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Industrial Mobile Access Getting Better and Easier


Users are increasingly using AutomationDirect HMI, PLC, and router technologies to provide easy and secure industrial mobile access.

Bill Dehner, technical marketing engineer for AutomationDirect, wrote an article for the November/December 2021 issue of Industrial Equipment News titled Evaluating Mobile Access Options. Here’s a summary, click on the link above for the full text.

headless hmi

Using mobile devices for connecting with home camera systems, intrusion alarms, robo-vacuums and more has become commonplace—so many are looking for the same capabilities in their industrial automation systems. Industrial mobile access has been possible to an extent for many years, but recent hardware and software improvements are now making it truly practical. This is accelerating adoption rates in recent years, as suggested by AutomationDirect surveys in 2016 and 2021.

Many forms of mobile access to machinery and equipment are possible:

Local HMIs and/or PLCs serving data and displays:

Many AutomationDirect C-more HMI touch panels—including the EA9-RHMI “headless” version—can deliver graphics displays to any device capable of hosting a web browser, such as a laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Similarly, some PLCs, like the AutomationDirect BRX Series, include an embedded web server that can be used to supply information to mobile devices. Another popular method is using these HMIs, PLCs, and/or VPN routers with the AutomationDirect StrideLinx cloud service and app to provide easy access to displays and information.

MQTT:

MQTT is a flexible and efficient communications protocol for transferring data from field devices to the cloud. Many AutomationDirect HMIs and PLCs—even the AutomationDirect CLICK PLUS Series micro modular PLC—support the use of MQTT to transmit data to an on-site or cloud-based broker, where it can be accessed by mobile devices.

Commercial cloud-based IIoT:

commercial cloud-based iiot

The AutomationDirect BRX Series PLCs are certified to interoperate with the Microsoft Azure commercial cloud IIoT platform. These PLCs also include a REST API, which provides another option for field-sourced data to be used by modern IT software applications like Node-RED and more for analysis and visualization.

Security and performance concerns have historically been significant reasons slowing mobile access adoption, but the latest technologies address these issues with improved cybersecurity and operational features.

Whether users just need to remotely access a few basic data points from a machine, or if they want a richer remote visualization experience more like a traditional graphical HMI, today’s hardware and software provides flexible options for new and existing equipment.

Trends indicate that end users will continue adopting industrial mobile access to gain benefits resulting from better visualization and insights into operation, maintenance, and process improvement.



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