Product Round-Up: Operator Interfaces (Part 3 of 3)

Nov. 6, 2003
Using COTS Forces Vendors to Adopt Standard Platforms

Life in the HMI marketplace is getting much more complicated these days, now that the requirements being put on HMIs are increasing.

ARC notes that HMIs are taking on attributes of traditional SCADA applications and running more sophisticated analysis functions, just as we described in "Jump Start IT" [CONTROL--March '03, p29]. Today's HMI hardware and software may perform IT functions, such as maintaining an asset management data base or process historian, or it may use its XML and Web Services capabilities to make the bridge between plant floor systems and IT software running elsewhere.

While it does that, HMI products are also expected to monitor a process and put up operator screens, trends, and alarms. Let's not forget that HMIs still must talk to human operators and keep them informed about the process.

Although HMI hardware and software is approaching commodity status because of the COTS platform, the capabilities expected from that commodity are getting extremely complex. The first HMI vendor who can offer a reasonably priced product that does everything we have come to expect may run away with the market.

Don't be the least bit surprised if Microsoft acquires an HMI/SCADA vendor, produces a line of .NET/Web Services operator interfaces, and makes HMIs a true commodity (you heard it here first). It seems like the market is right for somebody to do just that.

Meanwhile, the products that follow in our roundup illustrate a selection of the latest HMIs you can still buy from industrial hardware and software vendors.

Embedded Computer Has Touchscreen

The QVGA Controller is programmable in C, has a touchscreen-controlled graphical user interface, and comes with a high-contrast 320x240 pixel electroluminescent or LCD graphics display. It has eight 12-bit analog input channels, eight 8-bit analog inputs, eight 8-bit D/A lines, 24 digital I/O, four high-current drivers, and two RS232/485 ports. A built-in GUI software toolkit provides an easy way to design a graphical interface to monitor, control, and display system status, bar graphs, or text messages.

Mosaic Industries

510/790-1255 www.mosaic-industries.com

PDA Software

HandCar EX for Palm handheld computers provides a convenient way to offload the company's HOBO dataloggers without interrupting logging operation. It can transport the data to a host PC for graphing and analysis. Software functions include on-location datalogger readout and launch, viewing current measurements, and checking battery status. Data from multiple loggers can be stored on the Palm handheld. Price: $40.

Onset Computer

800/564-4377 www.onsetcomp.com

Web-Enabled PLC OI

The WebOIT Series combines an industrial touch panel computer with A-Studio v. 5.1 SCADA/HMI development software for applications running on Windows XP, 2000, NT, and CE operating systems, or in an Internet and intranet environment. Models are available with display sizes ranging from 6 to 15 in. and 100 free communication drivers to connect to popular PLC and intelligent field devices, including Allen-Bradley, GE Fanuc, Omron, Modicon, and Siemens.


513/742-8895 www.advantech.com

PDA HMI Software

The LabView 7 PDA Module lets engineers develop HMI applications in LabView and download to small, portable Microsoft Pocket PC and Palm OS PDA targets for acquisition, monitoring, and visualization. It builds virtual instruments (VIs), automatically compiles the VI to run on the PDA target, and downloads the completed application to the PDA. Applications include field test systems, remote control and monitoring systems, and portable data acquisition systems.

National Instruments

800/258-7022 www.ni.com

Programming Is the Object

The QTERM-G75 Ethernet-enabled graphics terminal has a 640x480 lighted graphics LCD, 10Base-T Ethernet with TCP/IP support, RS-232/422/485 serial interfaces, and 4 Mbyte Flash/16 Mbytes RAM. It uses Qlarity Foundry object-based programming for screen creation on a Windows PC, compilation, and download to the terminal. The software has predefined objects, allows editing of existing objects, or lets users create their own objects.


801/466-8770 www.qsicorp.com.

Text Panel

The G303 text/graphical panel has up to five serial communication ports, which can be configured to communicate at speeds up to 115 Kbaud with most PLCs, motion controllers, and PID controllers. It has an integrated protocol converter, 10/100Base-T Ethernet port, 4 Meg on-board flash memory, compact flash socket, RS-232C programming port, USB port, and a sunlight-visible display with a UV-rated overlay.

Red Lion Controls

717/767-6511 www.redlion-controls.com.

Touchscreen OIs

GP77 series touchscreen programmable operator interfaces are available with monochrome, amber, STN, and TFT displays ranging in size from 4.7 to 12.1 in. Serial communication protocols enable interfacing to Allen-Bradley, Koyo, Modicon, Mitsubishi, Siemens, Omron, and other PLCs, plus Devicenet, Profibus, Modbus Plus, A-B Data Highway Plus, A-B Remote I/O, and standard RS-232/485 networks. Screens are created using GP-PRO/PBIII C02 configuration software. Prices start at $495.

Xycom Automation

734/429-4971 www.xycom.com.

MES Software

FactoryLink 7.1 software monitors, supervises, and controls processes, and allows users to build HMI systems. It has an open software bus architecture, high-speed bi-directional block transfers between

tasks, and a real-time database. HMI functions include graphics, trending, reports, alarms, events, and historical data logging and browsing. It supports SQL Server 2000, Oracle, Sybase, and ODBC and runs on PCs under Windows 2000 and Windows XP.


972/ 680-9700 www.usdata.com

Data Logger Software

OPC Data Logger software lets users log process data gathered from OPC servers directly to SQL Server 2000, MSDE, or Access databases and to text files without any additional or intervening software. It includes point-and-click configuration, flexible file setup and rollover options, and the ability to start/stop logging based on time of day or process tag triggers. The software connects to any OPC Data Access 1.0 or 2.0 Server. Licenses start at $495.

Software Toolbox


Fiberglass Enclosures

The HJ Series has an overlapping shoebox cover with an integral mounting foot for pole mounting. It has a foam-in-place gasket with a continuous seal to keep out dust, dirt and liquids, making it suitable for use in corrosive environments including petrochemical and water treatment applications.


800/355-3560 www.hoffmanonline.com

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