Bring­ing re­mote desk­top to the palm of your hand

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - NEWS -

The use of mobile de­vices, such as smart­phones, to ac­cess data from the plant floor is be­com­ing more and more com­mon­place.

The fact that au­tho­rised users can now ac­cess such real-time in­for­ma­tion from any­where at any time, is highly at­trac­tive to many users. It’s also an in­te­gral part of the over­all drive to in­crease ef­fi­ciency. The tech­nol­ogy be­hind this con­nec­tiv­ity is re­mote desk­top, which has been around for many years. This is where a “lo­cal” de­vice (usu­ally a com­puter but not nec­es­sar­ily so) runs its nor­mal pro­grams on the plant floor, as well as a server pro­gram.

A re­mote client (again, not nec­es­sar­ily a com­puter) con­nects to this lo­cal server (usu­ally via the in­ter­net) and dis­plays iden­ti­cal in­for­ma­tion (i.e. the lo­cal “desk­top”) on is screen. The re­mote client ef­fec­tively gains full con­trol over the server as key­strokes and mouse ac­tions from the client are mim­icked on the lo­cal server, as if the user was en­ter­ing them on the plant floor.

Apart from su­per­vi­sory sys­tems, re­mote desk­tops are ex­ten­sively used by help desks that pro­vide re­mote as­sis­tance to com­puter users.

There are many ven­dors sup­ply­ing re­mote desk­top pro­grams: VNC (Vir­tual Net­work Com­put­ing), TeamViewer, Google Chrome (via plug-in), to name just a few. Even Win­dows ver­sions as early as XP in­cluded in-built sup­port for a re­mote desk­top. server. They have cre­ated a set of free “HMI Viewer” client apps, for both the An­droid and iOS (i.e. iPhone and iPad) en­vi­ron­ments.

Other than run­ning on dif­fer­ent mobile plat­forms, each app has the same func­tion­al­ity and links to a NA HMI run­ning its VNC server via the in­ter­net. A re­cent up­grade means iOS v9 is now also sup­ported.

Shar­ing in­for­ma­tion

Once con­nected, the view on the smart phone screen is the same as what can be seen lo­cally on the HMI on the plant floor, with up­dates be­ing reg­u­lar enough to en­sure smooth an­i­ma­tion.

Once in­for­ma­tion is dis­played, it can be shared (i.e. emailed or texted), printed or saved for fur­ther anal­y­sis. Users are also able to per­form the same con­trol func­tions via their smart phone, pro­vided write op­er­a­tions have been en­abled at the NA’s server. A read-only mode is avail­able for dis­play only func­tion­al­ity.

Both Om­ron’s NB and NS HMI se­ries web­servers are both sup­ported by th­ese same apps.

Mul­ti­ple con­nec­tions can be setup and stored within the app, to save hav­ing to re-en­ter con­nec­tion data each time.

The apps also sup­port auto-ro­ta­tion and zoom­ing to im­prove the cus­tomer’s view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Se­cur­ing pass­word data

The setup of the VNC server in the NA is very straight for­ward. VNC is dis­abled by de­fault (for se­cu­rity) and uses TCP port 5900 by the de­fault.

At run­time, a pre-set pass­word must en­tered to open the con­nec­tion and gain ac­cess.

Pass­word data is se­cured by en­cryp­tion to en­sure it’s not com­pro­mised.

As VNC is not suit­able for trans­fer­ring files, so FTP is pro­vided for this pur­pose. It too has its ac­cess con­troller by a server in the NA, and re­quires clients to en­ter a pass­word be­fore files can be ac­cessed.

Om­ron have taken a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward in putting real-time in­for­ma­tion in the palm of the de­ci­sion mak­ers’ hand. They have used the well ac­cepted and trusted tech­nolo­gies of re­mote desk­top and ap­plied it to smart de­vices.

De­ci­sion mak­ers can now make de­ci­sions on a wide range of hard­ware, at any­time and any­where in the world, no mat­ter how far away they are from the ac­tual plant.

Harry Mul­der is En­gi­neer­ing Man­ager for Om­ron Elec­tron­ics Ocea­nia. He has been in­volved in the in­dus­trial con­trol industry for nearly 30 years, with the last 25 years at Om­ron Elec­tron­ics. With a de­gree in com­puter sci­ence, his ex­pe­ri­ence in­cludes sales, en­gi­neer­ing and prod­uct man­age­ment. He cur­rently man­ages an en­gi­neer­ing team across four states but still en­joys get­ting in­volved with day-to-day prob­lem solv­ing.

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