New research: Wireless operator interface terminals sought

According to new research, the interface features that end users and machine builders are willing to spend money on are wireless capabilities, touchscreens and network-enabled operator interface terminals. Useful resources, with links, are provided. 


When it comes to operator interface terminals, once you decide a model is tough enough for your industrial application, what else do you look for? According to respondents to Control Engineering ’s July 2008 Product Research survey, the most likely features that end users and machine builders are willing to spend money on are wireless capabilities, touchscreens and network-enabled units. In addition to trend data, this research and other resources can help you decide what features, NEMA ratings and communications technologies you should be looking for, as well as which vendors are offering appropriate products.

The Operator Interface Product Research article contains new research results and compares it to 2006 data to reveal trends. For example, only 37% of this year’s respondents say they have color displays, but 73% say they want them. Forty percent have touchscreens today, but 67% want them. This year’s results show similar trends to 2006 results, including a preference for flat-panel displays away from CRTs, and increasing interesting in wireless and open-network technologies.

In the next five years, respondents say they anticipate spending more than they have previously on terminals to gain wireless capabilities, touchscreens and network-enabled units. Sixty-eight percent expect to spend more on wireless terminals, while only 53% plan to spend more to obtain color displays.

And while new features are nice, users look first for proven ruggedness. Said one respondent, “Environmental concerns are considered first—such as resistance to vibration, heat, cold, water—then the programming environment, size, [and] color. It has to hold up physically in the location in which you are going to use it, or everything else is moot.”

Monthly research reports are made available online in the Control Engineering Resource Center. Viewing the printed article online through the provides access to a list of products and links to the top 21 vendors of operator interface terminals for industrial environments.

One vendor, QSI Corp., introduced its QTERM-G58 operator interface terminal—a wireless, battery-powered version of its QTERM-G55. The handheld computer has a 3.5-in. color sunlight readable display and rugged design for harsh conditions. QSI also provides additional information in the form of free whitepapers that explain operator interface technologies. One whitepaper discusses issues to con

For other information on rugged interfaces, particularly in the form of industrial computers, see “ Solid HMI connections, sealed edges prove tough enough ,” also in the July 2008 issue of Control Engineering .

— Edited by Renee Robbins , senior editor
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