I’m in Atlanta at the Marriott beside the Atlanta airport for the ACP Thin Manager User Conference. Perhaps this could be called the “future of industrial computing” conference–at least according to Automation World columnist and technology futurist Jim Pinto. In his keynote, Pinto proclaimed the end of the PC era as the industry moves toward peer-to-peer, distributed, self-organizing technologies.

I first met Matt Crandell (president and CEO) and David Hancock (now COO) at the 1999 National Manufacturing Week. Someone said, “You have to go over and meet the Linux guys.” Well, they use Linux, but that wasn’t the game they were in. What they do is build a platform to enable thin client computing in an industrial environment. The company has grown slowly but steadily for the ensuing 13 years. About 200 people are attending this year’s event that includes the unveiling of Thin Manager 6.0, Screentronix and XManager.

Crandell explained to me that what ACP does is build a platform. The platform enables the use of safe and secure thin clients to use HMI/SCADA applications from companies such as Invensys Wonderware, Rockwell Automation and GE Intelligent Platforms (all represented in the exhibit area).

It’s really difficult to describe the details, but users seem to really like what they get with the product. The new edition unveils Screentronix–a secure connection technology that appears to be open and flexible enough to allow ACP to enter new markets if it so desires. It now supports mobile devices, such as Apple iPads, even in management mode. It allows users to log in and see the exact desktop and applications that they left open the last time they were on.

It’s interesting that there is still no one doing the exact thing. There are a couple of companies going into cloud computing. But Thin Manager is not really cloud in the sense that its core technology is not Web based.

But I have a sense that this is part of the new future of computing in manufacturing and production.

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