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Remote HMI firmware for Thin Clients

Flexibility in the field
Remote HMI firmware for Thin Clients

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Conventional network architectures from the control room to the field are increasingly being replaced by slim-line, flexibly adaptable systems. Distributed control systems running on virtual machines substantially improve the efficient use of memory and processing capacities. Thin Clients, which are tailored both in their hardware and software for the integration into virtualised server structures, ensure substantially increased flexibility in the field.

At the field level, network virtualisation is achieved by replacing traditional industrial PCs with thin front ends for DCS remote access. For this, R. Stahl’s 500 series includes future- and process-proof Thin Clients, whose different versions are suitable for the specific requirements of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, machine operation, logistics and the oil and gas industry. In addition to Thin Clients for standard industrial operation, the series includes models that are certified for worldwide operation in Zone 1, 21 and 2, 22, as well as clean-room compliant versions according to GMP class C. The operator stations can be integrated in redundantly secured network structures, are available with various display sizes and resolutions and optionally also as dual touch screen versions. To ensure secure access to process values, system status and production and maintenance processes, the software of field operating devices must be optimised for the integration into virtual networks. The latest version of R. Stahls’s Thin Client firmware covers all functions that are essential for the secure and user-friendly operation in the Industrial Internet of Things, virtual server structures and cloud automation.

Multi-functional with remote access

The Remote HMI firmware has been designed as a closed system based on the latest Microsoft Windows 10 IoT Enterprise operating system and can handle the latest versions of protocols for the remote control and process visualisation from the field. In addition to Windows’ own Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), the firmware supports the platform-independent Virtual Network Computing (VNC) protocol and the Emerson DRDC protocol, which is widely used in the process industry. Additionally, KVM stations can be integrated via an extender “over IP”. In multi-sessions mode, the new HMI firmware provides simultaneous access for authorised users to a great many programs. Different processes such as the ERP system, maintenance management and warehousing can thus be controlled and monitored simultaneously. Fast navigation from one view to the next or simultaneous visualisation in split screen mode enable users to keep an eye on all relevant processes, even complex ones. Monitoring process information of particularly large system areas with many data points can be made easier by splitting it between up to six screens in multi-monitor mode.

System integrity and reliability

Maximum transfer security and system integrity are achieved by the firmware’s various integrated diagnosis and filter functions that provide reliable protection against connection failure, data loss, manipulation or system corruption. To this end, the firmware also supports the redundant transfer structure via two Ethernet interfaces and checks the network connection during operations by means of continuous ping requests. The automatic diagnosis function spots network or host failure immediately and triggers an instant re-connect. If connectivity fails, fallback and backup options can be activated that automatically establish an alternative connection or switch to different network adapters. In addition to pre-installed Avira virus protection, a HORM and a UWF filter further protect system integrity. The UWF write filter inhibits unintentional writing and prevents registry and data system corruption by cyber attacks. HORM re-sets the operating system to a defined starting configuration even when waking from sleep mode. Other security features include a USB lockdown to block or release individual ports as well as pre-defined user roles with different access rights for administrator, engineer and operator. Furthermore, user authentication is supported via RFID. The transparent transfer of data from RFID cards or chips to the control system or an authentication server ensures fast and efficient log on and log off.

Intuitive operating concept

In addition to the high level of security, the new firmware also features user-friendly touch operation even for dual monitor solutions. Design and menu structure are based on an intuitive operating concept with self-explanatory symbols and brief informative texts. Central features such as network test, diagnosis functions or the establishment of remote connections are available in the main menu via one-click or one-touch. The screen display features landscape or portrait mode and can be adapted to display sizes and resolutions from 640 x 480 (VGA) up to 2560 x 2048 (QSXGA). Also, just one touch will deactivate or reactivate the right click function, adjust screen brightness or switch the screen to cleaning mode. The expanded dashboard view shows basic system information such as basic settings, connection status and the activated user roles. Last but not least, the innovative App concept allows for CITRIX access, protocols such as DeltaV Remote Desktop Connection (DRDC), browsers, CCTV apps or any other applications to be operated highly securely and without modification of the system status or the firmware. Optionally, the apps can also be operated in kiosk mode with full screen display.

R. Stahl Schaltgeräte GmbH, Waldenburg


Author: Horst Friedrich

Product Manager,

R. Stahl

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