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Browser, Box Enable Interfaces, Control

Feb. 7, 2013
groov Box Is an Industrially Hardened Appliance That Interfaces with Opto 22's Controls and Runs the groov Web Application

There's no doubt that software, PCs and the Internet have revolutionized control and automation and the industries they serve. However, it still takes plenty of programming and configuration to build HMI displays, set up SCADA systems, commission servers and perform web-based monitoring, troubleshooting and control. And, organizing the plug-ins and formatting required to provide monitoring and control on multi-sized displays from big control room screens to tablet PCs and smart phones often makes these tasks even harder. Until now.

groov Box is an industrially hardened appliance that interfaces with Opto 22's controls and runs the groov web application.To help users overcome these hurdles, Opto 22 has developed its groov platform for building simple, effective, web-based interfaces to monitor and control its equipment using computers and mobile devices. Using only a web browser, groov lets users quickly build and deploy web-based automation, monitoring and control applications for Opto 22 components, and display their data and interact with them on almost any computer or mobile device, regardless of its operating system.

"We've all seen the power and capabilities of smart phones and tablets, but it's still difficult for them to put real web-based control into users' hands on the plant floor," says Benson Hougland, Opto 22's vice president of marketing and product development. "It's a nice idea to build a mobile-ready, web-based, server-centered monitoring and control application. I tried it myself a few years ago, but I had to call in a web developer and an IT professional to help. Now with groov, we put all the pieces together, and one person using nothing more than a web browser can create displays that can be viewed on any PC, tablet or smart phone."

To get groov up and running, users only need to know how to plug in an Ethernet cable, how to use a keyboard, mouse and browser, and what information they want to view. Opto 22 reports that groov is "five minutes to mobile" because users just log in with a web browser, point to the controller's tag database, drag and drop software gadgets on a page, and save the project. Then, any authorized mobile device or computer with a modern web browser can log in to view the application.

Opto 22's engineers took about 18 months to build groov, which they refer to as a "human-device interface" (HDI) because it augments regular HMIs by allowing them to easily display data on smart phones and other mobile devices. Also, groov and its displays are based on HMI best practices for building screens with prioritized data, minimal graphics and muted colors, as described in The High Performance HMI Handbook by Bill Hollifield and Eddie Habibi of PAS Inc. The initial version of groov is scheduled for release in March, while support for devices from other suppliers via OPC is expected later this year.

The platform's primary parts include:

  • groov Box—a hardened appliance with two Gigabit Ethernet ports and one 802.11n wireless port that interface with Opto 22's controls and run the groov web application. It contains embedded microprocessors and an SQL database, uses 14-36 V DC power, and can run in 0 °C to 50 °C temperatures;
  • groov Build—the web application's mode for creating a groov interface project. This editing suite, which works within the browser, includes buttons, gauges, indicators, sliders and other interface devices that can be linked to actual data tags and points, as well as gadgets for displaying video streams and images;
  • groov View—the web application's mode for running a groov project in any modern web browser;
  • groov View for iOS—the optional iOS app for groov View; and
  • groov View for Android—the optional Android app for groov View.

These tools are aided by the fact that groov was built using standard HTML 5 and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), which means it doesn't require software plug-ins such as Java, Flash and Silverlight to translate between different-sized display formats. Likewise, SVG allows sweeping and other touchscreen devices and functions to be scaled up and down just as easily. 

Because its own software, hardware and networking are separate from the controls it monitors, groov is inherently secure. However, it further improves its security by using the web-based Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol and 128-bit encryption to protect all data moving on its network and prevent any other entities from viewing it.

For more information, contact Opto 22 at 800-321-OPTO (6786) or visit www.opto22.com.

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