Zebra Technologies Empowers Connected Workers 

Still more catching up on news from the recent MODEX trade show in Atlanta. Zebra Technologies has grown from a specialty printer company that I used for a couple of projects in the 90s to an interesting automation solutions company. It has introduced extensions to its wide range of mobile compute and connectivity devices. This news details a number of new products designed to enable quality work from your front-line workers.

First a note about some research the company conducted. None of these findings shock me.

Operations leaders in the manufacturing, warehouse, retail, and transportation and logistics industries worldwide continue to grapple with fostering resilient supply chains amid heightened omnichannel demands for speed and accuracy, ongoing labor shortages, and economic uncertainty. Recognizing the criticality of an optimized supply chain, 89% of decision-makers surveyed in Zebra’s 2023 Global Warehouse Study say if their organizations do not invest in technology to improve operations, they will not meet their business objectives. 

According to Zebra’s study, eight in 10 decision-makers and frontline workers said using more technology and automation would help meet or exceed productivity goals. In addition, decision-makers (54%) and workers (49%) agree addressing worker comfort and ergonomics is a top workforce initiative. 

And something about a number of new products.

Zebra’s new RS2100 wearable scanner – the industry’s smallest back-of-hand (BOH) scanner – enhances productivity and delivers new levels of comfort to workers. The unique mount on the RS2100 leaves the palm completely unobstructed, providing greater freedom to handle items. 

Zebra will also launch the WT6400 and WT5400 wearable computers. Engineered to streamline hands-free workflows while enhancing comfort, the WT6400 and WT5400 provide more flexibility for picking orders, sorting items, and managing inventory with greater efficiency and accuracy. With a larger display and integrated keyboard, the WT6400 is easily accessible for right- and left-handed workers, and its integrated angled camera captures images to document damaged items or completed tasks. The WT6400 is designed for demanding environments, including freezer operation (-30°C), while the WT5400 introduces a new class of wearable computers for hands-free retail workflows. 

A new addition to Zebra’s TC5X series are the TC53e/TC58e/TC53e-RFID mobile computers. Designed to meet today’s latest standards, the TC5Xe series offers 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, integrated RFID, premium security features and contains 25% post-consumer recycled plastic by mass. The TC53e-RFID offers integrated short-range UHF RFID, enabling associates to take inventory in the backroom, validate tickets at a concert or verify all items in a shopping cart from up to nearly 4 ft/1.2m away with the same device ergonomics as the standard TC53e. 

The TC5Xe series, WT6400 and WT5400 are all powered by the Qualcomm QCM4490 processor and Qualcomm QCS4490 processor which provide long lifecycles and more processing power compared to previous generations. These devices can run multiple applications including apps powered by augmented reality and AI, apps designed for voice and line of business as well as simple ‘green screen’ legacy apps. 

Beyond its new wearables and mobile computers, Zebra will also showcase its recently launched MC9400 series, the ultra-rugged mobile computer designed to enhance workflow efficiency and device security across the retail, warehouse, manufacturing, and transportation and logistics industries. 

FDT Group Certifies First FDT 3.0 DTM From Flowserve Corporation

Modern flow control software driver based on FDT/DTM technology extends standardized device management to mobile and OPC UA applications.

Glad to see movement with the latest technology from the FDT Group. It certified the first Device Specific DTM based on FDT 3.0 standard supporting the HART protocol from Flowserve Corp. The newest certified Logix 3820 Series DTM is deployable using their positioners supporting HART 6 / 7, tackling flow control challenges designed for modern IIoT architectures. 

FDT DTM certification to the FDT 3.0 specification and webUI is a process whereby rigorous compliance testing using dtmINSPECTOR5 ensures the viability of the states of the DTM; its correct installation, de-installation, and multi-user environment capability; mandatory and optional user interface functionality and robustness; network scanning communication performance and the ability to import and export the topology; and the audit trail capability.

FDT 3.0 DTMs are crucial to unlocking universal device integration with essential advantages such as platform independence, mobility solutions, and a contemporary development environment to reduce costs and expedite the DTM certification process. Users can use secure and seamless data exchange/interrogation from the sensor to the cloud and achieve new levels of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) integration. 

“This certification is a milestone in market penetration and technology development,” says Steve Biegacki, FDT Group managing director. “Flowserve has always been a leader in flow control using DTM technology and now offers the first flow control management DTM standardized for IIoT architectures based on FDT 3.0 for HART applications. HART users can deploy this new DTM and reap the benefits by using an FDT 3.0-based device management tool, such as PACTware 6.1, and can enjoy an IT/OT data-centric model by deploying an FDT Server, extending the data reach to mobile applications and the enterprise.”

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.

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