Human-machine interface (HMI) software is continually improving, now providing IT and operations technology (OT) capabilities. Once confined to the role of machine and process visualization and control, modern unified HMI software now delivers better user interfaces, containerization, and remote device management — all wrapped up in a cybersecure package.
Modern User Interface
This functionality gives developers the ability to customize and animate HMIs and the move from pixel- to vector-based graphics greatly improves onscreen aesthetics and machine visualization.
Configuration and Usage
Modern unified HMIs ship with pre-installed apps for viewing documents, watching instructional media clips, and securely accessing external Web-based systems. Additionally, native and third-party apps are available for purchase to:
Perform advanced production algorithms and calculations
Connect to data from multiple sources over multiple protocols including MQTT
Visualize historical data
Analyze machine and motor drive health for predictive maintenance
Create notifications and send alerts
Machine builders can use these and other pre-built apps or they can develop their own apps and open application programming interfaces. To increase compatibility, unified HMIs utilize a docker engine — running each app in its own container — greatly simplifying the management of application versions and dependencies (Figure 2).
Unified HMI software also enables users to establish and monitor production key performance indicators and to include this data in business process reporting.
Secure Device and App Management
In addition to new IT capabilities, unified HMI software utilizes common development and runtime environments across all visualization devices — control room computers, smartphones, tablets, panel HMIs, and other platforms — increasing development efficiency on the OT side. These visualization interfaces share a common library of application objects, SVGs, and scripts, reducing the time and money required to bring additional devices online.
Management of these devices is made simple through a Web-based interface independent of an OT automation project file, enabling storage of apps and licenses on servers. Furthermore, administrators can remotely deploy or update apps, apply security patches, and manage content of all unified HMIs across an enterprise (Figure 3).
Apps run in the background, full time with their hooks in the docker, independently of the runtime layer executing the classical automation project, so a change in app configuration does not impact HMI runtime. Communication among devices running unified HMI software is encrypted and HMIs can be configured for automatic system backup to prevent data loss.
Software for the Future
As an increasing number of enterprise-connected smart devices are implemented around the world, unified HMI software is providing modern graphical, connectivity, and IT-based features while maintaining the robustness manufacturers require from industrial HMI runtime software. These advances are improving machine performance, enabling greater profitability, and fueling connected enterprises through the Industry 4.0 revolution.
This article was written by Ramey Miller, HMI/Edge product marketing manager for Siemens Industry (Norcross, GA). For more information, visit here .