Industrial Mobile Apps Finally Arrive

As Terry Costlow states in this month’s Industrial Ethernet Review feature, increased use of wired industrial Ethernet technology is enabling more rapid integration of wireless solutions—especially those supporting smartphones and tablets.

It seems that “industrial mobile” apps have finally arrived. Costlow discusses mobility strategies and tactics for integrating wireless/mobile applications into existing industrial networks. Elsewhere, Automation World is investigating and compiling examples of how industrial mobile apps are changing the way engineers, operators and industrial managers get their jobs done today.

In Automation World’s August issue, Jim Koelsch describes how mobile connectivity has on-call engineers and technicians reveling in a new kind of freedom at the water and wastewater plants in Haverhill, Mass.: “No longer shackled to their monitors in the control room, operators can go home at the end of the day thanks to an Apple iPad outfitted with 4G long-term evolution (LTE) mobile phone technology. Using the high-speed link to the plant’s control network, the operators have access to real-time information and can respond to alarms from home—or anywhere else—after hours.” (See “Should You Leap into the Mobility Movement?”.)

In the same issue, Aaron Hand describes how “mobile input greatly improves field data collection” for an oil refinery. In a Perspectives article by that name, Aaron tells how system integrator Matrix Technologies was able to cut completion time from 49 weeks to 27 weeks for a project designed to document 3,000 instruments at a refinery. That was just one of many benefits of moving I/O checkout and instrument checks from a paper-based system to an app on a tablet PC.

David Greenfield reports on how Cisco Systems has been focusing on combining hardened high-definition video, audio streams and data capabilities to enable remote collaboration via the cloud and mobile apps. In the article, he details how one of Cisco’s automotive industry clients has been investigating the use of “presence technologies” to connect remote subject matter experts (SMEs) along its supply chain. The company is looking at several remote visual collaboration solutions to facilitate everything from real-time SME access to plant-floor troubleshooting and global training of field engineers, he says.

Automation World has also conducted original research on the industrial apps in use today, and those results will be available in September. In the meantime, we welcome users and app vendors to contact us with additional examples of how mobile technologies are making industrial workers’ lives easier. Email me at rbassett@automationworld.com.

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