The future trends of PLCs


Thread Starter

kella fuller


I am an Electrical apprentice for HETA (Hunberside Engineering Training Association) and have just completed a BTEC course for PLCs. The distinction question in an assignment involves the future trend of PLCs and i thought that you might be able to help me by answering some survey questions:

What does the future hold in connection with the following things:

Networking PLCs for both locally and remotely (things like using radios, satellites)

Smart sensors (things like proximity switches, radars)

PLCs in general, What are they likely to become?

Comuunication system and links

Memory saving devices (like the use of mobiles)

Development of Scada Systems and links to the PLCs

Any information that you have on the above things would be very useful for my BTEC assignment and i would be very grateful.

If u are unable to provide any information i would be very grateful if you have any contact details of somebody that may be able to help with my research.

Thank you very much,


Kella Fuller
Oh dear!!! Omron no longer call them PLCs just PCs (programmable controllers). You have a long way to go quite frankly.

Check some of the manufacturer's websites, downlaod some manuals and see what they can do. it is pretty scary.

For SCADA, check

William Sturm

Actually, PLC's were called PC's in the days before Personal Computers became PC's. I think they were changed to PLC to avoid the obvious confusion.

I am a graduate engineer (2nd years). my view of future automation stuff will be:

Q1 PLC will come standard in Dual PLC model or 1 Remote Processor up on Control room and 1 local Processor beside the machine. Still will be wired connection.

Q2 Vision System instead of Proximity. (if the price on hardware and software drop)

Q3 Touch Panel or HMI will replace SCADA. emmmm after PC environments... unless Microsoft can come out better OS ...

P/s I am using Citect SCADA at the moment and just get into their new V6 SCADA...

That is all my thinking...


Brian Teow
Hi guys,

I have the exact same questions as you, i am studying for my national diploma in electronic engineering year 1 and i am very stuck on finding answers for:

an analysis of the future trends in the nature of programmable controllers, including the impact of local/wide area networks, control software and smart sensor development.

some of your answers will help me but i am having a lot of trouble looking for the rest, any help would be appreciated.

thx again.

Bob Peterson

I'll give you my take on this. Just off the top of my head.

1. The vast majority of simple control problems are well suited to PLCs as we know them today. I don't expect that to change, so I don't expect PLCs to change all that much.

2. Certain types of control issues will improve to make it easier on the user. For instance, I fully expect to see most PLCs have PID loops that have some form of self tuning built in.

3. I expect to see more diagnositics including broken and shorted wire detection. This technology is really in its infancy, but when it becomes economical, I expect it will become standard fare. It won't become economical until there is some standardized way to deal with the vast amount of information these things generate.

4. I expect to see even more switches replaced with analog sensors. The cost of a pressure xmtr is now about what a pressure switch is. This trend will continue.

5. At some point I expect the 4-20mA loop standard to be replaced with a high speed 2 wire digital scheme that is roughly on par both cost wise and speed wise with 4-20mA technology. Currently that just is not available. Maybe it will be ethernet based (see item 7).

6. I think there is some chance that wireless sensors will become common since wiring is a big part of installation costs. But, battery life, security, robustness, and other considerations may make this one take a while.

7. I think more and more low level stuff will sit on ethernet. The chip sets are dirt cheap, and the technology is there. I would not be surprised if it went all the way down to individual prox switches. It's now close to being cost effective. No reason the same cable can't feed power to the sensor using a different style connector, and a more robust cable. Might take over the current bus systems altogether (devicenet, controlnet, profibus, etc.). It's faster and cheaper, and the technology is well understood, unlike these semi-proprietary busses.

8. I fully expect to see power electronics get smaller and smaller. It would not surprise me to see it be a common sight for electric motors to have a VFD built into its terminal box. I know there are motors that you can get that way now, but cost, size, and robustness are an issue.

9. I expect to see more and more intelligence close to the control point. I think it may well be a common thing, for instance, that a flow meter has a built in PID loop that can directly control a VFD or valve, with supervision from a remote system. This will relieve the remote system from doing much more than telling the flow meter what it should do, and the flow meter just does it. It also introduces additional redundancy into the system.

10. I expect to see more and more packaged solutions. You have a certain problem, here is what you buy to solve it. Much like today you typically buy a matched motor, drive, and controller as a single piece, rather than buying 3 seperate pieces from seperate companies.

11. I expect at some point that the SCADA and DCS people may well migrate to Linux. There are many good reasons to do so, and fewer and fewer good reasons not to. Once OPC can be reliably implemented on Linux, MS OS's may no longer make much sense.

12. I fully expect that marketing will continue to take precedance over technology at certain companies. As the products get more and more alike, they become near commodities. Other companies will go the other way. I think it will be interesting to see how long the marketing wizards are able to fool end users, and what the fallout will be once the end users finally figure it out.
Heyya, i'm also a BTEC student and I m stuck with this topic. :(

Can't find any answers :( and deadline for assignment is very soon.

Anyone having either relevant text or information and is willing to help please do so either through this forum or email me at [email protected]

Moreover if there are any students doing this course and willing to share their assignment with me, will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance and best regards,