Automation Software: Forget remote access and start remoting
By Jeremy Pollard
We have a tough job every day developing applications for manufacturing automation projects, control code, HMI interfaces and communication strategies. Additionally, we have to maintain those systems and processes as we accept more responsibility for the success of that process. Then, as with all day-to-day operations, something goes south somewhere.
It really doesn’t matter if you are a project supervisor, a maintenance manager, control engineer, or a startup technician. And it also doesn’t matter if you are employed by a user company or an OEM. This advice is for you.
First, I have been using this technology for six months, and it has saved my bacon more than once. It is not exactly a product; it is a solution that can save us time, aggravation and money. It might even save a marriage. The product is similar to PC Anywhere, or GoToMyPC, but it isn’t. It is Mobi Solution.
“The sandbox is ‘remoting’ – not remote access but remoting,” says the VP of marketing of Route1, Inc Josef Zankowicz. This is remote control with a big twist.
Mobi stands for ‘Mobile Intelligence’. The network is called MobiNET and the remote device is called MobiBook PRO. The host device is any Windows-based computer or server. The system network is the Internet so access is worldwide. Imagine being in an airport and one of your customers calls with a problem. You flip open your MobiBook PRO, direct connect to your home or office-based PC and you are (metaphorically) teleported to your comfy chair. Your customer’s data is live in front of you. And it took less than a minute to initiate, connect and to ‘be live’. It’s true–I’ve done it.
This connection can be made using any communication method available such as WiFi/WiMax, cell network, wired or dialup. The efficiency of MobiNET’s communications allows for reasonable response over the slowest networks. Delays can cause some impatience, but based on the speed at which you are responding to a problem, you will be able to react sooner than you would be able to get to a landline or network.
The architecture consists of three components: MobiHost (software), MobiNET, MobiRemote (software). The MobiNET part of the equation consists of the MAG (MobiNET Acceleration Gateway), the MIX (MobiNET Internet Exchange), and the CA (Certificate Authority). Together, these three ‘servers’ initiate, authenticate and manage the connection between the MobiRemote and the MobiHost.
Software installation is harmless. The host software is installed on any Windows 98/2000/XP computer with a minimum configuration from a Route1 supplied CD. The install requires Microsoft .NET framework and installs it if it is not present.
For me, installation went very smoothly. For you, it would probably work best if you have the remote device physically by the host since an authorization process is needed. You can authorize remotely as well, but you would need a helper at the other end.
The host installation requires some general information, which will be used to register the host with the authentication servers. My Login ID was supplied by Route1 after the host installation. Users select their own password, which will be important if you want to install the host software on more than one computer. You can have up to five hosts.
On the MobiRemote Control Panel, you register the host by entering in the activation code that you were sent by Route1. You need the same password that you entered in the host installation. Then the cycle is complete. The remote and host are now linked, authenticated, and ready for use.
The MobiBook PRO (which has the MobiRemote software pre-installed) is only one remote device that can be used. More are being validated by the company. As well, technology is being developed that will allow you to use the same secure authentication network with your own computer or laptop. I have even seen it working on a Motorola flip phone/PDA!
So now what?
The host computer is now with you at all hours of the day, and anywhere in the world where an Internet connection is available. It is secure, and because the remote and hosts are authenticated together, no one else can connect to your host, not even Route1. Now all of your functionality that resides on your host computer is available to you remotely. The kicker is that all the data is on your host and stays there. No synchronizing required.
The benefits are many, but the most important one for me is the ability to access many of my client’s sites either via my own desktop or directly to their own servers because I made them a host. No knowledge of firewalls, VPN’s or network setup is required.
The uses are endless. Most machines have an HMI computer on them, but not portable. By installing MobiHost onto this computer and providing a wireless router to the machine, you can use MobiRemote to monitor the operation of the machine from anywhere around the process. Take the process with you – it’s great for startups. Or, you could access your local computer in your office while you are in a taxi in a different province, and connect to the infrastructure you have spent the last 10 years building.
The results are incredible. None of my customer’s software leaves their building. I can gain access from anywhere, and it is totally secure. For the tech-savvy, this should be a no-brainer. You have to check out Route1.com.
You can reach Jeremy Pollard at firstname.lastname@example.org.