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PcVue Masters Series 2 : Everything about Web & Mobile clients

Episode 1 : Why Web & Mobile clients ?

Context

Evolution of technologies

Automated systems have long been based on "closed", system-specific architectures and were by definition isolated from other systems in the enterprise.

In addition, they mainly used proprietary communications drivers to exchange data between equipment and software to supervise them.

The massive development of so-called "open" networks, that is to say more standardized and allowing connection to a wider set of systems or equipment, has had a strong impact on automated systems.

In fact, the IP and wireless networks created and used for the Internet, have gradually been adopted by corporate computer systems and then by automated systems.

Automated systems and associated equipment are currently mainly connected to "open" and wireless networks as confirmed by a study conducted by HMS in 2019:

 

Figure 1 – Industrial market shares 2019

 

In addition, the massive adoption of mobile devices (smartphone, tablet) in everyday life, outside the industrial context, reinforces the exploitation of these solutions. Mobile devices are more and more efficient, offering computing power and display often more optimized than a simple PC.

The same goes for Wi-Fi networks, which are now reaching extremely high speeds, allowing a very smooth use regardless of the position at the heart of the plant or site. 

Evolution of uses

These technological changes have in fact modified the possibilities offered, making accessible from outside the systems that were previously isolated and little or not accessible.

In addition to interoperability with other systems, the opening of automated systems on networks today allows operators to perform their tasks not only from a control room, but also remotely from remote offices through a web interface, or in a mobile way closer to the equipment from a remote station on site or with a mobile application on smartphone. In terms of infrastructure maintenance, opening up to networks also implies a change in work habits, as two worlds must now work together: the operational staff (OT) closest to the automated systems and equipment and the IT experts (IT) in charge of network infrastructures.

This is an important element to take into account when choosing a system supervision software solution that must be designed to meet the constraints of each type of stakeholder.

Opportunity and challenges

As we have seen technological developments and the advent of networks created opportunities for better interoperability between systems, an almost infinite amount of data available, remote and mobile access to the supervision system and overall an improvement of the operation and maintenance of the systems. However, this implies precautions in terms of deployment because the risks associated with the networks are real in case of attack called "cyber". 

For example, when an ill-intentioned entity accesses a sensitive equipment via a network in order to modify the parameters thereof. 

The aspect of "cyber security" is therefore to be taken into account when deploying solutions based on the use of networks, especially when it comes to setting up web and mobile access.

Thin client vs heavy client

Remote supervision can be done from a so-called "heavy client" station, that is to say a station on which software is installed which connects to another station to recover the data.

Or it can be done from a "thin client" which is a terminal (PC, smartphone, tablet) on which we access the supervision either from a remote desktop session windows (RDS) or through a browser (we speak of "web client") or with a mobile application (in this case we speak of "mobile clients").

The thin client offers the advantage of not requiring installation and can therefore potentially be run from all types of mobile devices, or PCs with a minimum of constraints. In addition, it is not necessary to have a user license or a protection dongle on the thin client terminal to access the system, authentication by name and password is sufficient.

On the other hand, in the case of deploying web and mobile clients, it will be necessary to set up a web server that will bridge the gap between the main supervision server and the thin clients. Deployment and maintenance will be from this station only.

Thin clients, especially web and mobile clients, provide ease-of-use (mobility, a variety of supports) that meet the needs of users and ease of deployment and maintenance. It should be kept in mind, however, that the data used comes from a supervisory system that will have to be installed and maintained in all cases (acquisition of field data, archiving, processing, etc.) and that a minimum of prerequisites are required to deploy web and mobile clients, especially in terms of security.

In the next episode, we will describe the best practices for deploying web and mobile clients for a supervision system!

You can also watch this episode on YouTube:

Check our web and mobile solutions:

https://www.pcvuesolutions.com/index.php/products-a-technology/webvue-web-client

https://www.pcvuesolutions.com/index.php/products-a-technology/touchvue-assets-based-services

https://www.pcvuesolutions.com/index.php/solutions/mobility 

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Tuesday, 10 December 2019