Is BYOD Inevitable in the Manufacturing Space?

Is it Inevitable that an RFQ Will Include Tablet or Smartphone Wireless HMI Requirements Some Day?

By Control Design Staff

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diagnostics via the VNC, with no disruption to
the operator;

  • Check production rates and capacity or view key
    performance indicators from the road, home or
    an office terminal.
  • HMI mobility can usually be accomplished without the need for costly new software or infrastructure changes. For example, an embedded, remote-connectivity feature on the Allen-Bradley PanelView Plus 6 HMI terminals can provide data access to real-time, plant-floor operations by extending the HMI content to a Windows, iOS- or Android-based device using VNC technology. Typical smart device VNC or remote desktop applications can be used. Such applications are likely embedded in a dedicated terminal already, so don't wait to tap the power of mobile information. Remote visualization capabilities will put you ahead of the game in response time.

    John Dirks,
    Global Product Manager,
    Rockwell Automation

    [From LinkedIn's Automation Engineers Group, where we posted the question, comes this thread about the problem:]

    Security the Bigger Issue

    I would be far more concerned about security issues than performance issues. Often the security on a control system network consists of a firewall between the business and manufacturing network, but not much security within the manufacturing network. Allowing a consumer device onto a relatively unprotected manufacturing network is not advisable without additional protection against the device.

    Steve Boyko,
    Senior PI Specialist,
    ADM Systems Engineering

    But There Are Security Answers

    • Some mobile platforms address security really well. For example:
    • Separate NICs on the server or device so you can separate the control network from the IT network;
    • SSL-encrypted messaging;
    • Authentication certificates;
    • Ability to come in from the outside via VPN;
    • Ability to layer user access with permissions;
    • Ability to limit some screens to monitoring only.

    Given these six points, mobile devices can be just as secure or more so than traditional HMIs and OIs. I think BYOD is inevitable, but like a lot of things in the industrial automation space, it won't replace traditional solutions, but it has its place for the right applications.

    Arun Sinha,
    Director of Business Development,
    Opto 22

    [From LinkedIn's Industrial Automation Group:]

    Who Owns the Data?

    There is one compelling factor. The devices are getting dirt cheap at a staggering rate. The biggest concern about BYOD is around security, and not just the infection part with viruses. Who is the owner of the data stored on the device? There are different solutions for this problem and, of course, different vendors have different implementations. This is not optimal if you need to decide what you want to do or use.
    We should step back from the BYOD and ask ourselves why do employees want to bring their own devices. To my understanding, this is mostly because they have more up-to-date, sexier devices than those provided by their employer. With the prices of the devices dropping like a bad habit, why not provide the employee with the devices as a tool with the permission to use it privately? If they leave the company, the device can be remotely wiped and they can keep it. The company is in control about what device, how to use the ecosystem and what security measures will be used.

    Basically you want an ecosystem surrounding the device that supports the development of third-party modules. Next you need a way to be able to download this onto the device in a secure manner. The app store principle goes a long way in supporting this way of working.

    Performance-wise, the devices get more powerful with every release. There is, however, a mindset that needs to be changed. This seems to be the hardest part of dealing with change. The general idea is that most of the time the device must be able to do exact the same things as the HMI or desktop application. This is wrong. The apps for the devices need to be developed for the way they will be used. Do you really stand still in your factory with a tablet in your hand trying to check up on all the thousands of I/Os? Or do you just want to quickly check some KPIs and copy the results into your presentation?

    Where did I get my wisdom? Well partly from listening to several discussions and reading some magazines. I listened to a good discussion on this topic from a podcast by RunAsRadio:

    The debate is not an easy one and also heavily influenced by personal opinion and context. Personally, I have not taken a position yet. Just keeping my eyes and ears open.

    Robert Saunders,
    Eye-Concept Industrial Automation BV

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