Yokogawa Targets Autonomous Plant Control

April 21, 2021
Yokogawa with NTT Docomo undertakes proof of concept test of 5G, cloud and A.I. for remote control of plant systems.

Yokogawa Electric Corporation signs an agreement with NTT Docomo, Inc. (Docomo) to undertake a proof of concept test (PoC) for the remote control of a plant system utilizing fifth generation mobile communications (5G), the cloud, A.I. and other technologies. The PoC involves cloud-based Yokogawa A.I. for plant control and a 5G communication module mounted on a three tank level control system to control the water level remotely. The test aims to demonstrate the ease with which companies in the chemical, oil and other process industries can modify their existing systems to use 5G autonomous control devices with the latest cloud-based A.I. With the goal of achieving autonomous plant control in the future, Yokogawa will work together with Docomo to verify and optimize this technology.

Driven in part by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in the need for the improvements in production safety and efficiency that can be achieved through autonomous plant control, according to Yokogawa. In a survey of process industries that Yokogawa conducted last year, 64% of respondents reportedly said they anticipated that plants will have fully autonomous operations by 2030, and that autonomous control mechanisms using A.I. and other technologies and not requiring human intervention will become increasingly common. However, given the latency in communication that occurs between the cloud and device controllers when conventional wireless communication is used, there have been major technological challenges when it came to autonomous remote control of plant systems.

The PoC will examine whether the technical challenge of achieving low latency can be solved by using Docomo’s high-speed, large-capacity, low-latency 5G communications network, the Docomo Open Innovation Cloud, which offers multi-access edge computing (MEC) to achieve low-latency and meet other requirements of the 5G era, as well as other cloud technologies. Yokogawa says it has already completed a trial of an autonomous control system based on its proprietary A.I. technology that successfully controlled the water level in a three tank level control system, a task that is generally acknowledged to be very difficult. The technology that was used is reportedly considered within the industry to be among the most advanced of its type. In the PoC, by the end of March 2022, Yokogawa will work with Docomo to construct a demonstration environment for the cloud-based remote control of the water level in a three tank level control system using the A.I., and undertake, among other things, comparison and evaluation of communication performance between LTE and 5G.

“With a view towards a future in which industries adopt autonomous operations, we are now promoting IA2IA (industrial automation to industrial autonomy),” says Kenji Hasegawa, a Yokogawa vice president and head of Yokogawa products headquarters. “Through the linking of 5G with the cloud, Yokogawa’s A.I. and device controllers, we believe that we can make a great contribution in achieving plants whose systems can be remotely controlled and are fully capable of operating autonomously.”

For more information, visit: www.yokogawa.com

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