Mobility opportunities & challenges | Automation.com

Mobility opportunities & challenges

December 142014
Mobility opportunities & challenges

By Bill Lydon, Editor

Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of PULSE.  Click here to download PULSE
 
The dramatic cost reductions and increased computing power of mobile devices are creating opportunities to operate plants more efficiently and increase the productivity of personnel. The integration of video and sound in these devices creates new application possibilities. For example, there is growing use of integrated video in these devices that enables personnel in the plant to consult with experts and show problems in real-time.

For the purpose of this article, the term mobile devices can include smart- phones, tablets, netbooks, and notebook computers.

APPLICATIONS
The applications for mobile devices will continue to expand as users and suppliers find creative ways to put them to use.
The ability to carry the operator console, including alarm notification, with them enables operators to run more machines simultaneously. Rather than spending valuable time making the rounds to each machine, they can make sure bottlenecks and issues are resolved. Maintenance people benefit from mobile devices that can display all of the information for troubleshooting, including machine status, diagnostics, and manuals, in the palm of their hands.

Remote troubleshooting and diagnosis allow maintenance people to prioritize problems and be more efficient.

In addition, using data, video, and audio, they can call upon remote ex- perts from their company, consultants, system integrators, or vendors to assist them in the field.
 
WIRELESS ETHERNET 802.11AC
The dominant investment in Wi-Fi 802.11 access points in industrial plants, coupled with greater quality of service to support VOIP and video, allows automation systems to “piggyback” on these systems. This will greatly simplify the deployment of mobile devices in industrial plants. The latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, developed by the IEEE Standards Association, supports the rapid expansion of mobile devices. The 802.11ac standard, approved in January of 2014, provides high-throughput, wireless local area networks (WLANs) on the 5 GHz band.

The latest 802.11ac update is an addendum to the initial 802.11ac specification, which began to emerge in 2013 for both enterprise and consumer devices as the next generation of wireless.

It is designed to support multi-station WLAN and boasts as much as 7 Gbps of data throughput in the 5 GHz spectrum. This is accomplished by extending the concepts used in 802.11n. More network throughput supports the increased use of smartphones—each of which uses as much bandwidth as 200 legacy devices—that are increasing demands on wireless networks.

CELLULAR
Mobility can be achieved using Wi-Fi wireless and cellular networks. This is particularly valuable for applications that are located outside and/or monitor remote resources, including tank farms, pump stations, rail yards, and inventory reservoirs. Users can roam between Wi-Fi and cellular networks with smart phones and cellular-enabled tablets.

MOBILE SERVER APPLIANCE
Opto 22 has created a mobility solution based on OPC UA. groov is a browser-based operator interface that connects to a groov server appliance. The groov appliance can either be a groov Box, which is a Linux-based industrial computer, or groov Server for Windows, which can run on any compatible Windows-based computer. Users configure screens with a standard web browser connected to either of these appliances and communicate with OPC servers to access I/O and data tags. Users can select objects from a library of elements, including gauges, sliders, and controls to define screens. Mobile devices communicate with the  groov  server,  which delivers the appropriate visual elements, controls, and data to the user. The elements are automatically scaled for the mobile device being used. Also available at a reduced cost are versions of groov Box and groov Server that connect only to Opto 22 devices. Any smartphone or tablet running a minimum operating system for mobile, including Android 4.0.1 (Ice Cream  Sandwich),  iOS  5.0, and Surface Windows 8, can access the groov server. Connections can be made to Opto 22 controllers directly.

SOFTWARE HARMONIZATION
Initially smart phones and tablets used terminal services to “window” into automation systems. This windowing has been replaced by systems, using universal interfaces, to serve up web pages on mobile devices and tablets.

There are various web interfaces based on automation system software and smartphone or tablet operating systems.

Virtually all operating systems are moving towards HTML5, which is the fifth revision of the HTML standard.
 
This enables users to get simultaneous remote access from any system conforming to the HTML5 standard without special plugins.

BYOD
The term BYOD (bring your own device) refers to the trend of people using their own personal smart phones, tablets, etc. while on the job. This does sound attractive, but it opens the door to a wider range of cyber security attacks. Two major issues with BYOD include ownership or access rights to the information on the device and the likelihood for viruses/ malware to be carried into automation systems with these devices. Another related issue is the potential to compromise company intellectual property. The other side of that issue is employers may have liability for breach and compromise of employee personal data stored on the mobile device. Companies will need to carefully weigh the tradeoffs.

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