Efficient Plant February 2020 - 11

feature | hmi technology

Today's HMIs
are rapidly
advancing beyond
functioning as
simple monitor/
control interfaces.

HMIs Move Beyond
Interface Status

Marcia Gadbois
ADISRA

Modern human-machine interfaces can collect, store, and process data
into helpful information and communicate it to those who need it most.

THE CORE MISSION of human-machine
interfaces (HMIs) is concisely and clearly
expressed in the name. Modern industrial
HMIs provide a graphical way for electronic
systems to provide information to operators, who in turn can use the HMI to initiate
actions. The newest HMIs can provide
much more functionality, particularly with
respect to data handling and processing.
Many end users and original-equipment
manufacturers (OEMs) would like to take
even greater advantage of HMIs, knowing they offer much more than neat icons
and touchscreens. Factory-automation
HMIs have evolved beyond the traditional
dedicated, fixed-in-place devices installed
on machines. Users can now interact with
HMIs using a PC, phone, tablet, wearable
device, or even a headless edge device by
opening a browser to view HMI screens
and data. A single HMI application can be
tailored with different screens for different

FEBRUARY 2020

EP2002fadisra.indd 11

users, based on their requirements.
HMIs can collect data from sensors and
IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) sources,
store it, and process it into useful information. HMIs are typically and conveniently
located close to the data source and can also
fulfill the role of transmitting processed
information throughout an organization or
to the cloud to support analysis.
A basic HMI might show operators
the status of a process at the moment. A
more-capable HMI can help those same
operators better understand what is happening and provide maintenance and management personnel with the information they
need to improve operations.

THE EDGE ADVANTAGE
Edge computing, by definition, suggests systems capable of extracting and processing
data and information from as close to the
data source as possible. HMI applications

are ideally positioned for the task. Traditional standalone HMIs are usually located
near, or on board, associated processes and
machines, out at the operational edge. Processing the data close to the source naturally
reduces upstream network bandwidth costs
and utilization.
In addition to conventional wired
sensors, there are increasing numbers of
smart systems and IIoT devices in the
field connected through wired or wireless
networks to HMIs and able to supply a lot
of extended data. Growing adoption of
wireless connectivity, possibly including the
new 5G network in the future, will accelerate the adoption of remote IIoT support for
industrial systems and data.
Accessing and processing data at the edge
used to require a full-blown supervisory
control and data acquisition (SCADA)
system. This is no longer the case. In many
applications, the edge devices are PLCs or
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Efficient Plant February 2020

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