Engineers use emojis too. Except they see them graphically represented on a piece of software that isn't a chatting platform, but rather, a software that is showing how happy an industrial facility is. By happy, we mean, how efficient and how streamlined an industrial process is going -- which in turn makes an engineer happy. We are talking of course about the Human Machine Interface that displays data in facilities all around the world. Humans need to see data presented to them in ways they would understand. That is why Human Machine Interfaces are important.
Why do we need HMIs?
Engineers need HMIs to show exactly how the industrial control systems - the SCADA systems, the PLCs and more - are operating. The HMI will even show the engineer when security parameters have been breached. HMIs are important to the efficiency of an industrial operation, thanks to virtualization.
Virtualization of industrial operations will be a very important feature in a future that will see another layer of added interconnectivity thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). The data that would be available to engineers with these updated systems will ensure that industrial facilities perform faster and more efficiently in the future. This is due to the real-time nature of the HMI software that would display the industrial processes of the facility immediately.
Modern industrial facilities are growing. The amount of hardware in the industrial facilities including the number of remote devices that need to work in cohesion with the hardware. It requires a system to unify the data input sources so that everyone on the facility is on the same page. This is where the HMI software comes in.
For instance, Wonderware's InTouch platform is used in one-third of the world's industrial facilities. It includes graphical representations of general machine security, the working machinery systems within a factory, a number of times a button had been pressed and many more applications.
Some PLCs (programmable logic controllers) come with HMIs in a package deal these days. Those are integrated HMIs, but you also get non-integrated HMI solutions that an engineer can use in his/her industrial facility.
As the Internet of Things continues its mission of getting the world to embrace the fourth industrial revolution (Industrie 4.0), engineers will be working with human-machine interfaces more than ever before.
Siemens' SIMATIC WinCC V7 is another HMI solution that advertises fewer downtimes for industrial facilities, rapid access to data, and the fast integration of existing hardware. The retrofitting of HMI software to already-existing SCADA systems is something engineers are looking for in industrial facilities that cannot afford to update the entire system. It also unifies all of the systems and allows for employees of an industrial facility to see the compiled and real-time data that keeps them all on the same page. The business side of an industrial operation instantly benefits from the HMI's virtualization of operational data.
Cybersecurity of SCADA systems and other ICS systems rely on HMI interfaces so that engineers are aware when systems have been targeted, or if there is an operational issue in industrial facilities. HMI is central to the SCADA databases' visual representation as well. Furthermore, the HMI can display the operational data in graphs and other graphical representations. With the number of remote operators, with the added gigabytes of data that will be observed by industrial machinery, cybersecurity for ICS is absolutely necessary. HMI assists and makes this process easier thanks to the visualisation of networks and systems.
To become more knowledgeable and proficient in HMI system competency, engineers or technologists can get their professional certificate of competency in Wonderware InTouch HMI through the Engineering Institue of Technology. The course will teach HMI applications from scratch through online e-learning. Designing graphics and animations, including the configuring of alarm systems for security purposes, are also included in the course. Follow the link to read more about it.