HMIs lead the way in connecting, obtaining, securing and distributing data by acting as the communication hub in many automation systems, explains Richard Clark, InduSoft Web Studio application developer at Wonderware by Schneider Electric

Figure 1: HMI

connections to edge devices are just the start of the software’s capabilities as a communication hub. Image courtesy of InduSoft


he best way to establish and maintain communications among automation

components is often through the human machine interface (HMI). Modern PC- based and embedded HMIs can network to controllers, drives and other field devices to obtain information (Figure 1), and they can network to databases and other higher level computing systems to distribute this data. They can also connect easily to the cloud for remote device access, or directly to these remote devices through the Internet. The article discusses how HMIs facilitate communications and networking among automation system components, and presents practical ways to ease implementation requirements and ensure security in IoT and other applications (see table).

PROTECTED INFORMATION HUB An HMI is often used to connect automation system components in various applications, often acting as the gatekeeper for data and communications. There are many reasons for this, with security and efficiency of operation at the top of the list. An HMI can store and protect data, and also control access to other automation system components such as controllers, drives and other smart devices. There are many ways of representing data on an HMI, and most modern HMIs are highly graphical in nature; in addition to trends, faceplates and graphical representations of equipment, other ways of presenting data at a glance are available such as dashboards. In addition, analog and digital indicators processing large volumes of data behind the scenes can display the health and operational efficiency of a machine in an easy-to- understand format. By not directly exposing the machine and process data to users, or by using a


proxy to display a subset of it, the information remains safe and meets regulatory requirements. This is especially important in 21CFR Part 11 applications where the process data simply needs to be recorded, and cannot be altered by any means.

Table: HMI

Communication Hub Capabilities

• Collecting information from controllers, drives and other smart devices

• Connecting plant floor to enterprise

• Providing information at-a-glance

• Distributing data through the cloud

• Acting as a web server

• Providing security as a gatekeeper to other automation components

THE HEADLESS HMI Modern HMIs take on many forms from stationary monitors or workstations, to mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. In some cases, especially with smaller scale applications, HMIs are only needed to periodically obtain information and make adjustments, with the machine or process able to run ‘headless’ with no operator interface most of the time. An example is a machine making very

long runs of standard parts. In these and similar situations, one mobile HMI device can serve as the operator interface to multiple machines, providing substantial savings as compared to having an HMI as each machine. These mobile HMI devices can be

Windows-based, or can run on other platforms. For example, the HMI can be installed on a small Linux runtime machine, and include a web server such as Apache. Residing on these low-cost devices, the HMI can still provide a

detailed operator console or display console on an authorised and authenticated device such as a smartphone or tablet.

SECURITY PROVISIONS Mobile and fixed HMI devices not only display data, but can also be used for secure data distribution. In implementations where machine data needs to be secure, a data distribution proxy can be used, especially when interfacing with an ERP or MES system. In this case, the available data to the external system is only a subset of the total data stored in the HMI, keeping the bulk of the information safe and secure. Automation system data can also be secured by other methods, such as allowing only specific limited functionality to be performed through external requests. This eliminates the opportunity to corrupt or change the operation of the HMI workstation or the automation system by hacking the workstation, for example through the lower level control protocol communications which connect the controller to sensors.

InduSoft T: +49 (0) 6227 732510


Since it was first formally announced at 2011’s Hannover Fair, Industry 4.0 has gained more momentum to the point where most manufacturing companies are implementing or planning to implement systems that will embrace its core principles. Industry 4.0 has been defined as the combination of ‘cyber-physical systems’ with the Internet of Things (IoT). In practical terms, this means systems that combine mechanical and software based features communicating with each other via Internet based technologies. Recently, the IoT has spawned

an industrial variant, the Industrial IoT (IIoT), which emphasises the need for real-time performance in industrial applications. However you look at it, one of the common concepts running through the whole of Industry 4.0, and its related concepts across the world, is data – lots of data being generated by lots of devices in real-time and being shared amongst them to provide a transparent view of processes. To do this effectively, bandwidth is a key requirement. This is where CC-Link IE comes in. It is currently the only open industrial Ethernet protocol that operates at gigabit speeds. It is, therefore, the industrial Ethernet technology with the widest bandwidth and hence offers the greatest potential for supporting the needs of Industry 4.0, now and in the future. While Industry 4.0 traces its birth to 2011, CC-Link IE came even earlier – in 2007. Since then, the CLPA has continued to lead the industry by providing gigabit performance across all levels of the automation hierarchy and working with leading third party vendors to offer open development solutions.

CLPA-Europe T: 07768 338708 /AUTOMATION

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72