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Expanding mobility: A multi-part series

Aug. 14, 2020
Jim Montague explores how companies and organizations in the process industries are implementing a variety of mobile solutions

In simpler times, just a few short months ago, mobile technologies like tablet PCs, smart phones, wearable interfaces and other remote connections were nice-to-have options that users could adopt or put off at their leisure. How times have changed.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, these mobile solutions have quickly gone from novelty technology to essential solutions for efficient remote operations. In this multi-part series, Jim Montague explores how companies and organizations in the process industries are implementing a variety of mobile solutions. 

Day 1: Mobility becomes a must-have for remote operations

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic many mobile technologies have gone from optional to essential must-haves for helping users, families, organizations and companies maintain some degree of the interaction and business activity they had before the pandemic struck. Ironically, most of these mobile technologies have been available for years if not decades, but they often only sparsely applied. Now, they're the difference between being prepared for working remotely and scrambling to catch up. System integrator Malisko Engineering explains how implementation of these technologies has quickly changed. Read more.

Day 2: RealWear's headsets help operators at Xervon, Total and Italgas

One of the mobility technologies accelerating fastest lately is remotely linking operators and technicians with veteran experts. In-the-field users can employ combinations of cellular, WiFi, Internet and other links to show remote colleagues exactly what they're working on and get immediate details, notations and advice about how to proceed. Xevron Instandhaltung and RealWear share real-world applications of RealWear's HMT-1 and MTW-1Z1 headsets. Read more.

Day 3: Track, trace and distance with a real-time locating system

To keep people safe as they return to work during and after the pandemic, Siemens has combined its Simatic Real-Time Locating System (RTLS) and SieTrace software to let users model how staffers interact with each other, their production lines and plants, and set up new workflows and production environments that address physical distancing requirements. Read more.

Day 4: Water utility controls remotely with VPN and GE Digital iFix software

Remote expertise has been around for a long time. However, until COVID-19 showed up, dialing in the veterans used to mostly happen outside business hours because most of them were at home. When Haverhill Water Division's 10-member staff was deemed essential in late March, they were prepared for even additional restrictions with just one onsite staffer and the rest remotely managing the utility with GE Digital's iFix software. Read more.

Day 5: Panacea Technologies reports pandemic preparation wins now and later

Perhaps the most important insight to be gained from mobility technologies as they're adapted and applied to COVID-19 is that all the efforts and innovations made now will be useful in the long run and not just in the short term. Here's how Panacea Technologies Inc. transitioned itself awhile ago to thin clients running management software connected to a hybrid cloud infrastructure, which put it in a good position when the pandemic emerged. Read more.

Day 6: Rolloos combines cameras and IIoT software from OSIsoft for oil rig safety

Rolloos explains how it recently helped an offshore drilling operator keep better track of each on-rig staffer at all times by moving beyond its visual confirmation and existing closed-circuit TV (CCTV) equipment to develop a comprehensive red-zone detection system. This solution integrated the platform's CCTV devices with 16 new camera-based smart sensors from Rolloos and Edge Data Store (EDS) IIoT software from OSIsoft, which made sure all drill floor data was accessible to offshore operators for immediate decision support and could be streamed onshore for retrospective analysis. Read more.

Day 7: Three system integrators show how mobility mitigates COVID-19  

Because they're often shoulder-to-shoulder with plant-floor personnel, system integrators have some definite views and advice on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting process applications and how mobile technologies can help. Kevin McEnery of McEnery Automation, John Parraga of ECS Solutions and Sam Cafferata of Concept Systems describe how they and their clients use mobility to handle the pandemic. Read more.

Day 8: Matrix Technologies uses 3D scans, Microsoft Teams for remote RA and training

Risk assessments (RAs) are key to identifying safety hazards. During times of physical separation, such as those required during the COVID-19 outbreak, risk assessments may still be required to mitigate risks to essential workers. Just as “mobility” means making HMIs portable and bringing in remote experts, it also means taking data-gathering devices and software being put in places where they couldn't go before. Matrix Technologies Inc. explains how it uses photography and improved 3D laser scanning to complete various tasks including RAs of process applications, equipment and facilities. Read more.

Day 9: Wi-Fi, photoelectric and ultrasonic sensing monitor social distancing

Because many users are hesitant to turn on location services on their smart phones or tablet PCs, and may be equally reluctant to share similar data with their employers or customers, they might be more willing to accept social distancing technology based on other technologies. Patti Engineering, TDK Chirp Microsystems and Banner Engineering Corp. share how they're implementing alternative monitoring solutionsRead more.

Day 10: DMC connects manufacturer’s monitoring and control system to the cloud

If there's one lesson that bears repeating about mobility helping users cope with COVID-19, it's that activating existing but underutilized technologies, such as connectivity, networking and the Internet, can often provide the biggest boosts.  System integrator DMC Inc. explains how  it helped Agri-Inject, a manufacturer that designs and builds chemical injection systems for agriculture, connect its monitoring and control system to the cloud. Read more.

Day 11: Mobility care packages counterpunch COVID-19

Because most users are even more pressed for time now than they were before COVID-19, several suppliers are bundling multiple software packages and other tools into unified platforms and strategies that are faster and easier to implement and operate. Here top vendors offer their perspectives on the pandemic and how process industries and users can cope with it. Read more.

Day 12: More mobility resources, videos and articles

A collection of whitepapers, videos and other resources on the topic of mobility. Read more.

About the author: Jim Montague
About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control.