HMI: From Consumer to Industry

HMIs Continue to Incorporate the Consumer Tech We Can't Live Without

By Control Design Staff

It used to be that high-end servers drove technology development, which would eventually make its way to eager consumers. But in these days of consumer as king, we dream about the day when the technology we have at home will trickle down to the workplace, including the plant floor.

"Industrial customers are consumers too," says Jacob Kimball, product marketing manager, HMI, Schneider Electric USA. "They use the latest in technology for their phones, video games, PCs, HDTV, GPS, music players and more. Expectations for graphic quality, tactile feedback, speed, multimedia content, wireless, water resistance, outdoor use and more are all affected by these consumer products."

HMI screens are becoming more realistic, and more of a graphical representation of the process, notes Tom Edwards, senior technical advisor at Opto 22. The improved graphics make it easy for operators to correctly identify what's happening and what they are adjusting, Kimball adds, also pointing to advances such as remote access of HMI screens for remote diagnostics, and email alerts from the HMIs indicating when maintenance is required.

Although HMIs do not change very much, or very quickly, they are continuing to embrace consumer advances, such as moving away from keyboards and mice in favor of touchscreens, Edwards says. "And almost certainly, the next big development will be mobile HMIs," he adds. "Think of the productivity, flexibility, convenience and time saving that will come when operators have an iPad-type device with them on the plant floor that they can use to adjust processes and send data in real time, with the affected machine or system right there in front of them."

The widescreen format that has become the de facto standard for PC monitors, laptops and televisions has pushed into the industrial world as well. Beckhoff Automation, for example, has introduced a 24 in. control panel that serves as an industrial equivalent to suit the needs of machine builders and manufacturers that would prefer a widescreen format display, says Corey McAtee, technical marketing manager at Beckhoff. Potential advantages of the wide screen include the integration of more HMI elements on the screen at one time, and improved visibility of on-screen information at a greater distance, he adds.

But it's not all about bigger; it's about more options. On the other end of the spectrum, Schneider Electric has released an HMI with a color touchscreen as small as 3.5 in. "Small screens are being used where there formerly were no HMI screens at all, or where there is a need for better data, reduced cost, remote access and improved control," Kimball says.

In fact, much of the trending has been toward increased accessibility. Control systems have long held the valuable data needed to increase productivity, and manufacturers increasingly recognize they can aggregate, analyze and visualize this data more effectively to improve efficiency and output, says Keith McPherson, visualization and information software market development director at Rockwell Automation.

"Because HMI data has traditionally been siloed and intended for equipment operators, it hasn't been accessible to all levels within an organization for monitoring the health of overall plant operations," McPherson says. "Even when data is shared among different factory departments, it's often done the old-fashioned way: distributed on spreadsheets that contain manually keyed-in information. Not only does this pull people away from the tasks at hand, it also introduces human error into the process. Current visualization offerings should reflect an effort to display the data so people in different roles can easily understand it—and its business implications."

touch schreen 

SVGA Resolution
HG3G Series 8.4 and 10.4 in. TFT color LCD touchscreens have a 400 MHz processor, SVGA 800x600 screen, 12 MB memory, and SD cards and USB flash drives can be used. Two MicroSmart digital I/O modules can be mounted for simple I/O control. They have an Ethernet port for communications with PLCs via a supported network driver, and two serial communication ports.


Free Configuration Software
Crimson 3.0 operator interface configuration software simplifies design and implementation of interface solutions for the company's G3 operator interfaces, Modular Controller and Data Station Plus. It has built-in English, Spanish, German, French and Chinese languages, a database of more than 4,000 images, and converts an application database written for a large HMI to a smaller HMI with a conversion utility.
Red Lion Controls

 industrial panels See MORE
C-more operator interfaces line includes 6 in. TFT color panels with LED backlights. The base model EA7-T6CL-R panel is a 320x240 resolution QVGA display, which supports up to 65,536 colors. The analog-resistive touchscreen supports unlimited touch areas, two USB ports, serial PLC interface (RS-232/422/485) and 10 MB project memory. The panel is equipped with an LED backlight with a 50,000-hour half-life. Additional capabilities on the full-feature EA7-T6CL unit include an Ethernet 10/100Base-T communication port, remote Internet access and data logging. Both panels are NEMA 4/4X, IP65 compliant.
 touch screen

HMi is a customizable, true analog touchscreen with programmable function buttons. Macro programming handles applications, storing and manipulating trends, data and communications between PLCs. The multi-language interface in three models has blue-mode, grayscale or color screen versions.
Omega Engineering

 industrial panel

EZ SE Series offers 10.4 in. TFT color with Ethernet IP for SLC 500, MicroLogix, ControlLogix, CompactLogix with array support. Field-selectable Ethernet protocols include Ethernet IP, Modbus TCP/IP, SRTP, DirectLogix K-Sequence and EZIP.


Tough Display
Simatic HMI Panel PC Ex and Simatic HMI Thin Client Ex are designed for hazardous zones 1/21 and 2/22, and eliminate complex and expensive enclosures or additional certification processes. They include 15 and 19 in. touchscreen models with eight built-in function keys, copper cable and optical fiber Ethernet ports, flash-based mass storage, fans or battery.
Siemens Industry


HMI/SCADA Plus Web Access
WebAccess is browser-based software for HMI and SCADA. All the features found in conventional HMI and SCADA software packages are available in an ordinary browser including animated graphics displays, real-time data control, trends, alarms and logs.
Advantech Industrial Automation


HMI Plus
PanelView Plus 6 HMI with upgraded versions of FactoryTalk View and FactoryTalk ViewPoint includes more memory with faster refresh rates and more on-device storage. New graphics library integrates Software Toolbox Symbol Factory v2.5. The terminal can directly reference tags created for a controller, comes with a factory-default option, supports Windows 7 and has VMware Ready status.
Rockwell Automation

 Panel PC

Two Feet of Display
Panel PC series with a 24 in. TFT display and 1920x1200 pixel resolution has an optional touchscreen and can be customized. The displays are available with integrated CPUs or as display-only panels. CP7xxx series offers IP65 protection; CP6xxx panel series has IP20 at the back and IP65 at the front.
Beckhoff Automation

 HMI development

PAC Display Windows-based HMI development application can create graphical interfaces that mimic a process. Support for alarm management, recipe handling, operator logging, real-time and historical trending, multimedia and unlimited tags are included.
Opto 22

 Panels HMI Small, Powerful
Magelis STU small-panel HMIs provide data logging, USB port application download and remote web access capability, along with serial port and Ethernet connectivity and a 3.5 and 5.7 in. color graphical touchscreen with QVGA. The HMIs are certified for IP65, NEMA 4X, ATEX/UL1604, UL508 and RoHS.
Schneider Electric

Harsh Visualization
HEC-HMI Harsh Environment HMI is available as HMI only or with a PLC in the same enclosure. With extended operating temperature range of -40 to 80 °C and 8-32 Vdc input power, the backlit LCD is available in 2 line x 16 or 4 line x 20 character configurations, with nine pushbutton inputs and four programmable indicators. Network communication is via CAN port or a field-configurable serial communication port for RS-232/422/485.

 Ethernet support HMI

Mind Your Distances
VisuNet Ethernet-supported HMI system for Zone 1 (gas) and Zone 21 (dust) environments as specified in the IEC standard (touchscreens: Zone 22, dust) consists of an LCD monitor with a network interface. The distance between monitor, keyboard and mouse in the hazardous area, and host PC in the safe area, can be 90 m. Fiberoptic cables increase transmission distance to 2 km. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is used for transferring data to and from the monitor.

 panel-mount HMI

Tough Term
QTerm-G72 panel-mount HMI terminal has a 7 in., 800x480 pixel, LED-lighted, TFT-LCD, resistive touchscreen; 10/100Base-T Ethernet, Atmel ARM-9 processor and two serial ports. Qlarity object-based programming language and design environment is included. The device meets NEMA 4X and IP66 specifications for hosedown, icing and salt spray.

 HMI panels

Graphic Solution
Open-platform HMI iX panels have IP66 lightweight aluminum construction with keypad and touchscreen options. Five screen sizes range from 3.5 to 15 in. Included iX software is available in developer and runtime versions for 250, 2,000 and 4,000 external tags or an upgrade version regardless of tag size.
Beijer Electronics

 HMI terminals

IP69K-protected HMIs range from visualization terminals with modular interface cards to Power Panels with integrated control and drive technology. The units are produced to DIN 40050 and available with 5.7-15 in. integrated touchscreens. Corrosion protection and contamination resistance maximize cleanliness even in industrial environments.
B&R Industrial Automation

 HMI software

Built-in Logic
GP-Pro EX V2.60 HMI development software uses ladder logic or Instruction List to program a set of control instructions for use even if the HMI is not equipped with actual I/O. This enables the CANopen or Pro-face FlexNetwork master HMI to directly control I/O without external controllers. External controllers can still be connected, and their logic and data can interact with the HMI's internal logic and connected I/O.

 touch panel

Works When It's Hot
NI TPC-2206 and TPC-2212 touch panel computers with extended operating temperature range based on the 1.33 GHz Intel Atom processor have 4 GB solid-state drives for reliable operation in extended vibration environments and Windows Embedded OS for long-term deployment and support. They include 1 GB of RAM, 2 Gb Ethernet ports and LED backlight technology.
National Instruments


17 and 19 in. NEMA 4-rated VESA mountable LCDs have SXGA (1280x1024) resolution, are auto-sync compatible with various VESA video standards in an aluminum, thermoset black powder-coated, gasket sealed, vent-free enclosure. Options include resistive, capacitive or optically bonded touchscreens; extended temperature capabilities; sunlight viewability; and private labeling.
Vartech Systems

 HMI software

Monitor and Control
VTS 10.0 Windows-based HMI software lets users copy existing applications, back up and restore configurations from a single file, transfer changes to new and existing applications, and roll back to any saved configuration and trace all changes. It has an enhanced historian for large distributed systems with multiple historians to distribute the load across servers, and fail-safe synchronization of primary and backup historians.


Race Faster
Indusoft Web Studio v7.0 has improvements to the Rapid Application Configuration Environment (RACE) interface designed to create an easy-to-use SCADA application development environment. Native security supports Microsoft Active Directory using standard LDAP, and offers security synchronization between multiple IWS workstations. Intellectual property protection helps machine builders and integrators protect their custom functionality.


All in One
Vision1040 PLC with a built-in HMI Operator Panel has a 10.4 in. display and nine programmable function keys. Onboard I/O can be added with a module onto the back of the PLC. The 16-bit 65,000-color touchscreen HMI displays graphs to reflect trends of recorded data. Display options include more than 1,000 user-designed screens, and up to 500 images per application.


A Clean Look
LabMate 2653AB NEMA 4X flush-mount, in-wall monitor with an aseptic design has a stainless steel enclosure, recessed front door and internal hinges. The 15 or 19 in. display has a membrane keyboard with sealed trackball, and has a KVM extender with several KVM options.
Daisy Data Displays


Takes the Heat
Open HMI explosion-protected touchscreen panel PCs with Intel Atom series CPUs operate at full performance to 50 °C. The system can even briefly tolerate peaks of up to 55 °C. The series is certified for gas and dust zones 1, 21, 2 and 22. The closed housing contains modules with separate explosion protection that can be replaced individually if required, and are available up to a 24 in. wide-screen format with full HD resolution.
R. Stahl HMI Systems
+49 221/59808-200

 HMI hardware platform

Watch the dashboard
Based on OPC-UA and 64-bit multi-core hardware platforms, Genesis64 HMI/SCADA suite is certified for Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7, integrates real-time manufacturing and business information into a common, web-enabled visualization dashboard and includes GraphWorX64, TrendWorX64, AlarmWorX64, EarthWorX and Workbench web-based development, deployment and operations products.

 HMI software No Server Needed
Industrial Falcon is a cloud computing-based solution that lets users view raw data from any OPC server via web browser so there's no need to maintain web servers, is highly scalable and allows access to multiple users without additional cost. It provides a central repository for data where changes to a system or operation can be made and easily propagated to other users accessing the repository.
Software Toolbox

HMI Handles Many Tasks
UL-listed open-platform, 7 and 10-in. touchscreen HMIs come with Windows CE pre-installed, with an Ethernet port, USB ports, three serial com ports, an SD card slot, and an audio jack. With preloaded web browser and optional Web Studio, the HMIs handle remote data entry, remote monitoring, and support for multiple devices. The units are CE-certified, RoHS-compliant, and UL-listed for both Canada and the U.S. The fanless units draw only 12 W of power for tight spaces or sealed environments where the airflow is restrictive.
Maple Systems

 HMI web client

Proficy HMI/SCADA—iFIX WebSpace, a web client for the iFIX visualization solution, is designed to enable informed decisions from anywhere, anytime. This application has flexible configuration topologies and features the ability to be installed on an independent dedicated server or on the main iFIX server. Multiple WebSpace servers can be installed to scale the total application to a larger distributed architecture. iFIX WebSpace screens are ported instantly from the iFIX application. The iFIX WebSpace is created as a full-featured HMI/SCADA client.
GE Intelligent Platforms


PowerView operator interfaces range in screen size from 4.3 in. up to 15 in. are powered by 24 Vdc and use TFT-LCDs and analog-resistive touchscreens. The units are fanless, diskless and have NEMA 4/IP65 sealed panel mount front panels. ViewBuilder 8000 development system is free with each unit. All are CE-marked, and most units have UL/cUL approvals.


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