Thanks Benson. It's not often the person who is actually responsible for the product in a news story weighs in. Your comments are well appreciated. I also hope the comments here are helpful is seeing what engineers are concerned about.
Based on the number of useful and insightful comments on this topic, mobility in automation and control systems is on the mind of many. As the person responsible for the Opto iPAC app, I'd like to address some of the comments directly.
Security indeed is paramount. The Opto iPAC app only works with wirelessly connected control equipment, and the first step in any meaningful attempt at system security is securing the wireless network itself. Standards like IEEE 802.11i (WPA2-AES) wireless network security for 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless LANs have been in place for years, and are industry accepted methods for securing most environments. Of course, your company's policies may state otherwise, so it is always good practice to coordinate with your IT team.
Second, the Opto 22 control equipment also provides local embedded security via username and password. So in the event the wireless network is compromised, an additional layer of security does exist.
On the topic of iOS v. Android. As any of us who've been in tech know from decades of observation, there always will be (and always should be) competing computing platforms whether for PCs, tablets, smart phones, or other mobile devices. Consider OS X, Windows, Linux, Unix, OS2, and so on just in the PC arena. This competition is healthy for us as consumers.
Our selection of iOS wasn't based on who we thought was the "best" platform to develop on, but by the readily available development resources and developer network, coupled with a robust distribution method. That said, our Android version is currently in development, and other platforms will be addressed as the market dictates.
Thank you for your interest and continued feedback on our mobile app. It’s very helpful to our engineering team to hear your questions and concerns.
I think it may be a matter of simply not doing their research or perhaps, selecting the easiest software to work with. I'd say that the percentage of iphone users here at work is somewhere in the 5-10% range. Company-supplied phones are Blackberries.
You have a good point, Dave. Why only one system. Androids did pass iPhone's iOS as the most prevalent smartphone operating system. I'm not sure why developers go for the iOS first, but it's common. That may change, though, as the Android system continues to proliferate, which it probably will.
I think it's safe to say that the total number of Android phones out there far exceeds the iphone, why pick the iphone? Even the new Windows phones, the operating system of which Nokia has selected to replace their Symbian system, is rapidly increasing in number. Like MCAD software, there is no defacto standard for phone operating systems. Welcome to the world of variety. I do think this is a good idea, however, as long as more of us can benefit from it.
The more we start to see these kind of wireless apps on the plant floor and within engineering organizations, the more security concerns will become less of an issue. From what I can tell, companies have already taken great strives to encrypt and lock down their wireless networks on the shop floor and have likely reached some sort of comfort level thanks to the use of more traditional mobile devices like Windows handhelds. Initially, these apps will likely be used for real-time data access to bring information to engineers and operators when and where they need it. Using them to actually interact and control plant floor equipment will likely come later when more of the security issues have been ironed out.
I agree about read-only, Jack. I was quite surprised about the interactive aspect of the app. I would imagine it could easily be set for read-only. Yet I can see the point of being able to roam the plant and adjust PLCs without having to run back and forth to the desktop or try to balance a laptop on your knee.
I would be curious to know what Security provisions are in place. I suspect there is a set of SEcurity regulations for the plant that needs to be updated to insure wireless access via these handheld or really any devices is secure and partitioned. Part of Security is auditing so we know who did what. also in this case what happens if the device is stolen or lost?
I believe this is going to bring up a host of issues and operational procedures regarding adherence to Security standards. And the creation of a set of updated Security standards. I am guessing the insurance companies that insure the plant will have a set of requirements and standard policies to be put in place.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.