Ambiguous terminology for advanced control systems can impact the perception of risk

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Experts and practitioners in the chemical industry need to know how technology works and require the ability to explain it to the end user. Modern or new technology which is used to control high-hazard chemical processes, for example, real-time flowsheet optimization and control under uncertainty; or dynamic predictive control systems, require the same level of comprehension and understanding as older more traditional technology which is described in section 1.2. This is essential to avoid misinterpretation of hazards and risks. If terminology is transparent, then industry practitioners can be intelligent customers when procuring new technology.

For a long time, industry has used the term Advanced Control Systems (ACS) to describe new technology, this causes confusion as technology has developed over the decades. We aim to assess if this confusion in terminology has an impact on the perception of risk associated with new technology being used to control high-hazard chemical processes.

A survey was conducted to explore experts' and practitioners' perceptions of terms used to describe automation and digitalisation versus their understanding of the ACS. 71% of experts and practitioners acknowledged there was a difference between the two terms. However, when asked to define each term from a list of options there was little agreement between participants. Technology vendors can exploit the lack of consensus in their marketing strategies. The paper also discusses the likely psychological impact of using certain terminology and using terms that have different technical meanings.

The resultant proposal focuses on the key properties of an ACS instead of specifying a set of technologies to the definition of ACS. Focusing on key properties provides insights into the ACS which will help us determine how to use it safely and appropriately. In conclusion, the terminology used to describe new technology leads to misconceptions. The extent of the misconceptions creating safety implications is difficult to quantify. This paper provides awareness of the issue.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHAZARDS 33
PublisherInstitution of Chemical Engineers
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2023
EventHAZARDS 33 - Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Nov 20239 Nov 2023


ConferenceHAZARDS 33
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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