Demand for IoT testing and monitoring equipment.

28/06/2015

As the trend towards connected living and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to permeate home, work and city solutions, the need to keep tabs on a myriad of connected devices will thrust the global IoT testing and monitoring equipment market into the spotlight. The incorporation of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication – central to IoT deployment – as well as modules that require less power and bandwidth will bring with it several challenges that turn into a boon for testing and monitoring vendors.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Global fands Equipment Market, finds that the market earned revenues of $346.9 million in 2014 and estimates this to reach $900.1 million in 2021.

“As the escalating number of connected devices adds breadth to the IoT concept, solutions that can proactively monitor, test and zero in on anomalies in the infrastructure will garner a sustained customer base,” said Frost & Sullivan Measurement and Instrumentation Research Analyst Rohan Joy Thomas. “The incorporation of new testing and wireless standards will broaden testing requirements and further aid development in IoT testing and monitoring equipment.”

Educating end users on the importance of interoperability and the requirement for specialised testing equipment is vital for market success. Currently, the lack of end-user awareness on the need for proactive solutions stalls the large-scale use of IoT testing and monitoring equipment. End-user inability to identify the most appropriate solution from a plethora of identical systems too limits adoption.

High capital expenditure associated with procuring equipment coupled with inadequate standardisation around IoT adds to the challenge. Such concerns over high investment costs and standardisation should abate as IoT matures in the years ahead.

“Industry vendors must fill the gaps in their product portfolio in order to facilitate an open testing environment and lay the foundation for long-term growth,” concluded Thomas. “To that end, building partnerships with or acquiring participants from other industry niches will help solution providers extend their horizons in the global IoT testing and monitoring equipment market.”


Industry 4.0 business ecosystem will change dynamics in the Global industry.

26/06/2015
Frost &Sullivan: a new IoIT (Internet of Industrial Things) supplier ecosystem estimated to reach €420 billion by 2020
Ind4_IoT Frost & Sullivan plans to publish four new studies dedicated to the evolution of the Smart Manufacturing paradigm and new cooperations and alliances in the industrial services market during July 2015.
• Internet of Industrial Things – The Vision and the Realities
• Services 2.0–The New Business Frontier for Profitability
• The Safety-Security Argument: Expanding Needs in a Connected Enterprise
• The Industrie 4.0 Business Ecosystem: Decoding the New Normal

In the evolution towards the Smart Manufacturing paradigm, end-user requirements are set to evolve and become more complex than ever before. Global suppliers find it increasingly difficult to meet the growing needs of the end-users that are further augmented with a very high degree of complexity. But the current scenario will also provide the biggest opportunity to realign one’s exiting business approach and forge alliances and partnerships with market participants. The result would be a newly built supplier ecosystem that can effectively address end-user needs for growth in near and long term perspectives.

According to a recent Frost & Sullivan research on the industrial services market, a new wave of influence is disrupting business dynamics between end-user and supplier. This change is founded on new service paradigms that are enabling end-users to achieve high degrees of cost optimization and enhanced operational efficiency. For instance, end-users and supplier equations are currently being determined by service architectures founded on frameworks defined by advanced Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Services based on such advanced ICT concepts, were found to hold more than 75% of the global industrial services market in 2014.

While spare parts and maintenance still retain a major share of the service revenue models, the growth of advanced services is expected to witness a CAGR of 20 percent over the coming years.

“In order to design and deliver such advanced services, industrial suppliers are required to forge partnerships with cloud and data analytics vendors. In some end use cases even the most rudimentary solutions built on an integrated analytics package have enabled suppliers’ upsell and increase product prices by up to 10 percent. It also helped achieve differentiation in a technology saturated market place,” notes Frost & Sullivan Practice Director Industrial Automation & Process Control and Measurement & Instrumentation, Muthukumar Viswanathan.

Major structural revisions are also expected on the shop floor driven by the advent of M2M (machine-to-machine) communication. By 2020, nearly 12 billion devices in the industry are poised to be connected via advanced M2M technology.

“There is still a lot of scepticism surrounding this rapid transition towards the smart factory framework, however. This can be summed up by a key question that surfaces across all major industrial discussion forums. Who will be the single responsible entity for the integrated solution delivered to an end-user?” Mr. Viswanathan continues. “I would opine that although the emerging business demands would warrant an ecosystem approach, there will still be one key partner who would liaise with the end-user and agree to be the ultimate risk bearer of the final solution delivered to the customer”.


Bringing Britain’s key capabilities together driving strengths in robotics research & engineering.

24/06/2015

Britain’s ability to develop and exploit the vast potential of Robotics and Autonomous Systems was given a major boost today with the formal launch of The EPSRC UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network (UK-RAS Network).

UK-RASThe Network will bring together the country’s core academic capabilities in robotics innovation under national coordination for the first time and encourage academic and industry collaborations that will accelerate the development and adoption of robotics and autonomous systems.

The Network will be unveiled this evening at the Science Museum in London following a public lecture on Robot Ethics, organised by IET Robotics and Mechatronics Network in association with the Science Museum Lates and supported by the EPSRC UK-RAS Network.

The new network has already received strong support by major industrial partners, the Science Museum and Britain’s major professional engineering bodies including Royal Academy of Engineering, IET, and The Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The Network will expand to include broader stakeholders including key national laboratories and leading international collaborators in both academia and industry. The global market for service and industrial robots is estimated to reach $59.5 billion (€53.1 billion) by 2020.

Commenting on the launch, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson said: “Robotics and autonomous systems have huge growth potential for the UK as one of our Eight Great Technologies. To get it right we need to draw on the expertise of the UK’s research base and the ambition of industry. By working collaboratively, this network will only help to accelerate growth of a high-tech sector and pave the way for new high-value, skilled jobs – a win, win scenario for the UK.”

The EPSRC UK-RAS Network is funded by The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) – Britain’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The Network’s mission is to provide academic leadership in Robotics and Autonomous Systems, expand collaboration with industry and integrate and coordinate activities at eight EPSRC-funded RAS dedicated facilities and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) across the country.

The founding network members are Imperial College London, Bristol Robotics Lab, University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, University of Leeds, University of Liverpool, Loughborough University, University of Oxford, University of Sheffield, University of Southampton, University College London, and University of Warwick.

Professor Guang-Zhong Yang PhD, FREng, Director and Co-founder of the Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery at Imperial College London and Chair of the UK-RAS Network commented: “Robotics and Autonomous Systems are set to play an increasingly vital role in the growth of the UK economy across all sectors of industry, from transport and healthcare to manufacturing and unmanned systems. This dedicated network provides a focus for the UK’s research and engineering excellence for the first time, ensuring that the UK can maintain its competitive edge in RAS innovation.”

Kedar Pandya, Head of the Engineering Theme for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, added: “Working with Innovate UK and other research council partners, EPSRC’s mission is to support and invest in the world-leading research base that has earned the UK its deserved reputation for research excellence. Robotics and Autonomous Systems are one of the Eight Great Technologies in which the UK is set to be a global leader, and the technology being developed at these EPSRC-funded RAS facilities will deliver a significant impact on the research landscape, and attract the kind of industrial investment that will maximise the UK’s stake in the worldwide robotics market.”

The Network will organise a wide range of activities including network and strategic roadmap events such as the UK Robotics conference, symposia and focused workshops, public engagement and exhibitions. It will also have extensive online engagement activities using social media and web and user forums. The Network aims to strengthen the relationship with industry by supporting interdisciplinary mobility and industrial secondment and developing proof-of-concept (PoC) projects and running design challenges. There is also a strong emphasis on government policy and high-level engagement with international stakeholders.


Upgrade from the horse and buggy!

02/06/2015
From this...

From this…

It takes years of practice, driver training and numerous rules & regulations to safely drive a car on a highway. We need similar experience and rules to safely travel the Internet highway.

Heavy traffic is expected ahead!
What needs to be done to make sure that Internet cruisers don’t crash and burn? There are many signposts on the internet highway that need to be learned and mastered. It is easy to get lost, easy to get into a serious accident where your personal data is stolen and compromised.

..to this - without accident?

..to this – without accident?

A new whitepaper from Green Peak talks all about international web regulations and government policies, internet privacy and data security, data ownership, and safely avoiding the wrong way drivers and other hazards.

When compared to our highway system – the learned knowledge of how we should travel on the internet highway, relatively, we are still in the horse and buggy days.

Download the whitepaper from the Green Peak site (pdf)


High-Fidelity battery modeling.

26/05/2015
The use of virtual battery technology in the design of test systems can facilitate the development of better products, reduce project risks, and get products to market faster.

The use of rechargeable batteries in consumer products, business applications and industrial systems continues to grow substantially. The global market for all batteries will reach almost €68 billion (US$74b) this year, and rechargeable batteries will account for nearly 82% of that, or €55 billion (US$60b), according to market researcher Frost & Sullivan.

Figure 1: Simulation of thermal runaway using the Li-Ion model from the MapleSim Battery Library

Growth like this means several things. First, large companies have moved or are moving into the market, designing and offering products ranging from hand-held devices to large power back-up systems. Second, as the systems get larger, battery technologies have to match the technical challenges of increasing cell capacity, thermal stability, life extension and disposal.

Meeting the Technical Challenges

Monitoring and controlling larger cell arrays through Battery Management Systems (BMS) helps to minimize charge times and maximize efficiency and battery life. Design and testing of a sophisticated BMS can pose challenges, however, as was discovered by one of the largest producers of electronic products in the world. That’s why they recently relied upon Maplesoft and ControlWorks Inc., a real-time testing systems integrator with deep experience developing BMS test stands, to develop a Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) test system for the BMS in one of their large  Energy Storage System (ESS) products.

An attractive solution to these testing challenges is to use virtual batteries – mathematical models of battery cells that are capable of displaying the same dynamic behavior as real ones – for early-stage testing of the BMS. Not only have these models proven to be highly accurate, they are computationally efficient and are able to achieve the execution required to deliver real-time performance for batteries containing hundreds of cells on real-time platforms.

The battery modeling technique employed by Maplesoft uses a partial differential equation (PDE) discretization technique to streamline the model to a set of ordinary differential equations (ODE) that can be readily solved by system-level tools like MapleSim. The advanced model optimization features of MapleSim also allow the resulting code to be very fast and capable of running in real-time.

The resulting battery models can also be employed in the prediction of charge/discharge rates, state of charge (SoC), heat generation and state of health (SoH) through a wide range of loading cycles within complex, multi-domain system models. This approach provides the performance needed for system-level studies with minimal loss in model fidelity. The user can also allow for energy loss through heat, making these models useful for performing thermal studies to determine component sizes in cooling systems to manage battery temperature. Not carefully controlling the temperature can lead to reduced operational life or, in extreme cases, destruction or even explosion due to thermal runaway, a common problem in many battery-powered systems.

Model Structure for this Application
For the purpose of this ESS test system development project, the key requirements for the battery model were:

-Up to 144 Li-Ion polymer cells for testing the BMS of the client’s ESS products
-Ease of configuration for different requirements (parallel/series networks)
-Several sensors per cell (current, voltage, SoC, SoH)
-Variation of chemistry make-up due to manufacturing tolerances
-Fault-insertion on each cell (open-circuit, shorting)
-Capacity to run in real-time (target execution-time budget of 1 ms)
-In the case of energy storage systems, like this example, each ESS battery is made of several “stacks” that, in turn, contain several cells. The MapleSim model follows this structure with each cell being a shared, fully parameterized subsystem. Each cell can also be switched to open circuit using logical parameters.

Figure 2: Cell stack model

The stack model is made of 18 cell subsystems connected either in parallel or series, depending on the requirement. Input signals are provided for charge balancing from the BMS. Output signals are provided back to the BMS to monitor the condition of the stack (supply voltage, SoC and SoH). Finally, the full ESS is made of several stacks with IO signals fed to and from the BMS.

Figure 3: ESS Battery model

Model Calibration and Validation
Much of the accuracy of this model is dependent on experimentally derived parameters, determined from charge/discharge test results. Project engineers determined that any deviation in performance due to manufacturing variations needed to be included in order to test the charge-balancing capability of the BMS. Instead of testing every cell, engineers relied on random variants generated from the statistical distribution determined by the charge/discharge test results on 48 cells. This was applied to all 144 cells and then compared with the real test results. The maximum variance of the voltage from the experimental data was 14mV, while from the simulation it was 13mV, acceptable for the purpose of this project.
Maplesoft and ControlWorks Inc. engineers also determined the average cell response using the parameter-estimation tool supplied with the MapleSim Battery Library. This uses optimization techniques to determine the values of cell-response parameters that provide the closest “fit” to the experimental results. This response was then validated against response data from other cells to ensure close estimation of the resulting model.

SoH behavior was implemented as a look-up table based on experimental results. The model determines the capacity and internal resistance based on the number of charge/discharge cycles and depth of discharge (DOD) from the lookup.

Figure 4: SoH simulation showing effect on battery voltage

Finally, the model was converted to ANSI-C through the MapleSim Connector, producing an S-Function of the battery model that can be tested for performance and accuracy with a fixed-step solver on a desktop computer in MATLAB/Simulink® before moving it to a real-time platform. The simplest solver was used and the performance bench showed that the average execution time was approximately 20 times faster than real-time, occupying 5.5% of the real-time system time budget. This shows that the battery model can be easily scaled up, if required.

The end result was a battery model capable of being configured to represent a stack of up to 144 cells that can be connected in any combination of parallel and series networks. Fault modes were also built-in, such as individual cells shorting or opening, as well as incorporating variations in charge capacity from cell to cell, and degradation of capacity over the life of the cells.

The final BMS test station provides the client’s engineers with the ability to configure the battery model (number of cells, series/parallel, etc.) and apply a range of tests to it. The engineer can go back to the MapleSim™ model at any time to make any necessary changes to the model configuration, and then generate the model for use on the real-time platform. In this system, the real-time software is National Instruments’ VeriStand™, driving a PXI real-time system. The MapleSim Connector for NI VeriStand™ automates the model integration process, allowing the engineer to produce the real-time model quickly and reliably.

The ControlWorks Inc. system also integrates real-time platform, signal processing, fault-insertion tools and standard communications protocols (CANbus for automotive, Modbus for industrial applications), allowing the engineer to run the BMS through a range of tests on the battery model, including Constant Current (CC) and Constant Voltage (CC/CV) charge/discharge cycles, as well as Constant Power (CP) and Constant Resistance (CR) discharge cycles.

“We were pleased to be able to partner with Maplesoft on this project,” said Kenny Lee, PhD, Director of Research Center of Automotive Electronics, ControlWorks Inc. “The use of battery models in this case proved to be an effective alternative to the use of real batteries,” he added.

Summary
Test automation and simulation is critical in system-level testing, allowing time and cost of failure analysis, constant development pressure, expense of repeated tests, and lengthy set-up times all to be addressed.

“The use of high-fidelity, ready-made battery models allows the engineer to avoid the risks of damage to batteries, along with subsequent costs, while testing and optimizing the BMS design in a close-to-reality loading environment,” said Paul Goossens, Maplesoft VP of Engineering Solutions.
The use of virtual battery technology in the design of test systems can facilitate the development of better products, reduce project risks, and get products to market faster.

“The MapleSim model of the Li-Ion battery was selected because of its proven ability to achieve real-time performance. The code-generation and compilation tools are very easy to use, making the integration of the model into the HIL system very fast and cost-effective. That, plus the excellent development support we received from Maplesoft’s Engineering Solutions team made this a very smooth project.”  Kenny Lee, PhD, Director of Research Center of Automotive Electronics, ControlWorks Inc.


Does Industry know its I from its T?

03/05/2015
Industry IT security shortfalls persist!

A recent survey conducted by Electroustic revealed industry’s unsustainable approach to information security. The survey showed a pressing lack of information about the most common security risks in an age where industrial internet and remote data access are steadily being implemented on the factory floor. An impressive 34 per cent of respondents said their companies don’t have an information security policy.

The survey identified hacking as the biggest security concern – with 31 per cent of respondents worried about it – followed by human error (17 per cent) and cloud computing (11 per cent).

While it’s true that most security breaches are caused by outsider attacks, these often come in the form of malicious software and can easily be averted with the correct staff training and appropriate infrastructure.

tofino“The huge range of available IT security products for industry is a double-edged sword for many companies,” explains Paul Carr, managing director and owner of Electroustic. “Although there are a lot of options to choose from, inexperienced companies can easily end up spending a fortune on IT security systems that might not be appropriate for their specific needs.

“In terms of network security, establishing multi-layered defences using industrial firewalls, like Tofino’s Xenon (pictured), is crucial. A reliable industrial firewall should be easy to implement and manage, while also being versatile and rugged. A good IT security system should ensure a company meets and exceeds NERC CIP (North American Electric Reliability Corporation Critical Infrastructure Protection) requirements and ISA/IEC-62443 Standards.”

User education and awareness are two additional points in the Electroustic survey where respondents didn’t fair particularly well, which suggests industrial companies need to do more to tackle the problem.

User security policies describing best practice when using a company’s Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) systems should be formally acknowledged in employment terms and conditions. Additionally, IT induction programmes should be complemented with regular training on the cyber risks faced as employees and individuals.

The latest industry trends, including industrial internet, remote data access and Industry 4.0 are drastically changing the industry landscape and the skills employees are expected to bring to the table. Companies need to do more to prevent and address IT security breaches and the best way to do so is by training staff, implementing reliable industrial security solutions and keeping up to date with the latest industry developments.

• For companies just starting on the road to industry security, the latest version of the British government’s 10 Steps to Cyber Security guide is available on the GCHQ website.

The advantages and disadvantages of advanced NDT.

29/04/2015

Alison Glover from Ashtead Technology describes the advantages and disadvantages of advanced Non-Destructive Testing equipment, and explains why her company has invested over £1m (€1.4m) in advanced NDT equipment.

Alison Glover

Alison Glover

Simple, conventional inspection methods such as ultrasonic thickness testing can provide a useful, fast, low-cost method for assessing materials. However, in comparison with advanced NDT, such methods are generally less repeatable, less recordable, and have a lower Probability of Detection (PoD).

There are many advantages to be gained from advanced NDT, some of which will be briefly described below. The major disadvantage of these high-end technologies is, of course, their cost. Advanced NDT instruments may cost tens of thousands of pounds and require significant levels of training to best exploit their benefits. For this reason, Ashtead Technology has chosen to invest over £1 million in advanced NDT equipment; the ability to rent this technology can dramatically lower the cost of entry to this market for our customers in applications such as crack and flaw detection, weld evaluation, tube testing, corrosion mapping, composite inspection etc.

The advantages of advanced NDT
In general terms, advanced instrumentation can, in the right hands, provide more accurate and reliable inspection data with an improved PoD. The data is more recordable and more repeatable. Advanced technologies such as Phased Array Ultrasound (PAUT) or Eddy Current Array (ECA) provide more intuitive displays, better ways of presenting data and generate inspection reports of higher value to clients. For example, a colour-coded C-Scan is an intuitive way of representing inspection data. Using different colours for different remaining wall thicknesses, for instance in PAUT inspection of corroded or eroded pipes, produces an image that is easy to understand. Similarly, many clients will find a colour-coded ECA C-Scan simple to interpret compared with the conventional eddy current impedance plane display.

Composite OmniScanMX2

Composite OmniScanMX2

With greater control over instrument configuration, advanced NDT procedures can be optimised for particular inspections. Setup files can be saved digitally and easily transferred to others. Digital recording means that data can be emailed to colleagues when a second opinion is required, or when complex data needs to be assessed by a higher level technician. The ability to store large inspection data files also means that new inspections can be compared with those done previously, to determine whether there has been further deterioration, and to monitor, for example, crack growth. In addition, the use of scanners improves repeatability and helps to ensure that sequential inspections are directly comparable and less subjective.

As a result of these advantages, there has been strong growth in the advanced NDT sector, and this has been reflected in the volume of advanced NDT instruments in the Ashtead Technology fleet that are out on hire.

The disadvantages of advanced NDT
In comparison with conventional methods the operation of advanced instrumentation requires a higher level of training and additional certification, which incurs more costs. However, as discussed above, the deployment of advanced NDT delivers a superior, and therefore higher £value service. Once advanced training is completed, as with any skill, it is important to practise what was learned on the training course. This can only be done if high-value advanced instrumentation is available. Again, purchase costs may be preclusive, so renting can be a preferable option. In addition, instrument purchase ties the user to a specific technology, whereas a rental fleet offers users the ability to deploy the most appropriate kit for each job, or to hire equipment from different manufacturers depending on the users’ training, experience and preference.

Purchase of a particular technology may also reduce or preclude access to other methods that may be developed at a later date.

It is important to remember that the capital expenditure on advanced NDT equipment is not the only cost. Instrument maintenance incurs a further cost, as does depreciation. Capital purchases will typically be written off in the company accounts over a 3 year period, which means that this equipment must generate substantial profit for a return on that investment. Also, there are borrowing and opportunity costs – the money used in equipment purchase or to pay interest could have been used for something else, such as training or hiring more staff.

To be a worthwhile investment, high value advanced NDT equipment must be used regularly. Without an assured steady flow of work, there is a danger of underutilisation. In contrast, renting provides a way to only pay for equipment when it is needed and not to incur any costs in the intervening periods.

In summary, the advantages of advanced NDT can be enormous if the financial implications are managed effectively. One way to achieve this is by taking advantage of rental instrumentation from Ashtead Technology.


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