Remote connectivity to plants, machines, and processes is growing in popularity along with the Industrial Internet of Things, and there is no end in sight to this trend due to a variety of enabling technologies, according to Greg Philbrook (InTech Magazine).
The enabling remote-access technologies include:
- smart devices with built-in digital communications
- controllers with Ethernet connectivity
- powerful PC-based human-machine interfaces (HMIs)
- more capable embedded HMIs
- wide availability of high-speed Internet connectivity
- low-cost cloud data storage and access
- HTML5 standard for browser-based access
- inexpensive tablets and smartphones
Whether access is local or remote, the plant floor components and the remote-access devices are the same, with the difference being the network. In-plant remote access is generally through company intranets and Wi-Fi, while access away from the plant is usually through the Internet, often using the cloud.
No matter the network, data is collected by the automation system and distributed to PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Browser-based access is eased by the HTML5 standard, which lets users create screens once and distribute them to many devices. Cybersecurity is a concern, but tools are available to address this issue
This remote connectivity goes beyond access for troubleshooting. In many cases, the remote devices are connected to the automation system to be eyes into the machine for optimizing the operation, to send data and production information to engineering, and to provide management with summary and analysis information.
HMIs (human-machine interfaces) display machine and process data locally on the plant floor, and they can also give this information to other platforms for a variety of uses:
- management summaries
- alarm, event, or data log file access
- root-cause analysis
- optimization of operation through overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and other methods
> Gain a greater understanding of HMI from InTech Magazine, Jul-Aug, 2016