PICMG Releases InterEdge, New Standard for Process Control Systems

By Ken Briodagh

Senior Technology Editor

Embedded Computing Design

March 05, 2024


PICMG Releases InterEdge, New Standard for Process Control Systems

In a recent announcement, PICMG, the consortium for open hardware specifications, released InterEdge, a modular architecture for process control systems (PCS). The IEC 61499 and IEC 61131-compatible InterEdge specification reportedly offers an interoperable, multi-vendor alternative to proprietary Industrial PCs (IPCs), Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), and Distributed Control Systems (DCSs).

“Business needs evolve at an ever-increasing rate,” said Francisco Garcia, Americas Regional Instrument Lead, ExxonMobil Technology & Engineering Company and member of the InterEdge technical working group. “InterEdge delivers an interchangeable base hardware standard for industrial manufacturers looking to adapt to changing business needs. As a result, providers can deploy and scale dedicated physical assets and focus on value-added software and services.”

According to PICMG, InterEdge defines a vendor-neutral, open standard for edge computing and I/O module hardware. Hardware is broken down into several groups, like Compute, Switch, and I/O Modules. Within the InterEdge standard, these modules are connected along a backplane, which the release says will ease customization and expansion of industrial automation functions. The announcement says that this InterEdge 0 R1 supports both single- and multi-channel I/O implementations and a forthcoming specification will be optimized for single-channel I/O.

The key to cost savings, and one of the driving motivations behind InterEdge, is the goal of replacing proprietary edge devices. InterEdge allows companies to avoid vendor lock-in, which simplifies integration and maintenance, and enables online upgrades, PICMG said in the release, and all of those factors lead to lower operating costs.

This platform is made to be hot-swappable for faster upgrades, upending the established Edge device standards that kep devices in the field sometimes for decades. Now, the consortium says companies can more easily perform key upgrades when needed, and quickly adapt to changing market demands and technological advancements. Manufacturers will be able to join in and capitalize upon emerging trends in AI, Industrial IoT, and Industry 4.0 like never before, the announcement claims.

With its modular design approach, InterEdge is tailored to be flexible enough to incorporate many different automation systems into its platform, the consortium said. This common platform is built to be capable of working in industrial automation, chemical refining, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, metals and mining, pulp and paper, food and beverage, and a wide range of other process industries.

“InterEdge allows industrial manufacturers to transition from proprietary hardware to an open architecture where they can choose fit-for-purpose components, replace obsolete hardware, add computational resources, and upgrade hardware security in a running plant at virtually zero switching costs,” said Matt Burns, global director of technical marketing at Samtec and chair of the InterEdge Technical Working Group. “InterEdge does for industrial control systems what the Open Compute Project did for data centers.”

InterEdge originated as part of the O-PAS (Open Process Automation) Standard from The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), a consortium of more than 110 process automation companies, including system suppliers, engineering firms, governmental bodies, research institutions, and end customers. Now that the standard is maintained by PICMG, PICMG and OPAF reportedly have committed to working together to push for widespread adoption.

“PICMG felt it was critical to release this because it lays the groundwork for subsequent iterations of the InterEdge specification that will address the broadest range of industry use cases possible,” says Jessica Isquith, president of PICMG. “We are eager to support the continued progress of InterEdge and its ability to revolutionize industrial edge environments.”

PICMG has made the specification overview available here, including an architecture diagram.

The full specification is available to purchase now, and PICMG said that they welcome the participation of the engineering community in ongoing specification development efforts. Join the PICMG InterEdge working group by emailing [email protected].

Ken Briodagh is a writer and editor with two decades of experience under his belt. He is in love with technology and if he had his druthers, he would beta test everything from shoe phones to flying cars. In previous lives, he’s been a short order cook, telemarketer, medical supply technician, mover of the bodies at a funeral home, pirate, poet, partial alliterist, parent, partner and pretender to various thrones. Most of his exploits are either exaggerated or blatantly false.

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