Windows CE – the new lean SCADA warp drive?

Dec. 22, 2008
Rediscovering Windows CE

Our anonymous Northern correspondent rediscovers Windows CE - A long, long time ago in a far distant engineering office, Windows CE was placed in deep cryogenic storage. It was too early and too thin. It lacked addressing space, processing power and tools, and its application required coding, debugging and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

That was until the mobile phone needed to become “smart” and required an OS to make familiar office programs mobile and usable. The cryo-store was unsealed and careful culture of the DNA extracted from a Windows CE sample resulted in several generations of Pocket – Mobile – Smart – gadget OS.  Less well publicized, however, was an additional culture that yielded pure Windows CE 6.0.

This completely missed the market’s attention, which was ironic because over-stressed “Scotty class” industrial project control engineers were at the same time laboring in the engine room to find reduced cost solutions for machine and workstation SCADA to counter the alarming multiplication of the cost per node of PC-based solutions.

Their search was, alas, in vain. Windows CE 6.0 was still running in cloaked mode and the “accepted wisdom” was that CE was only suitable for thruster-powered, low-orbit applications such as HMI where OEMs could take the pain and offset development costs against the sale of multiple machines. ‘Real’ Windows was needed for interstellar warp drive flashy SCADA.

Could CE 6.0 be the low-cost replacement needed for a new lean SCADA warp drive? “Windows CE 6.0 can now address 2GB of memory and can handle 32,000 processes. This makes Windows CE even more suitable for demanding HMI and SCADA applications,” it is claimed. Science Officer Spock reports that this is logical and even more so if a CE device could be a web server and fully integrate with the rest of a production line, be it CE or PC based. All that is now needed to make a sub £1000 SCADA node (HW+SW) is a friendly editing tool that can handle both PC and CE applications. Life would become better -- and more cost effective: ten operator stations for £10,000 all in!