Mobile workers respond to alarms, view data logs
An Apple iPad and an application are all that Peter Souvanna needs to remotely access and operate workstation-based operator interfaces at manufacturer Toyo Tanso USA in Portland, Ore. The company manufactures isostatically molded graphite products for use in semiconductor, medical, aerospace, and other industries.
Souvanna, information technology manager at Toyo Tanso, runs the iOS app Wyse PocketCloud from Wyse Technology on his Apple iPad to securely operate Microsoft Windows-based workstations running Opto 22 PAC Display HMI software. (PAC stands for process automation controller.) In turn, the HMI software communicates with Opto 22 Snap PACs and I/O that control plant automation systems. From any location with a secure WiFi or 3G connection, Souvanna can access a workstation and use the operator interface to monitor a plant system, respond to alarms, view logged data, and more.
Remotely operating an operator interface was originally planned as an emergency measure, said Souvanna. In the event of an emergency where evacuation was necessary, such as a gas leak, plant staff could use the iPad and remote access app to operate a dedicated emergency workstation from outside the affected building or off-site. But the combination of the iPad and the Wyse PocketCloud app proved so fast and easy to use that its use soon expanded to every day.
Souvanna says the app opens quickly, and since his iPad is usually at hand he can rapidly connect to a workstation and operate the on-screen controls in the PAC Display application. As information technology manager, Souvanna continually evaluates various technologies for possible use. He was initially skeptical about using the iPad and the Wyse PocketCloud app, but became convinced largely because of ease of use. “It just works,” he said. PocketCloud app publisher Wyse Technology has an Android version of the app, and Souvanna plans to evaluate Android-based tablets for similar use.
– David Hill is with technical marketing, Opto 22. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering. A slightly shorter version of this article appears with the March 2012 cover story in the print and digital edition of the Control Engineering North American edition.