Bigger Brighter Future: A Look at HMI Displays in Mobile Machinery and Heavy Equipment

August 24, 2023

HMI Display size history hero image with agriculture worker examining display device
Human-Machine Interface (HMI) displays have long played a pivotal role in various industries, including construction, electric and alternative fuel vehicles, mining, and transit. This article will explore the evolution of HMI displays used in mobile machinery and heavy equipment, focusing on their sizing and format. We’ll break down this progression into three stages: past, present, and future.

Past HMI Sizes: 4-7 Inch Displays

Many years ago, 4-7 inch HMI Displays were the norm in mobile machinery and heavy equipment. Here are some reasons why that might have been:

Space Constraints

In the past, smaller vehicles and compact machinery required space-efficient designs. The 4-7 inch HMI displays fulfilled this requirement by fitting seamlessly within limited space without compromising essential functionality. Their compact nature allowed for integration with machinery where a larger display wouldn’t have been feasible.


These smaller displays were more cost-effective to manufacture and implement. By keeping production costs down, manufacturers were able to provide affordable solutions to businesses in competitive sectors like construction and mining. This economical approach allowed for wider adoption and accessibility.

Sufficient Usability

During this period, basic commands and monitoring were the main focus, and 4-7 inch displays were adequate for this purpose. The technology of the time didn’t demand larger screens, and these displays met the prevailing needs of industries such as transit and mining. Their relative simplicity facilitated ease of use and maintenance.

Technology Limitations

Technology limitations also played a significant role in limiting the maximum size that HMI displays could be. The available technology during that period didn’t support the manufacture of large, high-resolution displays that were functional, economically viable, and ruggedized. Limited processing power, screen technology, and the absence of advanced touch capabilities also restricted the potential for larger displays in mobile machinery and heavy equipment.

Display Sizes Today: 7-12 Inches

Today, 7-12 inch HMI Displays are the most common in the industry. Here’s an insight into the reasons:

Enhanced User Interaction

Modern 7-12 inch displays support more complex controls and visualization. Their larger surface allows for a more detailed and responsive interface, accommodating the increasing complexity of machinery controls. This size range enhances usability without overburdening the system. This size range offers an optimal balance between visual clarity and space efficiency, allowing operators to view detailed information without the display overwhelming the equipment’s control panel.

Integration with Multiple Systems

Today’s larger screens facilitate integrating machine-specific operations with various other systems such as GPS, cameras, and diagnostics. This allows operators to monitor multiple systems and real-time data streams in one place, streamlining the workflow. This convergence allows for consolidated control, thereby improving efficiency and streamlining overall machine operations.

Market Demand for Improved UX/UI

Machine operators increasingly expect more intuitive and user-friendly interfaces, and 7-12 inch HMI displays are a direct response to this demand. In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, operators of mobile heavy equipment look for interfaces that mimic the simplicity and responsiveness they encounter in consumer electronics like smartphones and tablets. With overall industry improvements in development environments, these HMI devices enable more accommodating features like touch gestures and customized application development. These larger screens also allow machine builders to design more capable and intuitive user interfaces for their end-users. Mobile machine markets like construction, mining, and transit are recognizing the impact of UX on operator satisfaction, efficiency, and safety. Enhanced UX and UI isn’t merely an aesthetic improvement; it’s a functional one that can significantly affect the daily operations, user engagement, and overall usefulness of a machine.

Future Display Sizes: 12-15 Inches

Looking ahead, the industry is likely to see a shift towards 12-15 inch HMI Displays. Here’s a glimpse into the potential reasons:

Adoption of Automotive Concepts

The future seems to be following the automotive market trend of larger screens. The shift towards 12-15 inch HMI displays in mobile machinery is likely to mirror similar trends in automotive design, reflecting a cross-industry inclination towards expansive, immersive displays.

Advanced Analytics and Monitoring

With technology’s continual advancement, the need for more detailed data visualization and on-the-fly analysis could drive demand for larger displays. These screens would allow for richer information presentation and facilitate quicker decision-making, contributing to both performance optimization and innovation.

Emphasis on Safety and Automation

Larger displays may contribute to more streamlined operations and increased safety, particularly in complex environments. By providing a more comprehensive view and intuitive control interface, 12-15 inch screens could support advances in automation and safety protocols in industries such as mining and construction.

Potential Affordability and Accessibility

As technology evolves and economies of scale come into play, future 12-15 inch displays may become more accessible and affordable. The potential reduction in costs, coupled with increased technological capabilities, may further fuel their adoption across various industrial applications.


By tracing the path of HMI Displays from the compact screens of the past to the expansive displays anticipated in the future, we gain insight into an industry that is continually evolving. This look back and forward not only reflects technological advancements but also our adapting needs and expectations, painting a vivid picture of an industry in motion.

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About STW Technic

STW Technic is an innovative leader in the design, manufacture, and implementation of electronic solutions for mobile machines and off-highway vehicles. We partner with machine manufacturers, system integrators, and distributors to provide engineered and highly reliable connectivity, automation, and power management solutions to truly empower their mobile machines. We offer the latest in Mobile Machine IoT hardware and software solutions, such as our market-leading remote asset management platform – Reach. We also provide solutions such as openSYDE – our systems configuration tool – to support the entire lifecycle of your machine.