Simplified HMI development

March 1, 2009 OpenSystems Media

Designing Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs) is becoming a significant challenge for designers. Embedded devices are shrinking in size, making it difficult to develop useful and intuitive HMIs with the right combinations of features in a short time-to-market window.

Software tools can help manufacturers build user interfaces at a high level using programs like Photoshop for graphics and Visio for screen flow. Developers can then integrate those pieces of technology into actual code that can run on the device itself.

Converting creativity into code

This decade has seen dramatic improvements in display technology, generating an explosion of uses for graphics displays in desktop, workstation, and embedded systems. From in-car navigation systems, mobile phones, and portable MP3 players to airports and power plants, flat-panel displays are showing up everywhere. Consequently, the HMI has emerged as a critical product differentiator that provides a window into an array of powerful product features.

Although display technology has improved dramatically, HMI software development has lagged behind, producing many abysmal user interfaces. This delay can be attributed to today’s complex, programmer-centric HMI tools, which discourage the participation of the graphic artists, industrial designers, and application experts needed to develop effective user interfaces. Furthermore, because today’s devices come with custom processors and/or Operating Systems (OSs), building user interfaces requires special skills and knowledge.

To aid designers in this difficult task, Altia provides cohesive, easy-to-use HMI development tools that wrap high-level modeling and graphical tools around detailed custom programming. The tools hide the processor from developers so they can focus on their applications. A code generator produces code for the chosen processor architecture, and everything from graphics to logic gets used and reused.

Altia helps bridge the gap between the widely dissimilar needs of the creative process and the programming process. The company’s tools assist artists by providing a WYSIWYG graphics and HMI editor that allows them to draw and import graphics from their favorite graphics design tools. The software likewise aids programmers by providing code generators, language translators, APIs, and OS-specific graphics libraries that convert the artist’s HMI design into deployable code that can be integrated with the programmer’s application code and run on a variety of OSs and hardware.

Altia, Inc.

Founded: 1991

Management: Michael Juran, CEO

Headquarters: Colorado Springs, CO

URL: www.altia.com

OpenSystems Media
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