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Innovative Thinking

The Next Generation of HMI and SCADA

The age of Industrial IoT is upon us and HMI/SCADA systems face new challenges pertaining to their integration with modern technological marvels such as Big Data, Cloud, IoT, predictive analytics and 4G/LTE, etc.

The HMI software market has been hit hard by the advent of IoT, shaping its very development and resultant features. For some, SCADA systems are bound to become obsolete as edge computing takes over, with the intelligence become distributed rather than recouping in a central location. These thoughts are backed by the rise in AI engines, cloud computing capabilities and digital twins, disrupting conventional industrial schemes.

First, one should know that there is a very clear (yet forgotten) difference between HMI and SCADA, with the former being a closer counterpart of an individual operator and latter acting as a central control for an entire plant. Even though SCADA provides a comprehensive solution for monitoring, control, automation and reporting, several vendors sell HMIs, historian software, reporting tools and alarm software along with higher-level applications, e.g. MESs, analytics, etc. This means there’s a redundancy in the market regarding the functions and features of SCADA systems.

With new technologies such as IoT coming into play, HMI/SCADA software is becoming more mission-critical. The room for errors is decreasing as even a minute mistake can have a big impact over the plant floor. IoT devices, as one may call them, give users access to lots of useful data along with a higher refresh rate. This seems beneficial from a business standpoint but is sometimes hard to implement from the technical point of view. The next generation of HMI/SCADA hardware and software aim to address such technical challenges.

Connectivity

As digitization continues, availability of energy-efficient Ethernet and Wi-Fi networks becomes a reality. This allows equipment to be distributed further across the factory floor, and even be made “mobile” for added flexibility. As stated earlier, edge-located IoT devices are becoming the norm, spurring issues for traditional connectivity schemes. In a typical factory arrangement, data follows a path similar to this:

  1. Sensor
  2. PLC
  3. OPC Server
  4. PC based HMI/SCADA
  5. Gateway
  6. Reporting/charting system

On the other hand, HMI/SCADA systems of the future will flatten out such a tall hierarchy, leaving only three pieces behind:

  1. Sensor
  2. Groov EPIC
  3. Cloud or on-premises applications
Hardware

The hierarchy stated above can take advantage of modern open-source hardware and software platforms that don’t tie factory managers to a specific standard. Specialized elements can be superseded with standard building blocks.

Moreover, the development of edge technologies mean that newer platforms are embedded with sufficient connectivity and processing power, eliminating the need for layers of PLC servers and PCs. When we say, “edge component”, we mean an entity that borrows features from a PLC, PC and HMI, functioning as an industrial controller.

Each edge component possesses the ability to act as a bridge for other intelligent devices all the way up to the cloud. From thereon, they can form the core of the new architecture on top of which HMI and SCADA is built.

Software

Hardware alone isn’t enough to bridge the gap between IoT devices and HMI/SCADA systems. Instead, developers would have to rely on numerous open-source and built-in software technologies, namely:

  • Linux OS
  • Native OIT/HMI options
  • OPC UA drivers
  • Improved licensing
  • MQTT/Sparkplug

Windows continues to be a popular choice for HMI and SCADA manufacturers, but in recent years it has faced stiff competition from the open-source alternative Linux that promises greater security and stability. Much of the development taking place on IoT and smart devices is based on Linux, Ubuntu being a popular distro.

OPC UA drivers are built into many components shipped out today, facilitating native communications between edge devices and popular PLCs. This allows the power of IoT devices to be reaped out to the fullest level. Finally, security is being made firmer through technologies such as MQTT that allows secure inbound/outbound communications to take place. It can operate seamlessly over typical business IT systems, avoiding complex and stiff network configurations. MQTT is often used in conjunction with Sparkplug that effectively delivers industrial-type messages throughout the plant.

The future is exciting to say the least and is already here; technologies such as those mentioned above have already started shifting the traditional route of HMI/SCADA development, something that will only pick up pace with the passage of time.

 

Interested in learning more? Visit our website www.premierautomation.com, or talk to one of our specialists today.

5 Steps to Effective HMI Programming

Developing efficient HMI screens can make life for both the screen developer and the user a lot easier if they are developed properly. As an HMI programmer, you need to understand the user’s needs: what information is important for them to see in order for them to do their job efficiently and react appropriately.  

So, normally it is a good idea to watch what the operator has to do in order to do their job and discuss with them what would make their job easier. Go over any ideas you may have about screen layouts, how buttons would be laid out on the screens, etc., before you even begin developing screens. Getting the operator to “buy in” to an HMI system is key, otherwise you will have failed before you even get started.

As an automation engineer, I have worked on HMI programming for many automation applications, from system integration projects to production data collection. 

Here are the top 5 guidelines I follow to create the most effective HMIs:

Differences between SCADA & HMI

Many beginner automation enthusiasts often fail to establish appreciable differences between Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs). They often confuse both these entities as being similar and working for the same end-result. While the latter may be true, as in the end achieving automation is the desired result, the two terms are quite different and have limited overlap.

Modernizing HMIs with Remote Monitoring

As the manufacturing world rapidly modernizes, manufacturers must be at the top of their games from broad new strategies to fine-tuned details. Today, there are sensor products on the market that allow for remote monitoring for everything from home utilities and amenities such as a pool to security systems. Many set-ups are as simple as loading up an app on a tablet or smartphone.

While this is indeed a positive change, HMIs must link to remote access to evolve as a useful tool. Going beyond simple monitoring and interaction, HMIs create a hub of control that many pieces of technology, such as older sensor products and other systems, often lack. In addition, most of today’s HMI systems are web-based, meaning that open standards are beginning to become a relevant powerhouse in the industrial market once again.

HMI/Historian Integration

HMIs, or human-machine interfaces, allow easy control and interaction between operator and machine. However, the data they collect can be underutilized. This is why integrating historians with HMIs is recognized as an effective data collection method.

Historians are software for data collection which can then be stored in spreadsheets, files, and other database products. This allows the information to be accessible for reporting on different trends and to refer back to later on. HMIs allow the data to be seen in real time before the historian software records it, as well as historical data replay if the HMI/SCADA is set up properly.

Get Integrated HMI Hardware & Software, but Take Notice of These Cautions

There’s no single way to do something right. Instead there are multiple paths of which the most suitable one must be chosen according to the situation. HMIs play a vital role in driving the industrial bandwagon, providing us with monitoring, control & automation capabilities. When working with HMIs, there are a few factors that you should be particularly careful about. All of these have been discussed in detail below.

The Effective System Integrator

At one point or another, a manufacturing company looking to automate their systems would require the services of a System Integrator (SI). Knowing about the traits and practices of a good System Integrator can go a long way, and help build a system that pays itself off with the passage of time.

Advice from Integrators on HMIs, Wireless, Cloud and Thin Clients

Winners of the 2017 System Integrator of the Year award were asked to provide valuable advance on system designs and technologies including HMIs, wireless, cloud, Industrial IoT, etc. so that others may get better insight and get acquainted with best practices.

How to Integrate Your HMIs for Plant-wide Control

Posted on May 18, 2016 by Jeff Hessom

How do you keep up with your processes – walking from machine to machine?

Integrating your HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces) into an Ethernet networked control system gives you a centralized window into your entire process. It works by gathering data from the control system and distributing it to different areas of the facility. One PC at an operator station or in a control room can lay out real-time processes, report data over time, and make live adjustments to day-to-day operation.

HMI Server/Client Configuration breaks down into just two components: Servers and Clients.