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Wonderware invited Avid to preview the new Wonderware InTouch Omni (think of it as System Platform 2017), release before the official unveiling at the Orlando Wonderware Users Group conference. They provided us with a running alpha system. This gave us a jump start for how we will be able to incorporate all of the new features into our customer’s projects. InTouch Omni is touted as Wonderware’s biggest release since System Platform 3, which was game-changing technology for our industry. Being able to test out this new platform really piqued our interest. Once the walk-throughs and hands-on demos were completed, the one word that came to mind was… finally. There are exciting new ways to construct objects, intuitive support for multi-monitor applications, new WPF HMI rendering, built-in navigation objects, target platform resolution independence, HMI historical playback, auto-build object wizards and so much more.
Some of the more powerful features include the new ways to construct objects within the System Platform editor to allow developers to create super objects without the additional expense (licensed I/O count) and weight of super objects. For example, in previous versions, to create a valve that could support the different varieties of valves i.e. 2-way, 3-way, 1 limit switch, 2 limit switch, no limit switches, Posi-flate valves with the additional inputs, etc., the object had to carry all of the I/O, attributes and graphics of the most complicated version of the object. With the release of the InTouch Omni, you can now design objects with all of the complicated versions that are appropriate for your organization. Then, on the instance of the object within the System Platform IDE, you can define its type later in the design process. This has several advantages.
One of the advantages is that when you pull information from a P&ID as a control module list and build your objects, in many cases neither the electrical design nor the instrument specification has been completed. So, prior to this release, you had to choose whether you wanted to design for super objects, which would have a negative impact to performance and licensing cost. But, that did enable you to start the HMI build process in parallel to the electrical design and instrument specification. Or, you could design for performance and cost mitigation but that required you to wait until electrical design and instrument specification had been completed in order for the galaxy and HMI build to start. With this new System Platform, you can now have your cake and eat it, too. In other words, you can have the super object with no additional weight.
Another advantage is that a simplified graphic pick list will be available to the HMI developer that will streamline the symbol lay-down process. In super objects, scripts, attributes and graphics will be exposed to the end user within the IDE that have no bearing on the actual instance of the object. Once a super object instance is identified by its type definition - only scripts, attributes and graphics that relate to the defined instance are displayed. This reduces the confusion for end-user support personnel in wading through attributes and scripts when trying to understand or troubleshoot the object.
The multi-monitor support in the new release of the InTouch Omni is fantastic. The new support for both the development environment and runtime will make many a developer and operator happy. During design time, you will lay out your multi-monitor runtime configuration similar to how you would within the windows O/S, identifying which monitors will be on top, on the side, center, primary, and what resolutions. Also, don't worry if your development environment doesn't match the runtime environment, they have also covered that situation by incorporating some magic that allows for developing an application that leverages eight monitors while your development environment may only have two monitors.
Finally, one incredibly awesome feature is the ability to conduct staged deployments. Gone are the days of deploying an area of objects and all of those objects being taken off-scan, effectively taking down that area until deployment is complete from start-to-finish. Now objects will be deployed, staged and verified one-by-one and then taken off scan individually once the system is certain the object will execute. This will allow deploys to occur and the system to stay up and running with no downtime. This is fantastic!
There is much more in this release and we expect as you become acquainted with the InTouch Omni product slated to be released in Q2 of next year, you will be equally impressed. We were pleased to be able to get acquainted with this new System Platform before its official launch, and we plan to put it to good use with our clients next year.