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20 April, 2018

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Options grow for linking controls to the Web

01 November, 1999

Options grow for linking controls to the Web

You will soon be able to monitor and control almost any item of equipment remotely via the Internet. A flurry or recent product announcements paints a picture of millions of devices in factories, offices and homes, being linked to the World Wide Web, cutting costs, improving maintenance, and boosting productivity.

Echelon, for example, working with the networking giant Cisco, has announced a development which will allow any device using its LonWorks networking protocol to become part of the Web.

Speaking at the launch last month, Echelon`s chief executive Ken Oshman said this was "an absolutely thrilling time" for the company. "We are literally changing the world through Internet control," he proclaimed.

"Soon every machine and device will be connected to the Web," Oshman predicted. This will allow manufacturers to integrate production planning systems with their production equipment, he suggested.

Echelon`s i.LON 1000 technology will make LonWorks-compatible devices part of the Web. Any authorised user, application or device will be able to collect and exchange control and status information with any other device in real time.

Echelon is not the only supplier promoting Web connectivity. Schneider Electric has been offering optional Web links to its PLCs for some time and at the recent CIM show in Birmingham, UK, there were several other contenders.

Cirencester-based Dexdyne, for example, was showing WebView, an Internet interface that allows users to access monitor and control applications remotely, using a standard Web browser as the man-machine interface. The product can be embedded into a product or supplied as a standalone interface for retrofitting to any PLC, instrument or control system.

WebView is aimed, in particular, at rugged or remote installations. It can send out emails automatically to alert users about unscheduled events such as system errors or the need for maintenance. Dexdyne has also developed an operating system for WebView which acts as a Web server without needing disc storage. This development is based on the "open" Linux operating system.

Another company offering Web links is Dedicated.engines which was showing an interface at CIM that allows existing control and instrumentation systems to be monitored via Web browsers. The Mimic interface is connected in parallel with PLC I/O or in series with 4-20mA loops and monitors their activity continuously, turning the data into a Web "page". It is connected to an intranet or the Internet via a built-in Ethernet port.




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