Remotely controlling your Allen-Bradley PanelView Plus using VNC


UPDATE: To see this same procedure for a PanelView Plus 7 click HERE.

Shawn Tierney at Worcester Water Trade Show 2002In today's article we'll discuss how you can remotely monitor and control your Allen-Bradley PanelView Plus using VNC (Virtual Network Computing.)

The ability to use handheld devices with HMI or SCADA systems has been around for a long time. In fact, in the picture to the right you can see me back in 2002 with a Windows CE based HP Jornada Pocket PC on display (on kiosk behind me) running RSView32 Active Display Client via Terminal Services.

While Terminal Services, now known as Remote Desktop Services, is still a valid solution for Server based applications, today smaller systems often use Virtual Network Computing (aka VNC) to enable remote monitoring and control. Note: You can find more detailed information about VNC at this Wikipedia page.

In fact, Rockwell has been providing a VNC server for certain versions of it's PanelView products for some time now. And with it enabled you can monitor and control your PanelView Plus remotely from any VNC client.

Before we go into the details of setting up VNC on the PVPlus, lets first be clear which PanelView Plus models have the ability to be a VNC server:

PanelView Plus support for VNC:

  • The VersaView CE, later renamed the PanelView Plus CE, was the first PanelView Plus product that allowed access to the Windows CE desktop, and one of the CE Applications Rockwell tested and made freely available was VNC Server software.
  • With the PanelView Plus 6, all models allow access to the Windows CE desktop and they all come with several applications preinstalled, including VNC server software.

Note: Prior to the release of the PanelView Plus line and Machine Edition 3.0, Rockwell had a 6181 Industrial “Windows CE” PC they promoted as an HMI. This product came with a ViewME runtime installed and also supported being used as a VNC server. You can see it pictured above – it's the HMI with the gray bezel on the left.

Setting up the PanelView Plus 6 to be a VNC server:

Now that we've run through the PanelView Plus models which support VNC, lets walk through how to set it up on a PVPlus 6:

1) From the PVPlus 6 Configuration Mode screen select Exit, or F8:

1 PanelView Plus Configuration Mode

2) Enter in the password required to exit to the desktop (the default is “password.”)

2 PanelView Plus Exit Config Mode Password Prompt

3) Once at the desktop, select “Start, Settings, Control Panel:”

3 PanelView Plus 6 WinCE Desktop

4 PanelView Plus 6 Open Control Panel

4) Now open the “Services” applet:

5 PanelView Plus 6 Control Panel

6 PanelView Plus 6 Control Panel Services Applet

5) Select “VNC Server” to turn it on.

7 PanelView Plus 6 Control Panel Services Applet VNC Off

8 PanelView Plus 6 Control Panel Services Applet VNC On

6) Close the “Services” applet and open the “Sever Config” applet:

9 PanelView Plus 6 Control Panel Server Config Applet

10 PanelView Plus 6 Control Panel Server Config Applet Defaults

7) Here on the VNC tab we'll uncheck the “View Only” mode, check “Enable Security,” and finally select “Password” and type in a remote control password of our choosing:

11 PanelView Plus 6 Control Panel Server Config Applet Edited with Password

8) At this point we're finished with the server config so we click on OK to close the dialog box, and then click on “yes” to the popup:

12 PanelView Plus 6 Control Panel Server Config Applet Exit Confirm

9) We are now done setting up the PanelView Plus 6 as a VNC server. We can either manually restart ViewME Runtime, or we can just reboot to reload our default application.

Part Two: Setting up your Personal Computer to connect to your PanelView Plus using VNC:

Since the PanelView Plus 6 comes with “TightVNC Server,” I've decided to use the TightVNC client for my PC. Here's how I went about getting it and connecting:

1) To start, I visited www.TightVNC.com and downloaded their software:

1 TightVNC webpage

2) Next I did a custom install as I only wanted to install the VNC Viewer (client) on my laptop.

3) Once installed, I ran the TightVNC viewer and entered the IP Address of my PanelView Plus 6, as shown below:

2 TightVNC viewer aka PC Client

4) Then I clicked on “connect,” entered my password, and was greeted with a window representing my PanelView Plus 6:

3 TightVNC viewer connected to PanelView Plus 6

5) Since I had enabled “control,” I was able to “remotely control” my PanelView Plus 6 by navigating screens, change values, and pretty much doing anything I could do from in front of the PVPlus 6. And everything I did in the TightVNC viewer on my PC was mimicked on the PanelView Plus 6's display.

Well, I hope the above procedure on how to remotely control your PanelView Plus with your PC using VNC was helpful. Later in the week I'll show you how to monitor and control your PanelView Plus 6 remotely using a free VNC client app on your Apple iPad and iPhone – here's a preview:

3 Apple iPad 2, iPhone 5s and Windows 7 PC simultaneously connected to a single PanelView Plus 6 using VNC

In the mean time, if you have any questions or comments please click on the “post a comment or question” link below.

Sincerely,

Shawn Tierney
Automation Instructor and Blogger
If you enjoyed my article, you may like my courses at TheAutomationSchool.com


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Forum Comments:
  1. Surprised I never seen this forum before but...glad I did. We have been using VNC to view some of our panels but have one issue that I am almost certain we can't get around. We have a good percentage of our machine side network running off a second Ethernet card/switch. Our typical setup is a controllogix rack with three EN2Ts. We have panels on this second network and have not seen any way to tunnel acrossed the back plane. I am 99% sure we can't use VNC this way but figured I'd ask anyways.
    Good morning CMaas73,
    I believe you are correct as Rockwell has maintained that only CIP packets can cross the backplane.
    If this is correct (I have not tried it recently,) coming through one ENxT card and going out another would not allow access to many of the extra services on the PVPlus like the VNC server, File Server, and Viewpoint. I imagine it would also include the inability to access the Webpages of other Rockwell devices.
    However if you learn differently please let us know!
    Sincerely,
    Shawn Tierney
    TheAutomationBlog.com
    Thank you for the response. I've been poking around and it does seem like it's not possible. I would guess smaller facilities have everything on the primary network, so it's not a issue. I doubt I'll find anything to change this conclusion but if I do, I'll make sure to share.
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55 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Shawn,

    This is my first project using the VNC with my Apple products and it was working great for a few hours.

    The problem I’m having is that I was using a VPN connection on my iPad to connect to my Panelview plus 6. All worked great the first couple hours. I tested it at a local coffee shop using their wifi network and also my office wifi network and both worked without a problem. A few hours later I tried again. The VPN connects without any problem but the VNC app can’t seem to find the panelview any longer.

    I went to the customer site where this application is running and I was able to connect without any problem using their local wifi network, of course without using the VPN connection. I went back to my office and connected the VPN with no problem but again the VNC couldn’t find the panelview. I started up my laptop and connected to the VPN and opened linxs and had no problem seeing the panelview and my micro 1400 hanging on the network.
    Any idea as of why it worked for a few hours remotely using the VPN and suddenly stop working?

    Thank you,
    Tom Wagner
    Allied Circuits

    • VPN no longer allowing VNC connections? Did you try VNC on the computer that you can see the PV with RSLinx?

    • Good morning Tom,

      It honestly sounds to me like someone in IT has blocked it.

      I say that because you had everything working, but now VNC won’t work through the VPN but does work locally.

      To confirm whether it’s the iPad that’s blocked or VNC via VPN, once RSLinx has found the PVP and ML14 on your laptop connected via VPN, try a VNC client on the laptop to see if it can connect.

      If the laptop can’t connect, it’s probably the ports used by VNC, I would try cycling power to the PVP first just to be sure it isn’t a problem there.

      If the laptop can connect but not the iPad, try another device like your phone, or maybe a different VNC app?

      Please let us know if you find out what the issue is!

      Hope this helps,

      Shawn Tierney

      [stsigcom]

      • Shawn,

        Thank you for getting back to me. It looks like the issue is that the customers router has an IP address of 192.168.1.1 which is the same address as the one at my house and my office, I guess they come that way out of the box. When I’m at my office and I shut the wifi off on my phone its able to connect without a problem, with the VPN enabled. When I went back to the coffee shop I did notice that their router was on a different IP address and it still worked without a problem. We are scheduled to go back to the customer site and reconfigure their router to an unique address and this should take care of the problem.

        Thanks again!

        Regards,
        Tom Wagner

        • Tom,

          Thanks for your reply.

          I’ve run into that very same issue myself using VPN products from Spectrum and eWon, but with them RSLinx wouldn’t browse the remote network.

          So thanks again for the tip – very good to know!

          Sincerely,

          Shawn Tierney

  2. Shawn,

    I have a client that I support and I connect to the PVP via VPN. I originally configured the PVP to allow VNC access (and also enabled the FTP server). Everything has been working fine since the original setup.

    I just updated the firmware to v8.1 and transferred a v8.1 runtime file to the unit. I want to check the device to make sure everything appears as it should but it seems the VNC service is not enable after the firmware update. Same goes for the FTP server. I do not have direct access to the PVP to enable them. I can only access via the VPN connection.

    Is there a way to remotely enable those servers/services? If I could just enable VNC then I could do everything else.

    If not I will need the client to go to the PVP and walk him through enabling at least the VNC service.

    • Dean,

      Sorry, without VNC I don’t know of a way to turn on those services.

      There may be some type of WinCE 6.x “net start” command that could be scripted into an “AutoRun” file, but you might find it easier to walk the customer through turning it on in the control panel.

      You know, I’m not sure why the firmware upgrade turned it off, unless it included an OS update which I didn’t think it did?

      Please let us know how you make out!

      Shawn Tierney

      • I ended up having someone go to the device and turn VNC (and FTP) back on. Incidentally, in addition to disabling these services the configuration for both was also reset to the defaults. I walked them through getting the VNC setup then I did the rest remotely.

        PS: My ultimate goal in doing all this was to test the ViewPoint access to the PanelView. I had not yet done a project with configuring the PVP to be accessed via its inherent ViewPoint server. I have another project that I will use this feature so I wanted to run a small test to see how it looked. It worked just fine!

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