Occasionally, I have the opportunity to work with IASE (Industrial Automation Systems Engineering), based in Branchburg, NJ. I have traveled to a few trade shows, helped produce some print materials and a few other non-engineering tasks.
Recently they approached me about working on a system that would allow a remote user to submit a packaging order for fulfillment. It didn't take long for the prospects of the project to catch my interest. While the machine's core HMI is run on an embedded Windows box, it was important to us that any secondary system not impact the function of that interface. Instead, we set up a dedicated web server to handle not just the order submission process but also the processing and storage of operational statistics.
The interface, when completed, featured a mobile-first web page running on an iPad tablet in a kiosk. Without a physical connection, users could view current and historical run-time statistics, read maintenance reports and even submit an order for fulfillment. All orders that were submitted would appear on the machine's main HMI screen so that a machine operator could queue the order for processing.
While most of those tasks are largely in my comfort zone, we did face a few hurdles. Our secondary interface needed to boot up, wait for the primary system to initialize before connecting and then run constantly until the machine was shut down, which it needed to do safely. Fortunately, we were able to create or tie into existing systems to make sure our secondary system was kept in sync.