Machine and Process Management

New Generation of Sensors Enables IIoT Connection of Previously Unconnectable Assets

For farmers, mining engineers, highway transportation management personnel, operators of underground metro railway systems, waste management firms and utility substation operators, the possibility now exists to reap the benefits of the digital economy and of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)-driven profitability and efficiency gains.

A new generation of sensor devices now enables the transmission of a signal from a sensor to a remote transmission station up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) away and then, on to the cloud.  Previous best efforts using tactical radio based transmission protocols (such as Zigbee) were limited to only about 100 meters (110 yards).  This new breakthrough introduces the possibility of offering precise IIoT-based monitoring of remote systems such as agricultural irrigation systems, and valves on remote piping systems.

Sensors are devices that detect and respond to environmental inputs (such as position, pressure, or other event-driven state changes) and then send a signal communicating that state change data to a remote device that converts the signal into human-readable information, usually on a display of some sort. In the industrial sector, many thousands of types of sensors exist. The sensor marketplace is inundated with lots of small players and also a few big companies that have established a reputation over the years as quality producers of industrial-strength reliable products (such as the Schneider Electric “Telemecanique Sensors” brand).

The new breakthrough and how it works

For several years now IIoT has enabled factory floor and plant operators to gather sensor-driven “big data” and to consolidate that data into dashboards that enable sophisticated analytics, allowing for much more precise and efficient management of operations. However, in the realm of both wired and wireless communications, the ability to add sensors to distant devices (in remote mines, for example) has been limited because of the existing distance constraints of physical communication.

New LPWAN wireless technologies break through the 100-meter ceiling and reach way beyond, up to a 50-kilometer distance.  As a result, IIoT benefits can now spread well beyond the factory floor. The new LPWAN enabled sensors connect to the cloud using antennas similar to mobile phone antennas that access traditional wireless networks via cell phone towers. Distance characteristics are very similar to mobile phone technology. All that is needed for these sensors to operate is a transmitter within the 50-kilometer distance. Once transmitted to the cloud, the sensor data is interpreted by applications that reside on our servers, and then transmitted to a laptop,  or to an application on a tablet or cell phone.

Live “test bed”  demonstrations at IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona Spain

Two LPWAN based sensor device applications will be showcased live in a “test bed” at the IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona, Spain (Oct. 3-5). Although over 70 applications were submitted for demonstration at the conference, only 11 were selected by conference authorities and the LPWAN sensors were among the few that qualified.  One of the test beds demonstrates an irrigation system that provides water to crops. Until now, irrigation ramps weren’t able to support any type of sensor because the data created was not retrievable. The new technology enables global sharing of information as it pertains to water pressure so that efficiency and energy can both be optimized.

The second test bed illustrates how a distant valve can be monitored so that accidental release of wastewater and harmful chemicals into a river or lake can be avoided.  If the valve is open, information is sent to an operator via an alarm on a mobile device.

To learn more about how industrial “sensing” capabilities can now be widely expanded, click here and watch the new video Cloud Connected Sensors or visit us at the IoT Solutions World Congress


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