“In 1970, Edgar Codd applied set theory to data storage and retrieval. The basic principle of the relational model is the Information Principle: All information is represented by data values in relations. A relational database can keep elements related without storing them in a separate and clearly labeled bin. It can also find all the elements of a set even if the user knows only one unique identifier about the set.” — Charles Babcock, “What’s the Greatest Software Ever Written?” InformationWeek, August 14, 2006 (from the EMC-Squared calendar)
So what does this have to do with process automation? If you think about it, this seminal discovery, this “aha!” made everything we do with computers and data possible. It makes it possible for us to view a plant, on one level as a collection of tanks and pipes and sensors and pumps and such– while on a wholly different level, a metalevel if you will, view the same plant as clusters of data we can use to understand the workings of and optimize the workings of that plant.