The smartphone is the poster child for high-performance electronics with ultimate interface usability. Unsurprisingly, operators of industrial machinery and equipment desire nothing less for the interfaces they use every day. With mapp View, B&R now offers direct access to the wide world of web technology right from the engineering environment. For the first time, automation engineers have all the tools they need to create powerful and intuitive HMI solutions – and they don't have to be an expert web developer to do it.
Modern websites and smartphone operating systems are designed by large teams of usability, design and ergonomics specialists. "An OEM doesn't typically have those kinds of resources at their disposal," says B&R's marketing manager, Stefan Schönegger. To bridge the gap, what they need are easy-to-use tools integrated in their familiar programming environment.
Operators aren't impressed by fancy graphics and multi-touch navigation alone. "The HMI needs to directly facilitate the primary goals of industrial production: maximum productivity and minimum downtime," explains Schönegger.
The key to both of these goals is having the right information at the right time. Important notifications need to reach their intended audience every time, whether that happens on the main operator terminal, a small info screen, a smartphone or tablet. At the same time, the design must be able to prevent human error.
"With mapp View, we solve these challenges by relying 100% on web standards," says Schönegger. These technologies allow content to be displayed optimally on any output device or even customized for specific users or user groups. "Conventional approaches require considerable resources and expertise to develop screens for all the different output media," explains Schönegger.
One of the main advantages of web technology is the way it separates content and layout. Even after the content of the HMI application has been finalized, developers can fine-tune the layout and style to optimize usability after initial field testing. Widgets are available in a number of standard themes, or they can be customized with the user's corporate design. Thanks to the use of web technology, the content can easily be adapted to different output media – whether it's a widescreen operator panel or a small smartphone screen.
"It's not just the content and layout that are separate from one another," continues Schönegger. "The machine control and HMI applications are also completely decoupled." The HMI software or individual GUI components can be reused and modified at any time, making mapp View ideal for flexible, modular machine architectures. This also reduces maintenance costs and improves overall quality.
mapp View is fully integrated in B&R's Automation Studio engineering environment. Controllers from other vendors can easily be incorporated in the HMI via OPC UA. "mapp View is the first web-based HMI solution in the world that doesn't require knowledge of web programming languages."