Machines connect to smartphones with WiFi USB stick

March 05, 2014 // By Julien Happich
A major problem with many machines is that the Human Machine Interface (HMI) is often a small basic control box with a small display and a few buttons that is hard to read and adjust.

However, there is usually a USB port that engineers can plug into and link to a laptop for diagnostics and controlling settings.

This port can now be used to create a much more user-friendly control interface by using a USB stick to create a short-range WiFi link to a tablet or smartphone that runs a custom app to control the machine.  

This solution allows companies to create HMIs for new and existing machines with a more intuitive and easier-to-use interface at a minimal cost. 

"This approach solves a big issue in the Embedded Market - the rapidly rising costs of developing a user interface device as everyone is trying to create control devices that look like a smartphone or tablet with multi-touch and gesture control for intuitive and easy interaction," explains Andreas Beu, Smart HMI's CEO in a statement. "Our solution cuts this out by enabling an actual smartphone or tablet to be used, which removes out the cost of custom hardware design and manufacture every time. This also provides a rapid time to market as all that needs to be created is the software for the HMI application as the hardware is standard."

The solution is a collaboration between three companies, each bringing their particular area of expertise to create a solution that integrates form, functionality and branding. It is being marketed by start-up company, Smart HMI GmbH, that will create the apps to suit customers' machines in cooperation with usability and user experience expert, User Interface Design (UID) GmbH. The Smart HMI Stick has been special designed by Escatec, a European contract designer.

The Smart HMI Stick has a full LINUX operating system, an ARM 9 processor, custom software and a Wi-Fi microcard that creates an independent Wi-Fi network with a range of a few metres that a smartphone or tablet can log into. This virtual private network is highly secure, as it cannot connect to the