Better Graphics For Safer Industrial Plant Operations

Some of the most exciting technology companies have shown me during the past three years or so has involved deep work into providing better operator displays for industrial plant operations. In this case, “better” means working with the people who actually use the displays–maybe the entire team from operators to maintenance to engineering–in order to develop displays that show the state of the plant at a glance.

Those of you who were around in the late 80s, do you remember the beginnings of PC-based document design applications? PageMaker and Ventura Publisher were new. They offered lots of fonts. People designed brochures with six different fonts on one page–in patterns. Then we had the ability to draw really cool graphics on the screen. I had a customer with a waste water facility. They coded in pages to reflect the seasons of the year (I remember the frog croaking representing summer in the river at the end of the process.)

What I’m saying is that we had the technology and we used it as much as possible. Then we discovered that we were giving too much information in too confusing a format.

New Product

This latest announcement is from PAS Corp. in Houston. It has released PowerGraphiX 2.0, a high performance human-machine interface (HMI) package for the power generation industry. The company promises PowerGraphiX, “will revolutionize the way operators view information at power plants.”

PowerGraphiX is comprised of predesigned graphic templates, object libraries and best-practice guidelines for the design and implementation of operator interfaces at power generation plants. Companies choosing to implement the application can expect vastly improved graphics at significantly reduced costs when compared with traditional methods. (I’ve seen samples.)

According to PAS, the software was initially developed because Southern Company Services Inc. had a vision of consistent HMIs and improved situational awareness in control rooms across the operating fleet. PAS is now making the product commercially available for all utilities.

“Southern Company is committed to proprietary research and development in order to deliver solutions to our company and the industry,” said Harvey Ivey, Southern Company Manager of Instrumentation and Controls Design and Support. “This particular software was originally created to streamline information displayed in control rooms across our generating fleet, significantly improving operator effectiveness.”

The methodology behind developing PowerGraphiX was based on the industry-recognized book “The High Performance HMI Handbook” by Founder and CEO of PAS Eddie Habibi and Principal Consultant for High Performance HMI of PAS Bill Hollifield. It addresses the use of color, pattern recognition, standardization and other principles to transform data into actionable information, providing operators with a more holistic view of plant operating conditions.

“PAS is committed to empowering operators by delivering the precise information they need to improve plant safety and performance,” said PAS Vice President of Technology Mark Carrigan. “PowerGraphiX makes interpreting a plant’s current condition simply intuitive.”

New Mobile Operator Interface Device blends HTML 5 and Internet of Things

Iconics' MobileHMI app

Iconics’ MobileHMI app

Another announcement at ARC in Orlando last week came from software developer Iconics blending mobile HMI and the Internet of Things. The company introduced its new MobileHMI solution delivered to “Any Glass, Anytime!”

Iconics, always on the cutting edge of commercial technology trends, sees the increasing use of mobile devices in industry along with improved cloud technologies as a chance to develop new solutions. MobileHMI, an “app”, is now available from the major app stores, including those from Microsoft, Apple, and Google.

MobileHMI is a full HMI/SCADA client on any platform or smart device and runs on hundreds of smartphones, tablets, browsers and Web-enabled HDTVs, enabling users to tap into the Internet of Things (IoT) and access critical data anytime, anywhere. With MobileHMI, industry leaders such as executives, engineers, maintenance technicians and operators can now utilize a fully featured mobile client designed for operations on the go. Configuration enhancements simplify development of screens for mobile users, making it easy to provide a clean experience on all devices without incurring the extra cost of development time. Additionally, preconfigured templates and the ability to target specific devices with displays make MobileHMI ready to handle any combination of devices.

Russ Agrusa, Iconics CEO and President, says about the new release, “The new MobileHMI product is a technology marvel. Creating rich, real-time universal visualization for smartphones, tablets, Web browsers or Web-enabled HDTVs is effortless. Simply download the MobileHMI App from the Windows Store, Apple or Google app stores and you’re ready to get going. What makes the MobileHMI technology unique is its simple patented configuration technology that delivers secure visualization natively to any device such as iPhones, iPads, Samsung Galaxy S4, Windows Phone and Microsoft Surface, as well as HTML5-enabled devices.”

Advantech Acquires British Intelligent Display Company

Advantech Acquires British Intelligent Display Company

Advantech has signed an agreement to acquire British Intelligent Display Company GPEG. After the merger, GPEG’s original management team will remain unchanged and will join Advantech Embedded Core Computing Group under the name of Advantech-GPEG. Advantech’s management sees this move as strengthening its position in the European market.

Advantech Chairman KC Liu stated that, “In view of the global trend toward Smart Cities and IoT, the intelligent display will be the most important user interface in the near future. Therefore, Advantech is very optimistic about development potential in the intelligent display market, and with the GPEG merger, we hope that we can accelerate product development, enhance sales strength, and lead market growth in intelligent displays.”

KC Liu further noted that, “Although Advantech already has sales teams and product development capabilities in Europe, it is difficult to specifically target customer needs until we are very familiar with the gaming industry in Europe. After the merger, we expect to draw on GPEG market development experience in the European gaming market and professional industry know-how, and combine these with Advantech’s existing global marketing and sales teams to expand the European intelligent display market.” Meanwhile, Advantech will also integrate GPEG’s product sales and design professionals with the resources of Innocore-Gaming, which Advantech acquired in 2010, to provide the European gaming market with complete solutions, significantly promoting Advantech embedded boards and overall revenue.

After the merger, GPEG’s former CEO Nick How and Sales Director Dave Webbing will continue leading Advantech-GPEG, cultivating gaming and application-specific display markets for customers in each vertical industry, and providing customized complete solutions to become one of Europe’s most influential intelligent display brands. GPEG was established in London in 2005 to supply specialized application displays, especially designing and producing intelligent displays for the gaming industry. GPEG annual sales have exceeded $18 million and their growth rate has been over 20%. Nick How commented, “We are tremendously excited about the opportunities for our customers, suppliers and employees that this merger will bring, the access to complimentary products, worldwide sales channels as well as the resources of a company like Advantech, paves the way for a very bright future for the company.”

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