Google Glass and Alarms

Inductive Automation announces work with Google Glass to leverage the technology for alarm notification and remediation.

Inductive Automation's Gould (left) and McClusky demonstrate the use of Google Glass with alarm notifications.
Inductive Automation's Gould (left) and McClusky demonstrate the use of Google Glass with alarm notifications.

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article on the first manufacturing application I had run across for Google Glass (MTConnect app for Google Glass for training and retrieving/sharing machine operating data). While attending the first Inductive Automation user conference this week I learned about another manufacturing development for Google Glass.

Kevin McClusky, director of design services at Inductive Automation, explained that he is working to push alarm notifications to Google Glass so that workers anywhere in the plant can stay on top of alarm notices anywhere. Though the initial alarm notifications sent to Google Glass will be basic, such as noting a high temperature in a particular tank or that calibration is off on a particular machine, McClusky said that it is possible to drill down into Inductive Automation’s Ignition HMI/SCADA software with Google Glass to put that notification into context and remedy it.

To use Google Glass to navigate to the Ignition HMI screens, McClusky noted that nothing had to be installed on Glass. He just uses the Google Glass web browser. One of the things McClusky said he is working on is enabling Ignition to send specific notifications via Google Glass to specific users.

“Glass is going to shine with notifications to address immediately on the plant floor,” McClusky said. “Plus you can use it to send images, not just text, for better collaboration.”

As part of the presentation featuring Google Glass, Carl Gould, co-director of software engineering at Inductive Automation, explained that it’s important, using Google Glass or not, to understand that alarms are abnormal conditions that require a response. Alarms should not be condition notifications or reminders. In addition, he says alarms should be tied to the root cause, not a symptom of the problem.

Referencing “The Alarm Management Handbook” by Bill Hollifield and Eddie Habibi, for his presentation, Gould said that ensuring alarms are truly alarms is critical because of the amount of alarms an operator can reasonably handle in a day. An operator can easily handle about 150 alarms per day, according to the handbook. Three hundred alarms a day is the maximum amount of alarms that is considered manageable.

Gould also noted that it’s critical that alarms be prioritized. In keeping with this approach, he notes that Ignition has only five alarm priorities. These priority categories can be identified by the amount of times the alarm occurs. According to the handbook, the categories apply as follows:
• Critical alarms are those that should occur very rarely, about 0 percent of the time;
• High priority alarms occur more often than critical alarms, but still not very much, about 5 percent of the time;
• Medium priority alarms occur about 15 percent of the time; and
• Low priority alarms are those that occur about 80 percent of the time.

One final piece of advice Gould offered on understanding alarms: “It’s important to understand that the purpose of an alarm is based on how effective an operator’s response can be to the problem, not on how bad the problem is.”

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