Modern consumer technology has created greater expectations in how professionals interface with and use the equipment and instruments of their trade. The ability to easily and effectively control and communicate with a device has become the rule and not the exception. In many product markets, however, this improvement in technology and increased communication capabilities has not yet been fully realized.
The products of a few market disruptors have pushed enhancements forward with new modern technological designs. Notable progress and innovation has been made in the scientific instrument marketplace. Particles Plus has led the way in this advancement of control and communication with their line of particle counters.
An easy-to-use strong graphical interface starts with dedicated graphic processing. The use of a 32-bit graphics controller and 16-bit color interface improves responsiveness and resolution, and provides for more detailed graphics. This improved graphics architecture provides for a richer interface with more detailed data. Navigation is simplified by allowing the user to easily switch between tabular data views, icon driven menus and visual elements that provide fast and easy to understand information.
Local processing power improves responsiveness, allowing users to scroll quickly through large amounts of archived data without impacting the instrument performance in the collection of new data, or compromising throughput of external interfaces. The entire user interface is always available, even while sampling.
User interface features can be accessed through traditional hierarchical menus or in many cases directly through icons on the main screen. This streamlines navigation, making access of often used features fast and intuitive. For example, touching the battery icon on the main screen brings up the current state of the battery, while also providing other battery details such as battery temperature, state-of-charge, percent of life and more. Features like channel management, environmental sensors, time/date, etc., can all be accessed either through menus or by touching the associated icon on the main screen.
Powerful data representation options like charting and the Real-Time Meter™ provide sophisticated means of viewing data. Some of these are available during sampling and can also be viewed as stored (archived) data.
The interface processing allows for the entire interface to be accessible while the unit is sampling. The instrument’s many features are accessible through both hierarchically and icon driven menus. Data can be represented in several ways: tabular differential/cumulative, Real-Time Meter™, graphs and more. Differential and cumulative data can be displayed simultaneously on the main screen, zoom screen and stored (archived) data. The zoom mode allows tabular data to fill the screen, increasing legibility at a distance. Data can be displayed with various units: particulate counts, cubic-feet, cubic-meters, Liters, Mass-concentration (μg/m3). The display also offers a unique environmental display screen that provides large, selectable size Particulate Matter (PM) indication for mass concentration measurements.
The other end of an instrument’s operation is the actual output of data, and its ability to communicate effectively to outside systems and computers using multiple methods of data transfer. Particles Plus instruments contain a large set of external interfaces. The instruments all have wired Ethernet, device USB and host USB interfaces. Optionally, Wi-Fi, RS-232 and RS-485 interfaces can easily be added.
Particles Plus External Interfaces allow the instrument to communicate simultaneously in a wide variety of applications. A local portable USB printer can print a variety of paper reports connected directly to the instrument. A USB Memory stick can be used to save or set up the instrument configuration, or can be used to transfer recorded data in CSV file format. Ethernet or Wi-Fi connections can allow for remote access viewing of the instrument on a web page (hosting up to 19 concurrent user-sessions). The Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection can also be used to remotely control and monitor the instrument using MODBUS protocols to a facility monitoring system, building automation control system, PLC or cleanroom monitoring system. The Wired/wireless links also allow for access to the instrument using JSON. The instruments are designed to also communicate using Internet-of-Things protocols. The instruments can also incorporate RS232 or RS485 (5-pin connection) interfaces for use with MODBUS™ communication protocol.
MODBUS™ interfaces can be used by remote monitoring software to access the instrument data and to fully control/configure the instrument. MODBUS™ interfaces are a superset of existing industry instrument formats and can be made to emulate other instrument manufacture’s register maps for compatibility.
Having all the above interfaces available (or easily upgraded) within an instrument, provides flexibility to integrate the instrument into multiple applications. All of the interfaces listed above can be active simultaneously, at full speed, while the instrument is in full operation.
This communications capability provides greater control and allows for extensive remote diagnostics over an IP connection from anywhere in the world. The feature allows Particles Plus authorized technical staff to access the instrument and diagnose issues quickly, often without having to send the instrument in for service. It also allows for field-upgrades of the instrument software so updates and new capabilities can be added as they become available.
(User questions about the operation of an instrument can be addressed remotely by a qualified technician; the remote diagnostics allows for the technician to access the instrument to review the configuration and hundreds of internal parameters within the instrument. If there’s an issue it often can be diagnosed and addressed remotely.)
Through enhanced features, advanced processing, and continual improvement, instruments like the Particles Plus particle counters will continue to create ease of access, control and effective communications with the users, devices and networks necessary for modern air quality measurement applications.