Data for All

May 10, 2012
OEMs Can Get Remote Access That Provides Near Real-Time Access to All the Control Functions Happening in the Controller Via the Cloud
About Author
Dan Hebert is a Senior Technical Editor for CONTROL, Control Design, and Industrial Networking magazines. He began his career at Putman Media as a Field Editor in 1995 and joined the company on a full-time basis in 2000.The system integration and IT services firm ECXSystems in Tyler, Texas, provides cloud-based remote access services to its industrial clients in a variety of industries. The firm owns and operates a cloud-based data center running VMware Cloud.

In an application under development, the data center will extract information from a controller, and make the data available to remote users. The ECXSystems customer is an OEM that will be building and selling skid-mounted systems, with each system automated with a SoftPLC controller.

The skid-mounted systems will be sold to small oil and gas companies that operate wells deemed no longer economically feasible and not currently operating. With these skid-mounted systems, the wells will become profitable to operate. The OEM will be charged a recurring fee for the remote access services—either monthly, quarterly or annually. The OEM can in turn provide this service to its clients.

"SoftPLC has a web service that runs under their architecture that provides near real-time access to all the control functions happening in the controller," notes Keith Willis, president of ECXSystems. "The connection from its controller to the cloud in this case is via Ethernet, but cellular and Wi-Fi are available. The customer will be provided with a variety of methods to access these data, including smartphone apps. The smartphone HMI experience is provided via a custom iPhone/Android application written by our company using Appcelerator."

For the OEM, remote access can be made available to each of its skids simply by providing a connection from the controller to the cloud. No other effort is required, either upfront or on a continuing basis. The capability to interface with the cloud is built into the controller, so no extra expense is incurred in terms of automation system components. The OEM can concentrate on building, installing and operating its skids, while leaving the IT-related task of remote access to ECXSystems.

About the Author

Dan Hebert | PE

Dan Hebert is a contributing editor for Control and Control Design.