The automation profession’s big irony, according to consultant Bela Liptak, is this: While universities, scholars, and even technical industries themselves don’t really recognize automation as a profession, “our contribution is potentially the highest compared to any other,” Liptak said.

On Thursday at Automation Week in Mobile, Alabama, Liptak will unveil the challenges this unsung industry faces now, and the horizons on which automation should focus for the future.

One of the big problems is people in academia in particular are just beginning to realize there is a profession such as process control and automation. “We’re just getting to the point where we are beginning to be recognized as a profession,” he said. “And in fact, ours is the only engineering profession that understands the total process.

In his keynote speech, Liptak will talk about the latest developments in optimization and safety, referencing nuclear accidents around the world and giving examplesof optimization results in terms of production rate, safety, and efficiency improvements, showing that just process control alone can in some cases reduce energy costs.

Process control will make a tremendous jump in the future, Liptak said. The future will be more dependent on measurement and control taking place automatically, without users even realizing there’s a lot of automation in the background. “We’ll have robots — all kinds of development, all of which has to be developed by process control people. We’ll have the beginning of the industrial revolution, which first started with the steam engine and electricity. The second started with the computer, information computer, and information technology. The third one is just beginning the transformation from an exhaustible culture – depending on coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium. From there we are just beginning to transform into a renewable inexhaustible lifestyle, and automation will have a tremendous role in doing that.”

Liptak will also unveil one of his inventions having to do with solar energy. “Solar energy is so plentiful that on five percent of the Sahara we can collect all the energy needed — not today, but by the end of the century,” he said. “The problem with solar energy is that it’s intermittent.” Liptak’s invention has to do with the reversible fuel cell. “It’s basically a device that makes electricity from hydrogen. Another device, called an electrolyzer, makes hydrogen from solar energy. “What I’m trying to achieve is a device that combines those two,” Liptak said. “When the sun is out, we make hydrogen; during the night, we use that hydrogen to make electricity. We make solar energy continuously available. In the form of liquefied hydrogen, we can also transport it to wherever energy is needed.”

Liptak hopes people will be motivated by his revelations and gain respect for their own profession. Check out his keynote speech on Thursday to learn more.

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