How to Decouple Software from Hardware in Industrial Automation - Insights from Greg Boucaud of

Author photo: Jim Frazer
By Jim Frazer

Listeners to this podcast will learn:

  • How to decouple hardware and software in automation.
  • Explore the basis of the technology
  • Learn the differences between event-based vs. scan-based automation.
  • Examine the vision of Universal Automation.
  • Explore target devices for your automation logic?
  • Learn how to add more functionality to an existing automation process?
  • Discuss Artificial Intelligence  for greenfield and brownfield applications.


Our Guest Greg Boucaud is the Chief Marketing Officer at Universal Automation. Previous to this role he held a number of senior positions at Schneider Electric. For more on Greg please visit his LinkedIn profile at

Listen in to the entire episode here.  



And here's a short excerpt from the discussion:

Jim Frazer  - I think we all understand that example about a Windows machine and we load an application and it runs we don't care where, or about the form factor. It could be a desktop, it could be a laptop, could be something else. But the in that scenario, we do have one private vendor that has an operating system. Microsoft owns windows. Do you envision universal going down that path? Is it one operating system that's shared across those platforms? Or is it even more? Or is it more true to a vision?

 Greg Boucaud - In fact, it comes to the explanation how those universal automation works - decoupling really the hardware from the software.

Jim Frazer - And let me just quickly interrupt that. I'm not sure everyone knows those two IEC standards. So maybe, maybe want to start with describing those a little bit.

Greg Boucaud - I could. So the IEC 46741 Is the mostly used on that today in the automation space. So it's a scan-based system, you do your automation in a scanning effort, you will mostly use, let's say a centralized approach with one PLC, so one controller for your automation, you program it, and you have your, let's say, program running on a sky base basis. So easy, every few milliseconds, you launch an order, and you do something, right? The other option is an event based system, so when you have a event happening, you do something. So it's like, okay, if, for example, you are in a plane, you're waiting to take off. Example, IEC 46741 is like you ask every 10 seconds to your to your control power. And I can I can I go on, can I take off, I go on, can I go and kind of go on. Event based programming is, I just wait for the control tower to give me the signal, when they give it, I just go. So that's different between event based and scan-based system.

Jim Frazer  - That was a great explanation. So thank you for that. Next, now that we established that foundation, continue on pleased with the vision of universal

Greg Boucaud - And to look at a couple things. The way it does that is that the universal automation uses what we call a reference implementation. So it's a software piece that you can put into a controller. And this software, PID is shared amongst members, so vendor members, so whatever product that you buy, from a member of the association will have in the future, this piece of software onto it. And this piece of software is helping you as a user to decouple your application from the software it runs on. So we are not really an operating system, because you can compare it to the operating system like Android or Windows like Linux, but this piece of software sits on the operating system which already exists. And does mainly the conflation between your program what you have programmed. And let's say the hardware architecture and the controller itself. So that's the runtime.

Jim Frazer - Okay, so it gives you a standardized API at the higher level. And as a low level, it mates to the peculiarities, particularities of each processor and firmware in that in that control.

Greg Boucaud - Yeah, we could say that's simplified. In this way we could say that, yeah. Knowing that you have different you can have different engineering to work interacting with at runtime. So that's, that's not an issue today. And another thing and it's as well, another way of working the automation industries that this idea of preference of limitation comes from the IT industry. So for example, Linux. Today, when you want to use Linux on your PC, you not just go to the Linux, let's say, download the specs and develop your own Linux but you go to Debian or whatever version of Linux those version are so called as well reference implementation. So it's the same that we are doing in the automation space.

For the full episode please visit How to Decouple Software from Hardware in Industrial Automation.

UniversalAutomation.Org is an independent, non-for-profit association managing the implementation of an industrial automation shared source runtime execution engine, based on the IEC 61499 standard. This new level of shared technology provides the basis for an ecosystem of portable, interoperable, “plug and produce” solutions and creates an entirely new category within industrial automation. UniversalAutomation.Org is open to new members looking to advance the world of automation.

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