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This paper presents the architecture and the methodology of a distributed control system (DCS) which is based on intelligent field devices and an integrative development environment (IDC) in connection with software servers as a basic source of software within this innovative automation environment. This approach covers the whole life cycle of the DCS, ranging from the hardware independent design of the control application, to the operation of the system during runtime including both the engineering and the maintenance process. The methodology is strongly based on the application of plug-and-play mechanisms in the field device level and the usage of IEC 61499 function blocks to design the control application. The open source tool Eclipse is the basis for the IDE and provides a powerful and scalable framework for the integration of software modules.