Video game or HMI?

Industrial HMI developers consider how video game technology can change the way operators work with control systems. Video: ABB demonstrates some interesting possibilities.


Flash is required!

ABB adds new capabilities to its HMIs borrowing technology from video games.

Consider this situation: An operator has been trying to solve a problem in a dirty and dangerous part of the plant. He or she needs some information from the recent alarm list to help analyze the situation. It will only take a minute to get the data from the control room, but wearing dirty gloves and other PPE will not make it easy to use a conventional keyboard with the HMI. No problem. The operator stands in front of a large screen and simply looks at a process schematic, focusing on the key element. At the wave of a hand, the desired data pops up on the screen. Another wave, and the information is transferred to a smart phone or iPad. Everything is done without even removing a glove.

How does it work? The same technology that allows you to bowl or play tennis in your living room can be applied to your HMI. By tracking an operator’s eyes and hand motions, the system can move a cursor and click without anybody touching anything. Video game technology meets an industrial HMI.

You might think it sounds great, or is a silly gimmick, but ABB is betting that this kind of capability will be increasingly important as companies depend more on control systems to facilitate collaboration across traditional departmental responsibilities, and engagement with younger (meaning more technology savvy) operators. ABB contends that a control system from 1989 may be adequate to keep the process going, but no operator born anywhere close to that year is going to want to run it. And as new operators become increasingly difficult to recruit, prospects will go where they expect to learn the most marketable skills.

At ABB’s user group meeting one year ago in Orlando, the company demonstrated some sophisticated HMI capabilities. (See the video from the 2011 event.) Last week in Houston, we got to see what another year of work in the ABB corporate research group in Västerås, Sweden, has produced. Magnus Larsson and Isak Savo demonstrate the latest developments. See for yourself, and imagine ways you might find the technology useful. Maybe it’s not for everybody, but it is getting closer.

Peter Welander,

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
Strategic outsourcing delivers efficiency; Sleeve bearing clearance; Causes of water hammer; Improve air quality; Maintenance safety; GAMS preview
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me