Will PLCs become obsolete, or phase out few years down the line?
Recently you must be hearing a lot about Industry 4.0. The use of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning, IoT, etc. is massively trending these days.
Some engineers in the Industrial automation field say or predict that the above-mentioned technologies might replace PLCs in the near future. Therefore I want to share my take on this with you folks.
I will explain my opinion with a simple example. Suppose I want to turn on any motor. To make motor ON, I need some physical switch so that I can energize the control coil of contactor which will ultimately make motor ON. And here PLC comes into the picture. It acts as a switch (in simple terms) and passes power to the control coil of contactor whenever we want.
In a broader sense PLC is a collection of multiple switches (memory switches, or physical switches in the form of digital outputs) and it has a number of additional features such as computing, sensing and generating digital and analog signals, etc.
The PLC is also a computer, but it is of a different kind as compared to a normal PC or laptop. The hardware of PLC is designed taking into account the requirements of industrial process control applications.
The AI, ML, and IoT technologies may take care of computation and decision making part of process control. But for actual physical execution, a particular kind of hardware is required. And this special kind of hardware requirement is very well taken care of by PLC like controllers.
Without this very kind of hardware, the execution of process control applications is not possible. AI, ML, and IoT like technologies are just advancing the way things used to work, making them more smart, efficient, reliable, and ultimately easy to use. But they cannot completely replace the old PLC like technologies.
Therefore, in my opinion, PLCs are not going to become obsolete in the future.
Author: Pratap Shinde
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