Understanding the What and Why of HMI

It’s inescapable. Unavoidable. In fact, the harder you run from technology and its advancements the further you get from sustainable reality. As developments in technology are further refined and implemented on an ever increasing scale, those who turn a blind eye will have a hard time keeping up with modern practices.

HMIs, or Human Machine Interfaces, continue to be applied to various industries. In plain terms, HMIs are the screens we use to monitor, control, and execute certain functions within software applications.

Who benefits from upgrades to human machine interface systems? What is HMI, anyways? Where is HMI technology heading?

What Is HMI and How Does It Relate To SCADA?

HMI, or Human Machine Interface, is an interactive screen that provides information, data, and situational metrics of a given system to a human user operating the HMI screen.

A common misconception falls on the similarities between SCADA systems and human machine interface systems. While there are some that use these terms interchangeably, they are quite different. An HMI is a user interface that connects people to a machine, system, or device through the use of a visual dashboard.

Other names for HMI:

  • Man Machine Interface (MMI)
  • Operator Interface Terminal (OIT)
  • Local Operator Interface (LOI)
  • Operator Terminal (OT)

Oftentimes, graphical user interface (GUI) and HMI are used interchangeably as well, but these two are not the same thing. A GUI is leveraged in the development of an HMI system, which is a smaller portion of a SCADA system. SCADA, or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, is the actual system which is being monitored by the HMI.

With technology and cloud-based applications becoming more user-friendly, HMI automation is becoming more and more practical.

Remote monitoring and other features include:

  • Visually Enhanced Data Display
  • Production time, trends, and tags tracking
  • Overview KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
  • Input/Output Monitoring of Machines

How Does HMI Technology Work?

An HMI may sound very technical, but on the surface, it works much like many of our everyday items. Think about how you interact with the HVAC system in your house to regulate a comfortable temperature. Some industrial operators may use an HMI to examine and control water tanks, wastewater systems, and pumps to ensure satisfactory temperatures, flow, and a smooth running SCADA monitoring system.

HMIs are usually coupled with programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and a series of sensors to gather and display data on specific events or criterion of a given system. They can be used for monitoring, tracking or performing more technical operations, such as turning machines on/off and changing production speed to meet stated goals of production.

HMIs are beneficial because they digitize and centralize information for a user/viewer. Operators of HMIs are able to see charts, graphs, and other useful data to help keep certain systems properly monitored and safely optimized.

Before HMIs were developed, technicians had to physically make the rounds, walking the plant grounds to manually check equipment and system flow to ensure proper efficiency. This left a lot of room for errors and missed problems that would later cost a lot of money to fix when the event could have been avoided if properly checked using highly efficient sensors.

Who Uses HMI Technology?

No matter where you look in industrial sectors, human machine interface systems are everywhere. Industrial uses are among the most practical use applications for HMIs. It allows companies to interact with their equipment and systems in order to optimize their production and business processes.

Industries that benefit from using HMI include:

Commonly, HMIs are most interacted with by people whose roles include operators, engineers, system integrators, and control system engineers. HMI systems are a vital resource for professionals in the above industries. It allows them reviewing and remote monitoring of system processes, enables diagnosis of problems, and enhances data through visualization.

How HMIs are Enhancing Water and Waste Water industries?

We’ve heard about the major Exxon oil spill that happened decades ago. We’ve heard of many more disasters that have followed since then, all involving leaks that became uncontrollable. Many of these could have been avoided by having the right HMI system in place.

In the time since these disasters, technology has advanced to improve the systems that monitor equipment and procedures. Equipped with high-tech sensors in critical areas that monitor certain features or processes, with HMI automation, systems are now able to detect even the smallest of leaks or irregularities in a water system.

From oil to wastewater, if any of these systems are not properly tracked, imminent disaster can be right around the corner. Spills can contaminate the environment, damage wildlife, and cause an array of financial handicaps.

Is your human machine interface system up to par?