the IoT hold great promise for step-change advancements in performance, agility, and sustainability. However, within industry, this promise is being held back by closed and proprietary automation platforms that restrict widespread adoption, hamper innovation, are challenging to integrate with third-party components, and are expensive to upgrade and maintain. Using a shared runtime changes all that.”

Portability is already a reality in other market sectors. For example, mobile applications are developed to run across different smartphone vendors, enabling rapid advances through collective innovation.

“UniversalAutomation.org is hitting the reset button on automation technology. Using the IEC 61499 standard for distributed systems, we can create a new, open industrial environment that will lead to a more sustainable, efficient future. UniversalAutomation.org will remove the barriers to innovation in automation by decoupling hardware and software and providing end users with the freedom they have been asking for — to easily integrate different technologies regardless of where they came from and fully optimize their automation systems,” said Greg Boucaud, chief marketing officer of UniversalAutomation.Org.