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Control, Automation and Instrumentation Technology: The essential element of the industry

Published on Wednesday, 08 Apr 2015
Control, Automation and Instrumentation Technology : The essential element of the industry

Long time ago, we controlled devices or motors in the production line of a factory only by switching on and off of the buttons.  The traffic of trains was monitored by waving a flag on the spot. With the rapid development in IT and electronic technologies, applications are now widely equipped with control, automation and instrumentation (CAI) techniques in the control of various industry-related devices. It covers all kinds of industries, such as the electrical and electronics, IT (Information Technology), environmental and transport engineering, which have brought a safe and comfortable living to human beings, improving energy efficiency and providing a fast, reliable, comfortable and safe transport, etc.

Below are examples of the modern applications of the CAI technologies for your interest.

Example 1  Lift Industry: Remote Monitoring and Maintenance  

This technology uses an additional electronic device, installed at the computerized lift control panel which is used for retrieving the operating data of the lift, such as the status of alarm button, leveling accuracy, smoothness of door operation and even the conductivity of relays/contactors, correct status of sensors/micro-switches and any abnormal temperature rise of major equipment etc. These operating data will be sent back to the server located at lift maintenance company office through dedicated telephone line. The server will perform preliminary analysis of the operating data. If there is any abnormality, the engineer will further analyze the data to find out the possible reasons so that maintenance technician can prepare in advance the parts and tools required and try to complete the maintenance and repair works on site in the shortest period of time. 

Example 2  Transport Industry : Software Control technology 

Railway is a complex transportation mode which consists of various systems. Similar to other metro systems worldwide, MTR coordinates various systems to provide station and train operations with high effectiveness and efficiency via the concept of an integrated control system that functionally integrates major railway control functions into a single interface. One of the commonly used control systems is Station Management System (SMS).

Sub-systems integration
For every individual station, the SMS is implemented to provide a uniform operation on top of other sub-systems.  By building interfaces between the SMS and other multiple systems, station operators are able to monitor and control various Electrical & Mechanical, Automatic Fare Collection (AFC), Signalling and Communications systems via a workstation and an Integrated Back-up Panel (IBP) within the Station Control Room (SCR). The integrated system allows station operators to easily deal with the sub-systems via a single interface and greatly reduces the numerous direct interconnections between them.

Whole system supervision
Real-time statuses of all plant and systems which interface with the SMS are shown in the SMS workstation.  Having a complete view of the station condition, it facilitates operators to take appropriate actions and to optimize operations for scenario handling.

Example 3  Smart Grid: Automated Demand Response

Smart grid applies digital technologies to the power system and enables real-time coordination of information from supply and demand side. Automated Demand Response (ADR), a smart grid application, has been adopted by utilities across many countries to collaborate with customers to reduce electricity consumption during peak periods for enhancing system stability and optimizing generation assets. In Hong Kong, ARD can be applied at large commercial and industrial customers, where ADR gateway is installed at their premises to automatically reduce energy consumption of major equipment such as chillers and Air Handling Unit through Building Management Systems under ADR event. The degree of change is pre-agreed with the customer, and they will be offered financial incentive according to their energy (kWh) saving in the event. ADR enables customers to play an active role to be a green citizen or corporation with the minimal effort.                  

With the above three examples, we can observe that CAI engineering plays an important role in the industrial operation and public transportation, a steady supply of high-quality workforce in the sector is essential for the society.Promoting the engineering career and inspiring the youngsters to join the engineering workforce is the main theme of the Control, Automation and Instrumentation Division (CAD) of Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) this year. Accordingly, the annual symposium organized by CAD this year on 27 March 2015 is entitled “CAI Technology to Inspire the Young”. Industrial visits and career talks are regularly held for the secondary school students. Apart from the work for the teenagers, CAD has been endeavoring to build up linkages with learned societies in Mainland China and open up activities organized by them to our members and engineering professionals in Hong Kong and China. We have jointly organized the Environmental and Sustainable Conference in Guangzhou on 10 Oct 2014with the Guangdong Association for Science & Technology, the Macau Institute of Engineers, the Environmental and Civil Division of HKIE. Besides, technical visits, both locally and abroad, have been organized for members. 

With the great effort of the CAD, we hope to share all the advanced CAI technologies among the professionals for better serving the community and bring an environmental and enjoyable living for the humans. And of course, the most important point is to inspire and train the youngsters to join the discipline so as to sustain high-quality manpower in the sector to serve the community.

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