Control Engineering HMI eNewsletter for November 2001

By Gary Mintchell June 3, 2002

In this issue:

  • Windows XP embedded
  • Pocket PC 2002
  • Hosted asset management software
  • Sun introduces servers
  • Leadership: What it Takes
  • Antarctica for finding your way on the Web
  • Cool products and news
  • Question of the month

Windows XP embedded

When Microsoft decided that it needed to enter the embedded software space, Windows CE was born. Originally designed for products like “set top boxes” for home internet browsing, it was seized upon by the automation industry for both control and HMI applications. In fact, many HMI products have been released in the last two years taking advantage of cost and size benefits, as well as the ability to boot from ROM eliminating hard drive requirements. Windows NT Embedded followed to give manufacturers a more powerful embedded operating system.

Microsoft Manufacturing Industry manager, Peter Wengert, recently told me that there will be a Windows XP Embedded combining the attractive features of embedded software with Windows compatibility. The unveiling is set for its Embedded Developers Conference November 27 and 28 in Las Vegas.

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Pocket PC 2002

Another use for Microsoft’s embedded operating systems is in Palm competitor, the Pocket PC . HMI vendors have targeted it as a mobile interface option. Pocket PC 2002 is the next-generation software platform. Some features introduced in this version include: an updated graphical user interface, smart minimize allowing easier navigation, new notification engine for messages and appointments, virtual private network (VPN) support, Terminal Server Client support, strong passwords, and Microsoft Office applications in Pocket format.

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Hosted asset management software

Last month we published a news item from Indus International regarding a product it just released, InSite. This HMI/MES software product performs many enterprise asset management chores including assets down to transmitters and sensor. It provides key process indicators and allows custom analysis.

Talking with Larry Hagewood, executive vp of the InSite business unit, he said the product was two years in development and built from the ground up with the Internet in mind. The platform and programming is all XML or Java so it is natively a web-based product.

One of the key differentiators for InSite is it’s a ‘hosted application.’ While you can buy the license and servers and set up your own database, manage it, update it, etc., Indus can do that for you. Everything you need is exposed to a web browser to your specifications, but the company takes care of managing the database and servers, doing software upgrades, and other similar IT work.

Have you ever thought about having a hosted application? What do you think about dong something like this? E-mail .

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Sun introduces servers

We recently ran a news item about Sun Microsystems’ new, lower-cost servers . I recently chatted with real manufacturing beta users. Texas Instruments used a beta SunFire V880 server powered by an UltraSparc III. Scott Mott and Melanie Smith of the capacity and asset management group of the IT department said that they were rapidly running out of room for their supply chain management application. They were faced with the complexity of multiple systems or other ugly workarounds.

This server had the processor power and RAM capacity to get them going. Upgrading from their current Sun server to the V880 was painless. In house tests showed memory load improvements of 33% for lower RAM to 15% at configurations of over 5 GB. This is a crucial improvement for their memory intensive application. They ran for four months with no hardware failures. Since their application does not require multiple processors, the return on investment of the V880 versus high-end machines ‘was incredible.’

As control engineers begin collecting more and more data with a need to store it and make it available to enterprise systems, servers are bound to be in our future.

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Leadership: What it Takes

I think that many problems in manufacturing stem from a lack of leadership — a topic I’ve studied for over 30 years. Here’s something on the topic I just picked up at the Business Thinkers Trends Digest from Coletta and Co.

Writing in the current Fortune, Jerry Useem says leaders earn followers, especially in times of crisis, by following a few simple principles:

  • Be visible.

  • Embrace brutal optimism — admit how tough things are, but communicate a belief that you will win.

  • Stick to the facts.

  • Put people, not the bottom line, first.

  • Link the ‘humdrum of people’s jobs’ with a larger cause.

  • Tell a story to inspire others.

  • Don’t overreach. (Useem advises leaders to remember that when people ‘are giving you a standing ovation, they’re not really cheering for you. They’re cheering for themselves and for the group’s ability to unite and persevere under threat.’)

Read the article, ‘What It Takes’ at Fortune .

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Antarctica for finding your way on the Web

There is so much information on the web. In fact, we seem to be putting a lot of our own manufacturing information on the web. Have you ever tried locating it? Tried the search engines with lots of links that you see 10 at a time? Check out . Tim Bray, internet pioneer and co-creator of XML, has thought about ways to visualize the content of the internet. Stretch your creative powers and think about what this technology could do for plant information management.

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Cool products and news

  • Check out this operator interface from Chordic . Originally developed for underwater HMI, it shows you where to press on the screen for the next command.

  • TouchSystems has released Apollo Open, an advanced, open frame TFT touch LCD.

  • Sharp Systems of America announced two LCD data monitors: LL-T15V1, a 15.0′ XGA (1024 x 768) analog monitor, and LL-T1811W, a high-end 18.1′ SXGA (1280 x 1024) dual video input analog/digital DVI monitor.

  • Need to input data from serial devices easily? Software Toolbox announced new versions of Wedgelink Keyboard Wedge software that emulates keyboard input for data from scales, gages, bar code readers, and other devices that don’t use sophisticated protocols.

  • Siemens Energy & Automation introduced a scalable, rugged industrial PC suitable for 19-in. rack mounting. Simatic Rack PC 840 has separate display/monitor.

  • Computer Dynamics introduced Vamp-Slim Vista, a display for tight spaces.

  • Elo TouchSystems announced a smaller, lower-power chip for its five-wire resistive touch technology.

  • Banner Engineering and Red Lion joined up for an operator interface for the Banner vision sensor.

  • Exor has released eight new models in its lower cost MD series of operator interfaces.

  • Software Horizons’ Instant HMI software now supports the Pocket PC 2002 platform.

  • Stealth Computer has a family of industrial grade LCD monitors with a thin profile.

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Question of the month

How much engineering do you have time for anymore? I just read where GM is projecting more staff cuts. That started me thinking about engineers I know that have time only for ‘putting out fires’ rather than engineering improvements to current processes. What’s your situation?

E-mail me at .

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