Tag Archives: industrial computers

Multiple Hardware Vendors

Multiple Hardware Vendors vs 1—Weighing the Pros and Cons of Both Approaches

In a business setting, it’s not always clear what the best decisions are. Discounts often drive who is chosen for hardware implementation. Unfortunately for many, the largest discount might mean the fattest payout in the long run, and it’s the clairvoyance IT professionals need to see how extensive an expensive route will pay off for them, ironically. Sometimes choosing multiple hardware vendors for a company’s IT needs is a good idea for certain business applications—and sometimes not. Imagine placing a competitor computer’s battery in the wrong workstation on wheels! Problems can arise for multiple industries if an IT department takes the wrong business approach. We look at both sides critically, first by pointing out that multiple hardware vendors isn’t the best idea.

Multiple Hardware Vendors Don’t Work Together

The sad truth is that no IT infrastructure lasts forever. It’s nice to have support on hand whenever a hardware component goes awry, even though the process may not be the most enjoyable. The roughest part is when IT professionals can’t pinpoint a specific diagnosis for a particular problem—maybe a firewall is blocking internal access to a server by one small setting, or perhaps another component in the entire infrastructure causes all emails to be rerouted to the helpdesk. Either way, if a problem with a computer arises, like with a workstation on wheels, and there’s a conflict with another computer from a different vendor, prepare for a battle of finger pointing. One vendor will likely accuse another’s hardware of malfunction, and so beings the process of calling each vendor back and forth or even having a conference call to determine what the true problem with the conflicting computer might be—if that even solves the problem. Once the “finger pointing battle” is over, it might take a networking specialist to locate the culprit. Purchasing from a single vendor increases the likelihood of network integrity, higher security, total functionality, and easier support so that every workstation communicates effectively with all others.

Multiple Hardware Vendors Leave You to Figure out the Problems

Sometimes with different hardware on the network, a vendor’s integration technician won’t be able to get computers talking. For instance, let’s say the data on one workstation on wheels is encrypted with a trusted platform module and a technician needs to network it with un-encrypted computers—is that a possibility? Likely not, and it’s left up to the IT department to figure out. Medical grade computers are often equipped with trusted platform modules to encrypt data, and they won’t talk well with something off the shelf. Refer to the first point we mentioned about the potential fiasco an IT department could face when mixing different vendors.

Contract Negotiations Can be Troublesome

Hypothetically, let’s say an IT department purchases from three separate vendors—one can deliver in two days, another can deliver in three weeks, and the third hasn’t gotten approval from department heads. A full network of computers won’t be deployed for weeks! Consulting with one hardware vendor will ensure full deployment of all computers for the entire network instead of having to deal with multiple contracts, conflicting contract timelines, several points of communication, delays in shipping, differences in support, distinctions in policies, mismatched software upgrade timelines, and hardware incompatibilities. Single contract business operations clearly outweigh multiple here.

Think About The End Users–Your Staff

It takes time to train people on specific hardware. If the powers that be purchase vastly different workstations, it’ll take time and effort to train people on proper usage of each of them. A tablet with barcode scanner is used in a much different manner than a workstation on wheels. The hardware differences between conflicting vendors could be vast to a point where it takes more training than necessary, unless all hardware comes from the same vendor. Some vendors require to have training specialists sent out in the field—an expense companies only want to endure once.

The Positive Points of Multiple Hardware Vendors

In our unbiased approach, we recognize that there are benefits to multiple vendors. As before, the clearest benefit is access to discounts—generally the lowest bidder is the winner in the short run. Also, mixing hardware gives IT departments greater access to a variety of technology so professionals can pick and choose what they consider easier to work with or better. Choosing multiple hardware vendors also addresses individual preferences for hardware—perhaps one nurse on a medical staff prefers using one brand’s workstation on wheels over another. That’s a clear aspect where multiple hardware vendors may benefit the staff. Every corporation is different, so consider all possibilities that can benefit the staff and help the corporation grow. As before, keeping competition between vendors for your next workstation deployments might be better in the short term for price, but total network connectivity will net better results in the long-term. Consider Cybernet’s workstations for your next deployment.

Why Industrial Computers Are Perfect for Challenging Environments

Industrial computers are best equipped to work under the challenging working environments because they are built from the ground up to withstand the conditions that are not electronics-friendly. We can define such challenging working environments as anything that surpasses the norms of your typical controlled workspace such found in the office, school, library, retail store, or even hospital.

Temperature

The challenging working environments in the industrial sector vary greatly and can be characterized by higher or lower temperatures than that of an indoor installation. Notably, when we speak about temperatures and the ability of the industrial computers to withstand the higher and the lower temperature margins, we should also inquire into the possibility of the temperature fluctuations. For example, when your industrial computer or rugged tablet is exposed to colder temperatures outside in the field and significantly warmer temperatures in the engineer’s vehicle or tent. Assuming your technical workers carry a rugged tablet from the tent and into the cold, the temperature fluctuation is abrupt and causes condensation. How will your iPad or Android tablet behave if you subject it to such frequent temperature fluctuations? Rugged tablets are built with such temperature fluctuations in mind, so the condensation or cold/heat do not affect the internal electronics. Industrial computers, too, are enclosed in a rugged casing that withstands extreme temperatures and protects the discreet parts from their destructive effects.

Humidity

Temperature is not the only factor contributing to the ruggedness of the workspace. Humidity and exposure to liquid spills, splashes, liquid cleaning, or the need to function in the outdoor settings where it can rain is also a part of the normal operational needs in the industrial sector. The industrial computers, therefore, are liquid proof and have a sturdy casing that does not disintegrate if you clean it with a chemical solution.

Dust and Debris

On the contrary, if dust and other harmful particles find their way inside your computer, its lifespan shortens and its performance can be hindered. Industrial computers design takes into account the dusty, greasy and oily environments we can find in the food, beverage, restaurant industries, and other industrial settings, such as oil and gas. The fanless design and IP65 sealed, rugged casing keeps the dust, oil, grease and other harmful debris at bay.

Shock and Vibration

Vibration is, perhaps, one of the main characteristic features of the industrial workspace, be it on the construction site, on the manufacturing floor, or in the warehouse where the forklifts work. Needless to say, the off-the-shelf computers, when used in such environment, tend to fail significantly faster than if you use them in the office. The industrial computer, on the other hand, come with the solid state drive technology, and MIL-STD certified components and a rugged enclosure – all of which protect the electronics from the destructing effects of the excessive vibration and shock exposure.

Altitude, Solar Radiation

Solar radiation and altitude have a significant effect on the electronic products, and industrial computers use the different type of material and a design that stands up to a higher level of expectations than the consumer-grade computers. Unlike the MTBF of the discreet parts of the industrial computers, the MTBF of the discreet parts of the consumer PCS drops significantly when the PCs are exposed to high altitudes in the mountains, underground installations in the mining industry or excessive UV index, especially during the prolonged periods.

Location

For some reason, when most people think about rugged, industrial environments, they tend to focus on the temperature, humidity, and vibration, whereas the location or the distance from the headquarters also translates into a factor of the ruggedness. Be in underground, high in the mountain, far in the field, or out in the desert or the sea, your industrial computers need advanced connectivity and electrical and radiation safety to ensure a) your installations are connected and the data keeps syncing, b) the safety of your installations and workers, c) the safety and longevity of your industrial computer, if it is exposed to power outages and current fluctuations.

Therefore, the industrial computers possess the advanced connectivity options – wireless WAN and LAN capabilities, 3G, 4G, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. As long as the rugged tablets are concerned, they cannot be locked to a specific wireless carrier, and allow for GSM or CDMA connectivity without being dependent on a specific provider. The electrical and radiation safety is ensured with MIL-STD rated components and a variety of stringent certifications adopted internationally.

Space Constraints

Space constraints also create a challenge the industrial computers need to address. Organizations often need to mount computers in rather small areas with very limited air circulation that can cause the overheating of a regular computer. Industrial computers rely on the fanless design that uses the passive cooling system. This build has several benefits. First, there are less moving parts in the computer, so its lifespan increases. Second, no harmful particles or dust penetrate the enclosure. Third, this configuration consumes significantly less power to cool down and run. Therefore, industrial computers are also energy-efficient, saving companies significant amounts in power consumption.

More so, if you need a robust industrial computer that is smaller than your typical installations. So, industrial computers address the challenge of space constraints with a variety of sizes and customizable configurations. The latter address, aside from small form factor in mini rugged PCs, the compatibility challenges with legacy systems and interfaces.

Customization Is A Must

So, customization is another way industrial computers address the need to adapt to challenging working environments. Industrial computers come with VESA mount options, legacy ports, dual hard drive support, Windows/Linux support, and a wealth of customizable parameters from hard drive to RAM and video card, or storage capacity. The ability of rugged computers and tablets to interface with a growing variety of complex networks of software and equipment is one of their decisive advantages achieved through customization.

Worker Safety

There is more to the industrial environment than the physical parameters. Namely, the worker safety, data integrity, security, and the sustainability. The worker safety is ensured with stringent tests and certifications, such as MIL-STD rated discreet components, IP65 rating, waterproof bezels, 60601-1 electrical and radiation safety, IEEE, or EN 50155 vibration protection, and many other certifications. If a device is not built with these intrinsic safety features from the ground up, it is not apt for use in the challenging working environments.

Data Integrity and Safety

Data integrity is ensured with the protection against current fluctuations, backup batteries and dual hard drive (SSD) technology and advanced connectivity for timely sync. On the other hand, data security features of industrial computers ensure the data is accessible only to authorized personnel and applications. With industrial espionage and ransomware rates increasing in all industries, cyber security issues cannot be ignored. Therefore, advanced authentication options, such as CAC/ Smart Card reader, biometric authentication with a fingerprint scanner, RFID Imprivata SSO coupled with Windows Professional user authentication features, sandboxing, encryption and remote administration offer the high level of security for your corporate data.

Sustainability

Future-proof sustainability is another crucial advantage of robust industrial computers and rugged tablets. As your workflow evolves and you add more devices and interfaces to the system, your industrial computers need to be able to accommodate your growing needs in capacity, performance, and compatibility. The trend toward the implementation of Big Data, IoT, predictive analytics and everything AI means your industrial computers will need more processing power sometime during their realistic, expected life cycle. Will you be able to upgrade them? Will the manufacturer offer spare parts, extra ports or other upgrade options if the need should arise?

To ensure your industrial computers and tablets are capable of sustaining peak performance under the increasingly resource-hungry – or mobile – use, make sure the manufacturer offers ample flexibility for the initial customization and the subsequent upgrades.

At Cybernet, we believe each client is unique, and ensure our industrial computers address the highest bar of our clients’ expectations. Contact us today to get a quote for your customized build.

Types of Industrial PCs Used in Industrial Automation

The industrial sector is increasingly experiencing the impact of the Industry 4.0 concept. Whether you are looking to optimize the workflow, increase production or savings in maintenance, or explore new automation opportunities, there are many ways industrial automation and the underlying technology can boost your operations.

Industrial automation is the automation of technical processes using computer and information technologies. It gains importance as the underlying technologies evolve rapidly, infiltrating more spheres of our working lives. The term industrial automation is used when devices, machines or technical plants work automatically with the help of electrical, pneumatic, hydraulic or mechanical equipment. The machine equipment replaces the human actions. The system, in this case, consists of three constituents [source]:

  • A technical plant or machines that perform a technical process, such as transformation, manufacturing, conversion or transport of material or energy.
  • A computer or a communication system that processes information from the machines. It acquires, calculates and presents data about the technical events. It also provides the necessary interface for the personnel to control the technical processes.
  • The control personnel that observes, controls and influences the technical processes through the corresponding interfaces and adjusts the process in case any disturbances arise.

The aim is to replace as much as possible human labor intervention and hazardous assembly processes with automated machine labor.

In an industrial environment, a wide number of factors influence the choice of the computer for the industrial automation, such as ruggedness, shock, vibration, temperature, pressure, distance, humidity, exposure to liquid, dust, and many other ambient variables.

Mini Rugged PCs

These are versatile, customizable industrial computers that allow adding almost unlimited functionality via full-size and mini PCI Express slots, USB ports, mSATA, RS232 ports. Ruggedness ensures shock and vibration protection, durability, while IP65 sealed waterproof and dustproof build ensures ingress protection from liquids and hard particles, as well as temperature fluctuations. Mini rugged PCs come with military-class high-performance processors that minimize power consumption and maintenance costs. They are compatible with virtually any existing peripherals, and any device in an industrial setting. The multiple PCI Express slots enable it to be configured for nearly any industrial automation functionality. Since many builds are fanless, their cooling system is passive, and thus the PC consumes less power and produces significantly less heat than traditional computers.

Of special benefit is the terminal block feature, which allows the PC to be turned off remotely, so locating it in an enclosure and being able to power on and off the computer makes it more flexible as to where you can mount it.

Mini rugged PCs have many applications in industrial automation:

  • Data collection.
  • Control card for equipment.
  • Industrial imaging and other applications requiring high-speed data.
  • Controller in machine vision applications to automate quality control systems.
  • Automatic inspection, measurement, verification, flaw detection.
  • Direct equipment, for example, robots.
  • Video surveillance and analytics requiring HD image capturing, facial recognition, real-time detection, and post analytics.
  • Any application that requires removable drive bays for swappable hard drives for easy data backup.
  • As embedded computers.

Industrial Open Frame Panel PCs

Industrial panel PCs support industrial communication protocols and accommodate the needs of many industrial applications that allow operators to monitor, control and adjust industrial automation processes. Serial ports and dual NICs allow its use with legacy devices and peripherals, so integrating new equipment and still use the older devices creates saving opportunities.

Open frame panel PCs are designed for seamless installation in industrial environments and integration into an existing architecture of a production chain – in control cabinets, machines, kiosks, etc. They are widely used for Human Machine Interface, as its resistive touch screen and ruggedness ensure easy data access and durability under harsh environments. Open frame panel PCs are widely used for:

  • Original equipment manufacturer machinery, OEM.
  • Human-Machine Interface, HMI.
  • Machine-Machine Interface, MMI.
  • Internet-of-Things control and data aggregation.
  • Vision systems.
  • Factory automation systems.
  • Material handling.

Industrial Tablets, Forklift Tablets

Companies see the wisdom in deploying industrial tablets on the manufacturing floor for a variety of applications:

  • Human-Machine Interface – instant access to critical data with notifications from industrial automation systems, status information, machine vision system notifications.
  • Instant remote control of industrial processes.
  • Any application that relies on the cloud-based platforms and machine-learning monitoring systems that detect anomalies in automation systems and enable predictive maintenance of industrial equipment.
  • HMI-hosting web servers host large volumes of data about production statistics, maintenance and diagnostics. Since industrial tablets pull the data from the cloud, employees do not need to plug in (as with laptops) and can change parameters remotely.
  • Numerous warehouse and inventory tasks automation with embedded barcode reader or RFID reader for quality control, items tracking and security, for example for scanning barcodes on raw materials and finished goods.
  • Forklift tablets are popular due to their ruggedness, easy yet reliable mounting, hot-swap batteries and versatility. Forklift tablets are used in HMI, MMI, barcode scanning and inventory management, processes control and monitoring. They ensure 24/7 uptime and withstand shock, vibration and other harsh conditions.
  • Industrial tablets are widely used for assembly line balancing.
  • Linux and Windows-powered rugged tablets are used for embedded systems, factory automation, tracking and tracing, eliminating paperwork, capturing signatures.

Benefits of Industrial Automation

  • Increase labor productivity – get greater output without losing accuracy.
  • Improve product quality, reduce defect rate, increase conformity and uniformity of the quality.
  • Reduce production cost, labor cost, increase ROI.
  • Reduce routine manual tasks such as variables monitoring.
  • Improve safety by locating the human worker outside the hazard zone, thus preventing accidents and injuries.
  • Advance remote performance monitoring, diagnostics, set point computations, startup and shutdown operations, critical notifications, reporting and remote control of automated processes.

Benefits of Industrial Computers and Rugged Tablets

  • Rugged builds, water- and dustproof, IP65 sealed, shock, vibration and temperature fluctuations resistant.
  • Military-class computation power.
  • Power-efficient.
  • Fanless, passive cooling.
  • Hot-swap drives in panel PCs –  perfect for data backups.
  • Hot-swap batteries in tablets for 24/7 uptime.
  • MIL-STD components, 5+ years lifespan, low fail rates, extended warranties, customized builds.
  • Integrated peripherals – barcode, RFID, CAC, Smart Card, biometric.
  • Ease of mounting with VESA.
  • Ease of integration with legacy ports, support for industrial protocols and Windows or Linux OS.

How Industrial Computers Are Changing Industrial Automation

The accelerating pace of manufacturing competition pushes the adoption of advanced automation system globally. Used widely in detection, optimization, control, management, scheduling, analyzing and decision-making in various production processes, industrial automation improves product quality and the quantity output, increases the safety of labor and lowers the production costs.

Industrial Computers At The Heart of Industrial Automation

Industrial automation roughly consists of three key components – hardware, software, and system. Needless to say, the industrial computer is the cornerstone of industrial automation, the core of automation equipment and the base of information infrastructure. The industrial computer is now the driving force of industrial automation and the innovation that pushes the boundaries of automation the way we know it.

The current challenge for the enterprises now is to monitor the growing market of industrial automation solutions and technologies. Keeping up with the trend allows the companies to select and apply the automation solutions that will keep them ahead of the global competition. This means the decision makers need to not only understand the currently available technologies but to continue an ongoing self-education to be able to see the perspective in the innovative solutions.

Robotics

The industrial automation is the present and the future, and robotics is gaining momentum. Collaborative robots dramatically broaden industrial automation possibilities. The flexibility of robotic automation solutions allows the companies with modest budgets to implement them widely. The worldwide competition has been shaped by now, with USA, Germany, China, South Korea, and Japan accounting for three-quarters of robot sales globally. China aims to become the leader of the world’s most automated nations, with 150 robotic units per 10,000 employees by 2020, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

The industrial computers drive the robotics industry, allowing for the industrial automation and digital information from sensors, cameras, the numerous IoT and industrial software to meet in a robust and easy-to-use interface of an industrial computer that can operate in rugged environments, is portable, has a significantly longer lifespan than the consumer PCs, and effectively a lower TCO.

Big Data

The consumer industry has influenced the changes in the industrial PCs evolution. The push for smaller, mobile and ever more robust and powerful devices has urged the industrial computers to keep up with the general trend. The past decade saw such advancements in the industry that allowed the industrial PCs to become smaller but handle the big data and analytics that require huge computing power. The capability of industrial PCs to handle big data increase the productivity and manufacturing performance. At the same time, the availability of multiple builds and solutions has made industrial PCs affordable for manufacturers of all sizes.

Powered by industrial PCs, industrial automation systems capture, process and analyze a wide range of data, the Big Data. That analyzed data is then effectively used to:

  • Improve productivity and performance
  • Make predictive maintenance possible, which helps manufacturers avoid production interruptions due to machine failures
  • Improve equipment utilization and overall equipment effectiveness
  • Run the equipment at optimized energy output, minimizing the production costs even further
  • Remotely access control systems with industrial mobile devices
  • Manage and control cybersecurity of the complex ecosystem

 

By capturing and analyzing data at every stage of production (through specially designed software, sensors and the industrial computer as the processing power of that data), manufacturers can review and create new manufacturing designs or optimize the existing ones. Big data allows the enterprises to connect, compare, assess different parts of the production cycle and use that information to make the production smarter, more cost-effective, and make predictive decisions.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The growth of industrial automation by now has shaped a new vision  – Industry 4.0, which is a holistic approach that calls for omnidirectional modernization through the application of technology. The industrial automation adoption rates grow partly due to the fact that manufacturers now realize low labor rate is no longer a winning strategy. Industrial automation is.

This does not mean, however, that the machines are replacing humans – it means the humans need different skills. According to DMDII, The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, there are 600,000 unfilled positions in manufacturing around the country due to the technological skills gap, with Baby Boomers retiring and companies struggling to find skilled workers to replace them.

Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, calls for the efficient implementation of the Internet of Things and communications technology in conjunction with the production. What else if not the industrial computer lets the multitude of machines communicate and offer a control and analysis interface to humans?

Industry 4.0 vision is grand and exciting. It envisions the achievement of the higher efficiency, productivity and self-managing processes, with industrial equipment, machines, logistics systems, IoT, communication systems, Big Data, analytics and humans communicating and cooperating directly. And the industrial computer is at the center of the intertwined web of these interactions. Namely, the mass production, affordability, and availability of industrial PCs.

The Industry 4.0 envisions the production of highly customizable produce in large quantities through industrial automation. In an environment, where production and logistics intelligently and effectively communicate creating a flexible manufacturing ecosystem, industrial computers play the key role.

A recently published Price Waterhouse Coopers report Industry 4.0: Building The Digital Enterprise says 72% of manufacturing enterprises expect their data analytics to improve their customer relations, while 35% of companies that already adopted Industry 4.0 expect their revenue to grow by 20% during the next 5 years.

New Opportunities

Finally, the growing role of industrial automation, robotics, IoT and Big Data is projected to give life to new business models that will offer new opportunities for manufacturers big and small.

Just as mobile technologies have revolutionized the communications and entertainment sectors, the increasingly powerful industrial computers let the industrial automation revolutionize the manufacturing processes and even create new business models. The enterprises that will harness the benefits of the digital technologies will be ahead of the competition in the upcoming decade.

Smart Factories and Their Use of Industrial Computers

Smart factories are rapidly replacing their traditional counterparts. By cutting costs, reducing labor requirements, and shrinking the space needed for operation, smart factories are able to increase production, raise profits, and improve customer satisfaction.

What Is a “Smart” Factory?

Smart factories are operated from an industrial computer, which controls the smart camera that allows the system to operate. Smart factories differ from traditional systems in a variety of ways. The predominant difference is the elimination of the errors that can result from human manual operations. Automatic inspection by machines means consistent output along every step of the factory process, providing consistent quality.

But smart factories have other benefits as well. They can help to lower production costs, as they eliminate much of the human labor that must be paid in a traditional factory. They also have increased productivity, because the entire system is automated and runs smoothly, with less risk of error. The consistency of production also means better customer satisfaction with the finished product.

Why Are Industrial Computers Essential for Smart Factories?

An industrial computer must be used because the system has to be rugged. Factories produce a variety of products, many of which can cause wet or humid conditions, spread dust, or produce a lot of vibrations. Industrial computers can hold up to whatever rugged elements a factory throws their way, while also providing the processing power needed to run the smart system. The computer also must be small, as smart factories being created in traditional factories often lack the space necessary for large, bulky technologies.

When it comes to operating smart factories, the vision system dictates the work that can be done, the quality of the work, and more. Smart cameras utilize multiple different technologies, including image sensors, storage space, and processing capabilities. While a more powerful smart camera may be able to execute more complicated tasks at a faster speed, they also take up more space and require more power for operation.

A larger camera may also require a fan if there isn’t space to regulate heat, but in a factory space, moving parts like a fan represent the threat of failure, which can shut down the entire system. Rugged industrial computer systems, such as Cybernet’s Fanless Rugged Mini PCs, help to eliminate the need for a cooling system, as they are better able to withstand temperature changes than lighter systems.

What Add-Ons Are Available for Industrial Computers that Are Specific to Smart Factories?

Smart factories utilize other technologies alongside their industrial computers as well. Many smart cameras can now be connected with HMI or a screen at the production line, rather than communicating only with a control room. The ability to have a screen on the production line means that problems can be caught far earlier in the production process. This presents the need for an industrial panel PC, such as Cybernet’s iOne N19, which can allow an operator to monitor and control any step of the process with ease. If an error occurs, production can be stopped or adjusted almost instantly. The industrial panel PC, like the computer itself, is rugged, and can withstand the elements within any factory space.

Another option available alongside industrial computers are industrial tablets. These make working on the factory floor or quickly and easily shifting operations a breeze. Cybernet’s Rugged X10 10.1” Industrial Tablet, with its waterproof and shockproof build, weighs just 2.2 pounds, but is powered by Intel i5/i7 CPU with vPro. Their rugged build makes them perfect for use anywhere and in any factory, while their processing power make them great for working on the go when a traditional computer is not available. Many industrial tablets, including the Rugged X10, also have cellular capabilities, which can allow operators to work from anywhere, which can help to speed up production and increase profits.

Industrial Computer Selection Criteria for the Oil and Gas Industry

Technological advancements have led us to areas we have never had access to before, such as horizontal drilling in the Bakken region. Conventional drilling techniques have only been able to extract a fraction of the available crude. Producers flock to newly available areas that provide the oil and gas extraction. As technology creates new business in the oil and gas industry, computing systems must keep up to support these harsh environmental activities.

The substantial growth in unconventional oil sources like shale deposits, subsea deposits, and oil sands has created a much more complex system. The technology that supports these efforts must be more advanced as well. For example, oil extraction produces massive amounts of data that must be reviewed in order to prevent a rig from shutting down. Field staff members need to connect with experts so they can make critical decisions based on the evaluation of easily accessed data in real time.

Whether collecting and reviewing data or automating processes, computer systems need to be able to withstand the harsh environmental conditions. High-end, rugged industrial computers are now available to accommodate the needs of the oil and gas industry.

The Need for Rugged Systems

The computing industry has made immense progress for accommodating the processes and systems that are newly connected to the oil field. There are new advancements in computers that improve equipment control and data processing. Developers now face new challenges for design and performance. Additionally, the must be able to perform reliably while handling harsh conditions like extreme desert heat and below freezing temperatures.

When it comes to embedded system design, the oil and gas industry requires some of the most demanding and complex systems. They require optimization for reliability and mean time between failures (MTBF). Avoiding downtime is critical in most embedded environments, especially in the oil and gas industry. System failures cause downtime in oil production, resulting in significant losses.

This is an especially big problem when drill sites are located in remote sites, requiring more resources and time when systems go down. In-field operational costs are greatly reduced with reliable, rugged systems. Computer systems designed for the oil and gas industry ideally include specific design features, uninterrupted supply lines, and support readily available. Time and money can be saved when debugging of a system can be done remotely with a connected system.

Most computer systems are built to withstand the traditional office setting; however, oil and gas office settings are much different. Command centers consist of temporary structures filled with contaminants like dust. The command centers are on location in close proximity to pump systems and drilling platforms. Computing systems are transported by vehicles, so being shockproof and vibration resistant are important factors in the design of a rugged system.

Due to environments much harsher than traditional office settings, computing systems have been developed specifically for the oil and gas industry. Capabilities and new features have been created, such as eliminating dirt entering systems with removable dust filters. Shock and vibration are now reduced with hold-down brackets for I/O, expansion cords, and cable tie downs. Operating near a source of constant, heavy vibrations is no longer an issue. Systems are protected during transport with shock-mounted drive bays adding stiffness in the chassis design. There are many features and designs created for computing systems in the oil and gas industry.

Choosing the Right System

With so many technological advances in computing systems, which one is best? Not all industrial computers are created equally so it’s important to choose the right system for oil and gas operations. Here are the three most important qualities to look for in an industrial computer system:

  1. Tough Design – An ideal rugged, industrial system can manage dust and temperature extremes, meet shock and vibration considerations, be optimized for connectivity and computing power, and ensure reliable and long-term performance that is required for oil and gas installations.
  2. Low Maintenance and Long Life – A developer with global service presence is critical for oil and gas installations, providing the necessary support to meet the goal of maximum system uptime. They provide this vital support and require minimal field manage maintenance. A system should be supported by the manufacturer and in-field maintenance made easy. It should have a long-term availability of components for continued performance and guaranteed longevity.
  3. Technical Support – Ideally, system support will be available in the region where the system is deployed. There are only a few manufacturers with global presence for both design and manufacturing. This is important due to the complexity and global nature of oil and gas companies. Advanced systems make a difference in oil production by connecting with critical data with people around the world, improving productivity and safety of operations.

Additionally, experts in embedded computing solutions provide engineering resources and share knowledge of computing platforms to ensure the systems’ faster deployments. Global technical support substantially reduces downtime.

Due to the new technological advances in drilling and access to more remote areas, rugged systems are necessary now more than ever. Previously undrilled areas are now accessible and enabled with the assistance of new computing technology. Systems must adapt to these changes and withstand the harsh environments. The demands for high MTBF, higher performance, extended product lifetime, and reliability are met with the right system.

Check out these fully customizable, rugged industrial computers>>>>

The Critical Reasons Why 3G/4G Wireless Functionality Is Important for Industrial Computers

As industrial computers get more and more sophisticated in their designs and capabilities, the focus has shifted to making them more versatile and efficient. An industrial PC today, in any of its forms – fanless, panel, etc – is built to be able to cater to the requirements of any industry, medical, engineering, aviation, retail, and so on. In order to be successful in doing so, an industrial PC must fulfil certain common criteria. Chief among these are durability, heat and water resistance, shock and vibration resistance, and wireless connectivity.

3G/4G wireless functionality has had a lot to do with the popularity that industrial PCs currently enjoy. By eliminating the need to hardwire each and every computer in an industrial setup, 3G/4G has set the stage for a much more evolved approach to industrial computing, and here’s how:

Widening the Field

Industrial establishments are often set up in remote locations, where hard wired connections are difficult to implement. These environments include manufacturing plants such as in the automobile industry, where intelligent connectivity protocols are just as important as the physical toughness and internal configuration of each individual machine. When on the field, a high-speed wireless functionality goes a long way in removing the hassle of cables, tethering and bulky control units from the equation, relying instead on the existing cellular service in the concerned location.

M2M Communication and Automation

The high data transfer speeds offered by 3G/4G wireless technology facilitate machine to machine communications and data sharing between multiple nodes of an industrial setup. It enables live video streaming and real time monitoring, thus keeping the field units of an industrial establishment up to speed with control centers spread across multiple locations. With individual machines efficiently participating in a shared process remotely, without the need for human supervision, the groundwork for smart industrial automation is laid.

Embedded Computing Applications

3G/4G wireless capabilities allow industrial mini PCs to be used as embedded computers. These compact fanless computers, when reinforced with wireless connectivity, can cater to dedicated tasks within a large or complex mechanical or electrical system. Such embedded systems have numerous applications today; vital stats monitoring equipment and medical imaging systems (PET, CT, MRI, etc.) in the medical industry are good illustrations.

Staying up to Speed

3G/4G wireless functionality also enables industrial computers to be upgraded remotely, whether in terms of improvements to their software capabilities, or in terms of streamlining or expanding them with newly developed functions significant to the particular industry they belong to. The upgrading process becomes much simpler and more convenient thanks to a high speed wireless connection.

3G/4G wireless functionality has affected a sea of change in how industries function, and will no doubt pave the way for a future with many more possibilities. This technology has, in a sense, completed the definition of the modern industrial computer, by adding to it the capability to do its job from anywhere and everywhere, regardless of physical and/or connectivity constraints.

The Role of Industrial Computers in Industrial Automation

Industrial automation, as the name suggests, refers to the automation of industrial processes. It may be understood as an umbrella term for automation of design, manufacturing and monitoring processes and techniques, across the industrial spectrum, be it engineering, civic, defense, medical, retail or home automation, to name just a few. Automation has shaped our perception of these industries, and as such defined our relationship with them.

Computers and industrial automation cannot be understood in isolation. Not only have computers directed the trajectory of industrial automation, developments in the latter have in turn influenced advancements and improvements in computing processes. This symbiosis is so deeply inset in the modern world, that no longer are questions about the significance of computers in the industry relevant; this significance is a given. There is however, one development in the field of computing that deserves mention on account of its highly sophisticated synchronization with the requirements of industrial automation. This development is the arrival of the industrial computer.
Industrial computers come in various shapes, sizes, configurations and capacities, depending upon the aspect of industrial processes they are meant to handle. Between compact fanless rugged PCs, panel PCs, and highly scalable models, industrial computers can safely handle automated manufacturing, assembly, monitoring and remote access for any industry.

Manufacturing

Industrial computers are ideal for high volume manufacturing that transcends the limits of human labor. Industrial PCs with state-of-the-art configurations and highly robust physical forms are used in factories to create and assemble the components of complex equipment with perfect precision, and also run automated quality checks at very high speeds. Automobile and equipment manufacturing industries have greatly benefitted from the development of rugged and powerful industrial computers.

Asset Tracking

One of the primary benefits that industrial computers bring into the equation, is their ability to monitor any given processes or components for possible discrepancies. This is not limited to quality control; in fact, industrial computers are immensely popular in the day-to-day functioning of industries such as retail and healthcare. This is because they facilitate the tracking of assets, both on site and remotely, and the efficiency and accuracy with which they do so makes them irreplaceable. Compact panel PCs can easily be integrated into a teller’s counter, or scaled up to make the most of a monitoring center, giving any industry immense flexibility to design their asset tracking processes as per the environment within which they function.

Simulation and Visualization

Scientific advancements today owe a major component of their success to industrial computers. These powerful systems emulate real world situations, making it possible to analyze risks, extrapolate possibilities and test any system within any framework, at little to no risk of adverse impacts. The capability of an industrial computer to simulate and generate realistic visualizations of possible outcomes finds application in a wide range of industries, ranging from geology and mining, to mechanics and engineering design, right up to surgical simulations and real time medical imagery.

Industrial computers came into existence as a response to the growing need for evolved and sophisticated automation, experienced by every industry with a global consumer base. They are, therefore, inseparable both from the modern definitions of these industries, and the future that awaits them.

Optimal Performance in The Industrial Sector: RS-232 Serial Ports Over USB

The current version of the RS-232 was issued in 1997, but its original use was for 1960s telegraphs. Technologically speaking, the RS-232 is borderline artifact, yet it’s still found attached to many PCs in the industrial sector – and for good reason.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a RS-232 serial port on personal laptop computers in stores today. In recent years, the RS-232 has been replaced with the sleeker Universal Serial Bus (USB). Yet even with its limitations, namely high energy draws, when compared to the newer USB, the RS-232 is still an ideal component for computers within the industrial realm which transfer high volumes of data daily, and whose work environments require a bit more reach power.

RS-232 Basics

The “RS” in RS-232 stands for the “recommended standard” which defines the electrical and mechanical traits of the connector, namely the pin numbering, for example, a 9-pin connector. The port is used to connect a piece of data terminal equipment (DTE), like a computer, to a data circuit terminating equipment (DCE), like a modem.

RS-232 offers flexibility in communicative abilities, in terms of a minimal unidirectional communication, or a more complex bidirectional connection. For a unidirectional communication, the RS-232 requires two wires: the TX/RX and GND. Within a bidirectional configuration, at least three wires are used: TX, RX, and GND. Communication over RS-232 is simple and almost intuitive on the PC’s part, completed with minimal code input and no need for additional software, which USB communication often requires.

As previously mentioned, in recent years, the installation of RS-232 serial ports has been replaced with USB, specifically in personal computer design. Limitations of the RS-232 include slow transmission speeds and large voltage swings, both of which contribute to high energy usage, especially in comparison to the efficient USB. Adding even more appeal, USB also offers a bit more versatility in tasks.

Due to the four wire configuration – ground, 5V, D+ and D – USB goes beyond mere data transfer to offer charging capability. The USB’s versatility, low cost, and sleeker design earned its place in the consumer marketplace. However, even with limitations in the consumer world, plenty of characteristics make the RS-232 a more advantageous element in industrial-use computers than USB.

RS-232 Serial Ports vs USB: When the DTE and DCE Are Not Co-Located

A RS-232 serial port is ideal for situations where the DTE and DCE are farther apart, but ideally no more than 15 meters. USB 2.0 ports only work with up to 5 meters of cable for hi-speed transmissions (480 Mbit/s). This is because if the receiver of the USB waits too long for a reply, it assumes the connection failed.

For the RS-232, any distance more than 15 meters will have maximum capacitance and will require the use of additional cables. If the two terminals requiring connection are within 15 meters, then low-capacitance cables can be utilized, resulting in full speed communication, making the workspace ideal for RS-232.

RS-232 Serial Ports vs USB: When Space Is Vital

USB ports require a protocol for transferring data, adding more required software to facilitate successful transmissions. RS-232 ports don’t need additional software.  In fact, they easily communicate to headless systems, like servers, where no keyboard or mouse commands are inputted.

If your industry is merely interested in data transfer, especially continuous communication and data feed, then RS-232 frees up space for data, rather than for its instructions.

RS-232 Serial Ports vs USB: Older Computers

Since RS-232 serial ports have been around much longer than USB ports, older computers and machinery utilize the uninterruptible connection. Industry-specific consoles or programmable logic controllers often utilize RS-232 simply because that’s the way it’s been, and for the aforementioned reasons, it hasn’t made sense to update the machinery to include USB ports.

Purchasing a new PC with only USB options can prove frustrating if older equipment only features RS-232 ports. While there are RS-232 serial port adaptors available on the market (and ironically connected to USB plug-ins), they won’t work as well as traditional RS-232 serial ports.

Although most personal computers don’t come standard with RS-232 serial ports, industrial computers, which serve far different purposes, find vital use in this older style port. RS-232 serial ports have been criticized for their high-energy usage.  In actuality, however, they are continuously communicating data, which, in some workplaces, is exactly what is required to remain productive. USB offers versatility with data transfer and charging capability, but that comes with additional software and protocol, whereas the RS-232 requires little instruction to operate. Finally, in a work center where machinery is spaced further apart, the RS-232 is the only viable option as the USB only maintains transfer within 5 meters.

Choosing between a RS-232 or USB equipped PC really comes down to knowing what your particular data transfer needs are, then meeting them accordingly with the proper port.

Why Industrial Computers are Perfect for the Petroleum and Coal Business Sectors

There are a number of sectors that rely on industrial computing devices to carry out an extensive number of business processes. In terms of growth, the processing power and capabilities of modern industrial computing devices have grown to mirror evolving business needs. The petroleum and coal industry is one sector that has successfully integrated the use of industrial computers in critical operational tasks. Much of the world’s power runs on petroleum or coal resources. The demand for these resources are considerable, thus, it becomes vital for every stakeholder to utilize the best tools available to expedite manufacturing processes. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why industrial computers are a must for the petroleum and coal business sector.

The Nature of the Industry

The nature of the location of petroleum refineries pose a considerable challenge for the tools that are used to extract and process the vital resource. One of the major processes involved in the petroleum industry is the practice of seismic data processing to locate and identify viable oil reservoirs. Given the nature of the working environment, the computer devices that should be deployed has to be capable of processing huge packets of data while managing to adapt to the harsh environment of petroleum refineries.

Rugged Capabilities

The reason why industrial computers work so well in hostile environments like petroleum refineries is because of their ability to withstand a variety of environmental hazards. The rugged characteristics of industrial computing devices ensure that performance isn’t compromised in hazardous working conditions. Industrial computing devices are constructed to withstand heat, ingress of dust, exposure to liquid, and resistance to shock and vibration caused by sudden drops. These features make industrial computing devices the perfect tool for petroleum refineries to employ. Drilling operations can proceed uninterrupted even when dust, debris, and other elements are circulating thanks to the sturdy construction of industrial computers.

Monitoring

One of the challenges associated with drilling operations in petroleum refineries deals with monitoring requirements. Monitoring oil wells can result in extensive labor hours when traditional methods of monitoring are employed. Mistakes brought about by human error can also occur when traditional monitoring methods are employed. The high performance computing output of industrial computers successfully addresses monitoring requirements without being susceptible to the weaknesses of traditional methods. Errors are reduced and production levels skyrocket when industrial computers are used to track, monitor, and report developments that occur in petroleum refineries as they happen.

Communications

As industrial computing devices are used as communication hubs, the problems associated with the remote locations of refineries are addressed sufficiently. The need to deploy teams of professionals to isolated locations can be mitigated when industrial computers are used efficiently. It becomes a simple matter to remotely track and record the data from various petroleum refinery sites when industrial computing devices are utilized. Rugged capabilities, high performance output, and efficient monitoring capabilities are some of the major reasons why industrial computers are such a perfect fit for the petroleum and coal business sectors.