Honeywell Experion PKS HIVE Swarms Process Control

Author photo: Mark Sen Gupta
ByMark Sen Gupta


PKS HIVE Experion%20PKS%20HIVE.JPGHoneywell Process Solutions recently briefed ARC Advisory Group on the company’s Experion announcement. The solution intends to simplify control system design, implementation, and lifecycle management, while reducing costs.  Honeywell named the offerings Experion PKS HIVE, or Highly Integrated Virtual Environment.

Experion PKS HIVE builds on the LEAP philosophy and segments the system into three elements that can be implemented according to need.  These address the IT, control, and I/O portions of the system, respectively.  The goal is to provide organizations with a more efficient approach to control system engineering, yet one that can be adopted incrementally and used interchangeably with their existing systems and infrastructure.

Key takeaways include:

  • HIVE makes Experion system design and maintenance easier and more modular, distributed, and flexible
  • HIVE is an evolution of the existing Experion install base; mix and match as users see fit
  • The HIVE control technology opens the door to intriguing future possibilities

LEAPing Forward

Honeywell’s LEAP for Operations approach leverages many of the newer technologies in process automation. The focus is on reducing lifecycle costs and increasing reliability.

The LEAP for Operations approach rests on cloud-based execution, edge device integration, and integration of what Honeywell calls Universal Connected Assets.  These include other sub-systems and plant assets like electrical products, SCADA RTUs, and skid-mounted OEM equipment.

PKS HIVE Experion%20PKS%20HIVE%202.JPGAccording to the company, Experion PKS HIVE uses its LEAP project execution principles, software, and networking to decouple control applications from physical equipment, and controllers from physical I/O. This allows control systems to be engineered and implemented quicker, at lower cost and risk, and with simpler, modular builds. The solution also transforms the way control systems are maintained over their lifecycle.  It shifts day-to-day management of servers to a centralized data center where experts and established protocols mitigate cybersecurity risk, allowing plant engineers to focus on optimizing their control systems.

What Is HIVE?

Honeywell states that Experion PKS HIVE incorporates three elements: IT HIVE, IO HIVE, and Control HIVE.  These elements can be used individually or collectively in tandem with customers’ existing systems and infrastructure. Honeywell’s goal is to provide organizations a more efficient approach to control system engineering, yet one that can be adopted incrementally and used interchangeably with their existing systems and infrastructures.   

Experion PKS IT HIVE

According to the company, Experion PKS IT HIVE can centralize up to 80 percent of the IT infrastructure traditionally used in project engineering to lower project delivery and lifecycle costs, better leverage skills, and drive consistent physical and cybersecurity management across an enterprise.  The architecture’s flexibility allows server hardware to be managed in a data center, but some hardware can be dispersed into the facility as desired. The arrangement maintains the high-availability system architecture required for process control. This arrangement facilitates easier maintenance by IT-oriented personnel.  By doing this, Honeywell wants to enable process control personnel to focus on process control and not IT.


Experion PKS IO HIVE

Experion PKS IO HIVE provides flexible input/output and control distribution enabling the control system to become an extension of process equipment and to facilitate modular and parallel project execution. I/O cabinets can be installed centrally or distributed throughout the facility and connected via Honeywell’s secure fault-tolerant ethernet. Due to the processing power within the network interface module (CN100), control schemes can be hosted locally in the redundant hardware, meaning that it can be commissioned alone.  Even if control was not implemented locally, Honeywell offers the ability to use a laptop to host the control, allowing users to commission the cabinet independently. Honeywell also added a Wi-Fi hotspot in each cabinet to support a user’s mobile workforce initiative.

Experion PKS Control HIVE

Experion PKS Control HIVE applies control containers to provide flexibility and standardization of control hardware platform, control location, and control engineering. To the best of ARC’s knowledge, Honeywell is the first major DCS supplier to do so. With multiple physical C300 controllers operating as part of an Experion PKS Control HIVE, control engineering is dramatically simplified through automated load balancing.  This containerization allows any control scheme to access any I/O in the IO HIVE.  It also allows load balancing between the controller hardware units and users can add hardware as the need arises.

PKS HIVE Experion%20PKS%20HIVE%204.JPGAccording to the company, all I/O is accessible from any controller.  Multiple physical controllers appear as a single controller to the system and the compute load can be distributed evenly, spread out the load, and eliminate complexity.

“In developing Experion PKS HIVE, Honeywell worked closely with customers across the chemical, refining, and oil & gas industries,” said Jason Urso, chief technology officer, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Many of these organizations want a more efficient approach to control system engineering, yet one that can be adopted incrementally and used interchangeably with their existing systems and infrastructure.  Experion PKS HIVE provides these benefits and is truly a distributed control as it applies and geographically distributes technology to where it is needed.”

The Experion PKS IT HIVE and IO HIVE can be ordered now, with deliveries beginning Q1 2020. The company expects that Experion PKS Control HIVE will be available in the second half of 2020.


ARC market research shows that solutions like Honeywell Experion PKS HIVE address key issues for customers around project risk and, ultimately, project cost. A more fascinating aspect is the greater flexibility in control architecture design and implementation allowing for a more optimal use of physical and computing control system assets.  The virtualization approach opens quite a few possibilities for future applications.

For those following the progress of Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), other than its proprietary nature, the HIVE approach seems to closely match the Forum’s expressed architectural intentions.

The Control HIVE approach has decoupled the software from the hardware, which opens a host of possibilities. These would include hosting control on server hardware in a data center, dynamic controller loading on-process, and easier temporary implementations.

Another very important aspect of Control HIVE is the control hardware can be improved/updated/advanced independent of the configuration.  According to Honeywell, its customers will always have access to the latest and greatest control hardware technology without the pain of migrations past.  In some respects, this concept is an extension of what Honeywell did with the ELCN.

PKS HIVE Experion%20PKS%20HIVE%205.JPGThese functions are delivered as part of an Experion release and available as an update.  Existing customers can implement the new technology as they see fit in existing installations or in various types of expansions.  It is conceivable that a user that started with Honeywell technology in the 1970s would be able to leverage this current technology.  A migration isn’t required.

ARC Advisory Group has written and spoken about the IT/OT convergence for years; the need to address the skillset expansion because of information technology being utilized at the operational technology level.  IT HIVE, to some extent, acknowledges this by allowing the Experion PKS components to be managed by people with the correct skillsets.

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Keywords: Honeywell, Experion PKS HIVE, DCS, Process Control, I/O, LEAP, Project Execution, ARC Advisory Group.

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