Sensor configuration by app: a tool for many terminal devices

Smartphones and
tablets are growing in popularity in industrial automation too. Whether they are used with the iOS or Android operating
systems, as an operating platform for apps, they are becoming mobile aids for
the integration, operation monitoring, and maintenance of devices such as
intelligent sensors. With SOPASair, users can download an app enabling them to
access and operate SICK sensors.

SOPASair
is a version of SOPAS ET (SICK Open Portal for Applications and Systems
Engineering Tool) that is adapted to
mobile devices and which is currently able to configure more than 80 of SICK’s
sensor product families, as well as prepare them for industrial use in factory, logistics, and process automation.

Wireless sensor communication with a
new feel

SOPASair
makes it possible to identify and activate SICK sensors within a network using
mobile devices and without the need for a cable connection. Both smartphones
and tablets with the iOS operating system are supported, as well as those based
on Android. The sensors can be easily configured and visualised. To do this, SOPASair offers the touch options typically
used in apps, such as pinching, scrolling, or switching views. The app visualises the current operational status,
process data, and parameter values of sensors, and enables the relevant sensor
configuration to be modified if necessary. Bidirectional communication enables
parameter sets to be saved and restored to a sensor if necessary or transferred to
sensors with a similar design or application. SOPASair makes it possible to
check the configuration and visualisation
options in simulation mode, even when there is no physical connection to the
sensor.

Compatible with iOS, Android, and browsers

SOPASair provides the option of
searching for and connecting to sensors via various communication channels.
Mobile devices running on iOS or Android operating systems can connect to
sensors via Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth LE. Devices running on Android are
also able to access sensors via USB and IO-Link. In addition, SOPASair functions within common browsers and can,
therefore, be operated on a PC – admittedly without the usual feel of an app on
a mobile device, but with functionalities such as the right mouse click.

Prepared for data exchange with customer applications

With SOPAS ET, SDDs (SOPAS
Device Drivers) represent the relevant device, such as a distance sensor. The
equivalent with SOPASair is mSDDs (mobile SOPAS Device Drivers), which is currently still being distributed with the app. In the future, they will be
available for download after app installation, as is the case with SDDs today.
Devices capable of running SOPASair that are equipped with a web server make
use of a JSON interface (Java Script
Object Notation), which is a component of the web server and can be found on the relevant device. It provides a
simple way of exchanging sensor data beyond SOPASair using other customer
applications as well, such as web-based HMIs and ERP or MES systems. These
applications can access sensor parameters directly both by reading as well as
writing, without having to implement special drivers or protocol descriptions.

SOPASair – the standard tool for generations of smart sensors

SICK already offers fitting
sensor variants in a multitude of product families that meet the requirements
placed on network-compatible and wireless sensors with extended functionality
as a result of Industry 4.0, the smart factory, and the Internet of Things.
Some examples include functions such as sensor-to-sensor coupling, smart
automation functions that enhance the sensor application with predefined
functions, or programmable sensors whose range of functions can be adapted to
the need in question using apps. Finally, the integrated JSON interface ensures
that both raw and preprocessed sensor data is
provided with ease. In this regard, SOPASair is a logical enhancement of
the SICK tool portfolio and provides customers with access to its sensor data
through modern mobile devices.

SOPASair is increasingly
becoming a standard tool for use in configuration as well as in service and
diagnostics applications. Thanks to a variety of vision sensors, code readers,
measuring 2D laser scanners, distance sensors, as well as standard and
MultiTask photoelectric sensor models from SICK, it is becoming progressively
possible for commissioning, maintenance, and service staff to operate, monitor,
and set sensors to the relevant application using an app. This means they will no longer have to depend
on stationary control units, but will be able to move freely around the factory, and access the required information
from anywhere.

Written by Dipl.-Ing. Peter Kamp, Industrial Software Manager, Research
& Development, SICK AG, Waldkirch, Germany

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