Because the need to know what's going on in process applications always demands more data and finer resolution from more places, one useful indicator just sparks the desire for more. That's why, after process controls engineers and other plant-floor professionals gain mobile tools and software, they still want to accelerate and diversify their capabilities even further, and extend them to new locations and applications.
"We had one user with a telescope pointed at a level instrument on an elevated water tower across town, which he used regularly until we added a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system and radio," says Robert Touchton, chief design officer at MR Systems, a CSIA-certified system integrator in Norcross, Ga. "He even kept the telescope for awhile during the transition period."
Grant LeSueur, director of software management and products at Schneider Electric, adds that, "For reasons of safety and comfort, process control and DCS operators are traditionally reluctant to leave their control rooms, but they've been using remote and mobile device for 20 years to do operations rounds, gather data, conduct inspections, perform maintenance and control field devices. So, while mobility isn't new, the barrier to entry has been how to carry data in and out hazardous areas. However, in the past five years, there's been a huge increase in the choice of protected mobile devices they can use in these areas that also support Android OS, iOS or Windows operating systems, and link to Internet protocol (IP) communications and cloud-based computing services. Now, the plant-floor can take the lead from the consumer side, support how their workforce wants to use these pervasive mobile devices, but still create an infrastructure in which they can do it securely and safely."