Star Wars: The Last Field Communicator

The new Star Wars movie, The last Field Communicator, sorry I mean, The Last Jedi, has finally hit theaters – in some countries, at least! In Germany, we always have to wait. I don’t know the reasons behind that, but enjoy it if you can because we can’t yet! 🙁

Inspired by the title of the new film, I asked myself what device has become rare in the automation world. Then the handheld – or field communicator – came to mind as a good connection between the automation world and the new movie. Okay, it’s a stretch, but go with me here.

This comic from my website automação & cartoons also connects to this topic. Kilo Ren can’t access the field communicator configuration using the Force because he needs the device description (DD) of the device to read the information.

field communicator
Courtesy of automação & cartoons

Field communicators are dying!

Before you disagree, let me tell you why I believe that field communicator will become rare tools in the process automation world.

Wireless protocols such as Bluetooth and wifi began creeping, then leaping into the industrial arena in recent years. The newest devices usually have one of these already integrated, which simplifies communication. You no longer need special tools to access the device, just a smartphone or tablet.

However, not all companies have invested in wireless tech, so you’ll still need HART or the like for them. Too bad, because these tools allow you more options to read and analyze your data. We even have vendors producing tablets and phones that can work in harsh and hazardous environments just like standard handhelds.

Looking at the market

Some developers have configuration software already sized to work in tablets and give you full access to all brands. But with most interfaces still wired and Bluetooth still not fast enough for many applications, we have yet to break through all the limits.

We also have companies launching hardware with proprietary solutions to control the small things, either modules for specific communication or limited access to certain features.

Final thoughts

I believe we’ll see more tablets and smartphones running apps for configuration and analysis rather than proprietary tools. Maybe it’s too soon to say that all field communicator will die. However, as digital protocols and IIoT rise, handhelds will fall.

Some companies will launch features to lock communication between mobile devices and your databases as always, but I still believe in the Force to keep data open for everyone to read.

What do you think? Drop us a comment on social media using @Visaya and let us know!

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