"In light of the foregoing, there is a need for a system and a method for facilitating upgrade of hardware capabilities of an HMI device in a cost-effective manner."
As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide scalable architecture for an HMI device such that hardware capabilities thereof may be scaled up in a cost-effective manner.
"This and other objects and advantages are achieved in accordance with the invention by providing a human-machine interface device with scalable architecture, an automation system based on said human-machine interface device, and a method of operating said automation system is provided.
"In accordance with a first embodiment of the present invention, a human-machine interface device suitable for use in an automation system and configured for interconnection to another human-machine interface device is provided. The automation system comprises a plurality of the human-machine interface devices. Each human-machine interface device comprises one or more hardware resources and a system bus for providing a communication channel between the one or more hardware resources within the human-machine interface device. The human-machine interface device further comprises an interconnect circuit. The interconnect circuit comprises at least one interconnect port and means for providing communication channel between the interconnect port and the system bus. Each interconnect port is suitable for interconnecting the human-machine interface device to another human-machine interface device so as to form a device cluster. Thus, the human-machine interface device according to the present invention is configured for interconnection with one or more other human-machine interface devices so as to form a device cluster. Various hardware resources in the device cluster are controlled in a coordinated manner to achieve enhanced hardware capabilities in a cost-effective manner.
"In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the means for providing a communication channel comprise an interconnect bus and an interconnect bridge. The interconnect bus provides a communication channel between one or more interconnect ports corresponding to the human-machine interface device. The interconnect bridge provides a communication channel between the interconnect bus and the system bus within the human-machine interface device. Thus, according to this technical feature a dedicated communication channel is provided between individual system buses of individual human-machine interface devices forming the device cluster and, thereby, desired communication is implemented in the hardware. This technical feature facilitates achieving fast inter-device communication.
"In accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, the interconnect circuit is configured for communicating at least one of multiplexed address/data signals, controls signals, and interrupt signals. According to this technical feature, the interconnect circuit is configured to communicate various desired signals required for inter-device communication.
"In accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, the human-machine interface device comprises a discovery module. The discovery module is configured for retrieving information related to the one or more hardware resources in one or more other human-machine interface devices in the device cluster. According to this technical feature, each human-machine interface device in the device cluster obtains information related to every other human-machine interface device forming the device cluster, which facilitates an arbitration process to configure one or more human-machine interface devices in a master mode and the remaining human-machine interface devices in a slave mode.
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