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SavvyTouch Controls Make Your Crew’s Life Easier

In recent years it has become clear 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, and as the popular embrace of tablet computers and smart phones has shown us all, it is clear that 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.

Bringing basic engineering innovation to panel computing hardware may seem rather difficult: there isn’t much to a panel computer beyond a very large glass screen and the station assembly to which it’s attached. Yet as any crewmember can tell you, there are simple troubles everyone must deal with, and which thoughtful design can easily rectify. Moxa’s MPC-2240 addresses these issues.

Late night watches on the ocean are a simple place where Moxa design can add improvements: there is no darkness like a dark bridge or deck out on the starless open ocean, and 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, because inevitably systems do fail, and when they do we should not expect ship’s crewmembers to do the work advanced technical specialists must learn to manage.

In short: yes, even in a technological era where computers are controlled by fingertips and gestures, there is still room for Moxa to add hardware innovations that will make your crew’s work significantly easier.

How ECDIS is Changing the Technological Landscape

One of the primary reasons why more and more ships will be seeing panel computer HMIs on board is because, over the next five years, the International Maritime Organization’s mandated shift to ECDIS charting and navigation stations will reach completion. ECDIS requirements are perfectly aligned for use not only on ECDIS stations, but to improve any panel computer HMI. Really, the only difference between an ECDIS-approved station and a standard HMI is that the ECDIS standard stipulates a precise set of color and brightness calibrations that require careful maintenance and technical competence. Among these requirements are three specified brightness levels for daytime, dusk, and night-time.

Daytime viewing is not a worry: it’s the standard to which every ECDIS screen must default. The other brightness levels, however, can potentially distort colors according to how they are adjusted, making recalibration to the established ECDIS standard a potential challenge. This brings us to the first user convenience Moxa’s MPC-2240 can deliver that any user on any computing station will appreciate: preconfigured controls that allow the user to immediately and certainly shift the display into any of these three brightness modes, then just as quickly and certainly return the display back to daytime brightness. SavvyTouch controls allow users to conveniently and quickly shift between daytime, dusk, and nighttime brightness levels, which any night-shift crew member knows is imperative for maintaining night vision when on the open seas, or regaining visual clarity during the height of mid-day.

More than Just ECDIS

Yet by returning to the late-night scenario mentioned above we can explore a few more issues a crew member is likely to encounter. 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; when the switches are merely electronic displays through a featureless panel of glass, though, then without some aid to make them easily accessible they might be nearly impossible to find. Of course the controls should be backlit; yet additionally, 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. Taking all of this together, users 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 nighttime 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 maximize visibility.

Moxa Makes Things Easier

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.

Imagine, for instance, a navigator who arrives on the bridge late at night to lay out a chart. This navigator turns on the ECDIS station, but for some reason the display fails to light up as it should. Clearly there is something wrong, but 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: CPU, motherboard chipset, RAM status, VGA output status, motherboard voltage, temperature, storage media notifications, and PSU status. Our user—utterly untrained in systems or network administration—is made immediately aware of what the problem is, and whether or not it can be fixed.

Delivering Greater Control with Greater Ease

Moxa’s MPC-2240 has incorporated each of these features into its design, delivered to our customers as SavvyTouch controls.

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