Not Even Your Older Brother's HMI

One of the mixed blessings of being an editor in the trade press is the vendor presentation. No offense, folks, but not all of them are as riveting as they might be, and after you seen a number of "groundbreaking advances" that really aren't, you tend to get a little cynical.

But yesterday's presentation from Benson Hougland, vice president of marketing, and Bob Sheffres, vice president of Opto 22, really was exciting—and not just because they brought lunch. (Editors are shallow beasts. Give us free food, and you're already a long way toward winning us over.)

What they showed us is a gadget that really may be a game-changer for the way we access data across the enterprise. It's not really an HMI. It's more of a way to change your idea of what an HMI can be and, at the same time, simplify your ability to meet all those calls for access to data any time and place on whichever device the user prefers.  Called groov, it's, for want of a better term, an all-purpose, almost plug-and-play way to build, deploy and view scalable operator interfaces to monitor and control systems and equipment on almost any device, anywhere, from any modern browser. 

It's aimed at process automation information, but I'm thinking that it has uses well beyond the plant. Hougland showed us how he could monitor a backyard swimming pool or a boat via groov. I found myself thinking about the feasibility of hooking up a camera to find out which critter is digging up the seedlings in my garden or fixing a moisture sensor that could tell me when the tomatoes need watering.

Here's a partial list of the devices for which groov can build apps: Windows, Mac and Linux computers; Android, iOS, Windows 8, Nexus, Galaxy Tab, iPad, iPad Mini, iPod Touch, and MS Surface tablets, and iPhones and Galaxy III, Nexus 4, Nokia, HTC Evo, Motorola and Samsung smart phones. According to Opto22, scaling to fit all these diverse screen sizes is done right inside the groov box.

Setup works what Opto 22 calls a "Five minutes to mobile" model. Plug power into the groov box, log in to your web browser of choice, enter the URL of your PAC, drag and drop gadgets to convey the information you want, save the file and distribute the app via a secure URL. One of the other beauty parts of groov is that it's all done through a secure socket layer (SSL), just like your bank uses, alleviating a lot of security concerns.

All the buttons and gadgets have been designed with high-performance HMI standards in mind so any screens you build with groov can match the latest best practices. No extra software, servers or operating systems are needed, and no tag limits, user fees or keys are required.

And if that weren't enough, the whole unit, including a one-year maintenance agreement is yours for $1995. Sweet.

Compared to the hassle and expense of getting mobile apps purpose-built for individual applications, working with groov looks like child's play. I think groov really could be a game changer in the mobile apps for process information world. For more details on how groov works, go to