Are We Playing "Russian Roulette" By Using Commercial Off-the-Shelf Mobile Devices in Industrial Automation?

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At a stone quarry in Pennsylvania, two powerful 6-inch (15 cm) pumps remove millions of gallons of water that builds up from rainfall and runoff each year. An electrician standing at the quarry’s edge pulls out his iPhone, opens a web browser, and types in a URL and his password. On his screen he sees data for each pump—status and current draw—plus flow rate and the water level in the quarry. No problems, so no need to go down into the quarry. He moves on to his next task.

In California, control technicians at a citrus fruit processor adjust the speeds of conveyors routing fruit for washing and labeling. The noise level in the plant is high, and the HMI that controls conveyor speed is on the far side of the room. Instead of shouting to the operator at the HMI, the technician watching the fruit move through the equipment uses an app on his Android smartphone to fine-tune the conveyor.