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Networked embedded automation

Nunzio Hayslip (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, USA)
Shivakumar Sastry (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, USA)
Jon S. Gerhardt (Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, USA)

Assembly Automation

ISSN: 0144-5154

Article publication date: 1 July 2006




The aim of this research is to investigate whether a collection of tiny, resource constrained, microcontrollers that communicate with each other over wireless links can perform rigorous automation tasks.


We identify three building blocks that are necessary to obtain large conveyor systems. The operation of each building block is regulated by a local microcontroller and the microcontrollers interact via wireless links to coordinate the operations across blocks. We define the actions necessary in each block and discuss two example applications for this method.


It is necessary to fundamentally revisit how automation applications are engineered to get the benefits of new technologies. We show that the three blocks that we call segment, turnaround and crossover are sufficient to obtain a large variety of conveyor systems. By embedding the blocks in a grid, we can simplify the design of the conveyor systems.

Research limitations/implications

Extensions of this research to identify a set of building blocks for discrete automation applications and motion control applications could provide new insights, architectures and methods for future automation systems.

Practical implications

When fully realized, this approach can save engineering costs, commissioning costs and provide new approaches for managing faults in automation systems.


The three building blocks for conveyor systems and the method of programming the blocks that allows the blocks to be configured in a variety of ways to realize conveyor systems for many applications.



Hayslip, N., Sastry, S. and Gerhardt, J.S. (2006), "Networked embedded automation", Assembly Automation, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 235-241.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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