Webb County Water’s Bilingual Control Syst.

Jan. 2, 2007

The Webb County Water Treatment Plant (WTP, www.webbcounty.com) in Rio Bravo, Texas is situated near the Rio Grande River, south of San Antonio. In order to meet population growth

The Webb County Water Treatment Plant (WTP, www.webbcounty.com) in Rio Bravo, Texas is situated near the Rio Grande River, south of San Antonio. In order to meet population growth and to respond to rising water quality requirements, the county recently constructed a new plant to replace its outdated, high-maintenance water treatment facility. The former WTP had no computerized control or SCADA system, and operating the process equipment, water intake, and distribution systems required a great deal of time. As such, the project team decided to enable the new plant with a modern control system. However, before implementing the SCADA-based system the project team had to consider the effect such a system would have on the plant’s mostly Spanish-speaking staff.

Given this unique wrinkle, the project team and Webb County engineers selected ICONICS (www.iconics.com) GENESIS32 suite of OPC Web-enabled HMI (human machine interface) and SCADA applications due to its language-switching capabilities. At the time the plant was being designed, the ICONICS system was the only major HMI package that included language-switching features, providing operators with the ability to interface with the SCADA system in either English or Spanish. The software also provided the ability to gather WTP process data, as well as monitor, alarm, present, and trend plant information.

The project team also implemented ICONICS AlarmWorx32 MMX alarm notification software and WebHMI for secure remote access. While replacing the outdated WTP facility, the project team identified the following capabilities for the plant’s new control system:
• Friendly, intuitive, easy-to-use HMI/SCADA for WTP personnel and management alike
• Multilingual configuration
• Language switching during runtime environment
• Universal features common to water/wastewater industry
• Alarm notification and secure remote Web access

To meet the requirements for stringent water quality, desired water production, and efficient and economical plant operation and maintenance, sophisticated instrumentation and control and SCADA systems were required. However, since the operations and maintenance staff was largely unfamiliar with computerized control systems, the developed SCADA system needed to be based on a user-friendly, graphically enhanced, bilingual (English/Spanish) package. Equipment tags, process descriptions, and other information incorporated in the SCADA system screens needed to be switched between English and Spanish, in the runtime environment, by selecting a single button. This would ease operators’ and maintenance personnel’s interaction with the WTP systems.

The unique aspect of the ICONICS control system is the multi-language switching capability that was implemented throughout the HMI graphic screens. ICONICS GENESIS32 Language Configurator provides this functionality using a technique described as language aliasing. Language aliasing employs an embedded dictionary along with the use of special delimiters incorporated with the HMI screens to substitute a character string (the English or Spanish phrase) for the alias phrase.

A phrase is identified as a language alias by surrounding it with the special characters "/+" and "+/". When a phrase surrounded by these characters is encountered on a HMI screen, the system looks up the phrase in the developed, pre-defined language dictionary. It then replaces the alias phrase with the entry from the dictionary that matches the currently selected language. This aliasing works on either static characters on an HMI screen or on an alarm message that appears on an alarm summary screen.

The GENESIS32 language aliasing is the option for the operator to change the language in the runtime environment without the need to enter any programming environment. At the bottom right-hand corner of every screen are two buttons labeled "English" and "Español." By selecting the button labeled Español, all the language aliases are replaced with their Spanish translations. By selecting the button labeled English, all the language aliases are replaced with their English translations. In addition, a default language is assigned for each user defined for the HMI system, to be displayed each time that operator logs in. The default language selection, combined with the ease of switching languages, makes it easy for operators to use the system in whichever language they feel most comfortable.

The implementation of the language aliasing features on the Webb County Water Treatment Plant SCADA system, while straightforward, was not trivial. The words and phrases being translated were not normal conversational Spanish, so a fair amount of research was required to find suitable translations for the technical terms. If English phrases were translated one word at a time, the resulting phrase in Spanish would not make sense. This made it necessary to break down translation text into phrases that could stand alone, increasing the number of unique phrases in the dictionary, as well as the complexity of defining and implementing the phrases. In addition, the graphics were originally developed in English before the dictionary was defined.

Once translations were in place, it was discovered that the Spanish phrases were often considerably longer than the English version. In many cases, these longer phrases would cover up other objects on the screen or would obscure other text. For these cases, the Spanish translation text was defined in the dictionary to include multiple lines of text. Similarly, there were some instances where the same phrase needed to be displayed in title case (the first letter of each word capitalized) in some locations and in all capitals in other locations. To allow the phrases to be displayed in differing case, the dictionary had two entries for each of these phrases, and the alias was modified to indicate that the text was to be all capitals. By considering these details, the screens appeared normal in both English and Spanish. Neither version appears to be a "translated version." No matter which language is being viewed, it looks like the screen was developed using that language.

The ICONICS-enabled multi-language support is a convenience to most of the operators, maintenance personnel, and Webb County engineering and management staff that are fluent in both languages. It’s a necessity for safe water plant operation for those who might not be confident in using one specific language.

ICONICS GENESIS32 remote alarm notification, real-time and historical trending, automated reporting, and secure remote access and monitoring via thin client technology were implemented to allow for ease of monitoring and operation. Webb County worked closely with their engineering partner, CH2M HILL (Austin, Texas, www.ch2m.com), to ensure the smooth transition in plant operations. The development of, and adherence to, the HMI software design standards resulted in simple and clear control screens.

By employing functionality such as reporting systems, remote access to control system data, remote alarm notification, language aliasing, and having the software fully developed and thoroughly tested at the CH2M HILL SCADA lab, Webb County WTP users could quickly see the benefits of the deployed control system. In particular, by implementing the Webb County Water Treatment Plant Control System in both English and Spanish, utilizing the GENESIS 32 software, the operators were able to adapt to a computerized control system quickly and easily.

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