From Smartphone to Smart Manufacturing: Expand the Capabilities of Digital Manufacturing

It is reasonable to say that the manufacturing industry is not the earliest to adopt the latest technologies. This a strength, for the most part, industrial engineers tend to stick with what works for as long as they can get it to work. Which is how, in a time when the pace of technology is pushing against the limit of Moore’s law, you can still see brick PLCs and miles of two wire cable on the manufacturing floor. We stick with the technology that works because it’s tested and reliable, because it limits the potential points of failure.  

A little skepticism is warranted, then, at the thought of bringing smart phones, tablets, or other consumer devices into a factory. What is there to gain from adding smart phone functionality to your SCADA system, or incorporating an IIoT platform with a dashboard accessible from anywhere? Today we’re going to figure that out as we journey from smart phone to smart factory, exploring the benefits that the latest technology has for manufacturing.

The progress of portable communication technology over the last two decades has revolutionized the role and function of a simple cell phone. What were once simple communication devices are now pocket computers with a multitude of functions. Mobile computing aside, what makes it possible to integrate mobile devices with industrial networks are accessible servers and cloud platforms. IIoT platforms and SCADA can now make live and historical data accessible through popular cloud server hosts and private servers alike.    

Mobile tech is becoming a useful tool for manufacturers and their employees. Smart phones and tablets give users real-time access to production information both onsite and offsite. Instantaneous access to data makes it easier to make mission-critical decisions at any time of day or night. Incorporating mobile technology can empower operators, engineers, and managers to better collaborate and respond to changing conditions— which ideally leads to a more efficient operation with minimal material waste. 

With mobile access to industrial data comes the possibility of improving quality control and safety on the factory floor.  QC personnel and supervisors can monitor production as it is happening to identify dangerous flaws and choke points, and then address them before they lead to problems. A broadly accessible platform, like an IIoT system, also provides a database for tracking employee safety and compliance with state and professional regulations.

Ex 1. ICP DAS' iAir Mobile App Shows Live Data from DL-300 Series Modules

Integrating IIoT technology or the latest SCADA makes it possible to use mobile updates to improve customer service. With production data more broadly accessible, less technical employees can provide more accurate lead times and estimates for their customers. In today’s climate of supply chain uncertainty, that kind of accuracy and granular data will be invaluable for sales and customer service.

Now that we’ve spoken about the potential of mobile technology and some of its benefits, let’s dig into the actual features that some products can offer to anyone interested in incorporating mobile into their workflow.

ICP DAS USA’s parent company makes an Android and an iPhone version of our publicly available mobile application. This is the clearest and easiest example of how to bring smart phones into a smart manufacturing application.

iAir’s applications are apparent. It provides an attractive graphic interface that helps the users understand, at a glance, the live results from their environmental sensing modules. 

The example on the right shows a CO2 reading from a DL-302 environmental monitoring module. The graphical display shows a color indicator to give the user an impression of air quality in the vicinity of this DL-302 module.

It also provides a specific CO2 reading, in this example, 785 ppm, when operators need a specific measurement. It also shows the most recent measurements for temperature, dew point, and relative humidity.

This easy to use application makes it easy to group DL-300 modules according to how the operator wants to organize them. The app makes it easy to tell the DL-302 modules apart from one another. And finally, it will search a local network to find all the DL-302 modules that it contains.

The DL-300 series modules measure temperature, humidity, dew point, CO2 within their range. On the one hand, it’s easy to imagine the kinds of applications they can be used for and how an operator might need to grab data from them at a glance or on the go. At oil & gas refineries, and at nurseries and industrial farms, operators can get temperature and air quality updates on the go. 

On the other hand, it might be more difficult to picture how, specifically, a smart phone can be useful in and industrial or manufacturing setting. To answer this, ICP DAS USA offers another app available to both iPhones and Android phones.

The ET-7000 mobile phone app can be used to find ET-7000 modules on a given network, and acts as a portable Modbus TCP master that can read and write to the Modbus registers on your ET-7000 DAQ modules.

Ex 2a Find and Connect to ET-7000 Modules on a Wi-Fi Accessible Network
Ex . 2b Check Status and See Last Polled Data from Each Channel

The ET-7000 mobile app is the perfect example of an easy-to-use diagnostic tool for the engineer or operator who needs to test and diagnose equipment from anywhere on the manufacturing floor. As long as there is an Ethernet network housing ET-7000 modules with known IPs, and as long as that network can be accessed over local wireless, then the operator can find and access those modules.


Ex 3a Read and Write to IO Channels on the Fly
Ex 3b Even Use a Mobile Device to Find User-Defined Modules

Using mobile technology, engineers and operators can read and write to ET-7000 modules without having to disconnect them from the network. This limits downtime, making it easier and more cost effective to troubleshoot these modules. The user can even use the ET-7000 mobile app to access user-defined modules from their mobile phone.

It should be noted that the Ethernet capabilities of our ET-7000 series of Remote IO DAQ modules makes this much easier to accomplish than it would be with legacy equipment. The ET-7000 modules are already connected to a network that would be familiar to a mobile phone or personal computer.

To really apply the promise of mobile technology for manufacturing, then you need to use a SCADA or an IIoT platform that incorporates mobile functionality.

ICP DAS USA has been a long time partner with Indusoft, now owned by Aveva and called Aveva Edge. The latest version of the Aveva Edge SCADA program offers full HTML5 functionality, making it uniquely accessible by phones and other consumer mobile devices. Edge, and Indusoft before it, provides an interface through what is called a “thin client.”

Ex 4 Aveva Edge Application Diagram


This thin client allows you to access your graphical interface from any device with a browser that supports HTML5, such as iPads, iPhones, Android devices, Windows devices, and others. AVEVA Edge now includes support for all native objects and allows you to integrate 3rd party web-based controls.

Another way to incorporate mobile technology into the factory is to use an IIoT platform like ICP DAS USA’s own IoTstar. With IoTstar, users do not need to worry about the network environment of the WISE/PMC/PMD controller, regardless of whether the controller uses the static IP, dynamic IP, virtual IP or physical IP, user can perform the status monitoring, system setting adjusting, and update the firmware of the controllers through the web interface provided by IoTstar. It can reduce the time and cost of personnel travel due to performing the maintenance operations of controllers.


Ex 5 IoTstar Remote Access Application

With IoTstar, manufacturing personnel can use IoT edge controllers and IoT gateways to incorporate legacy equipment with the latest technology. An IIoT platform can bring to bear the full promise of smart mobile manufacturing. IoTstar lets users located anywhere access custom dashboards full of live operational data and view historical trend graphs.

One of the greatest opportunities that mobile technology affords us is the ability to increase operational performance through easy access to operational data. It affords personnel the access they need to assess critical infrastructure and operations whenever, and wherever, they need. Checklists, operational procedures, maintenance schedules, and more are all available through the same system and interface that provides access to real time information. The real advantage of going mobile is that it gives users anywhere a unified platform for everything they need to streamline and optimize manufacturing operations.


Products Mentioned 

DL-300 Series: Select from a wide range of datalogging sensors for everything from temperature to CO and particulate. Use the free iAir app to access critical data from your android or iPhone.

ET-7000 Series: Our most popular range of Ethernet based Remote I/O modules. Use the ET-7000 app to read and write Modbus registers directly from your smart phone or similar device.

Aveva Edge: (Formerly Indusoft) Aveva Edge brings its users the latest technology along with a tried-and-true SCADA platform. Edge applications and data are accessible from nearly any device through HTML5 based thin clients.  

IoTstar: ICP DAS USA’s own industrial IoT platform allows users to access three major services from almost anywhere: controller access, sensor data collection, and sensor data visualization.