Friday, November 1, 2002

Gain remote access to databases and PLCs


By Steve Niles

While in the process of choosing a PalmPower Magazine Product of the Month, two new new enterprise-oriented releases caught my attention. The first is actually a re-branding of an old product, and the second is a cool new way to monitor and control Programmable Logic Controllers.

SmartList To Go

This month, DataViz, Inc. (at announced that it had purchased ThinkDB, a relational database program for Palm OS handhelds, along with other product assets from thinkingBytes Technology. The company then released ThinkDB under its own brand, calling it SmartList To Go.

DataViz is a major player in the Palm OS world, coming into prominence thanks to its Documents To Go product. Documents To Go is designed to synchronize Word and Excel files (and more recently, PowerPoint files) with your handheld. Adding the database capabilities of Microsoft Access synchronization sounds like a perfect compliment to the product line, so the acquisition of ThinkDB makes a lot of sense.

DataViz has consolidated ThinkDB's individual applications to create one complete product in SmartList To Go. Features include Windows desktop application for creating and importing existing databases and spreadsheets; templates called SmartLists designed to increase productivity; a handheld application for creating, viewing, and editing databases and SmartLists; and a conduit for two way synchronization with Microsoft Access.

PLC Pilot

Pacific Microinstruments, Inc. (at, meanwhile, announced the release of the PLC Pilot application software package. The package is designed to allow you to monitor and control PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers) from the Palm OS mobile devices offered by Palm, Handspring, Sony, Kyocera, Handera, and Samsung. The software supports the DirectNet protocol and interfaces with the Koyo DL05, DL105, DL205, DL305, and DL405 families.

PLCs are used to control mechanical devices, such as shipyard cranes or assembly line robots. The plan for PCL Pilot is to eliminate the need for a personal computer or a laptop when interfacing with a PLC in the field. Instead, engineers and field service personnel should be able to use a Wireless Palm OS device to act as a general-purpose touch pad interface for reading and writing to the PLCs.

The PLC Pilot is also available as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacture) component designed to enable companies to offer a PDA interface option for their PLC-based products. The PLC Pilot interface may be simplified by OEMs to allow operation by field personnel unfamiliar with PLCs with minimal training. The OEM version includes available wireless support for selected mobile phone platforms and alternate PLC models such as Allen Bradley, Siemens, and GE Fanuc.

Both SmartList To Go and PLC Pilot are exciting new tools aimed at different user segments of the enterprise market.