Mobile Is More Than You Think -- Think “True Mobile”
In talking with customers over the last year about what industrial mobility means to them, I’ve come across a large majority who are thinking that putting their existing industrial interfaces into browsers, smartphones, or on tablets is a good enough “mobile solution.”
I tend to then ask how many fixed screens do they have in their control room? Typical answer is a minimum of five. How many screens total in the system? Typical answer is a minimum of 15. Then how many are in their MES system? This can be above 50. How many in their BMS system? ERP? CMMS? and so on. I then suggest that using this mobile strategy, they’d need to figure out a way to attach four to five iPads® to the operators, engineers, and managements heads to make them mobile…and that would only give them limited visibility, not to mention a neck cramp!
What this mobile strategy does is simply save your workforce from sitting behind expensive industrial monitors to now watching an iPad worth about $500. These types of “mobile” solutions simply provide a lower cost way to view what you already have. I believe this delivers very limited value and will not spark a real mobile revolution in industry…it won’t move the needle and it’s not a “true mobile” solution.
We don’t have to look too far to realize what a better approach could be. Smartphone apps have redefined mobility for the consumer world. They were designed for a mobile platform. Apps are intuitive, easy to use, and updateable. They have been the force behind the proliferation of theiPhone®, iPad, and Android™ devices. And it isn’t just me making this up; they’ve done studies on this and determined that smartphone users spend 80% of the time in apps while only 20% in browsers. Check out this graphic from Flurry:
Apps are not web browsers on mobile devices; rather in the “app world,” the user gets notifications, has the ability to interact with the content in an easy and initiative way, can set up things quickly, and can interact with the data in a touch-friendly way. In general, what I call “true mobile” is an overall user experience that hides the back-end complexity from the user and delivers information in context tailored to being instant and on the go.
When we look at mobile in industry, I believe the general mindset has to change to a “true mobile” approach. I was encouraged to hear that there are others that believe this as well. I had the privilege to present at GE Mobile Day at our Atlanta campus back in August, and my presentation focused on how Facebook tailors the mobile experience for its users, and it’s far different than its browser experience because information finds the user. Facebook’s genius is the analytics behind the scenes, which makes all the shared data relevant for each and every mobile user. I believe this is what mobile must look like for industry. (Read more on this thought at www.facebookforindustry.com)
Rohit Prakash, VP, SAP Mobility Center of Excellence (Twitter @rohitrprakash) found me after the event and agrees that looking at mobile beyond just putting existing user interfaces on them or providing traditional “old school” web pages are key to mobile being successful in industry. SAP calls these solutions “systems of execution.” We at GE call it real-time operational intelligence (RtOI). And after our talk, I think I convinced Rohit to change his acronym to RtOI.
Now, I've seen a plethora of other industrial software companies trying to pawn off pseudo rdp clients, program encapsulations/converters apps, jpg image captures on a web page, and even new-age HTML 5 HMI/SCADA and MES web clients that automatically work on any device in a browser as “mobile” solutions.
I hope this blog post has made you think twice about mobility and why “true mobile” is something to consider. I encourage you to ask your current MES, PLC, and HMI/SCADA vendors what their true mobile solution is. Perhaps a solution that:
- Connects to everything in your plant no matter the vendor
- Organizes all the data according to a physical model
- Has in app messages as well as email/sms for alarms and messages
- Gives you the ability to plug in analytics so you make the information relevant to each user and not flood them with every piece of data
- Can scale to 1000's of users from your operators to engineers to management
- Separates mobile information from mobile control because security is a big deal
- Requires no coding and zero iOS/Android knowledge
Ask them those questions....then ask them if you can get started by deploying a system in a couple of days. For industry, I believe mobility will be defined by systems that deliver real-time operational intelligence (RtOI) with “true mobile” experiences.
This is our passion at GE and what we’re delivering and building on every day. You can read more about it on our website (www.ge-ip.com/rtoi). Or better yet, let me know if you’re interested and we can arrange a demonstration or just talk live.
RtOI is real, and the value it can bring is real. And true mobility is the spark that ignites it.[jamiesocial]