Common applications for Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs)

The major industries that have adopted the versatile applications of HMIs

The market for human machine interfaces, or HMIs, has exploded in popularity in recent years. Although HMIs are most commonly used in industrial applications, they’re used for other purposes, including consumer and commercial applications. 

What's an HMI?

While there are numerous types of HMIs, they all serve the same purpose: to give a human operator control over a machine or device. HMIs are not only input controls capturing users’ commands, but also output controls providing feedback to the users—accomplishing both goals in convenient, simple, practical, and intuitive ways. Keypads, knobs, touch screens, displays, and interconnected computers can all be part of HMI systems. Nelson MIller Group is a leading HMI manufacturer to help you design and deliver your mission-critical controls.

An HMI’s construction will vary depending on its intended function. Generally, this will include a few standard components:

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Resistive touch screen as part of an HMI in industrial environment
HMI applications - control panel of CNC machine
  • Input devices like keypads, knobs, touch screens, or switches, especially mechanical switches and membrane switches. Membrane switches are preferred in environments where humidity, moisture, or other contaminants may be an issue. Read more about rugged switch on our website.

  • Feedback devices as simple as light indicators or as sophisticated as displays and touch screens. Light-emitting diode (LED) indicators light up to indicate various control mechanisms. For example, an LED may light up green if a system is on or red if off. Increasingly, many HMIs feature touch screens or even consist of only a touch screen since they can be used both as a display and to collect inputs.

  • Processing units are either integrated in the device (PCB, printed electronics, and sensors), or connected to a computer(s) or a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller). HMIs rely on special software programmed by engineers to operate the processing units.

  • Various hardware to hold, insert, or protect the HMI, such as enclosures, covers, back plates, frames, etc.

Common HMI applications

Equipment and machinery monitoring

One very common application for HMIs involves monitoring machinery and/or equipment, particularly in factories and other industrial settings. The HMI displays or transmits live data about its processes, allowing workers to ensure the equipment is running properly. This allows workers to notice and proactively correct if the equipment starts to fail. Especially with the rise of smart manufacturing, the ability to send and receive real-time data and commands is an increasingly important feature.  

Medical devices

In healthcare, HMIs are employed in medical devices such as infusion pumps, patient monitors, and diagnostic equipment. They facilitate communication between healthcare professionals and devices, assisting in patient care and monitoring.

Automotive, aerospace, and aviation

HMIs have become commonplace on vehicle dashboards in recent years. Generally, in-car HMIs are touch screen enabled and are used to allow the driver or passenger to control systems like the air conditioning, heating, navigation, audio/radio, and more. Similarly, HMIs play a critical role in cockpit displays, control panels, and navigation systems. Pilots interact with these interfaces to monitor flight parameters and control various aspects of the aircraft.

Example of HMI application Medical HMI for patient monitoring
HMI application as a public transit information kiosk


Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and banking interfaces leverage HMIs to allow customers to perform financial transactions, check balances, and access account information securely.

Electronic displays and information kiosks

Touch screen kiosks in public spaces provide information and services to users. These kiosks are often used in transportation hubs, museums, retail environments, and commercial offices.


In the education sector, HMIs are used in interactive whiteboards, tablets, and other tools to facilitate learning and engagement in classrooms. 

Building automation

With the increasing popularity of home and building automation, HMIs have become more commonplace to control heating and air, lighting, security systems, and smart appliances. HMIs provide a convenient and streamlined control interface, which can include smartphone apps and voice-controlled devices, for a user to monitor and control an entire building.

Audio/Video production

One of the lesser-known HMI applications is audio/video production. A/V companies may use HMIs to control their microphones and video cameras. 

Given the versatility of HMIs, it’s no surprise that they’ve become such a popular tool across so many industries. The rise of the HMI has driven innovation and improvements in interface design and functionality across many critical applications, and their impact is only expected to increase in the future.

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About NMG 

NMG has more than 85 years of experience partnering with organizations to bring their industrial, IoT, lighting, medical, telecommunications, consumer, and aerospace products to life. We solve your most complex challenges in engineering design, manufacturing, and supply chain management.  

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