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This blog covers numerous topics on industrial automation such as operations & management, continuous & batch processing, connectivity, manufacturing & machine control, and Industry 4.0.

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COVID-19 Reminds Us: Risk Profiles Change. Connectivity is a Driver.


Infectious diseases are spreading around the world faster than ever, says the World Health Organization, and new diseases are emerging at the unprecedented rate of one a year. WHO has appealed in its annual world health report for international cooperation to tackle infectious diseases, which it says are a serious threat to public health worldwide. The disease situation is “anything but stable,” the report says.

Several factors have helped accelerate the spread of diseases around the world: the increasing ease of international travel (each year airlines carry more than two billion passengers), population growth, resistance to drugs, under-resourced healthcare systems, intensive farming practices, and degradation of the environment. “A sudden health crisis in one region of the world is now only a few hours away from becoming a public health emergency in another,” it says.

The times we’re living in today confirm the foresight of this excerpt, published 13 years ago. It was published in a paper covering the 2007 report entitled A Safer Future: Global Public Health Security in the 21st Century. 

Now, you are probably thinking… why is ISA writing about this? We have plenty of news coverage on COVID-19. What does a virus have to do with automation?

The newly classified pandemic known as COVID-19 will have a dramatic impact on nearly every industry around the world, and automation will be no exception. ISA will cover those implications and the resulting expert advice on topics like:

  • Unprecedented shortages for medical device manufacturers
  • Analysis of supply chain resiliency in the wake of COVID-19

We are also struck by the parallel that can be drawn to one of the core challenges our industries face right now, and one of ISA’s primary areas of focusautomation cybersecurity.

The dramatic increase in connectivityof devices, systems, networks, and facilitieshas been the underlying enabler to digital transformation, which has brought an unprecedented increase in productivity and reliability across industry sectors. In a similar fashion, over a longer time period, the worldwide economy has benefited greatly from the transition to an interconnected, mobile world where significant percentages of populations can travel internationallyaffordably and reliablyat numbers we’d never imagined in the centuries prior.

Both developments represent major leaps forward for society, and both represent a new risk profile. Just like you can’t plug infectious disease statistics into an algorithm from 1940 and expect an accurate estimate of spread, you can’t operate with your business risk management profiles from 10 years ago and think they’re still accurate.

A changing and evolving world is a beautiful thing, but it also brings new risks with its new rewards. The times we’re experiencing as a global population today emphasize this: the more connected we are, the more vulnerable we become, in some important ways. Of course, in many other ways, those connectivity points make us stronger… so it’s incumbent upon us to leverage the good and mitigate against the risk, using all the innovative technology we’ve developed to help us.

Jennifer Halsey
Jennifer Halsey
Jennifer Halsey was the director of marketing and communications for ISA.

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