Sensors for Mars.

02/07/2020
International collaboration takes Vaisala and the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) to Mars onboard NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. The rover is scheduled for launch on July 30, 2020. Vaisala’s sensor technology combined with FMI’s measurement instrumentation will be used to obtain accurate and reliable pressure and humidity data from the surface of the red planet.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) is among the scientific partners providing measurement equipment for the new Perseverance rover, expected to launch in July and land on Mars in February 2021. The pressure and humidity measurement devices developed by the FMI are based on Vaisala’s world known sensor technology and are similar but more advanced to the ones sent to Mars on the first Curiosity rover in 2012.

Is there anybody out there?
Join this live webcast to hear more!
Welcome to learn about space-proof technology, how it works, what it does, why it’s important, and why measurements play a key role in space research. You’ll hear examples and stories by our experts, and by a special guest speaker, who will be sharing his own experiences and insights of space.
• Date: July 20, 2020
•Time: 15.30-16.30 EEST – 14.30-15.30 CEST – 08.30-09.30 EDT

Place: Virtual event – Sign up here
The event is organized by Vaisala and the Finnish Meteorological Institute. It will be held in English and it is free of charge. Live subtitles in Finnish will be available.
Learn more about space-proof technology before the event here and follow the discussion on social media using #spacetechFI.

The new mission equipment complements the Curiosity rover. While working on Mars, the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers will form a small-scale observation network. The network is only the first step, anticipating the extensive observation network planned on Mars in the future.

International and scientific collaboration aims to gather knowledge of the Martian atmosphere and other environmental conditions
The Mars 2020 mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. In order to obtain data from the surface from the Red Planet, NASA selected trusted partners to provide measurement instruments for installation on the Mars rover. A Spanish-led European consortium provides the rover with Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA); a set of sensors that provides measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity, and the amount and size of dust particles.

As part of the consortium, FMI delivers instrumentation to MEDA for humidity and pressure measurements based on Vaisala’s top quality sensors.

“Mars, as well as Venus, the other sister planet of Earth, is a particularly important area of atmospheric investigations due to its similarities to Earth. Studying Mars helps us also better understand the behavior of Earth’s atmosphere”, comments Maria Genzer, Head of Planetary Research and Space Technology group at FMI.

The harsh and demanding conditions of Mars require the most reliable sensor technology that provides accurate and reliable data without maintenance or repair.

“We are honored that Vaisala’s core sensor technologies have been selected to provide accurate and reliable measurement data on Mars. In line with our mission to enable observations for a better world, we are excited to be part of this collaboration. Hopefully the measurement technology will provide tools for finding answers to the most pressing challenges of our time, such as climate change,” says Liisa Åström, Vice President, Products and Systems of Vaisala.

Same technology, different planet – utilizing Vaisala core technologies for accuracy and long-term stability
In the extreme conditions of the Martian atmosphere, NASA will be able to obtain accurate readings of pressure and humidity levels with Vaisala’s HUMICAP® and BAROCAP® sensors. The sensors’ long-term stability and accuracy, as well as their ability to tolerate dust, chemicals, and harsh environmental conditions, make them suitable for very demanding measurement needs, also in space. The same technology is used in numerous industrial and environmental applications such as weather stations, radiosondes, greenhouses and datacenters.

Barocap Wafer

The humidity measurement device MEDA HS, developed by FMI for Perseverance, utilizes standard Vaisala HUMICAP® humidity sensors. HUMICAP® is a capacitive thin-film polymer sensor consisting of a substrate on which a thin film of polymer is deposited between two conductive electrodes. The humidity sensor onboard is a new generation sensor, with superior performance also in the low pressure conditions expected on the red planet.

In addition to humidity measurements, FMI has developed a device for pressure measurement, MEDA PS, which uses customized Vaisala BAROCAP® pressure sensors, optimized to operate in the Martian climate. BAROCAP® is a silicon-based micromechanical pressure sensor that offers reliable performance in a wide variety of applications, from meteorology to pressure sensitive industrial equipment in semiconductor industry and laboratory pressure standard measurements. Combining two powerful technologies – single-crystal silicon material and capacitive measurement – BAROCAP® sensors feature low hysteresis combined with excellent accuracy and long-term stability, both essential for measurements in space.

“Our sensor technologies are used widely in demanding everyday measurement environments here on Earth. And why not – if they work on Mars, they will work anywhere,” Åström concludes.

@VaisalaGroup @FMIspace @NASAPersevere #Metrology #Finland


Robotics tackling pandemics.

19/06/2020
Poll for UK Robotics Week reports that over 1 in 3 British adults believe robotics could help manufacture PPE, while over a third think that robot deliveries could aid social distancing.

One in three British adults see a key role for the use of robotics in tackling the COVID-19 crisis and future pandemics, research released today reveals. The public poll*, commissioned by the EPSRC UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems (UK-RAS) Network, is being released ahead of the annual UK Robotics Week, which returns for its fifth year from 22nd – 28th June 2020.  

36% of a representative sample of British adults believe that robotics technology could help to ramp up the manufacture of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), while 33% feel that robot deliveries and the use of Unattended Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) could aid social distancing during public health crises such as the current global pandemic1.  28% of those polled also think that robotics could play a vital role in automating the cleaning and disinfecting of public places.

The survey reports that the manufacturing sector tops the list of industries in which people think robotics are most useful, highlighted by 42% of respondents, ahead of logistics (30%) and military and defence (20%).  While just under a fifth of those polled (17%) indicated that robotics should be most used in the medical sector, the medical field is also where most people (38%) expect to see the most rapid advancements in the next 12 months. A surge in robotics innovation is also anticipated by the public in 3D printing (34%), logistics (30%) and in the household (29%).

Other key findings from the research include:

– Almost one in five (19%) adults think that robotics should replace people doing physical work

– Whilst 56% of people have stayed as trusting since last year towards robotics, 16% of people have become more trusting

Professor Robert Richardson

Professor Robert Richardson, Chair of the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, comments: “These findings from our latest survey into attitudes towards robotics show that the public is taking a real interest in how robotics technology is developing, and the benefits of using robots across a gamut of sectors. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen examples of specific tasks that robots are able to carry out while removing humans from risk – including disinfecting spaces and transporting medical supplies and food around hospitals – and UK Robotics Week offers a fantastic opportunity to explore how robotic systems can both contribute to our everyday life and work, and also help us prepare for and adapt to unexpected events.”

UK Robotics Week is organised annually by the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, which was founded in 2015 to bring cohesion to the robotics and autonomous systems research base, enhance capital facilities across the country, and support education programmes and public engagement activities.  This year’s programme is showcasing the state-of-the-art in robotics systems research and development and includes prestigious academic challenges and engaging school competitions.  New for this year is the Medical Robotics for Contagious Diseases Challenge, which invites the leading robotics research teams from across the world to submit innovative ideas that could offer solutions as part of a multi-faceted response to the current COVID-19 health crisis and future global pandemics.

* Research carried out online by Opinion Matters throughout 07/06/2020 to 11/06/2020 amongst a panel resulting in 2,014 UK adults responding. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Opinion Matters is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).

@UKRobotics @Rob8Richardson @NeonDrum #Robotics #Health #UKRW20 #coróinvíreas #COVID19 #coronavirus


Tyre automated tirelessly.

15/06/2020
2D-code readers get automation rolling

Autarky Automation is one of the leading British developers and manufacturers of automation and conveyor systems. To meet the demanding requirements on an automated tyre system, Autarky opted for the latest 2D-code readers from Leuze.

Figure 1: Automated conveyor application at Tyre-Line from assembly identification to tire inflation

A large part of what Autarky Automation offers is in the area of modular conveyor technology. Here, Autarky offers a wide range of standardized components and accessories. The company thereby contributes to minimizing project planning times and assembly costs. A good example of this is the project for Tyre-Line: Since 1984 the company has been supplying the industry with wheel and tire assemblies – from wheelbarrows to high-performance sports cars.

The task: conveyor system for tyre inflation.
For a long time, the tire line at Tyre-Line operated with a simple tire inflation device for standard steel wheel sets. The tires for high-end alloy wheels were inflated manually. Due to increasing growth in orders, a Hofmann tire filling machine was purchased that could handle the complete range of wheel and tire assemblies.

The entire process of storing and retrieving assemblies in the machine was now to be automated. Autarky won the tender to produce a suitable conveyor system and relied on Leuze.

Attached to each wheel and tire assembly at Tyre-Line is a slightly adhesive bar code label. It would have been too complicated for Tyre-Line to affix the label at exactly the same location on each assembly. Autarky was therefore charged with developing a solution that could reliably read the bar code. And could do so at any location and at any position over the entire width of the conveyor belt.

“A round object that always looks the same independent of its position is a true challenge for a code reader.

“Proper identification of the assemblies was, however, of decisive importance for the success of the line: the detection of the bar code information needed to tell the Hofmann machine which assembly is approaching and, thus, what air pressure is necessary. That’s why it was so important to select the best possible code reader for this task,” explains Brad North, managing director of Autarky. To solve this problem, Autarky turned to the Sensor People at Leuze.

The solution: the DCR 200i from Leuze.
After discussing the application with the Leuze experts, we selected the DCR 200i 2D-code reader,” explains North. Leuze, a leading manufacturer of bar code readers with more than 50 years of experience, developed this model especially for fast and omnidirectional reading of 1D- and 2D-codes.

“We mounted three devices on a strap arrangement at the optimum angle and height so that the bar code could be read at any position on the assembly and the conveyor belt.

“In combination with the existing PROFINET communication network, the DCR 200i 2D-code readers from Leuze detect data on the bar code. This is then passed on to the Hofmann machine.” Autarky had already used hundreds of standard bar code readers and photoelectric sensors from Leuze. “Our longstanding cooperation with Leuze and the good service made the decision easy for us,” says Brad North.

The DCR 200i camera-based code reader is used to detect and identify bar codes, stacked codes and Data Matrix codes. It is characterized above all by its very fast reading performance. The DCR 200i achieves speeds of up to 6 m/s. It reliably reads 1D- and 2D-codes omnidirectionally. It plays no role here whether they are printed or directly marked, static or moving, inverted or mirrored. This is ensured by the fast imager, the integrated high-performance LED illumination, as well as the high resolution in combination with
a very high depth of field.

In the stainless steel housing model with degree of protection IP69K/IP67, the DCR 200i can be cleaned without problem and even used in harsh environments.

Its compact design, its fastening concept and its simple handling means that the DCR 200i can be integrated easily and quickly in a wide range of different applications. This applies to its mechanical installation as well as its commissioning and configuration.

Figure 2: Assembly identification using 2D bar code readers from Leuze

The code readers of the DCR 200i series are operated and configured using the graphical user interface of the integrated Leuze webConfig tool via an Ethernet interface. An external program is not required. The DCR 200i can be put into operation by the user in just three minutes using the configuration wizard. Moreover, the teach function is also a possibility. This is run using the two buttons on the control panel of the DCR 200i in combination with a smartphone app developed by Leuze for configuration.

“Today, a wheel and tire assembly passes through the inflation machine every seven seconds. In addition to the sheer speed, Tyre-Line also benefits from an increased inflation accuracy and repeatability. Because the automated system has eliminated any possibility for human error.”
The conclusion drawn by Autarky Managing Director Brad North is entirely positive:

“At Tyre-Line, the Leuze 2D-code readers now work daily from morning to evening and help the company achieve significantly higher throughputs rates.”

@TheSensorPeople @AutarkySales #PAuto


The Arms Race Between Cybercriminals and Cybersecurity

28/05/2020

The number of devices connected to the internet is expected to reach 50 billion worldwide by the end of 20301, posing dangerous risks to people, businesses, and critical systems. To illustrate the divide between cyberattacks on these devices and business preparedness, Sectigo, a leading provider of automated digital identity management and web security solutions, today released its Evolution of IoT Attacks study.

The study report and associated infographic chronicle the progression, variety, and growing sophistication of many of the most infamous vulnerabilities and attacks on connected devices, as well as the emerging defenses used by organizations to fight them.

Sectigo has categorized IoT attacks into three eras: 

The Era of Exploration
Beginning in 2005, cybercriminals started to explore the potential to cause lasting damage to critical infrastructure, and even life. Security defenses at the time were rudimentary, with organizations unaware of the value the IoT could have for hostile actors.

The Era of Exploitation
Spanning 2011-2018, cybercriminals actively exploited the lucrative and damaging potential of attacking the IoT, thus expanding attacks to more targets with increased severity. However, they found organizations more prepared to withstand the onslaught. White hat hackers exposed potential IoT vulnerabilities to help shore up defenses before attacks occurred in the wild. Meanwhile, as organizations fortified their defenses, cybercriminals found more ways to monetize their attacks through crypto mining, ad-click fraud, ransomware, and spam email campaigns.

The Era of Protection
By 2019, enterprises and other organizations had become increasingly capable of countering these attacks. Just recently, governments have begun enacting regulations to protect IoT assets, and businesses and manufacturers are heeding the warnings. In fact, according to the recent 451 Research Enterprise IoT Budgets and Outlook report
, organizations are investing more than half of their IoT budgets, 51%, to implement security controls in devices, using security frameworks and unified solutions with strong technologies that work together to provide multiple layers of protection.

“As we move into this decade, protecting the vast Internet of Things has never been more critical for our safety and business continuity,” said Alan Grau, VP of IoT/Embedded Solutions at Sectigo. “Cybercriminals are retooling and honing their techniques to keep striking at vulnerable targets. Yes, businesses and governments are making laudable efforts to protect all things connected, but we are only at the beginning of the Era of Protection and should assume that these efforts will be met by hackers doubling down on their efforts.”

IoT security must start on the factory floor with manufacturers and continue throughout the device’s lifecycle. Power grids, highways, data security, and more depend on organizations adopting ever- evolving, cutting-edge security technologies in order to withstand attacks.

#PAuto #IoT @SectigoHQ


Greenhouse reduces Carbon Dioxide emissions.

17/04/2020
The Dutch horticultural sector aims to be climate-neutral by 2040. Scientists at Wageningen University & Research have therefore recently built a new demonstration greenhouse ‘Greenhouse 2030’ in an effort to find ways to reduce CO2 emissions as well eliminating the need for crop protection chemicals and optimizing the use of water and nutrients.

Greenhouses helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Scientists at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in the Netherlands have employed Vaisala carbon dioxide sensors in their research greenhouses for over a decade. Carbon dioxide is an extremely important measurement parameter in plant science, not just because plants need carbon dioxide to grow, but also because environmental emissions contribute to climate change, so enormous threats and opportunities surround this gas. As a world renowned research organisation, the value of the institute’s work is partly dependent on the accuracy and reliability of sensors, so it is important that its researchers do not compromise on sensor quality.

Wageningen has been one of the driving forces in research and technology development for greenhouse horticulture in the Netherlands. The institute’s expertise in the greenhouse cultivation of ornamental, fruit and vegetable crops is unique, and together with growers and technology partners, it has developed new cultivation systems, climate control systems, revolutionary greenhouse cover materials and other innovations. The application of these new technologies has made greenhouse horticulture in the Netherlands a world leader.

The Plant Research Institute operates over 100 greenhouse compartments at its Bleiswijk site, which means that researchers are able to generate a wide variety of environmental conditions. Typical environmental variables include light, water, growing medium, nutrients, (biological) pest/disease control, temperature, humidity and of course carbon dioxide (CO2); all of which have significant effects on crop yields.

The Dutch horticultural sector aims to be climate-neutral by 2040. The Wageningen researchers have therefore recently built a new demonstration greenhouse ‘Greenhouse 2030’ for the cultivation of vegetables, fruit and flowers in an effort to find ways to reduce CO2 emissions as well eliminating the need for crop protection chemicals and optimizing the use of water and nutrients. Pests and diseases are preferably tackled biologically, and the energy-efficient greenhouse reuses water and nutrients as much as possible; leading to cleaner cultivation and improved yields.

Carbon Dioxide in Greenhouses
Carbon dioxide is a by-product of many processes in the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, but it is also required by plants to grow through photosynthesis, so Dutch greenhouse operators have collaborated with the country’s industrial sector to utilise this byproduct and thereby contribute in the fight against climate change by lowering the country’s net CO2 emissions. Globally, many greenhouse operators burn natural gas to generate CO2, but this also generates heat that may not be needed in the summer months, so the utilisation of an industrial byproduct is significantly preferable.

Carbon dioxide was first delivered to Dutch greenhouses in 2005 via a pipe network established by the company Organic Carbon Dioxide for Assimilation of Plants (OCAP). Commercial greenhouse operators pay for this CO2 supply, which is largely derived from a bio ethanol plant. A key feature of the Institute’s research is work to optimise the utilisation of CO2, along with other plant growth variables. For example, the Institute has developed a simulation tool for CO2 dosing: the “CO2-viewer.” This programme monitors and displays the effects of a grower’s dosing strategy. For instance, it enables the evaluation of CO2 dosing around midday compared with dosing in the morning. The computational results of such an evaluation take all relevant greenhouse building characteristics and climate control settings into account.

Monitoring Carbon Dioxide

CO2 Probe

After around 10 years of operation, the institute is replacing around 150 of the older model probes with a newer model. The calibration of all probes is checked prior to the commencement of every project, utilizing certified reference gases. It is important that calibration data is traceable, so each probe’s calibration certificate is retained and subsequent calibration checks are documented. A portable CO2 monitor (a Vaisala GM70) with a GMP252 CO2 probe are also used as a validation tool to check installed probes, even though further calibration is not necessary.

Currently, the Institute’s installed probes provide 4-20 mA signals which feed into ‘climate computers’ that are programmed to manage the greenhouses automatically. This system also raises alarms if CO2 levels approach dangerous levels for any reason.

CO2 Sensor Technology
Carbon dioxide absorbs light in the infrared (IR) region at a wavelength of 4.26 μm. This means that when IR radiation is passed through a gas containing CO2, part of the radiation is absorbed, and this absorbance can be measured. The Vaisala CARBOCAP® carbon dioxide sensor features an innovative micro-machined, electrically tunable Fabry-Perot Interferometer (FPI) filter. In addition to measuring CO2 absorption, the FPI filter enables a reference measurement at a wavelength where no absorption occurs. When taking the reference measurement, the FPI filter is electrically adjusted to switch the bypass band from the absorption wavelength to a non-absorption wavelength. This reference measurement compensates for any potential changes in the light source intensity, as well as for contamination or dirt accumulation in the optical path. Consequently, the CARBOCAP® sensor is highly stable over time, and by incorporating both measurements in one sensor, this compact technology can be incorporated into small probes, modules, and transmitters.

The CARBOCAP® technology means that the researchers don’t have to worry about calibration drift or sensor failure.

Carbon Dioxide Plant Science Research
Two projects are currently underway evaluating the effects of different CO2 levels on plant production. One is studying soft fruit and the other tomatoes; however with CO2 playing such an important role in both plant growth and climate change, the value of accurate measurements of this gas continues to grow. Most of the greenhouses are now connected to the institute’s Ethernet and a wide variety of new sensors are continually being added to the monitoring network; providing an opportunity to utilise new ‘smart’ sensors.

Summary
The accuracy, stability and reliability of the CO2 sensors at Bleiswijk are clearly vitally important to the success of the Institute’s research, particularly because data from one greenhouse are often compared with data from others.

The CO2 supply has a cost; it is therefore important that this resource is monitored and supplied effectively so that plant production can be optimized.

Clearly, moves to lower the use of fossil fuels and develop more efficient energy management systems will help to reduce CO2 emissions from the greenhouse sector. However, the importance of CO2 utilization is set to grow, given the 2040 climate-neutral target and the world’s need to find new and better ways to capture CO2 emissions in ways that are both sustainable and economically viable.

#Hortoculture #Environment @VaisalaGroup @_Enviro_News


Gas detection equipment benefits from international co-operation.

08/04/2020

Critical Environment Technologies Canada Inc. (CETCI) was founded by Frank and Shirley Britton in 1995. Since that time, the company has expanded considerably and now employs around 35 people; developing and manufacturing gas detection equipment for global markets. One of the keys to the company’s success has been the relationship that it has built with sensor supplier Alphasense.

Frank’s career in gas detection stretches back to 1982, and when he was first visited by a sales person from Alphasense in 2003, he was immediately impressed with the representative’s technical knowledge. “It was clear that he understood the issues that manufacturers face, and had a good knowledge of the challenging applications in which our equipment is commonly deployed. This was important, because it helped to build trust.”

Following that initial meeting, it was agreed that CETCI would trial some of Alphasense’s electrochemical gas detection sensors, and Frank was pleased to see how well they performed. “It was also very encouraging to note the high level of service that we enjoyed,” he adds. “Even though there were 5,000 miles between us and 8 hours in time difference, we have always received very prompt and useful responses to our service requests.

“In fact, I would go so far as to say that Alphasense has delivered superb levels of service from day one, and as a consequence is one of our best suppliers. It is also very useful that Arthur Burnley from Alphasense visits us every year to review progress and explore new ways for us to work together in the future.”

YesAir portable

As the relationship with Alphasense has grown the range of sensor technologies employed has expanded to include electrochemical, catalytic, optical, metal oxide and PID. For example, some of these sensors are deployed in portable indoor air quality instruments such as the YESAIR range. Available in two models (pump or diffusion) and battery powered with onboard datalogging, the YESAIR instruments have been designed for intermittent or continuous indoor air quality monitoring of temperature, RH, particulates and up to 5 gases. Each can be configured with parameter selection from more than 30 different plug and play gas sensors, as well as a particulate sensor.

CETCI also manufactures fixed gas detection systems, controllers and transmitters that are deployed to monitor hazardous gases; protecting health and safety in confined spaces and indoor environments. Customers are able to select from a range of target gases including Ammonia, Carbon monoxide, Chlorine dioxide, Chlorine, Ethylene, Ethylene oxide, Fluorine, Formaldehyde, Hydrogen, Hydrogen sulphide, Hydrogen chloride, Hydrogen cyanide, Hydrogen fluoride, Nitric oxide, Nitrogen dioxide, Oxygen, Ozone, Phosphine, Silane, Sulfur dioxide, Methane, Propane, Hydrogen, TVOCs and Refrigerants. The company’s products are employed in commercial, institutional, municipal and light industrial markets, and in a wide variety of applications. These include refrigeration plants, indoor swimming pools, water treatment plants, ice arenas, wineries and breweries, airports, hotels, fish farms, battery charging rooms, HVAC systems, food processing plants, vehicle exhausts and many more.

One of the main reasons for CETCI’s success is its ability to develop gas detectors that meet the precise requirements for specific markets. “We are large enough to employ talented people with the skills and experience to develop products that meet the latest requirements,” Frank explains. “But we are not so large that we are uninterested in niche applications – in fact we relish the challenge when a customer asks us to do something new, and this is where our relationship with Alphasense, and the technical support that they can provide, comes into its own.”

The market for gas detection equipment is constantly changing as new safety and environmental regulations are created around the world, and as new markets emerge. Again, the close relationship with Alphasense is vitally important; as new sensors are being developed, CETCI is moving into new markets that are able to utilise these technologies.

New market example – cannabis cultivation
Following the legalisation of marijuana in Canada and some other North American regions, greenhouses and other plant growth rooms have proliferated. These facilities can present a variety of potential hazards to human health. Gas powered equipment may be a source of carbon monoxide; carbon dioxide enrichment systems may be utilised; air conditioning systems can potentially leak refrigerants, and propane or natural gas furnaces may be employed for heating purposes. All of these pose a potential risk, so an appropriate detection and alarm system is necessary.

Responding to market demand, CETCI developed monitoring systems that met the requirements of the market. This included appropriate gas detectors connected to a controller with logging capability and a live display of gas levels. In the event of a leak or high gas concentration, the system can provide an audible or visual alarm, and relays can be configured to control equipment such as the ventilation system or a furnace.

Developing market example – car parking facilities

Car park installation

In recent years, the effects of vehicular air pollution on human health have become better understood, and received greater political and media attention. As a result, the owners and operators of parking facilities have become more aware of the ways in which they can protect their customers and staff.

Carbon monoxide is a major component of vehicle exhaust, and nitrogen dioxide levels are high in the emissions of diesel powered engines. In more modern facilities, hydrogen may accumulate as a result of electric car charging stations. CETCI has therefore developed hazardousgas detection systems to protect air quality in parking locations. This equipment includes output relays which can minimise energy costs by controlling the operation of ventilation systems.

Summarising the secrets to a long and successful partnership in gas detection, Frank says: “One of the most important issues is of course the quality of the products, and we have always been impressed with the fact that Alphasense differentiates itself from other sensor manufacturers by testing every sensor.

“The next important issue is the quality of service; we need sensors to be delivered on time and in perfect condition, and when we have a technical query we have become accustomed to a very prompt response.

“We also value highly the opportunity to develop our businesses together – through regular conversations with Arthur and his colleagues we are able to plan our future product development and marketing strategies, so that we can meet the ever changing needs of the market. This has worked extremely well for the last 17 years and we foresee it doing so for many years to come.”

 

#Environment #Alphasense @cetci @_Enviro_News


Whether Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality?

23/03/2020

XR is a term which has become more prominent in the last few years. It encapsulates virtual, augmented, and mixed reality topics. The definition of each of these has become saturated in the past decade, with companies using their own definitions for each to describe their products. The new IDTechEx Report, “Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality 2020-2030”, distils this range of terms and products, compares the technologies used in them, and produces a market forecast for the next decade.

The report discusses 83 different companies and 175 products in VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality) markets. This article specifically discusses the findings on the virtual reality market.

Virtual reality (VR) involves creating a simulated environment which a user can perceive as real. This is achieved by stimulating the various senses with appropriate signals. This is most commonly visual (via displays and optics) and auditory (via headphones or speakers) signals, but also increasingly involves efforts around haptic (touch) sensations. The generation of realistic virtual environments requires the generation of appropriate stimuli and systems to direct how the stimuli should change, whether automatically or due to user interaction. As such, this relies on a variety of components and systems including displays, optics, sensors, communication and processing, delivered via both hardware and associated software to generate this environment. 

There are three main groups of VR headset – PC VR, Standalone VR and Smartphone VR.  PC VR has a user interface & display worn on the body, but the computing and power are offloaded to the external computer. This is where most of the commercial hardware revenue is made today. Standalone VR is a dedicated standalone device (no tethering) with all required computing and components on board. Finally, smartphone/mobile VR uses the smartphone processor, display and sensors used to power VR experience, with only a very cheap accessory necessary to convert to VR. The report discusses the revenue split for these three sectors in full, and an example image is shown in the figure on right.

The report discusses the likelihood of a shift in the devices used by consumers, for example from a PC VR to a standalone VR headset. This is because it would provide greater freedom of movement and accessibility for different use cases. One example of a standalone VR product is the Oculus Quest device, released in 2019. This was one of the first devices to be standalone for a gaming purpose, and it has all the heat management and processing systems on the headset itself. Oculus is one of the big players in the VR market, and have a range of products, some of which are shown in the table and images below.

These headsets provide a range of experiences for the user, at different price points. After being founded in 2012, Oculus was bought by Facebook for $2.3bn in 2014, it has continued to grow and produce VR products for a range of markets. Details of the growth of the VR market are included in the report for a range of companies, and their different use cases. The overall market is expected to grow, as shown in this plot below.

The full image is available in the report

VR, AR & MR, as with nearly any technology area, must build on what has come before. The existing wave of interest, investment and progress in the space has been built on top of the technology which has been developed in other areas, for example from the smartphone. Many components in VR, AR & MR headsets, from the displays used, to the sensor integration (from IMUs, to 3D imaging and cameras, and more) to the batteries and power management, and so on, all directly built on the components which were invested so heavily in around the smartphone. This technology is heavily invested, targeting the future potential of XR headsets. This report provides a complete overview of the companies, technologies and products in augmented, virtual and mixed reality, allowing the reader to gain a deeper understanding of this exciting technology.

#PAuto @IDTechEx @IDTechExShow


Augmented and mixed reality: what is it, and where is it going?

10/03/2020

XR is a term that has become more prominent in the last few years. It encapsulates virtual, augmented, and mixed reality topics. The definition of each of these has become saturated in the past decade, with companies using their own definitions for each to describe their products. The new IDTechEx Report, “Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality 2020-2030”, distils this range of terms and products, compares the technologies used in them, and produces a forecast for the market next decade. This premium article discusses AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality) in more detail.

The report discusses 83 different companies and 175 products in VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality) markets. This promotional article specifically discusses the findings from this report of the augmented and mixed reality markets.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) are two technologies which have become more prominent in the past ten years. AR is the use of computer technology to superimpose digital objects and data on top of a real-world environment. MR is similar to AR, but the digital objects interact spatially with the real-world objects, rather than being superimposed as “floating images” on top of the real-world objects. AR and MR are also closely related to VR. There is a cross-over in application and technology, as some VR headsets simulate the real space and then add in extra artificial content for the user in VR. But for this article, AR and MR products are considered those which allow the user in some way to directly see the real-world around them. The main target sectors of AR and MR appear to be in industry and enterprise markets. With high costs of individual products, there appears to be less penetration into a consumer space.

AR and MR products are being used in a variety of settings. One way they are being used is to solve a problem called “the skills gap” This describes the large portion of the skilled workforce who are expected to retire in the next ten years, leading to a loss of the knowledge and skills from this workforce. This knowledge needs to be passed on to new, unskilled, employees. Some companies propose that AR/VR technology can fill this skills gap and pass on this knowledge. This was one of the key areas discussed at some events IDTechEx analysts attended in 2019, in researching for this report.

AR use in manufacturing and remote assistance has also grown in the past 10 years, leading to some AR companies targeting primarily enterprise spaces over a consumer space. Although there have been fewer direct need or problem cases which AR can solve for a consumer market, smartphone AR can provide an excellent starting point for technology-driven generations to create, develop, and use an XR enabled smartphone for entertainment, marketing and advertising purposes. One example of smartphone AR mentioned in the report is IKEA place. This is an application where a user can put a piece of IKEA furniture in their room to compare against their current furniture. It allows users a window into how AR can be used to supplement their environment and can be used in day to day activities such as purchasing and visualising products bought from an internet marketplace.

AR and MR companies historically have typically received higher funding per round than VR – e.g. Magic Leap which has had $2.6Bn in funding since its launch in 2017, but only released a creator’s edition of its headset in 2019. AR and MR products tend to be more expensive than VR products, as they are marketed to niche use cases. These are discussed in greater detail in the report, for example the below plot which shows this tendency for AR/MR products to be more expensive than VR products.
The report compares both augmented and mixed reality products and splits them into three categories: PC AR/MR, Standalone AR/MR and Smartphone/mobile AR/MR. PC products which need a physical PC attachment, standalone products which do not require a PC, and smartphone products – those which use a smartphone’s capabilities to implement the immersive experience. Standalone AR/MR have had more distinct product types in the past decade, and this influences the decisions made when forecasting the future decade to come.

The report predicts an AR/MR market worth over $20Bn in 2030, displaying the high interest around this technology. This report also provides a complete overview of the companies, technologies and products in augmented, virtual and mixed reality, allowing the reader to gain a deeper understanding of this exciting technology.

In conclusion, VR, AR & MR, as with nearly any technology area, must build on what has come before. This technology is heavily invested, targeting the future potential of XR headsets. “Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality 2020-2030” provides a complete overview of the companies, technologies and products in augmented, virtual and mixed reality, allowing the reader to gain a deeper understanding of this exciting technology.


Data privacy!

28/01/2020

It’s been another busy year for hackers. According to the Central Statistics Office, nearly 1 in 5 (18 %) of Irish businesses experienced ICT-related incidents, 87 per cent of which resulted in the unavailability of ICT services, and 41% which resulted in either the destruction, corruption or disclosure of data.

Noel O’Grady, writer of this piece, is the head of Sungard Availability Services Ireland and has over 20 years of experience working with leading technology firms including HP, Vodafone and Dell in providing critical production and recovery services to enterprise-level organisations.

Last year saw a number of high-profile security incidents making the headlines. In April, 3,600 accounts belonging to former customers of Ulster Bank were compromised, resulting in some customers’ personal details being released. In July, the Football Association of Ireland confirmed that malware was discovered on its payroll server following an attempted hack on IT systems.

Entering a new decade, digital technologies will continue to permeate every aspect of modern life, and the security of IT systems will come under increasing scrutiny. This will be driven by two major consequences of today’s hyper-connected world. Firstly, the sheer number of systems and devices which have now become digitalised has vastly expanded the cybersecurity threat landscape, potentially multiplying vulnerabilities or points of entry for hackers. Simultaneously, consumers and businesses alike demand constant availability in the products and services they use, reducing the tolerance for periods of downtime.

As a result, the security of data is no less than a global issue on par with national security, economic stability and even the physical security of citizens. It is with this in mind that Data Privacy Day is observed on this day (28th January 2020), a global initiative which aims to spread awareness of the hugely fundamental role that cybersecurity plays.

One of the most important developments in the field of data privacy was the establishment of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018. Nearly two years on, it’s timely to review how the new regulatory environment has succeeded in achieving its goals, especially in the light that almost one in three European businesses are still not compliant.

Data Privacy Day 2020

GDPR works by penalising organisations with inadequate data protection through sizeable fines. While this has established an ethical framework from which European organisations can set out strategies for protecting personal data, one issue that is still often overseen is the result of an IT outage, which prevents businesses from keeping its services running. As a server or organisation’s infrastructure is down, data is then at risk to exposure and therefore a company is at risk of failing compliance. IT and business teams will need to locate and close any vulnerabilities in IT systems or business processes, and switch over to disaster recovery arrangements if they believe there has been a data corruption.

This is especially pertinent in Ireland, where, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DoBEI), “Data centre presence…raises our visibility internationally as a technology-rich, innovative economy.” A strategic European hub for many multi-national technology giants, Ireland is currently home to 54 data centres, with another 10 under construction and planning permission for a further 31. While this growth in Ireland’s data centre market is a huge advantage for the national economy, Irish businesses must also tread with caution as they shoulder the responsibility for the security and availability of the countless mission-critical applications and processes which rely on them.

An organisation’s speed and effectiveness of response will be greatly improved if it has at its fingertips the results of a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) that details all the personal data that an organisation collects, processes and stores, categorised by level of sensitivity. Data Privacy Day is a great opportunity to expose unknown risks that organisations face, but moving forward, it is vital that business leaders embed privacy into every operation. This is the only sustainable way to ensure compliance on an ongoing basis.

#Cybersecurity @SungardASUK @brands2life

Flood monitoring.

27/01/2020
Monitoring is an essential component of natural flooding management, helping to define appropriate measures, measure their success, keep stakeholders informed, identify mistakes, raise alarms when necessary, inform adaptive management and help guide future research.
GreatFenGB

Great Fen showing Holme Fen woods top left and new ponds and meres in April

Flooding is a natural process, but it endangers lives and causes heavy economic loss. Furthermore, flood risk is expected to increase with climate change and increased urbanisation, so a heavy responsibility lies with those that allocate funding and formulate flood management strategy. In the following article, Nigel Grimsley from OTT Hydromet explains how the success of such plans (both the design and implementation) depend on the accuracy and reliability of the monitoring data upon which they rely.

Climate projections for Britain suggest that rainfall will increase in winter and decrease in summer, and that individual rainfall events may increase in intensity, especially in winter. This paradigm predicates an increased risk of flooding.

Emphasising the urgent need for action on flood risk, (British) Environment Agency chairwoman Emma Howard Boyd, has said that on current trends, global temperature could rise between 2 deg C and 4 Deg C by 2100 and some communities may even need to move because of the risk of floods. Launching a consultation on the agency’s flood strategy, she said: “We can’t win a war against water by building away climate change with infinitely high flood defences.”

In response, Mike Childs, head of science at Friends of the Earth, said: “Smarter adaptation and resilience building – including natural flood management measures like tree-planting – is undeniably important but the focus must first and foremost be on slashing emissions so that we can avoid the worst consequences of climate chaos in the first place.”

Historically, floodplains have been exploited for agricultural and urban development, which has increased the exposure of people, property and other infrastructure to floods. Flood risk management therefore focused on measures to protect communities and industry in affected areas. However, flood risk is now addressed on a wider catchment scale so that initiatives in one part of a catchment do not have negative effects further downstream. This catchment based approach is embodied within the EU Floods Directive 2007/60/EC, and in recent years, those responsible for flood management have increasingly looked for solutions that employ techniques which work with natural hydrological and morphological processes, features and characteristics to manage the sources and pathways of flood waters. These techniques are known as natural flood management (NFM) and include the restoration, enhancement and alteration of natural features but exclude traditional flood defence engineering that effectively disrupts these natural processes.

NFM seeks to create efficiency and sustainability in the way the environment is managed by recognising that when land and water are managed together at the catchment scale it is possible to generate whole catchment improvements with multiple benefits.

Almost all NFM techniques aim to slow the flow of water and whilst closely connected, can be broadly categorised as infiltration, conveyance and storage.

Infiltration
Land use changes such as set-aside, switching arable to grassland or restricted hillside cropping, can improve infiltration and increase water retention. In addition, direct drilling, ‘no-till’ techniques and cross slope ploughing can have a similar effect. These land use techniques are designed to reduce the soil compaction which increases run-off. Livestock practices such as lower stocking rates and shorter grazing seasons can also help. Field drainage can be designed to increase storage and reduce impermeability, which is also aided by low ground pressure vehicles. The planting of shrubs and trees also helps infiltration and retention by generating a demand for soil moisture, so that soils have a greater capacity to absorb water. Plants also help to bind soil particles, resulting in less erosion – the cause of fertility loss and sedimentation in streams and rivers.

Conveyance
Ditches and moorland grips can be blocked to reduce conveyance, and river profiles can be restored to slow the flow. In the past, peats and bogs have been drained to increase cropping areas, but this damages peatlands and reduces their capacity to retain water and store carbon. The restoration of peatland therefore relies on techniques to restore moisture levels. Pumping and drainage regimes can be modified, and landowners can create strategically positioned hedges, shelter belts and buffer strips to reduce water conveyance.

Storage
Rivers can be reconnected with restored floodplains and river re-profiling, leaky dams, channel works and riparian improvements can all contribute to improved storage capability. In urban areas permeable surfaces and underground storage can be implemented, and washlands and retention ponds can be created in all areas. As mentioned above, the re-wetting of peatland and bogs helps to increase storage capacity.

Many of the effects of NFM might be achieved with the re-introduction of beavers, which build dams that reduce peak flows, create pools and saturate soil above their dams. The dams also help to remove pollutants such as phosphates. Beavers do not eat fish, instead preferring aquatic plants, grasses and shrubs during the summer and woody plants in winter. Beavers are now being introduced in a number of areas in trials to determine their value in the implementation of NFM. One of the key benefits offered by beavers is their ability to quickly repair and rebuild dams that are damaged during extreme weather. However, whilst the potential benefits of beavers are well known, several groups have expressed concern with the prospect of their widespread introduction. For example, farmers and landowners may find increased areas of waterlogged land due to blocked drainage channels. In addition, dams present a threat to migratory fish such as salmon and sea trout.

Beavers are native to Britain and used to be widespread, but they were hunted to extinction during the 17th century. However, other non-native species such as signal crayfish can have a detrimental effect on flood protection because they burrow into river banks causing erosion, bank collapse and sediment pollution. Signal crayfish are bigger, grow faster, reproduce more quickly and tolerate a wider range of conditions than the native white-clawed crayfish. Signal crayfish are also voracious predators, feeding on fish, frogs, invertebrates and plants, and as such can create significant negative ecological effects.

NFM benefits
NFM provides protection for smaller flood events, reduces peak flooding and delays the arrival of the flood peak downstream. However, it does not mitigate the risk from extreme flood events. Effective flood management strategy therefore tends to combine NFM with hard engineering measures. Nevertheless, NFM generally provides a broader spectrum of other benefits.

The creation of new woodlands and wetlands produces biodiverse habitats with greater flood storage capacity. They also enable more species to move between habitats. NFM measures that reduce soil erosion, run-off and sedimentation also help to improve water quality and thereby also improve habitats. In particular, these measures lower nutrient and sediment loading lower in the catchment; two issues which can have dramatic effects on water quality and amenity.

Land use and land management measures help to reduce the loss of topsoil and nutrients. This improves agricultural productivity and lowers the cost of fertilizers. Furthermore, a wide range of grants are available for NFM measures, such as the creation of green spaces and floodplains, to make them more financially attractive to farmers and landowners.

Many NFM measures help in the fight against climate change. For example, wetlands and woodlands are effective at storing carbon and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Measures that reduce surface run off and soil erosion, such as contour cultivation, can also reduce carbon loss from soil.

Monitoring NFM
Given the wide range of potential NFM benefits outlined above, the number and type of parameters to be monitored are likely to be equally diverse. Baseline data is essential if the impacts of implemented measures are to be assessed, but this may not always be deliverable. For example, it may only be possible to collect one season of data prior to a five year project. However, it may be possible to secure baseline data from other parties. In all instances data should of course be accurate, reliable, relevant and comparable.

Monitoring data should be used to inform the design of NFMs. For example, a detailed understanding of the ecology, geomorphology, hydrology and meteorology of the entire catchment will help to ensure that the correct measures are chosen. These measures should be selected in partnership with all stakeholders, and ongoing monitoring should provide visibility of the effects of NFM measures. Typically stakeholders will include funders, project partners, local communities, landowners, regulators and local authorities.

Since NFM measures are designed to benefit an entire catchment, it is important that monitoring is also catchment-wide. However, this is likely to be a large area so there will be financial implications, particularly for work that is labour-intensive. Consequently, it will be necessary to prioritise monitoring tasks and to deploy remote, automatic technology wherever it is cost-effective.

OTT ecoN with wiper

OTT ecoN Sensor

Clearly, key parameters such as rainfall, groundwater level, river level and surface water quality should be monitored continuously in multiple locations if the benefits of NFM are to be measured effectively. It is fortunate therefore that all of these measurements can be taken continuously 24/7 by instruments that can be left to monitor in remote locations without a requirement for frequent visits to calibrate, service or change power supplies. As a business OTT Hydromet has been focused on the development of this capability for many years, developing sensors that are sufficiently rugged to operate in potentially aggressive environments, data loggers with enormous capacity but with very low power requirement, and advanced communications technologies so that field data can be instantly viewed by all stakeholders.

Recent developments in data management have led to the development of web-enabled data management solutions such as Hydromet Cloud, which, via a website and App, delivers the backend infrastructure to receive, decode, process, display and store measurement data from nearly any remote hydromet monitoring station or sensor via a cloud-based data hosting platform. As a consequence, alarms can be raised automatically, which facilitates integration with hard engineering flood control measures. Hydromet Cloud also provides access to both current and historic measurement data, enabling stakeholders to view the status of an entire catchment on one screen.

Holme Fen – a monitoring lesson from the 1850s

Holme Fen post HS

Holme Fen post

Surrounded by prime agricultural land to the south of Peterborough (Cambridgeshire,GB) , the fens originally contained many shallow lakes, of which Whittlesey Mere was the largest, covering around 750 hectares in the summer and around twice that in the winter. Fed by the River Nene, the mere was very shallow and was the last of the ‘great meres’ to be drained and thereby converted to cultivatable land.

Led by William Wells, a group of local landowners funded and arranged the drainage project, which involved the development of a newly invented steam powered centrifugal pump which was capable of raising over 100 tons of water per minute by 2 or 3 feet. A new main drain was constructed to take water to the Wash. Conscious of the likely shrinking effect of drainage on the peaty soil, Wells instigated the burial of a measurement post, which was anchored in the Oxford Clay bedrock and cut off at the soil surface. In 1851 the original timber post was replaced by a cast iron column which is believed to have come from the Crystal Palace in London.

By installing a measurement post, Wells demonstrated remarkable foresight. As the drainage proceeded, the ground level sank considerably; by 1.44 metres in the first 12 years, and by about 3 metres in the first 40 years. Today, around 4 metres of the post is showing above ground, recording the ground subsidence since 1852. The ground level at Holme Post is now 2.75 metres below sea level – the lowest land point in Great Britain.
Several complications have arisen as a result of the drainage. Firstly, there has been a huge impact in local ecology and biodiversity with the loss of a large area of wetland. Also, as the ground level subsided it became less sustainable to pump water up into the main drain.

Holme Fen is now a National Nature Reserve, managed by Natural England, as is the nearby Woodwalton Fen. They are both part of the Great Fen Project, an exciting habitat restoration project, involving several partners, including the local Wildlife Trust, Natural England and the Environment Agency. At Woodwalton, the more frequent extreme weather events that occur because of climate change result in flooding that spills into the reserve. In the past, this was a good example of NFM as the reserve provided a buffer for excess floodwater. However, Great Fen Monitoring and Research Officer Henry Stanier says: “Floodwater increasingly contains high levels of nutrients and silt which can harm the reserve’s ecology, so a holistic, future-proof strategy for the area is necessary.”

Applauding the farsightedness of William Wells, Henry says: “As a conservationist I am often called in to set up monitoring after ecological recovery has begun, rather than during or even before harm has taken place. At the Wildlife Trust, we are therefore following the example provided by Wells, and have a network of monitoring wells in place so that we can monitor the effects of any future changes in land management.

“For example, we are setting up a grant funded project to identify the most appropriate crops for this area; now and in the future, and we are working with OTT to develop a monitoring strategy that will integrate well monitoring with the measurement of nutrients such as phosphate and nitrate in surface waters.”

Summary
Monitoring provides an opportunity to measure the effects of initiatives and mitigation measures. It also enables the identification of trends so that timely measures can be undertaken before challenges become problems, and problems become catastrophes.

Monitoring is an essential component of NFM, helping to define appropriate measures, measure their success, keep stakeholders informed, identify mistakes, raise alarms when necessary, inform adaptive management and help guide future research.

#Environment @OTTHydromet @EnvAgency @friends_earth