“Siri, what’s the weather in Bangor?”

“Alexa, buy some toilet paper.”

“Zelda, check the status of the control loop at P28.”

Operator interface is many years removed from its last significant upgrade. Yes, the Abnormal Situation Management Consortium (led by Honeywell) and Human-Centered Design used by Emerson Process Management and the work of the Center for Operator Performance have all worked on developing more readable and intuitive screens.

But, there is something more revolutionary on the horizon.

A big chunk of time last week on the Gillmor Gang, a technology-oriented video conversation, discussed conversational interfaces. Apple’s Siri has become quite popular. Amazon Echo (Alexa) has gained a large following.

Voice activation for operator interface

Many challenges lie ahead for conversation (or voice) interfaces. Obviously many smart people are working on the technology. This may be a great place for the next industrial automation startup. This or bots. But let’s just concentrate on voice right now.

Especially look at how the technologies of various devices are coming together.

I use the Apple ecosystem, but you could do this in Android.

Right now my MacBook Air, iPad, and iPhone are all interconnected. I shoot a photo on my iPhone and it appears in my Photos app on the other two. If I had an Apple Watch, then I could communicate through my iPhone verbally. It’s all intriguing.

I can hear all the objections, right now. OK, Luddites <grin>, I remember a customer in the early 90s who told me there would never be a wire (other than I/O) connected to a PLC in his plant. So much for predictions. We’re all wired, now.

What have you heard or seen? How close are we? I’ve done a little angel investing, but I don’t have enough money to fund this. But for a great idea…who knows?

Hey Google, take a video.

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