One of the fastest growing areas of new automation technology has undoubtedly been the mobile operator interface. Driven by the near ubiquitous use of smartphones and tablets in the consumer sector, the adoption of such portable devices via company-provided devices and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies has become increasingly commonplace across the manufacturing industries. Evidence of this can be seen in a 2013 IDC report that 80 percent of manufacturing companies have developed mobile apps and a recent Gartner study that reports manufacturing company CIOs rank investment in mobile technologies as a top priority.
Coinciding with this surge in mobile device use has been the development of connectivity software and systems to better connect industrial equipment to technicians, operators, engineers and management wherever they may be using a mobile device. Opto 22 is one industrial automation technology provider that positioned itself early on in the move toward mobile use in industry with its groov operator interface development system.
groov is a zero-programming, web-based way to build, deploy, and view scalable operator interfaces to monitor and control systems and equipment using mobile devices and other computer-based systems. These operator interfaces can be viewed on most mobile devices or computers regardless of manufacturer, operating system, or screen size—this includes smartphones, tablets, PCs, and smart high-definition televisions.
Just two years since the introduction of groov, Opto 22 is now poised to release groov 3.0. The update adds event-based email and text message notifications to groov, allowing any authorized person to receive immediate messages when a connected machine or system needs attention. These messages can be customized and sent to groups or individuals, and the messages can include equipment data, time/date stamps, and other key information, as well as links back to the groov operator interface for access to real-time, visual data for further investigation. For example, if a machine overheats, stops working, or otherwise meets or exceeds one or more predefined criteria that trigger a notification, a maintenance technician can be notified to access the groov screen for more data.
Other new features of groov 3.0 include an improved build interface development environment, where it’s reportedly easier to position, align, and group on-screen objects in the groov user interface. Also new is a Data Simulator feature that provides simulated dynamic values for onscreen gadgets. For instance, a graph gadget can use a simulator tag that provides changing values for a sine wave, or a gauge can use a simulator tag with an integer moving between high and low values. This feature is said to be of particular use in testing onscreen gadgets or to simulate tags and variables during screen development.
Because platform choice with groov depends on whether or not an OPC UA server is used and how many Modbus/TCP-ready devices or SNAP PAC controllers will be connected, v3.0 now offers three platform selection options:
- groov Solo connects to one Modbus/TCP device or one SNAP PAC controller. This option is aimed at machine builders and OEMs who need only one controller or system connection.
- groov Plus connects to multiple Modbus/TCP devices and SNAP PAC controllers and is positioned for multi-machine or system applications, or for monitoring and controlling widely dispersed assets.
- groov Enterprise connects to machines, PLCs and other equipment and systems that support OPC UA as well as multiple Modbus/TCP devices and SNAP PAC controllers.
As applications change and more Modbus/TCP devices, SNAP PAC controllers or OPC UA servers are added to the application, users can upgrade from one platform to the next.