Rockwell Automation previewed its new, forward-looking App Platform for mobility at this week’s TechED conference in Orlando. While focused first on redefining smartphone use on the plant floor – with the aim of making individual workers more productive – this developing platform ultimately is intended to connect all pillars of the company’s Connected Enterprise vision.
Kyle Reissner, mobility platform leader, Rockwell Automation, discussed the development team’s vision to “drive the 33s” during his keynote presentation. Just a 33 second increase in productivity each hour provides a huge net result on an assembly line or manufacturing facility, Reissner said. “Do it across every worker in the U.S. manufacturing industry, and we’d see $13.8 billion in savings.”
An app for the plant floor
The Rockwell Automation App Platform is the first fruits of Project Stanton, a Rockwell Automation initiative to find ways to make every industrial worker more productive, and do so with as little friction – as little upfront investment of time and money – as possible.
“The App Platform connects and mixes human information and machine information via the smartphone,” Reissner explained. “Unstructured data, such as worker experience and knowledge, meet equipment status and information, increasing overall worker productivity.”
Taking advantage of the “supercomputer in your pocket,” Rockwell Automation created a smartphone app that requires no manual, works on iOS and Android devices, and includes a server, database and front end – all available in a simple 60 MB download. The eight initial modules allow users to create and engage teams, resolve issues and connect to plant-floor devices. The eight modules are chat, incident, connect, pinboard, teamboard, device health, trend and knowledge-base.
Once authenticated, team members can collaborate directly on a peer-to-peer basis using Wi Fi or Bluetooth connectivity – a full-time Internet connection isn’t needed. This is especially important in industrial environments where wireless infrastructure signals are notoriously unreliable. The platform leverages thali, an open-source prototype plug-in, that ensures all changes and communications ultimately synch up when a cloud connection is re-established.
While this sounds straightforward, "nobody has done it securely or across platforms,” said Reissner. "We think we have it: Secure, synchronized, local peer-to-peer communication with server-optional.” This means that in-plant teams can securely collaborate – with encryption – whether connected to the Internet or not. “If the all-seeing cloud isn't available, the app goes sideways in a mesh-based architecture,” Reissner said. “We think the peer-to-peer, side-by-side radio capability of the smartphone is huge. thali keeps the data flowing and the collaboration going."
The Project Stanton team is effectively a lean startup within Rockwell Automation – and they’re moving forward at startup speed. “Instead of taking five years to release a tightly integrated product, we did it in a year and a half,” Reissner said. "This tees us up for ongoing releases in a very rapid fashion. Bug fixes won't be a six-month process – they'll be fixed in days or overnight. Users of the cloud and mobile apps expect as much."
“This summer we are putting a pre-release of the App Platform out to our community, to learn from all of you,” Reissner said. "Problems are not unexpected and the feedback may be tough, but we don't want to develop for five years and discover we are wrong. With our customers, we will focus on value that matters.”
To accept Reissner’s invitation and start claiming your 33s, visit 33seconds.io and click “Join the Mission!”