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What is HMI Human Machine Interface?


Human-machine interface refers to the field of human and machine in information exchange and functional contact or mutual influence or interface said human-machine bonding surface, information exchange, functional contact or mutual influence, refers to the hard contact and soft touch of human and machine, this bonding surface includes not only the direct contact of the point line surface, but also the role of space for information transfer and control at a distance. The human-machine interface is the central link in the human-machine system, mainly by the safety engineering sub-discipline safety ergonomics to study and propose solutions based on the safety engineering equipment engineering, safety management engineering and safety systems engineering to study specific solutions and measures safety ergonomics. It realizes the conversion between the internal form of information and the acceptable form for human beings. Human-machine interfaces exist in all areas where human-machine information exchange is involved. A large number of industrial and commercial use, a simple distinction between "input" (Input) and "output" (Output) two, input refers to the operation of machinery or equipment by people, such as handles, switches, doors, instructions (orders) issued or maintenance, and output refers to the machinery or equipment issued by the notice, such as failure, warning, operating instructions tips, etc., a good human-machine interface will Help users more simple, more correct, more rapid operation of machinery, but also to maximize the performance of machinery and extend the service life, and the market refers to the human-machine interface is more narrowly defined in the software user-friendly operating interface.

Industry-sepcific human machine interface may have specific definitions and classifications, such as industrial human machine interface(HMI or simply industrial HMI).

Human-Computer Interaction

Human-Computer Interaction, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI, abbreviated HCI, also known as user interface or user interface): is a study of the interaction between a system and its users. Systems can be a variety of machines, or computerized systems and software. The human-computer interaction interface is usually the part that is visible to the user. The user communicates with the system and operates it through the HCI interface. This can be as small as the play button on a radio, or as large as the instrument panel on an airplane, or the control room in a power plant.

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI): The science of designing, evaluating, and implementing interactive computing systems for use by people and the study of these phenomena. HCI and human-computer interface are two concepts that are closely related but not identical.

The RelationShip Between Human Computer Interaction and HMI

Human-computer interaction is the interaction between a human and a machine, which is essentially the interaction between a human and a computer. Or from a broader perspective: HCI refers to the interaction between a human and a machine containing a computer. Specifically, the two-way communication between the HCI user and the machine containing the computer, in a certain symbol and


LCD screens are used as human-machine interface displays

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI): The science of designing, evaluating, and implementing interactive computing systems for use by people and the study of these phenomena.

HCI and human-computer interface are two concepts that are closely related but not identical.


actions to achieve, such as hitting keys, moving the mouse, displaying symbols/graphics on the screen, etc. This process includes several sub-processes: identifying the interactive object - understanding the interactive object - grasping the object situation - information adaptation and feedback, etc.; and the human-machine interface is the communication media or means between the user and the machine system containing the computer, which is the software and hardware supporting the two-way information interaction between human and machine. Here the interface is defined as the media or means of communication, and its physical embodiment is the relevant supporting software and hardware, such as a graphic display terminal with a mouse, etc.


Interaction is a description of the relationship/status of human-machine-environment interaction. The interface is a concrete expression of the interaction between human and machine - environment. Interaction is the contextual portrayal to achieve information communication, and interface is the means to achieve interaction. In the interaction design subsystem, interaction is the content/soul, and interface is the form/body; however, in the larger product design system, both interaction and interface are only a means to solve the human-machine relationship, not the ultimate purpose, which is to solve and satisfy human needs.


Interaction design is subordinate to the product system and is a strong support and refinement to successful product design.

If we use the system theory point of view, interaction design is a subsystem of the product design system.

Design Principles

The following principles should be considered for the design of human machine interface.

In the design process of the system, designers should grasp the characteristics of users and discover the needs of users. Users' opinions should be constantly sought and consulted throughout the development process of the system. The design decisions of the system should be integrated with the users' work and application environment, and the users' requirements for the system must be understood. The best way is to involve real users in the development, so that developers can properly understand the needs and goals of users, and the system will be more successful.

  • Order principle

  • That is, in accordance with the order of processing events, access to view the order (such as from the whole to a single item, from large to small, from the top to the bottom, etc.) and control processes, such as the design of monitoring management and human-machine dialogue interface and its secondary interface.

    Functional principle

  • That is, according to the specific functional requirements of the object application environment and occasions, various subsystem control types, parallel processing requirements of the same interface of different management objects and simultaneous requirements of multiple dialogues, etc., the human-computer interaction interface is designed with multi-level menus, hierarchical prompt messages and multiple dialogues, so that users can easily distinguish and master the usage rules and characteristics of the interactive interface and improve its user friendliness and ease of operation.

  • Consistency principle

  • Including the consistency of color, operation area consistency, text consistency. That is, on the one hand, the interface color, shape and font are consistent with national, international or industry common standards. On the other hand, the interface color, shape and font are self-contained, and the color of different devices and their same design state should be consistent. Consistency in the aesthetic design of the interface details makes the operator feel comfortable when looking at the interface, so as not to distract his attention. Consistency also reduces errors for new operators, or for operators dealing with problems in emergency situations.

  • Frequency principle

  • That is, according to the frequency of dialogue interaction of the management object design the human-machine interface hierarchical order and dialogue window display position of the list, etc., to improve the frequency of monitoring and access to dialogue.

  • Importance principle

  • That is, in accordance with the importance of management objects in the control system and the global level, the design of the human-machine interface of the main and secondary menus and the location and prominence of the dialogue window, which helps managers to grasp the importance of the control system, the implementation of good control of the sequence of decisions to achieve optimal scheduling and management.

    That is, according to the identity characteristics and work nature of the operator, design a human-machine interface that is compatible and friendly. According to their work needs, it is appropriate to display prompts, guidance and help information in pop-up windows, so as to improve the level of user interaction and efficiency.

  • HMI, whether for the field controller or for the upper monitoring and management, the two are closely interconnected, they monitor and manage the field equipment objects are the same, so many field equipment parameters are shared between them and passed to each other. The standardized design of the human-machine interface should be the future development direction, because it really reflects the easy-to-configure, simple, and practical principles of the base, fully expressing the human-centered design concept. A variety of industrial control configuration software and programming tools provide powerful support for the production of a beautiful human-machine interface, and the larger and more complex the system, the more it can reflect its superiority.

Design Process

The design process of human machine interface can be divided into the following steps:

Create the external model of the system function design model is mainly to consider the data structure, overall structure and process description of the software, interface design is generally only as an accessory, only the user's situation (including age, gender, psychological situation, literacy, personality, ethnic background, etc.) have an understanding of the user to design an effective user interface; according to the end user's hypothesis of the future system (referred to as the system hypothesis) The user model is designed to match the system image (external characteristics of the system) obtained after the system is implemented, so that the user can be satisfied with the system and can use it effectively; the information given by the system hypothesis should be fully considered when building the user model, and the system image must accurately reflect the syntactic and semantic information of the system. In short, only by understanding the user and the task can a good human-machine interface be designed.

There are two ways of task analysis. One is to start from the actual, through the analysis of the original application system in a manual or semi-manual state, it will be mapped to a set of similar tasks performed on the human-computer interface; the other is to study the system requirements specifications to derive a set of user tasks coordinated with the user model and system assumptions.

Techniques such as stepwise refinement and object-oriented analysis are also applicable to task analysis. Stepwise refinement techniques can continuously divide the task into subtasks until the requirements for each task are clear; and object-oriented analysis techniques can be used to identify all the objective objects associated with the application and the actions associated with the objects.

  • Consider the typical problems in interface design

  • To design any interface, we must generally consider four aspects: system response time, user help mechanism, error message handling and command mode. System response time is too long is the most complained about in the interactive system, in addition to the absolute length of the response time, the user is concerned about the difference in response time of different commands, if too much disparity in the user will be difficult to accept; user help mechanism should be integrated, to avoid the superimposed system leads to the user to help a guide and have to browse a lot of irrelevant information; error and warning information must be selected user understandable The error and warning messages must be user-friendly, accurate terminology, and should also provide some suggestions for error recovery as much as possible. In addition, the display of error information, if supplemented by auditory (ringing), visual (special color) stimulation, it is more effective; command mode is best to menu and keyboard commands coexist for the user to choose.

  • with the CASE tools to construct the interface prototype, and the real design model once the software model is determined, you can construct a software prototype, at this time, only the user interface part, this prototype to the user review, according to the feedback to modify and then to the user review, until the user model and the system hypothetical consistent. Generally, the work of creating the basic components of various interfaces can be done with the help of ready-made modules or objects provided by user interface toolkits (Userinterfacetoolkits) or user interface development systems (Userinterfacedevelopmentsystems).

1) Human-computer matching: the user is a human being, the computer system as a human tool to complete the task, should make the computer and the human-computer system composed of a good match work; if there is a conflict, should let the computer to adapt to people, rather than people to adapt to the computer;


2) Inherent human skills: As a computer user, people have many inherent skills. The analysis and synthesis of these abilities can help to estimate or judge the user's ability to handle the complexity of the human-computer interface, and how much knowledge and help the user can get from the interface, as well as the time spent;


3) Inherent human weaknesses: people have inherent weaknesses such as forgetfulness, error-prone, inattentiveness and emotional instability. A well-designed human-machine interface should minimize the amount of user memory when operating and using, and should strive to avoid possible errors;

4) The user's knowledge and education: the user's education level determines his knowledge and experience of the computer system;


Select a suitable HMI product by specifying the monitoring task requirements; 

Edit the "project file" with the screen configuration software on the PC;

Test and save the edited "project file";

 Connect the PC to the HMI hardware and download the "project file" to the HMI;

 Connect HMI and industrial controller (such as PLC, instrument, etc.) to realize human-machine interaction.

Development Trends

The current development of China's HMI market


China is the world's largest market in terms of HMI demand, but it is not the world's highest market in terms of HMI product sales, which means that low-end HMI users occupy a large share in China. The rapid development of national brands in recent years, taking low prices and other strategies, is attacking the low-end market in a big way, and has occupied a dominant position in the low-end market in China, winning the recognition of the majority of users. International brands are also gradually developing their economic products to capture the share of the low-end market. As a result, the overall performance of domestic HMI manufacturers has shown rapid growth due to their steady presence in the low-end market.


HMI is no longer a simple display and control


In the domestic automation industry, some industries that originally did not use HMI have started to use it, which shows that HMI has become an indispensable part of the customer experience. The user interface of HMI can better reflect the status of equipment and processes, and bring customers a more intuitive feeling through visual and touch effects.


Future development trend of human-machine interface

Some mechanical industries, such as machine tools, textile machinery, electronic equipment and other industries, have been developed in China for decades and are relatively mature industries, and in the long run, there is still a demand for upgrading equipment in these industries. In this upgrading process, there will indeed be some small, has been using relatively low-end products manufacturers are eliminated, but there are also many enterprises in the process of equipment renewal, will demand repositioning, to find those who can meet their development plans, to help them improve their own productivity equipment suppliers.


Given this demand, future changes in the HMI will be in shape, in concept, and in application, thus bringing about a change in the core technology of industrial control machines. In general, the future development trend of HMI is six modernization: platform embedding, brand nationalization, equipment intelligence, interface fashion, communication network and energy saving and environmental protection.

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