Rockwell Automation Releases New HMI Portfolio

Rockwell Automation has announced a new HMI portfolio. Following the acquisition of Plex in order to build expertise in the cloud, this new line is cloud-enabled. They are also using a word unfamiliar within the Rockwell ecosystem—open. The new HMI can now connect to a variety of third-party controllers. Finally, the portfolio features some new pricing ideas. Perhaps Rockwell is entering a new world.

Rockwell Automation announced the launch of the FactoryTalk Optix portfolio to enable industrial organizations to build versatile human machine interface (HMI) solutions that meet diverse customer requirements and adapt to evolving needs and technologies.

The FactoryTalk Optix portfolio provides an open architecture along with options for design, deployment, connectivity and extensibility that empower users to create innovative applications.

The FactoryTalk Optix portfolio allows users to choose their own technology mix. For the first time, Rockwell Automation customers can use visualization software to design HMI applications that can natively work with both Rockwell Automation and third-party controllers and run it on their choice of hardware. Users can connect to a variety of third-party software, devices or systems using software designed for interoperability and full OPC UA support. Users also only pay for the features they need, reducing unnecessary spend on unused features.

The FactoryTalk Optix portfolio includes five core solutions:

  • FactoryTalk Optix software is an HMI visualization platform that users can access from their browser or download to their computer. This new platform includes features such as multi-user collaboration, web-based design and test and integrated version control.
  • OptixPanel graphic terminals are sealed HMI appliances that come pre-loaded with FactoryTalk Optix and FactoryTalk Remote Access software licenses. This means that the device is an all-in-one solution that’s ready to run at first power-up. 
  • FactoryTalk Remote Access provides secure remote connectivity, so users can view, assist, manage and troubleshoot from anywhere in the world.
  • ASEM 6300 Industrial PCs are available in box and panel form and allow for greater customization. 
  • The Embedded Edge Compute Module provides a packaged solution for users to process visual data locally and remotely while maintaining the capability to grow and scale your system as their needs change.

AR and VR Potentials Look Exciting

Would you be comfortable wearing a headset that includes a sort-of goggles and speakers for periods of time? They would be a combination of virtual reality where you are immersed in a projected simulation and can be switched to augmented reality where you can see the physical area around you with an overlay of digital information.

The Apple Vision Pro unveiled at the June 2023 Worldwide Developer Conference (reviewed here) revealed Apple’s solutions to the many engineering and design challenges. Rampant speculation about using it and applications followed.

After listening to this conversation between Flexibits co-founder Michael Simmons and John Gruber of Daring Fireball and The Talk Show has broadened my mind. “Michael Simmons returns to the show to talk about his experience at Apple’s developer lab for Vision Pro, and his enthusiasm for the future of spatial computing.”

You need to listen to the conversation. But Simmons discusses his hands on time with the product in a developer lab and his current thinking about developing applications. I’ve now changed my mind about its applicability for general computing. It provides ability to see multiple screens while the user continues to use keyboard and mouse or whatever. He said he did not tire using the headset for an extended period. Nor did he suffer effects such as dizziness.

Certainly you can watch movies and sports and play games. Watch developer activity over the next four or five months. I would not be surprised to see an Emerson or Honeywell adaptation. Perhaps also Rockwell via PTC Vuforia team.

Augmented Reality At Work

I found this article through one of my daily news sources Emerging Tech Brew. It’s a cool idea. Lots of questions. Click the link and see the visual. It’s a laptop without a screen. It projects the screen into the “air” in front of you as if on a giant monitor. I’m not suggesting you run out and buy one. But I think the idea deserves development.

Founded by Magic Leap alums, Sightful is focused on creating a “daily use case” for AR.

By Patrick Kulp

The maker of a new laptop device is trying to expand the size of your computer screen by ditching the monitor display altogether.

The startup Sightful, which announced itself last week with $61 million in initial funding, is rolling out what it bills as the world’s first augmented reality (AR) laptop of its kind.

The $2,000 Spacetop device is essentially the lower half of a laptop with a mounted webcam and a pair of glasses attached by a cord through which users can see a 100-inch projection of a workspace screen.

Sightful’s co-founders said the goal is to establish a natural daily use case for AR technology at a time when data shows that people generally don’t yet see a need for such extra dimensionality at work. The setup is designed to expand the workspace display with relatively compact hardware for the segments of the workforce that have remained largely remote since the onset of the pandemic.

“The reason people are not using AR and VR is because there’s no reason for them to use it,” Sightful CEO and co-founder Tamir Berliner said.

M&M Software Releases fdtCONTAINER and Developer Tools Supporting FDT 3.0 

FDT Group’s latest significant release seems to be gaining traction. This release from M&M Software offers a migration path for users and vendors supporting modern intelligent device management and monitoring initiatives.

M&M Software released fdtCONTAINER version 4.8, a point-to-point device configuration tool supporting the latest FDT 3.0 specification to meet user demands for modern intelligent device management and monitoring initiatives. This release also includes updated developer tools which simplify the migration to FDT 3 systems and smart device DTMs for the vendor community.

Smart manufacturing initiatives drive end users and suppliers of industrial automation systems and devices to seek modern and comprehensive device management solutions that use interoperable, efficient, and sustainable plug and play engineering tools. FDT, an IEC 62453 embedded software standard, normalizes device data and communication between any host and device. The standard rooted in the host and device environment provides users a single tool for intelligent device management, operation, diagnosis, and maintenance. The latest FDT 3.0 specification enables a FDT Unified Environment (FDT UE) for IT/OT data-driven operations via authenticated OPC UA, FDT UE and mobile clients.

M&M Software’s FDT UE-ready product line includes:

  • OEM fdtCONTAINER application 4.8 – Free point-to-point device management and configuration tool supporting all DTM generations for users.
  • fdtCONTAINER component 4.0 (aka. FDT UE – Desktop Common Component) – The official component for integrating the FDT 3.0 interface and DTM runtime into an engineering application for system vendors with branded customizations and other value-add features.
  • dtmMANAGER development suite 4.0 – The comprehensive FDT 3.0 DTM development suite provides a simplified environment for device vendors to develop DTM’s allowing vendors to focus on the value-add device model features.

Industrial Metaverse—Dream or Real?

Just over a year ago, Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined a vision for the future of the social media giant—the metaverse. “We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet, we’ll be able to feel present – like we’re right there with people no matter how far apart we actually are,” he said. He bet a huge amount of money. In November, he laid off thousands of employees working on the project.

I recently moderated a panel discussion on the Web discussing the Industrial Metaverse. I wanted to establish a definition. I failed. Perhaps the best short description of the Metaverse is that point where the physical and digital worlds come together.

English technology analyst Benedict Evans wrote, “Sometimes it seems like every big company CEO has read the same article about the same tech trend, and sent the same email to their team, asking “What’s our strategy for this?!” A couple of years ago there were a lot of emails asking for a 5G strategy, and now there are a lot of emails asking about metaverse.”

Yes, it seems like only yesterday I was swamped with press releases and requests for interviews about 5G. But that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone (to quote singers Chad and Jeremy). Evans continues.

Evans continued, “Answering the 5G email was actually pretty easy, partly because almost no-one needs a 5G strategy at all, but also because we knew what 5G meant. We probably don’t know what ‘metaverse’ means. More precisely, we don’t know what someone else means. This word has become so vague and broad that you cannot really know for sure what the speaker has in mind when they say it, since they might be thinking of a lot of different things.”

The metaverse needs a digital twin. This is the digital representation of physical reality. It also needs sensory input. There must be visualization of the digital output—perhaps AR glasses or VR headsets. Oh, and application sense must form part of the mix or else why do it. 

The word metaverse occurred first during the recent Rockwell Automation event Automation Fair on my third day. Even then, it was stated ironically. Rockwell did have an exhibit with a virtual reality headset. The application about to be released, however, was on flat screens accessible by all.

The metaverse experience that Siemens showcased at its Web Summit builds on the company’s digital twin technology—physics-based, real-time and photorealistic digital twins. By offering a completely digital model of the underwater farm, this technology enables the Nemo’s Garden team to develop, adapt, and control its underwater biospheres at scale. The photo-realistic metaverse experience at Web Summit is implemented with Unity, a cross-platform game engine.

With VR glasses on, visitors experience underwater farming with four senses: They can see and smell the vegetables and fruits, they can hear the sound of the underwater environment, and they can even feel the vegetables and fruits through full-feedback gloves. Visitors not wearing VR glasses can follow the action on a big screen and influence what is seen in the metaverse. 

Molex and Arrow Electronics conducted market research and returned an optimistic look at the value of the metaverse in industrial applications. They see manufacturers among first to benefit from convergence of physical and virtual processes to improve product-design cycles and factory of the future initiatives.

Some of the technologies commonly thought of as part of the metaverse include AR/VR, digital twins, robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics.

Next-generation Machine Visualization Solution

Emerson enhanced its presence in discrete manufacturing with its acquisition of parts of the old GE Intelligent Platforms business. They’ve updated the PACSystems HMI platform.

  • Easy-to-use, smartphone-like graphical displays.
  • Designed with projective capacitive touchscreen technology that allows users to interact with the visual display with 10-point multitouch capabilities like swipe, pinch or zoom to move to the next screen or expand a chart.
  • Comes pre-loaded and pre-licensed with Movicon WebHMI software. 
  • HTML5-ready.
  • Protocol support with OPC UA for data contextualization and MQTT for cloud connectivity.
  • IP66 water resistance rating.

Follow this blog

Get a weekly email of all new posts.