Universalautomation.org grows to 88 members

Automation without proprietary systems

Annual General Meeting of Universalautomation.org in Barcelona 2024

The independent organisation Universalautomation.org (UAO) has grown to 88 members. The organisation's annual general meeting took place in Barcelona on the occasion of the ARC Industry Forum Europe in May 2024, of which the UAO is one of the sponsors. Among other things, the board was expanded to include new members such as AS-Rock Industrial Computer and Yokogawa. John Conway, current President of the UAO, also announced his resignation at the end of the year. He has already been succeeded as representative of Schneider Electric by Raquel Torres, who is also Ecosystem Director of the UAO. Individual members such as "Gr3n", Aalto University, LTU University, Kongsberg Maritime and R. Stahl also presented their IEC61499-based projects or solutions in which the UAO runtime is implemented in Barcelona.

Greg Boucaud, Chief Marketing Officer of Universalautomation.org, reports that interest in the automation approach has grown tremendously over the past twelve months. Many professionals now have a better understanding of exactly what the organisation is planning and how it is positioning itself. The Runtime Execution Engine provided by the UAO enables the resolution of proprietary automation structures in contrast to, but not in competition with, approaches such as MTP, NOA, OPC UA or O-PAS. If the runtime is implemented in a PLC controller, for example, no development environment from the same manufacturer or generation is required to program it. Among other things, this leads to a decoupling of the life cycles of hardware and software and simplifies the reuse of program code. This results in considerable advantages for migration and integration, but also for the flexibility and modernization of systems.

Decentralized automation approach of Universalautomation.org

The UAO approach is not based on IEC61131, as is usually the case in the automation world, but on IEC61499, which was first published in 2005. The main features of this standard describe a decentralized automation approach that provides for hardware-independent distribution of program code. This is based on vendor-neutral software objects that are not tied to a specific project via global variables. Prof. Valeriy Vyatkin from the Finnish Aalto University and, since this year, Prof. Alois Zoitl from the Johannes Kepler University Linz are two UAO scientists who have decisively advanced academic research in the field of IEC61499 in recent years. Other recent members from the university environment are the Technical University of Košice, the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte and the University of Warwick in England.

The Use of UAO in the industry

Various member companies have already shown that and how the Universalautomation.org approach works. For example, Schneider Electric, with its UAO-capable software platform Ecostruxure Automation Expert, has implemented the first automation projects based on IEC61499 together with Gea, Wilo and the German machine manufacturer Lödige. A demonstrator developed for BASF was also presented at the last Namur main meeting.

Another use case comes from Switzerland: the start-up "Gr3n" from Chiasso uses the UAO approach for the automation of its modular systems for the environmentally friendly recycling of PET. Decoupling the lifecycles of hardware and software is a huge advantage, especially for start-ups that are constantly developing their new systems and need to try out different hardware configurations. In addition, the selection of suitable hardware is no longer dependent on the manufacturer. Instead, "Gr3n" can decide purely on the basis of functional aspects or what is currently available. Among the manufacturers that have already implemented the UAO Runtime Execution Engine in selected products are Advantech, AS-Rock, Belden, ESA, Flexbridge, Kongsberg, Matribox, Odot, Phoenix Contact, R. Stahl and Schneider Electric.