Mobile intelligence lets you take it with you

CONTROL DESIGN columnist Jeremy Pollard explains mobile intelligence, an untangled, time-saving product and technology solution that just might change the way you do business.

 By Jeremy Pollard, CET


ow do I start this column in a way so compelling to make everyone want to read it? Maybe I just did. I want to tell you about Mobi—a product and technology that just might change the way you do business. It’s like a RIM Blackberry on steroids. When I saw Mobi running on a Psion Teklogix hand-held netbook, I knew I was in for a treat.

Some of the problems facing us today are lack of time and resources, system and data security, low budgets, and the general need to be in three places at once syndrome. Route1’s Mobi provides our community an order-of-magnitude leap in service levels, data access, machine monitoring, process control and overall system security.

A friend of mine develops control systems for a big material handling company and he has dial-up accounts into each project for post-completion support and for small changes.
The problem is that he needs to be in the office to provide the support. Legacy solutions abound but they are all desktop or laptop-based. Some companies have strict policies not to allow their control software out of the building.

What if you could take your legacy solutions, your desktop, and/or your laptop with you wherever you went? Say you’re the guy who writes control programs and supports 50 sites for his customers’ equipment. You have a desktop with legal licenses of the programming software you need to support the hardware, including HMI software and applications.
Your laptop has these applications duplicated so that when you’re on the road you still can support your customers, and that includes a second software license cost because you’re not going to take the time to move the copy protection back and forth, if required.

Your infrastructure has been setup to interface with your customers from your desktop, and again duplicated on your laptop. And let’s not forget the company VPN. If you’re the boss, you likely have five other guys who do the same thing. This is tougher to manage than it should be in this day and age.

Enter Mobi
Mobi stands for Mobile Intelligence and allows you to securely take any Internet-accessible computer with you. Regardless of your solution, Mobi lets you make it mobile.

The system employs a central authentication server with certificate management to make sure only the Mobis that are allowed to connect to a given host can in fact do so. Solutions that use browser-based technology to connect remotely with a user name and password can be breached easily. Mobi’s layered security design won’t allow this.

Imagine being at an airport and one of your customers calls you with a problem. You flip open Mobi, directly connect to your home or office-based PC and then teleport yourself to a comfy chair. Your customer’s data is live, right in front of you. You have access to all of your applications and connectivity from your remote location using a wireless connection that has been setup through a carrier such as Sprint or Verizon or local Wi-Fi.

It’s fast too—less than 300 msec delay (using 802.11b) for screen updates and keyboard interaction. Minutes after you received the call the problem is solved. Everything’s secure and the data you changed is already on your office computer, so no need to synchronize it when you return.

Similarly, you could be on the plant floor walking around the process while connected to your PC or gateway using Mobi for monitoring the vital signs of the system. You might use a laptop, but since the laptop is replicating your desktop, why bother?

Mobi replicates the desktop effortlessly. There are no moving parts, no requirement for local data storage, and lower software and licensing costs, resulting in lower cost of ownership.
Meanwhile, back at the airport. Someone steals your laptop—including all data files (a recent U.S. survey says a laptop is stolen every seven minutes). With Mobi, there’s no local data, so your company secrets are still safe.

I think there are plenty of reasons to check out Mobi, but, for me, the most compelling reason is time—you’ll have more of it—to take your kids fishing on Saturday. Now that’s what I call important.

Of course, if you really had to, you could take Mobi with you, because it uses cellular networks. For once, things might get a little easier.


Jeremy Pollard, CET, has been writing about technology and software issues for many years. Publisher of The Software User ONLINE, he has been involved in control system programming and training for more than 20 years.