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Controlled Environment Monitoring Made Easy

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From dials and analogue switches to advanced technology – How HMI controls are improving research through controlled environment monitoring.
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Over the years, researchers have experienced significant changes in their ability to access and monitor controlled environments. However, advances in technology bring about new challenges that need to be addressed to ensure quality research remains accessible.

Changes to Controlled Environment Monitoring

Control systems were rudimentary at first, using spirographs, dials, and analogue switches to turn on and off lights or maintain temperature. A practice that was often time-consuming and prone to error.

The introduction of the digital age, together with advances in refrigeration, allowed greater, more refined control. Advances in technology allowed for tighter control of the conditions inside the growth space, the ability to link programs, and create full growing seasons from the onset of an experiment. These changes were pivotal, giving researchers the flexibility to check-in at their leisure, or feed and water their plants.

Rapid developments coincided with the growth of the internet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Researchers could enjoy the luxury of being able to monitor the conditions inside their chambers from the comfort of their office; especially handy if they are located across campus from the chambers. And for peace of mind, alarms that may arise can be sent to site managers via e-mail so production and experiments can be trusted to continue with confidence during an evening, weekend or extended holiday.

Key Challenge to Remote Plant Growth Monitoring

For these more recent perks of technology, there is the downside of the considerable cost to get set up with remote access to your chambers. If you work at a site with dozens of Plant Growth Chamber (PGCs), you may already be enjoying the benefits of remote access. In comparison, if you have a small handful or one small reach-in unit, the cost of an integrated HMI control system is often quite prohibitive and difficult to justify in the one-off purchase of a single chamber.

"From dials and analogue switches to advanced control system technology – How HMI controls are improving research in controlled environments."

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The Growth of Accessible HMI

Reliable, high-quality research is crucial in modern society, as many governments and corporations rely on its data to make predictive actions. Increasing the ability of smaller universities and organisations to conduct thorough research positively impacts overall quality and integrity.

One solution is the development of a better, attainable Human Machine Interface (HMI).

Biora’s advanced controller is taking major steps to bring HMI control technology to the next level of flexibility, functionality, and connectivity. Remote access and control and remote alarms are offered as a standard feature on all Biora Walk-In Chambers controllers. The uniformity across the Biora range lets researchers receive the same advanced remote access without the excessive price tag.

Additional features include simple USB downloading of historical data and a remote interface, remote alarm warning with e-mail notifications, systems monitoring and programming, and password-protected individual user profiles with varying levels of access security.

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HMI controls are improving research in controlled environments.

Globalisation and Controlled Environment Monitoring

Careers in plant science, tissue culture, or entomology fields often take researchers across the globe, with many researchers today finding themselves working in a country that speaks a language that is not their first. While most scientists often speak some level of English, it doesn’t compare to the convenience and comfort of communicating in their native tongue.

The ability to provide multi-lingual programmability of the controls screen removes barriers in today’s global economy. On Biora’s HMI control home screen, the user can swap between languages with two touches. Transitioning from English, French, Spanish, German, or Chinese, each user can change the language to their preferred choice at any time.

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Increasing flexibility and control in growth chambers, HMI systems can monitor separate rooms within controlled environment infrastructure.

Troubleshooting through Remote Growth Chamber Access

Enlisting external expertise through remote troubleshooting has been critical in recent times. One of the underlying strengths of remote monitoring is its ability to allow immediate and proactive responses, focusing on reducing equipment downtime and improving efficiency.

Although off-site, Biora can provide remote support with in-house service technicians and the engineering team. Help is available to assist personnel without the cost of sending a team to the site to identify issues, saving money in the long run, and providing peace of mind.

The constant monitoring of lighting, temperature, airflow, and gas control is crucial for the sustainability and replicability of specific growth environments. With the use of Biora’s HMI controls, scholars can ensure that conditions within the growth chambers are always consistent and secured – resulting in more accurate research.

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