I watched ‘The Theory of Everything’ last night. Great film about great people with the lead played by a fantastic actor. Not only did I enjoy it, it also got me thinking whether it would be possible to create a beautifully simple equation that expressed what’s needed to get data from sensors into the Internet of Things.
First we need to understand the variables that need to be used so here’s my list:
Ps = Power for the sensor
Pc = Power for the communications etc.
S = Scaling
Es = Environmental protection for the sensor
Ec = Environmental protection for the communications etc.
N = Noise immunity (electrical, from RF etc.)
St = Stability of the sensor and the signal processing, including temperature considerations
R = Robustness of the sensors, the power source and everything else
C = Communications, including handling re-tries & external variables and optimising to suit Pc
A = Application understanding
Thanks to hardware such as the Metron2 and middleware such as Metron VIEW we can substitute Ps , S, Ec , part of N & St and all of C with Metron as they handle all these. The rest of N & St get looked after with A so we can remove them. R and Es are handled by A as well.
We are left with:
Metron + Pc + A = Data from sensors
The Metron2 is available in battery, solar or mains powered options so Pc is handled. Powelectrics have 25 years experience with A. So the answer is to come to Powelectrics if you need data from sensors either to be viewed on your smartphone, tablet or laptop, or if you want data from sensors into your application.
I love hearing from customers about how our technology is helping their business. Usually, the benefits of using remote monitoring are well-defined and understood before deployment. However, we are always delighted when our systems exceed efficiency and cost-reduction expectations. Most recently, a new record-breaker was reported to me, which is really so astounding, I had to share it!
Our Metron2 devices had been fitted on trains and were regularly reporting their data to our Metron VIEW platform. The feedback during the installation phase was great, with glowing reports on the ease of installation and usage, particularly the ability to remotely configure devices for the client via our Metron VIEW platform.
Once the data started flowing, the client, analysing that data, soon identified a regular occurrence, which had been happening for around 30 years. It was a situation of poor practice, but no one had previously been aware of it. It had passed under the radar for three decades without any monitoring in place. Managers were aware that this long-standing process was expensive, but without telemetry they had no idea that one element was disproportionately expensive …..and entirely avoidable!
Once highlighted, it was easy to retrain the relevant members of staff. Thus, a project with an excellent payback period, became a project that quite incredibly offered a return on investment in just 29 hours! That is going to take some beating! The solution has been short listed at the Railways Innovation Awards.
This story demonstrates, more than most, how monitoring can identify inefficiencies and lead to dramatic cost reductions even in tried and trusted procedures.
I’ll soon be celebrating my 45th birthday and, with all the hype surrounding the Internet of Things and particularly the Industrial Internet of Things this got me thinking about how things have changed since my father celebrated his 45th birthday back in 1981. Like me, my father worked in the field of instrumentation, automation and control, as well as telemetry.
This was a time when limit switches were getting replaced with proximity switches; timers, counters and relay logic were getting replaced with PLC’s; and local gauges were getting replaced with digital panel meters. Just like most, I’d never heard of the internet let alone the Internet of Things. In the last 45 years we have seen SCADA and DCS become the norm in factories and we are seeing the Internet of Things take off in certain sectors.
As part of my degree I studied modules titled ‘intelligent instrumentation’ and ‘microcomputer interfacing.’ This was in the past 1980’s / early 1990’s and it was cutting edge stuff, but now you look back it it seems some simple and slow. It makes me wonder whether there are now modules involving the Internet of Things and in twenty or more years will today’s students be looking back and thinking that what they studied seems simple and slow…?
One thing that has become apparent during my little trip down memory lane is that this is more of an evolution than a revolution. Limit switches, timers, counters and local gauges are all still used extensively in industry.
Today is election day here in the UK and the polls predict a very close result. I’m hearing that, as time passes, fewer young people vote and that leads us to question whether internet voting should be introduced as we are becoming a society where a whole generation only engage with something if it’s on a screen / connected to the internet…? Are there issues with internet voting involving security and would internet voting mean you give up your right to confidentiality..? Are young people concerned about this as they are willing to be quite the opposite of this when it comes to anonymity..?
The way data is being consumed by people, especially young people, bodes well for the internet of things, M2M & telemetry. Every day I come across a new application that requires us to send readings from a sensor of some kind or other so that it can be viewed on a computer, smart phone or tablet. I love the way Powelectrics help their clients get solutions up and running so quickly and affordably thanks to their highly flexible hardware and software offerings as well as their vast sensor experience. This data is helping business become more efficient which in turn is leading to economic development and improved quality of life…. Things the politicians are telling us they will provide! I’m pleased to report Powelectrics solutions are far more reliable than Politicians.
I've just read an interesting post by Mirko Torrez Contreras (click here to read it). Mirko is principally involved in process automation and questions how the Industrial Internet of Things (IioT) will impact the existing situation where plants are controlled by DCS systems. Over time IioT smart plants will come to the fore with parameters being monitored that we cannot today conceive and 'Big Data Techniques' used.
This brings to the fore so many questions regarding security, stabillity, data ownership, reliability and more. There's a big difference between pay as you drive insurance and controlling a nuclear power plant.
The revolution has started. The IioT isn't replacing the DCS system yet but we are seeing solutions such as ours gather data from sensors and make it available to users wherever they are, wherever their equipment is.
I saw an infographic recently that indicated that the typical cost of sensors within the internet of things was around 60 cents and has made me think what kind sensor can you get for this kind of money? What performance will you get? What is the long term reliability like and how does the sensor drift over time? Also, what signal comes out of these sensors and how is it immune to noise..?
For simple meteorological measurements, such as measuring room temperature, then 60 cents is possible, but this is for a piece of silicon that needs to be embedded onto a circuit board. We’ve recently fitted temperature sensors in the depths of a train to monitor the performance of a heat exchanger used to keep the batteries at the right temperature and I can’t imagine a 60 cent piece of silicon lasting very long or giving decent accuracy over the required temperature range.
When deploying any sensor you need to consider not just the cost but the performance, the mounting, the accuracy and so much more, including the signal. The internet of things industry needs to use the worlds of sensing and instrumentation to ensure they have robust, reliable solutions. I’d love to hear about your applications but please don’t expect to get much for 60 cents..!