Accelerating development of smart, power-efficient IoT applications!

28/07/2014
Delivering intelligent connectivity starting at the network edge

B&B Electronics has introduced its Wzzard™ Intelligent Sensing Platform.    Wzzard is an easy to use, complete wireless sensor connectivity platform for the rapid deployment of scalable, intelligent, reliable Internet of Things (IoT) networking in remote and demanding environments.   Wzzard was designed to help integrators, VARs and service providers efficiently develop and deploy secure, smart, self-powered, and scalable IoT applications.

BBWzzardUnlike a traditional SCADA application where sensors and edge devices are simply passive conduits for raw data, edge decision making delivers a more effective network.  Using iterative control limits and gateway data aggregation to support applications closer to the network edge, the Wzzard Intelligent Sensing Platform brings this intelligence to the network starting at the sensor, creating a more responsive, reliable and efficient network.

There are several key components and technologies that comprise B&B Electronics’ Wzzard Intelligent Sensing Platform, as demonstrated here: B&B Smart Sensing Wzzard Platform

First, Wzzard Intelligent Edge Nodes will connect, via conduit fitting cable gland or M12 connector, to any industry-standard sensor. General-purpose analog inputs, digital input/output and thermocouple interfaces are included. B&B has already integrated internal temperature and accelerometer sensor options, and can integrate other application specific sensors upon request.

The Intelligent Edge Nodes are easily configurable, using Android or IoS smartphones or tablets and the Wzzard app over Bluetooth LE 4.0. They can be configured to communicate only data outside specified thresholds, reducing the cost on cellular networks, as well as to associate other useful information (geo-location, device name, and up-time) with the collected sensor data for upstream analytics applications.   Control time synchronization is used to maximize battery life, exceeding 5 years for many applications.   Nodes are IP67 rated for outdoor use and include both magnetized and screw mount options.

Next is the communications component. B&B chose SmartMesh IP® wireless sensing technology from Linear Technologies Dust Networks.  SmartMesh IP is based upon the wireless IEEE 802.15.4e standard and creates full-mesh networks, sometimes referred to as “mesh-to-the-edge” networks.  SmartMesh IP networks use a triple-play of wireless mesh technologies—time diversity, frequency diversity, and physical diversity—to assure reliability, resiliency, scalability, power source flexibility, and ease-of-use.  At the core the technology is an intelligent mesh network with advanced algorithms and power saving technologies that enable powerful features not available from other WSN providers including:

• Ultra low power consumption

• Deterministic power management and optimization

• Auto-forming mesh technology for a self-healing and self-sustaining network

• Dynamic bandwidth support, load balancing and optimization

• Network management and configuration

• Zero collision low power packet exchange

• Scalability to large, dense, deep networks

wzzard_groupWzzard’s Intelligent Edge Nodes can join the mesh network at any time without gateway interaction.  Nodes attach automatically, and the SmartMesh IP technology dynamically self-configures to re-form the mesh network. To ensure data always reaches the gateway, nodes will determine their optimal RF paths to other nodes and back to the gateway. The SmartMesh IP protocol implemented within the edge nodes includes advanced network management functions and security features such as encryption and authentication. For more information: B&B Smart-Sensing What is Smartmesh

Wzzard also uses the lightweight, publish/subscribe messaging transport MQTT protocol for sensor communications.   MQTT is an extremely simple messaging protocol created for M2M and IoT applications over wireless networks. Its efficient distribution of information to single or multiple receivers, low power usage and minimized data packets make it ideal for mobile or remote locations. Unlike older SCADA protocols such as Modbus, MQTT places few restrictions on the volume or type of data that can be communicated. This facilitates a meta-data approach where multiple IoT applications can act upon the information simultaneously without having to know its origin.

Finally, B&B’s programmable, industrial-grade Spectre router serves as Wzzard’s Intelligent Gateway. Spectre can connect equipment and other devices to the Internet or Intranet over either wired Ethernet or wireless cellular connections. Spectre is built for plug-and-play simplicity with extensive remote management, deployment and customization options.  It is a robust, flexible gateway designed for easy deployment in demanding environments and the cellular version creates secure connections in locations where cable connections are impractical.

Processed information from the sensor nodes is published through the Spectre Gateway up to the customer’s IoT application using MQTT transport protocol.

SeeControl is one of the first IoT platform providers to leverage the Wzzard Intelligent Sensing Platform and MQTT protocols to develop applications. (More information at: B&B/SeeControl Partnership)

“Today, most business analytics can only describe what has happened and why,” said Parthesh Shastri, SeeControl’s vice president of customer success and strategy.  “The industry can move past descriptive to predictive and even prescriptive analytics using IoT technologies such as B&B’s Wzzard that applies edge decision making and processes information collected from sensors before transmitting relevant, as opposed to raw data, up to SeeControl’s SaaS remote management platform. Cloud-based big data analytics is then better able to derive meaning from the data, and prescribe specific courses of action, to drive more intelligent applications.”

Jerry O’Gorman, CEO of B&B Electronics explained, “The Wzzard platform’s technologies, protocols and hardware work together to reduce the complexity, expertise and time it takes for integrators to develop scalable IoT solutions.   We developed Wzzard to facilitate the coming world of connected intelligence, where smart machines and systems will collaborate, inform and make decisions on the intelligence gained from each other with little or no human supervision. Humans will program these smart networks, but then they have the ability to run efficiently and autonomously, sometimes for years, until there’s data reported that requires human intervention.”

Possible Applications:

  • Flood and water level monitoring
  • Smart car parks; vehicle counting, air quality
  • Smart irrigation systems monitoring soil moisture, environmental conditions, leaks
  • Mechanical condition monitoring/preventative maintenance
  • Energy measurements and audits on a per system or machine basis
  • Data center environmental monitoring
  • Tank and lift stations
  • Condition monitoring and optimization in industrial environments
  • Traffic monitoring of over-height vehicles for tunnels and bridges

Smarter phones drive mobile data monitoring!

02/04/2014
Expansive increase of smartphone use creates a need for mobile data monitoring solutions!

Over the next five to ten years, data traffic is expected to increase exponentially due to the growing adoption of smartphones globally. This amplified volume of data will place considerable strain on the networks of communication service providers (SPs)  and their information management systems, thereby stoking demand for mobile data monitoring systems.

smtphnsMobile data monitoring solutions are critical tools to improve overall mobile data performance and customer experience, as these can analyze mobile data and optimize the performance of their networks.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Global Mobile Data Monitoring Market, finds that the market earned revenue of $312.4 million in 2013 and estimates this to more than triple, reaching $1.103 billion in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate of 19.8 percent.

Due to the rocketing adoption of smart devices, mobile apps and video are expected to be the most consumed types of data. This growth is unlikely to dip, as social networking traffic and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication continues to rise in popularity. Over the next five years, M2M traffic is expected to outstrip even that of social networking traffic, as connected devices and sensors are anticipated to exceed 50 billion units.

Currently, SPs are ill equipped to deal with this demand for data.
“Communications SPs must invest in mobile data monitoring solutions to ensure positive end-user experience and lower customer churn,” stated Frost & Sullivan Communications Test & Measurement Program Manager Olga Yashkova-Shapiro. “Already, many SPs have rolled out Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks and are exploring other data traffic offload strategies to keep pace with demand.”

Adoption of over-the-top applications stimulates market growth
In addition to the adoption of smart phones, over-the-top (OTT) applications are contributing to the mounting demand for mobile data monitoring solutions. The swelling data traffic is forcing telecom companies to invest in more secure and complex testing capabilities to match strides with network expansions as well as upgrades in 3G and LTE.

Consumers are demanding more bandwidth-hungry applications, which require operators to deploy faster transmission links. When mobile users log on to 3G networks, they expect the applications to work seamlessly. Moreover, the information received from these different networks must be correlated.

Although the adoption of LTE has helped achieve the required data rates, there are significant concerns about the quality of voice and data. Companies are hoping to mitigate these issues with the adoption of voice over LTE (VoLTE), an IP-based multimedia system standardized by the third-generation partnership project (3GPP) to maximize international interoperability. VoLTE allows SPs to reduce the cost of delivery, enhance voice service offerings, and combat the service degradation in OTT services such as Skype and Viber.

“Traditional voice monitoring or service assurance solutions were not designed to analyze voice delivered over a data network,” notes Yashkova-Shapiro. “Therefore, the demand for next-generation mobile data monitoring solutions to support VoLTE is expected to increase and more operators are investing in new mobile devices required to support the VoLTE standards.”

Overall, SPs’ keenness to provide the highest levels of quality of service and quality of experience is expected to sustain the demand for comprehensive management solutions and proactive monitoring.


High density 40/100 gigabit Ethernet testers drive overall market revenues!

24/02/2014

With data centre activities and cloud-based services rapidly gaining importance in the communications industry, the global Ethernet test equipment market has been witnessing a constant evolution of complex next-generation solutions. As carrier Ethernet for cloud access continues to gain traction owing to its bandwidth scalability, security and ease of management, demand for Ethernet test equipment will grow worldwide. Adoption of 40/100 gigabit Ethernet testers, in particular, will contribute to market revenues.

New analysis from Frost & SullivanHigh Growth Testing Opportunities—Global Ethernet Test Equipment Market, finds that the market earned revenues of €688 million (US$943 million) in 2012 and estimates this to reach €1.03 billion (US$1.41 billion) in 2017.

“Gigabit Ethernet vendors are investing in R&D to address changing end-user technologies, meet specific requirements with high-performance test solutions, offer best value for money, and ensure highest quality of experience,” said Measurement and Instrumentation Research Analyst Prathima Bommakanti. “On the other hand, the evolving pattern of operating technologies and shifting customer needs is intensifying competition in the Ethernet test market.”

While the optimum service delivery levels of major market participants pose a concern for small and medium-sized companies, the explosive growth in data centre activities makes it attractive for even big companies to create a niche through technologically advanced product introductions and frequent upgrades.

Market participants must offer innovative, multi-functional Ethernet test equipment and solutions with sophisticated capabilities that save on both time and cost. This is especially crucial as the new breed of technicians is trained in multiple technologies unlike the older lot, where each technician specialised in one technology.

“Test equipment vendors that deliver superior capabilities at competitive prices will find themselves best poised to boost market shares,” noted Bommakanti. “Companies that have a keen eye to address customer concerns such complex device under test and high-price points will also build a robust advantage over competitors and enjoy market leadership.”


Telcos expected to play an important role in ensuring a fully connected plant floor!

21/02/2014
Emergence of smart manufacturing will drive demand for M2M communication

The manufacturing sector has traditionally implemented a range of wired networks to automate plant floor operations. However, emerging machine-to-machine (M2M) systems such as short-range wireless and long-range cellular networks are evolving into choice solutions for factories of the future. M2M systems can supplement or replace wired networks to enable advanced robotics and enterprise mobility on the plant floor, enabling convenient connectivity in inaccessible areas, communication across barriers, and simplified installation based on wireless local area, wide area, and sensor networks.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, M2M Communication in Manufacturing, finds that telecommunication companies (telcos) will be an important stakeholder in the provision of M2M solutions and the growth of the Internet of Things in the manufacturing sector in Europe.

m2m

“Telcos’ ability to offer enterprise-grade communication services integrated with plant-level communications is critical to reliable plant-level operations,” said Frost & Sullivan Information and Communication Technologies Research Analyst Shuba Ramkumar. “Existing partner networks can also be leveraged to provide end-to-end services, including network implementation, provision of applications, and data analytics.”

The pace at which M2M communication is adopted may, however, be slow as the traditionally-conservative manufacturing sector will be apprehensive about potential downtime and the risk to the value and quality of their output. Security concerns are another reason manufacturers are reluctant to use wireless networks. Apart from these technical challenges, the relative inexperience of telcos in this market dissuades manufacturers from availing their services.

Educating manufacturers on the benefits of advanced M2M technologies, ensuring secure functioning of wireless networks, and consulting with manufacturers to tailor solutions to their unique requirements will make smart manufacturing a reality that much quicker.

“In areas where telcos do not have in-house expertise, there is room for partnerships with automation providers, system integrators, or data analytic providers,” recommended Ramkumar. “Acquiring smaller companies that specialise in innovative enterprise mobility applications and data analytics will help telcos capitalise on the immense potential available for M2M communications in the manufacturing sector.”


Lightening disconnection prompts slow musing!

03/02/2014

Following the devastating storms (for Ireland) and the destruction caused to infrastructure and property near the coastline we have had time to consider talking about something we suddenly found ourselves without!

Don’t get the wrong impression. The great winds that swept over the country over the Christmas and New Year period although they caused damage mercifully the did not, in so far as we know cause any loss of life. The pictures of surging surf and uprooted or swept away roads and pathways, particularly in our own area of South Conamara and further west were a grimn reminder of the untamability of Mother Nature. Michael Viney’s excellent weekly column in the Irish Times recently gives a flavour as he writes about “The nuts and volts of thunder storms!”

tintreachHere in the Read-out office we were not left unscathed and a very loud thunder clap – obviously preceeded by a lightening strike – put paid to the interior of our working computer. It also appears to have put paid to our connections with the outside world and we were without our land-line and our usual internet connection for ten days. Mercifully no information had been lost but there is little that we could do with that information in the modern world without a reliable and speedy internet connection.

First steps
We have been connected in one way or another to the internet for twenty years. It was in 1994 that we became the 700 customer on Ireland-on-line (the iol.ie in our e-mail address). It was a dial-up service – remember dial-up? At the time of joining up there were three subscribers to our print publication, Read-out, who had e-mail addresses. Hard to imagine!

The following year we started the Read-out Instrumentation Signpost which basically was a collection of links to the then few automation sites available. Gradually as more resources became available we assembled a website of links and briefly an Instrumentation Directory, which over the years has grown less important as the search-engines have become more sophisticated. All the developments we talk about here would have been impossible had not the net been freely available at little or no cost. The big player and the one man band have equal access to the basic platform.

Is the party over?
One of the great things about the internet – up to now – is its neutrality and its accessibility. It has been a great leveller. Anybody can join. Karlin Lillington, a correspondent with the Irish times states, “Net neutrality has long been a major concern for technology companies and service providers large and small. The loss of such a policy will be viewed with alarm in a world where internet access grows to be seen more and more like a utility in the public eye, and underlies the business plans of small entrepreneurial companies up to the largest entertainment moguls.” Karlin Lillington notes the decision by a US Federal court which could overturn this neutrality and signal the exclusionb of the “small guy!” It appears that even in the European Union the legislation proposed has loopholes the exploitation of which could have very similar implications. (Rulings in the us could make the web a dangerously different place.)

Blogs
Where the web-site presence has flourished is in the provision of product, people, application and company news, editorial and comment. At first we linked to stories we found in various places on the web. As things progressed we realised that we received many press releases from vendors and technical innovators which we were unable to include in the limits of a 12 to 16 page periodical and thus we progressed to publishing them on our blogs. Mostly these are included on the blogger platform where they are lightly edited. More technology based and opinion pieces are put on the WordPress platform (You’re reading this post on it!) To date we have put up well over 5000 stories and articles.

As the internet grew and developed so to did the business of business, change, and change radically. One of the little books that we found useful was by Seth Godin, called “Meatball Sundae”, mostly because this new thing is turning everything upside down and putting seemingly incompatible principles and ideas together and coming out with something that turns out to be brilliant. We wrote about it in one of our first blogs!

Social media
However for engineers a lot of this is in a way counterintuitive and contrary. Engineers like to know how things work and to be able to predict outcomes. The left brain skills (engineers & scientists) versus the right brain skills (artistic and creative) is in full play here. For those a useful volume is Di Pietro’sSocial Media for Engineers and Scientists, which we recommend highly.

smdipietroWe first got on-line in the early nineties to access information on the International Society of Automation website, which had and has lots and lots of useful information on the discipline available free of charge to members. This was available not through a browser as now know it but through a platform called Telnet. There were no pictures just simple text. The connection was a dial-up one, it was incredibly slow but very exciting. Here we were in Ireland looking at material live in North Carolina USA.

Our methods of communication were through “list-serves” where one joined a group and emails were sent to a group address and distributed to those on the list. There were also on-line communities where messages were left and looked at and responded to by members at there leisure.

However as the world wide web enveloped the internet the telnet platform faded and a new platform called a browser made its appearence. Names like Netscape and Mozilla became common parlance and it wasn’t long before the giant Microsoft Corporation introduced the daddy of them all Explorer. But things wax an wane and now while we still have Explorer but also Firefox, Chrome and Apples Safari and of course dial-up is never mentioned in polite society. It is broadband, speed and “always-on” internet that is the norm now.

socialmediatree1We posted an item in early 2013 with videos from the aforementioned Jon DiPietro, and Emerson’s internet guru Jim Cahill which is relevent to this topic: Two social media pioneers in Automation ask “Why?” and “How!”

Facebook
It is hard to imagine life without the internet now. The advent of social media has changed things yet again. First facebook came along and people started to share their lives with the world. It quickly developed into an incredible mismatch of things, what people had for breakfast, things that amused them, the pet gripes, politics, religion, pictures of their pets, holiday experiences. What it has turned out to be is a vehicle for communication between people who will in fact prabably never meet or with relations they would otherwise have lost conntact with.

But from a business point of view it could also be useful. We quickly found the our personal page was fairly useless, as there was so much noise from people not concerned with the latest automation widget and/or with personal stuff. Few automation engineers really want to know if your child became champion cheerleader in the school or what you had your favourite eating house! Happily Facebook had an answer to that in what they used to call “fan pages”, these pages are dedicated to particular topics, hobbies etc to which interested people may indicate an interest by “liking” them. Thus the Read-out Facebook page has some people who follow the writer’s personal page but many more who do not! Our automation blog stories are automatically posted to this facebook page.

Twitter
This can be an invaluable tool. We use it (@ReadoutSignpost) to publicise stories as they are published. We also post other material (mostly in Irish) that interests the writer. We decided early on that it would be impractical to open two twitter accounts one for business and one for everything else. The messages are basically enforcedly short (max 140 characters including URL) and so they can be easily dismissed if not of interest.

Semple_Corporation_jkt.pdfTwitter however is also useful because with the advent of intelligent phones tweets often relay breaking news far more quickly, though not always with accuracy, than more conventional methods of media communication. One example on our discipline is how this writer learned of the arrival of Stuxnet, the first malware discovered that target automation systems. Gary Mintchell, then of Automation World, tweeted brief details in July 2010. Had he not done so we would not have been alerted to this very important story and read and shared (with many others) the first reports and studies of the implications of this important event. We have assembled a large collection of links to pages, reports, papers and videos on our popular ICS & SCADA Security page.

One important thing to remember about twitter (and social media in general) is what Euan Semple says Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do! Indeed if you are ambivalent about the use of social media his book of the same title could be invaluable.

Many times the one man band is far more effective that the large corporation and I think the reason for this is because he/she IS people. The most successful participants, it seems to me, are those who regularly participate with interesting material and telling a story. Few large corporations trust their employees enough to allow this freedom which is the essence of social media.

Another important thing about twitter is that it is said to have a half-life of 4 hours, unlike facebook which goes on forever. No matter what platform one posts on, one must always beware what one posts as who knows it may come back to haunt you!

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is something we have come to late in the day. It was called the “Business version of facebook!” but in reality this writer could not get it. Fine if you were looking for a job etc. Because of its reputation we did “join” it early on and many people became “contacts.” But recently we started our own group, the Read-out Signpost News, and this is another vehicle for us to spread the Read-out news pages. We haven’t been there long enough to gauge reaction but we have garnered some further contacts in many different corners of ther globe.

There are some useful discussion groups on topics, like Cybersecurity, there which to a large extent mirror the old list-serves as they enable daily, or weekly reports of the items that have been shared be posted to your email address. In a way a periodic newsletter! Quite useful.

Google Plus
I am like many people on the internet. I don’y know what Google+ is about. Chris Rand in his Bmon newsletter summed it up nicely recently “My guess is that whatever social networks you use personally, and whatever you’ve introduced into your company’s marketing, Google+ is not going to be amongst them, except as a token gesture at best.” Read his short daily one day last November, “I admit it. I still don’t know what Google+ is all about.” and you’ll understand what I mean.

There are other platforms like YouTube which as yet we have not ventured into but a lot of companies, including automation enterprises,  are becoming involved with varying degrees on success. The important this is regular posting of interesting material.

So what do we think?
Without a doubt the internet has changed our lives. When the first commercial Read-out hit the Irish highways and byways we little thought that we would become so well known in the world-wide automation and control community. We have regular visits to our site from places as far afield as Norway, (indeed more people visit our site from Norway than almost any others country except the USA), India, China and the Ukraine, Germany, the USA, Britain and France as well as Ireland.

We learn of news, mergers, important technological events and achievements at a speed inconcieveable in 1989. We share that information with the whole world through the various platforms on the web. We engage with our automation friends and acquantances all over the globe in previously impossible ways.

And sometimes we get to meet them at exhibitions and conferences and have no need for the preliminaries of getting to know people because if we realise that “Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do!” then we do know them already!

What a wonder!


Foundation & Hart to merge?

26/09/2013

It has finally been formally acknowledged. After many years of co-operation Fieldbus Foundation and HART are strongly considering pooling their resources. Where the proposed merger leaves other standards, particularly ProfiBus remains to be seen.

The Fieldbus Foundation and the HART Communication Foundation have entered into discussions on the potential for merging the two organizations into a single industry foundation dedicated to the needs of intelligent device communications in the world of process automation.

fartThe chairmen of the two organizations—Dr. Gunther Kegel of the Fieldbus Foundation and Mr. Mark Schumacher of the HART Communication Foundation—issued the following statement on behalf of their Boards of Directors:

“We believe combining the resources and capabilities of each foundation into a single organization will provide significant benefits to both end users and suppliers. For end users, a single organization that combines the power of both Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation would provide a full solution that addresses every conceivable aspect of field communications and intelligent device management for the process industries. For suppliers, a single organization would create efficiencies in resource utilization, consistency of processes and procedures, and would deliver significant improvements in member services and support.”

The Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation have worked extensively together in the past and have a long history of cooperation. For example, the two organizations worked together on the development of common international standards such as Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) and, most recently, the development of the Field Device Integration (FDI) specification. The merger offers significant potential to harmonize many aspects of the two protocols, making it easier for end users and suppliers to implement the technology and obtain the full benefits of each technology in plant operations and maintenance.

In preliminary discussions, the presidents of the two organizations, Richard J. Timoney of the Fieldbus Foundation and Ted Masters of the HART Communication Foundation, added that many synergies already exist and closed by commenting:

“We are both confident that today’s decision to investigate the merger of these two organizations provides momentum for a major step forward in the evolution of intelligent devices and the world of industrial communications.”

More details are given in this Question & Answer paper published with this announcement!

The Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation have signed a memorandum of understanding for a possible merger of the two organizations. This proposed merger is still in the exploratory phase and is not yet guaranteed. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the merger.

Q: Is the merger a foregone conclusion, with an agreement to merge the two organizations that has been approved by the Boards of Directors?
A: No. What has been agreed is that each organization will appoint a study team to review the possibility of merging the organizations based on an increased value of a single organization, as well as significant benefits to their respective memberships and the automation industry in general.

Q: Would this be a true merger or an acquisition of one organization by another?
A: The merger would be a true merger of equals and not an acquisition of any one organization by another. A combined organization of Fieldbus Foundation and HART technologies could better leverage the complementary benefits of the technologies. The new combined organization would create more cooperation and collaboration. In addition, improved economies of scale would be realized through merging training and education; seminars; testing and registration; participation at trade shows, conferences, and events; online presence; and social media strategies.

Q: I am a member of only one of the Foundations. How would a merger affect my future membership?
A: Membership in either one of the existing foundations would carry over into the new proposed organization with the same rights and benefits that members enjoy today.

Q: If I were a member of both Foundations, how would this affect my membership costs?
A: While we have begun an analysis of our respective memberships, we have not yet defined the membership model as it relates to membership dues. Members of both foundations should see increased efficiencies and reduced total costs as more and more standards, processes and procedures are harmonized. Over time, we anticipate suppliers recognizing more efficiency compared to membership in both organizations.

Q: If the investigation were successful, when would a merger likely happen?
A: There is still a lot of exploratory work to do in regard to due diligence in the financial and legal arenas. Everything we do must meet strict criteria in terms of benefitting our membership and the broader automation market, including our mutual end users. Once that is done, there are board and membership votes and, if successful, legal filings. Our target is to have everything completed by mid-2014.

Q: Who will decide if the merger is to proceed?
A: The decision to proceed with the merger will flow through three steps. First, the study team will prepare a report and recommendation for each board of directors. Once that is completed, the boards will individually vote to proceed or not. Finally, if both boards vote to proceed with the merger, the proposal will go to a member vote in both organizations.

Q: What are some of the goals of the proposed new merged organization?
A: There are a number of goals:

• Collaboration on new and existing technologies.
• Fully integrated marketing strategy to advance the extensive use of digital
devices.
• Improved products and services.
• Increased market share of digital field devices in total device market.

Q: Would the technologies and protocols of both Foundations continue to exist
and evolve on their own?
A: Both the FOUNDATION fieldbus and HART specifications would continue to exist
separately and evolve. Each protocol would retain and maintain its own brand name, trademarks, patents and copyrights. The proposed organization would continue to seek areas of logical harmonization just as we have with EDDL and FDI.

Q: How would the proposed organization deal with the different wireless
strategies that exist?
A: The proposed organization would continue to support the wireless strategies that exist today within each organization.

Q: How would the proposed merger affect the current activities regarding FDI?
A: Both organizations are totally committed to the FDI project and would continue to support FDI as the sole integration technique for smart devices.

Q: Would the two organizations move to a single location?
A: Pending approval of the merger, the plan is to co-locate both organizations into a
single facility as soon as it is practical.

Q: How would the merger affect host system, and device testing and registration?
A: Both the Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation are currently working on common device and host testing procedures under the FDI Cooperation initiative. That is one of the major benefits of the FDI project. Although elements of those tests may differ based on the structure of the protocols, there are many elements that the two organizations share in common. We anticipate that we will move toward a common set of procedures for both device and host testing, and a common registration process.


Get your head out of the clouds! – 3 ways to reduce maintenance costs of power generators

31/05/2013
Henrik Arleving, Product Line Manager, HMS Industrial Networks presents three ways to reduce maintenance costs of power generators.
Henrik Arleving

Henrik Arleving

Keeping track of a fleet of power generators can sometimes be a head-in-the-clouds-experience. It can be hard to focus on the right actions simply because there is not enough information on fuel levels, oil pressure or battery status for each genset. With a cloud-based remote management solution you can have immediate online access to generator parameters via a regular web browser. Below we propose three ways in which remote management can be used to reduce operating costs and improve control.

1) Perform service only when needed
Power generators are often serviced according to a pre-determined service schedule. By understanding how the generator has been operated, it is possible to plan service more dynamically. As site visits are costly, you are able to optimize the service costs by only sending service teams to generators that actually need service.

The challenge is to know when service is needed at each individual site. With a remote management solution, you can check operating hours, oil pressure, battery status, coolant temperatures, generated power output, fuel level, GPS position etc. A notification may also be generated whenever a critical level has been reached, for example if the generator has been running more than expected. We may then send a notification when the running hours exceed the service interval.

By being able to analyze the operation of each generator remotely, you will be able to understand their health and more efficiently schedule service visits in the field.

2) Test start generators remotely to reduce start-up problems
Just like a car that has been parked for an extended period, a generator engine that has not run in a long time is likely to have start-up problems. For back-up power generators that are not operated very often, it is important to regularly perform operational tests. Remote test starts can be made with a remote management solution that has control capabilities and is connected to the generator controller. With a simple action such as a remote operational test, you may increase the likelihood of the generator working the day there is a power outage and the generator needs to perform.

Typical web dashboard from which a power generator can be monitored and even started or stopped remotely.

Typical web dashboard from which a power generator can be monitored and even started or stopped remotely.

A well-maintained generator operates better and has lower operating costs since unplanned service visits often mean substantial expenses.

3) Minimize and reduce the effects of fuel theft
Fuel theft can be a significant problem. In certain regions, as much as 40% of genset fuel is reported to be stolen.

Avoiding fuel theft completely might be difficult since it is often stolen a bit at a time; during transportation, at fill-up, or at the power generator in the field. However, a remote monitoring system that connects to a fuel sensor can be used to ensure that the right amount of fuel is delivered at a refill. By using an intelligent level sensor, it is possible to track the fuel level of the tank. The fuel sensor can be calibrated to sense a full tank and by knowing this we can verify that the tank is properly refilled. A good fuel level sensor is able to detect variations down to 3-5 liters.

An abnormal decrease in content may be detected and indicate that the fuel is being stolen. With a remote monitoring system that supports alarms, a notification is sent immediately when the theft occurs. Even if it might be hard to catch the thieves, we are at least aware that the fuel has been stolen and we can schedule a refill to ensure the generators have the fuel needed to operate.

Tracking the level of fuel in a tank increases the awareness of what happens to the fuel on site and helps users understand when theft occurs. In some cases, where organized theft is common, this may help detect patterns and take action.

Remote monitoring puts you ahead of the game
Modern remote monitoring technology enables instant access to data from equipment in the field. While we are able to use this technology to reduce operating expenses as described above, it also brings us other benefits. By being able to have full control 24/7 and be instantly notified of any operational issues, the end-user also receives improved service quality.

How cloud-based remote management works
A communication gateway connects to the genset control panel, usually via serial communications or by using a popular open protocol such as Modbus RTU. The gateway sends data via the Internet or the mobile network (3G/GSM/GPRS) to an online data center in the cloud. Service engineers can access the data center through a regular web browser or smartphone and see live data from the power generators. This means that no IT expertise or programming is necessary. Alarms and notifications are sent whenever certain thresholds are reached.

So which solution should I choose?
There are a couple of different solutions for remote management of power generators available on the market. A few things to consider are that the solution should be able to send information via the mobile phone network since many power generators are placed in remote locations. It is important that the solution is “firewall friendly” so you don’t have to spend time on security issues and access rights.
Some remote management solutions, like the Netbiter remote management solution from HMS, have specialized solutions for power generators including pre-defined configurations for a range of for control panels from different manufacturers as well as built in features for fuel level management etc.

What are the costs involved?
You pay for the communication gateway which connects to the power generator. Most modern remote management solutions offer different service levels for cloud access. Free versions with basic functionality are often available offering a very quick return-on-investment.

No matter which solution you choose, the ROI will most likely be quick. A service visit is usually the same cost as a single remote management gateway meaning that you may have a payback time of only a few


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