4 Ways Mobile Devices Have Transformed Remote Monitoring and Process Control

mobileHMI

Mobile devices have changed many things about the way we live and work today. They’ve changed the way we interact with each other, consume new media, purchase goods and services – they have become essential lifestyle accessories in a relatively short period of time. This is true not only for individuals, but entire industries have been impacted in a significant way.

With that in mind, here’s a look at 4 ways in which mobile devices are changing remote monitoring and process control.

Remote Device Monitoring

Mobile devices can be used as portable HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces) to monitor remote equipment in the same way that standard HMIs are used. Field operators can quickly and easily assess the current conditions of a process or piece of equipment without being tied to a workstation.

This can be particularly useful for checking the system-wide effects of repairs or configurations that are made to field equipment, rather than manually visiting each piece of equipment to take measurements or waiting until someone in the control room lets him/her know about any potential problems or abnormalities.

There may also be situations in which a problem can be diagnosed and corrected without even visiting the site. By giving field operators and technicians the ability to access real-time data from wherever they may be, it may possible to eliminate any travel time or expense, freeing the operator or technician to work on other tasks. This may also eliminate the need for the technician to call back to the control room for updated information. This means the control room operator now has more time as well.

 

Viewing Documents and Other Media

In addition to monitoring and controlling processes and equipment, mobile devices can also serve as a sort of repository for useful information, providing a handy reference for materials that would ordinarily fill several books and would be nearly impossible to carry around over the course of a work day.

New workers can reference training materials like manuals, pictures and videos. Use tablets and smartphones to access safety guidelines or troubleshooting procedures. View schematics and diagrams.  Review incident reports or outstanding work orders.

If you think of mobile devices as nothing more than a portable library of relevant media, this use alone is enough to justify the investment.

 

Filling out Forms or Checklists

Operators and technicians frequently have a need to add information to a database regarding certain tasks performed – or simply as part of their day-to-day responsibilities. Whether performing inspections, completing service orders, updating personnel files, or any number of other tasks, mobile devices can save employees a tremendous amount of time by allowing them to perform these tasks from anywhere at any time.

 

Field technicians can update the control system instantaneously from the field – without having to return to the control room to fill out a form or deliver the results to a control room operator over the phone.  It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where a technician in the field, several miles from any control room, can use a single device to read a procedural document, review a checklist, enter relevant information into a form, then check to confirm that the information was entered completely and accurately – without any unnecessary travel time or phone calls.

 

Collaborating

One of the most profound applications of mobile devices is as a tool for instant collaboration. By allowing continuous access to live process data, personnel from different departments can collaborate and make decisions with up-to-date and accurate information at their fingertips.

Mobile devices can be used to document best practices by uploading pictures or videos of particular procedures and allowing these items to be reviewed by workers at other locations in other facilities. Smartphones and tablets allow personnel to access rich media at any time as a means of conveying a certain set of information to relevant parties. Use displays of real time and historical data in meetings or presentations. Mobile devices allow off-site personnel to participate in real-time activities with on-site personnel. Many possibilities are introduced by mobile technology.

Excerpted from the whitepaper “The Benefits of Data Mobility”, downloaded at www.scada.com.

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HTML5 is Taking SCADA to New Places

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For those web developers who keep up with the new standards in web development, HTML5 comes as no surprise. The internet has changed so much since the last iteration of HTML was standardized in 1999, new innovations were inevitable. With the widespread deployment of broadband internet connections and the prevalence of multimedia on today’s web, HTML5 was designed to bring HTML standards up to date. Some of the changes are staggering.

HTML5 introduces a number of new features to enhance web browsers’ abilities to create graphics, display multimedia content, and deploy web applications with ease. New elements and attributes have made the latest version of HTML much more robust and sophisticated, and CSS3 has introduced a number of new style elements that are certain to change the face of the worldwide web. As more and more browsers are coming to adopt the new standard, web pages and applications created in HTML5 will load and run more quickly and with fewer errors. This will allow for higher quality video and audio content, more detailed graphics, and more intelligent applications.

While not every browser had fully adopted the new features of HTML5, it won’t be long before the new standard changes the way we see the web. And, subsequently, it will change the way HMI/SCADA systems work as well. With most mobile browsers supporting HTML5 – including iOS, Android and Blackberry devices – the new technology will allow SCADA developers to design software that can be as mobile as today’s workers.

Control operators will no longer be chained to a workstation. Engineers in the field can view HMIs with real time data on their phones and tablets. Executives can use real time information to make important decisions from wherever they may be in the world. With SCADA becoming mobile, businesses can become more agile and responsive to key indicators. The gap between management and production will be all but eliminated. It is now possible to share live data across multiple channels spread all over the country or the world.

So, HTML5 is making SCADA systems more accessible than ever before. The next challenge is to find the best way to take advantage of these new capabilities and maximize the impact of mobility. Are you up to it?