HMI: Man-machine interface
HMI stands for human-machine interface and refers to a device that allows you to communicate with a machine, computer program or system.
It is the primary tool by which line operators and supervisors coordinate and control the industrial and manufacturing processes of the plant.
The HMIs used in the industrial sector are mostly screens or touchscreens, control panels with multi-touch functionality, buttons, computers with keyboards, mobile devices or tablets, which connect users to machines, systems or devices. Regardless of the device, its main purpose is to allow users to view data on operations and control machinery.
They are all the more sophisticated the more complex the machine or system on which it is used. They also vary based on how the facility uses them.
An infrastructure can have a central HMI or several distributed and connectable via the Internet.
Depending on the system, the characteristics of the device can change, in terms of connectivity, technology and size.
In the HMI field, the concepts of usability and accessibility are of primary importance to guarantee a typically user-friendly use of the machine itself for every type of subject.
The products and technologies used to control industrial plants were mainly stand-alone, as they were integrated into the machinery itself or placed in the immediate vicinity of the machine.
With Industry 4.0 new solutions are being introduced, which include remote control stations with the ability to remotely manage machinery and entire systems.
HMI and SCADA
HMI and SCADA are sometimes confused due to their similarities and working together. In fact, HMIs are often part of a SCADA system.
A SCADA system is used to control a large system, such as an entire plant or site. It is a combination of several systems, including PLCs, sensors and RTUs.
A SCADA system is what collects and records data, sometimes it can automatically control plant operations.
After all, an HMI is the interface that someone uses to interact with a SCADA system and other systems/plants. They are both key elements of a large industrial control system.
While the SCADA system collects and archives data, the HMI allows you to interact with the plant and control it with an easy-to-use dashboard.
Both are necessary: without SCADA, an HMI would have no information to display or would not be able to control the plant; without an HMI, it would not be possible to view the data that the SCADA system collects or tell it how to control the plant.
SCADA and HMI are part of the same system. SCADA works in the background while HMI is typically the only thing users interact with.
HMIs in the future
Basic and advanced HMI technologies represent the way to a world of work and production characterized by an infinite number of possibilities.
It is inevitable to combine advanced man-machine interaction systems with the technological advancement of machinery that support the operator within the production systems.
Many companies are transitioning to high-performance HMIs, which help focus users’ attention on only the most important information. This helps users understand the data available and prevent information overload.
Enterprises are also increasingly employing multi-touch screens, remote monitoring and cloud-based systems.
In this regard, the term Advanced used to define this Industry 4.0 technology indicates non-trivial solutions for the interaction between people, software components and hardware mechanical components.
Completely different and innovative solutions can be found alongside the aforementioned screen-based HMI systems.
A first example is represented by wearable technologies, i.e. “intelligent” devices wearable such as smartwatches and smartbands, which make it possible to measure and identify environmental and safety criteria relating to an operator’s workstation.
In the future, HMIs could also integrate augmented reality (AR), which overlays digital graphics onto the real world, and virtual reality (VR) technologies, which immerse users in a digital world to create more effective visualizations.
As automation plays an ever more central role in industrial processes, users will be able to use HMIs to monitor automated activities and adjust them to their needs.
In the context of Industry 4.0 and digitization, the world of work is undergoing a profound transformation.
HMIs in the industrial sector support the worker during these production activities, improving his skills, as well as quickly training him in learning a new task or in re-skilling towards different tasks.
Contact us for any information, our Industry 4.0 team will support you at every stage from the development to the implementation of HMI systems.