Automation Software: The origin of a new breed of HMI/SCADA software
November 16, 2007
By Jeremy Pollard
This is a very different column for me, because I really didn’t test drive the software–I had it driven for me at an event in Utah. For those of you who were at the ISA show in Houston, you would have seen the introduction of this new breed of HMI/SCADA software. The formal launch date is set for sometime this month.
This is a significant product; as significant as the first version of Wonderware was when Windows 3.0 was revealed. This is the first product that has been designed from the ground up to be used with Microsoft’s Vista operating system.
So who cares? Maybe not many right now, but the integration of ICONICS’ Genesis64 with Vista is remarkable.
“ItÃs a quantum jump in the evolution of the HMI,” ICONICS president Russ Agrusa told me. You can’t buy a computer today without Vista, which amplifies the importance of Genesis64 and the resetting of the HMI bar.
SharePoint is a Microsoft technology that allows for enterprise data access and employee collaboration. Genesis64 supports and integrates these services. This would allow for a true global design for a company’s data and plant floor. You would be able to access the plant floor data in China as if you were right there, and it would be painless to do so since
Genesis64 is fully Web-enabled with all of the connectivity you need.
Supporting the .NET framework also allows Genesis64 to scale very well. Since it runs on 64 bit hardware, the responsiveness is very impressive. Genesis64 is fully OPC-UA compliant, which allows the software to access any OPC-enabled device or PLC.
Typically, building an HMI application requires the use of add-ons, bolt-ons and a lot of design work. Certain aspects of an application should be easy, like menus and button bars. These are going to be very passé!
Microsoft has developed technologies that make our life easier and increase the cool factor on our desktop. Iconics has integrated these technologies to create a HMI that will redefine the development curve and the run-time environment. The only downside I see is the need for 64 bit hardware, which may make a panel-mounted touch screen a bit more expensive.
Agrusa was obviously excited when he was showing me his new baby. He has been involved in HMI products for a long time, and he must feel the same as Dennis Morin did in 1989 when Wonderware hit the streets and coincided with Microsoft’s Windows 3.0 release. It took a few years for the rest of the vendors to catch up, and by then it was too late.
I’m sure Agrusa hopes the same thing will happen here. ICONICS is the first company out of the gate with a true Vista product, while others are merely making their stuff work under Vista.
Some of the advantages you would benefit from are from Microsoft, and some are Iconics-conceived. Gadgets are small applications that can reside on the desktop (or inside the Genesis64 application), or they can reside in whatÃs called a Sidebar. They are running applications, but they now have a container to be docked into.
These gadgets can be considered forms, or windows, that expand and contract at your will. Answers to operating questions such as “What time is it?” for manual data logging or “What’s the temperature?” can be answered quickly, regardless of where the operator is or what screen he has displayed.
Sidebar is a technology that organizes gadgets and other objects that you may have in your Genesis64 application. It’s just there; you drop the gadgets you want into the sidebar, and the operator can find the information he needs quickly. Sideshow allows you to mimic part of your main application screen onto a portable device without having to code anything, so a screen in Genesis64 could be pushed to a PDA simply by turning on the PDA.
Genesis64 can interface with Virtual Earth so you can view global activities by location and by objects. Agrusa demonstrated a GPS application that lay on top of Virtual Earth so that the GPS location and the physical location were connected.
For some, 2-D graphics can provide enough insight, but we all want 3-D and in the past, it has been too much of an effort. Not anymore. Any 3-D images can be imported (from CAD systems, etc.) or built and then fully manipulated and tied to OPC data tags. Fully animated 3-D objects might not work for everyone, but will for a bunch of us.
Agrusa points out, “You want to make the user experience clearer, faster and more powerful.” Mission accomplished. Check out www.iconics.com for the availability of the product and online demos. Genesis64 raises the bar for HMI/SCADA applications.
Jeremy Pollard is a 25-year veteran of the industrial automation industry. He has worked as a systems integrator, consultant and an educator in the field. Jeremy can be reached at email@example.com.