Today’s Science Fiction is Tomorrow’s Reality in the World of HMI

FKT Magazin 7/2018

Fueled by growing interconnectivity and the B2B community’s desire for greater operational efficiencies, these advances are driving an increasing predominance of the HMI. This trend is backed by the latest forecasts into the global HMI market, which predict an annual growth rate of just over 8.8%, taking its totalworth from $3.43 billion in 2016 to reach a value of $5.7billion by 2022. 

An HMI generally involves the integration of three key elements: a user interface; hardware and software, providing a vital ‘shop window’ into the capabilities,s tatus and functionality of that product. Perhaps the most visible aspect of the HMI is the user interface itself, which has moved on significantly from push buttons,  switches and panel meters to feature-rich, high-resolution colour graphical displays with the latest interactive touch-screen technology.

The modern HMI has to satisfy a multitude of needs. Operators are looking for an intuitive and familiar user experience. Manufacturers are demanding more real-time data and diagnostics to minimise downtime and maximise production, while product suppliers are looking to offer solutions that are attractive, functional and above all, saleable.

The HMI therefore has a vital part to play in the overall solution, process and application. And given the technical complexity of bringing together the latest interactive displays, hardware and software technologies, its importance should not be underestimated – it is what the purchaser sees, what the operator uses and what the manufacturers depend on to increase operational efficiencies.

It is no wonder that engineers and developers are facing considerable challenges in the race to present the very best solutions in the shortest possible timeframe. They face the task of creating solutions that have to integrate across multiple platforms, use a range of software and ensure that each component interacts seamlessly to deliver the perfect user experience while optimising output. This is an area of development that can make or break already tight launch timelines, yet one mistake within the HMI can impair user experience and affect overall functionality. Integrating displays with electronics and maintainings table functionality is not easy, and these engineers have to have the right knowledge and expertise of every aspect of hardware, software and display technology. As a result, it can take a considerable amount of time to get all components of the HMI just right. While outsourcing can help, this too can create bottle necks in the development lifecycle.

Working with total solutions providers that have the wide range of knowledge, expertise, development products and tools covering all the core elements of an HMI can reduce development time and speed up delivery of the final product. Engaging with partners that can deliver time saving solutions and ready-to-go HMI development environments suitable for a variety of applications, frees up time for software engineers to focus on developing the perfect application itself as well as other value added processes that will deliver a competitive edge.

This understanding and partnership approach of providing developers with the latest ready-to-go HMI development tools combined with expert industry insight is what lies at the heart of our work ethic at Densitron. It also ensures we provide our customers with stable, tried and tested plug-and-play embedded platforms whatever their application performance level requirements, all at the right price.

The key to success is therefore being able to offer customers a complete HMI solution containing stable BSPs (Board Support Packages on Linux and Android) running on proven and scalable hardware, and then further enhance it with plug-and-play integration of various displays. The inclusion of a user-friendly development environment offering cross compiling capability (like Qt) and all the required tools is a significant element to success, enabling quick setup and development kick-off. Such a concept presents engineers with a ready-made embedded ecosystem that offers the flexibility to select from, and deploy, a range of electronics, displays and choice of software platform to more easily and quickly develop the HMI they need for their specific application. Keeping up to speed and indeed staying ahead of the vast array of technologies needed to construct the perfect HMI will always be a challenge for product designers– and is one that may be best left to the experts to come up with solutions to aid development. However, what we do know is that what seems like science fiction today, will undoubtedly be our reality tomorrow.

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