Celebrate Your Freedom

July 5, 2012
Honoring Those Who Discovered, Developed, Refined Technologies We Enjoy Today
About the Author
Katherine Bonfante is senior digital editor for Control and ControlDesign. You can email her at [email protected] or check out her Google+ profile.This month the U.S. celebrates 236 years of independence from Britain. This makes me think of other freedoms we've gained over the years — like the freedom to move around with wireless devices. Why is it that we don't take the time to celebrate and honor those brilliant minds that discovered, developed and refined the technologies we enjoy today?

For example, James Clerk Maxwell predicted the existence of electromagnetic (EM) waves in 1867, and David E. Hughes was the first to transmit radio signals over a few hundred yards is 1879. These discoveries enable our cellphones, microwave ovens, wireless routers, garage door openers and GPS units, just to name a few.

If it weren't for Maxwell, Hughes and others who followed, you wouldn't be able to call your friends or check your email from your wireless phone. Machine builders and systems integrators wouldn't be able to use touchscreen terminals or wireless control systems at the plant level, allowing different industrial machines to communicate with one another without massive wired networks.

This month, I want to feature stories our editors have written that celebrate wireless technologies that make our industry professionals' jobs more efficient.

Senior Technical Editor Dan Hebert once wrote about the wonderlands that automobile manufacturing and assembly plants can be. He said that in these plants, parts and assemblies move from station to station with little or no human intervention, and if it weren't for wireless communications, the systems at these plants would be forced to communicate via cumbersome wiring harnesses or via manual operator interactions.

Read Hebert's article "It's a Wireless World" to learn how Nissan's automobile truck assembly plant in Tennessee implemented a wireless control system upgrade to an existing conveying system.

In a Real Answers column "Which Handheld Technology Is Best?" a reader wanted to know the best way his customer's techs could interact with his machines via handheld devices. He wondered if he should be using touchscreens, self-contained keyboards, pointing devices or a combination of all of them.

We presented this question to our audience, industry leaders and other experts, and they suggested various solutions.

We also asked our audience what was best for operators who tend to multiple machines at a manufacturing process line. Would the operators benefit from having an HMI at each machine, or by carrying a handheld HMI, possibly wireless, with them? Find out what our audience suggested by visiting

The Fourth of July is America's Independence Day. But every day's a chance to celebrate our independence from being tethered to a machine.