Moxa Inc. announces a new range of display controls designed to address existing problems in panel computing hardware employed in marine environments.
Developments in recent years indicate that automated computing solutions will define the way future ships, ocean platforms, and other industrial marine environments are controlled and maintained. Computer automation is the future of ship controls; the immediate future of marine HMIs and maritime navigational stations is beginning to converge towards large touch-screen panel computers and portable touch-screen tablets.
Moxa’s MPC-2240 addresses issues faced by crewmembers with panel computers. For instance, late night watches on the ocean are a simple place where Moxa design can add improvements; designing an HMI that enables the bridge crew to conserve its night vision at those times should be a priority for any panel computer manufacturer. Similarly, setting up panel computers to easily work around the technical ignorance of the average user should be another priority; in the event of systems failure, one should not expect ship’s crewmembers to do the work advanced technical specialists must learn to manage.
How ECDIS is changing the technological landscape
Over the next five years, the International Maritime Organization’s mandated shift to ECDIS charting and navigation stations will reach completion. This will lead to a greater number of ships using panel computer HMIs on board. ECDIS requirements are perfectly aligned for use not only on ECDIS stations, but to improve any panel computer HMI. The only difference between an ECDIS-approved station and a standard HMI is that the ECDIS standard stipulates a precise set of colour and brightness calibrations that require careful maintenance and technical competence. Among these requirements are three specified brightness levels for daytime, dusk, and night-time.
While daytime viewing is the standard to which every ECDIS screen must default, the other two brightness levels can potentially distort colours according to how they are adjusted, making recalibration to the established ECDIS standard a potential challenge.
Moxa’s MPC-2240 incorporates preconfigured controls that allow the user to immediately shift the display into any of these three brightness modes, and just as quickly return the display back to daytime brightness. SavvyTouch controls allow users to conveniently and quickly shift between daytime, dusk, and night-time brightness levels – this is imperative for maintaining night vision when on the open seas, or regaining visual clarity during mid-day.
Finding the precise location of display controls on an LCD panel in near darkness is a challenge even when there are mechanical buttons built into the case. In addition to backlighting the controls, Moxa has equipped them with a proximity sensor, so that users need only wave their hand in the controls’ general area to make the interface light up. Users therefore, get a smooth, convenient-to-use, full-flat screen with no mechanical push-button switches that might break from usage stress, or mechanical failure.
While the adjustments may be calibrated to the ECDIS standard, they are applicable to any and every bridge situation, no matter what use the HMI is put to: whether ECDIS, or not. When operating the display late at night on a dark bridge, users will want to take advantage of the night-time calibration. The dusk setting will be used during transition times or foggy conditions, when lighting is bright enough for easy operations, but still in need of dimming to maximise visibility.
In addition to these simple ergonomic enhancements, there is one more area where carefully considered design can improve the efficiency and convenience for crewmembers: users should be able to immediately call up a report whenever a system failure occurs, so they may immediately determine the operational status of the station and the cause for the failure. What a diagnostic report like this requires is a BIOS level enhancement that will automatically evaluate and report on the viability of each relevant subsystem.
For instance, a navigator who arrives on the bridge late at night to lay out a chart, turns on the ECDIS station, but sees a display failure. Faced with a dark screen and a fully integrated, closed ECDIS station, there is no way to discover what the problem might be without opening up the cabinet and digging through the internals. However, by waving his hand over the corner of the screen an Information icon appears among the monitor controls; touching this, the display terminal’s OSD immediately lights and gives him or her a quick rundown of the main computer subsystems such as the CPU, motherboard chipset, RAM status, VGA output status, motherboard voltage, temperature, storage media notifications, and PSU status. The navigator is immediately made aware of the problem and whether or not it can be fixed.
Moxa’s MPC-2240 has incorporated each of these features into its design, delivered to customers as SavvyTouch controls.