Big data analytics poised to change maintenance services models.

30/08/2015
The landscape of business opportunities in the manufacturing services sector is expected to increase 1.5 times by the end of 2020

The advent of the Internet of Industrial Things (IoIT) has triggered an influx of technology-oriented services such as cybersecurity and advanced maintenance. This has dramatically widened business opportunities in the manufacturing services sector. As integration with information and communication technologies (ICT) such as big data analytics and cloud-based platforms will form the crux of next-generation manufacturing services, solution providers are developing a portfolio of services that address security and operational improvement as well as maintenance and support.

EU_PR_JNikishkina_MB1C-10_11Aug15Services 2.0: The New Business Frontier for Profitability is part of the Industrial Automation & Process Control Growth Partnership Service program. As part of the IoIT research portfolio from the industrial automation and process control practice, this study offers a detailed assessment of key manufacturing service opportunities from an application, technology and market stand-point. The study strategically examines the transition of service models and explores the different applications of IoIT technologies, including niche segments such as plant, industrial data, security and asset/process optimisation.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Services 2.0: The New Business Frontier for Profitability, finds that the paradigm of service strategies will shift from corrective to preventive and predictive maintenance services over the next five years.Effective utilisation of predictive analytics can optimise costs and eliminate unplanned downtime, which are highly attractive benefits for manufacturers. They offer complimentary access to more information on this research.

Big data analytics is poised to change the maintenance services models across the manufacturing sector. The investments for establishment of robust maintenance and support service model by leveraging the big data analytic concepts is the critical factor for the high growth rate (CAGR 9.1%, 2014-2021). “In line with the emerging trend of IoIT, manufacturing services are also evolving into a connected ecosystem supported by a single control centre,” said Frost & Sullivan Industrial Automation and Process Control Senior Research Analyst Srikanth Shivaswamy. “The demand for interoperability and maximum transparency across multiple products and processes is lending credence to the concept of connected operations.”

Such extensive integration will entail high costs for manufacturing units. The convergence of ICT with conventional services will require sophisticated platforms, further raising initial capital expenditure. However, the deployment of advanced process controls and smart communication systems will boost efficiency and compensate for the steep investments.

Strengthening cyber security infrastructure, a recent addition to the framework of industrial services, will be vital for the uptake of IoIT-based modules. Innovations in investigation, threat detection and self-aware platforms will be critical.

“Overall, solution providers will be rated on one of two factors,” stated Shivaswamy. “Customisation of service models to match the needs of end users or the capability to migrate to a different service model in alignment with a new end-user process, product or solution.”

Delivering these competencies will allow services providers to mine lucrative prospects in under penetrated resource-based production industries. The availability of cost-effective solutions will lure small- and medium-scale manufacturers to implement IoIT-based systems, thus completing the shift from traditional to managed services.


Engineering is no longer a man’s world!

24/08/2015

Amy Wells, business development manager of specialist industrial connectors Electroustic compares unusual roles women have played in the past with the current struggle to get more women into science and engineering.

Amy Wells

Amy Wells

Women’s roles throughout history have varied dramatically from one civilisation to the next. For Britain, the sharply defined domestic role of women lay relatively untouched from the Middle Ages right through to the end of the Victorian era and beyond. But when we look further into history, gender roles were not so sharply defined.

Take the Viking era as an example. Historical attestations show that whilst it was rare for women to take part in warfare, the few that did take up arms were given legendary status as a shieldmaiden, a woman who had chosen to fight as a warrior amongst Viking men. Over 1250 years ago, these rare women were considered to be exceptional and highly respected figures. Through positive portrayal in modern film and literature, they continue to capture attention and admiration today. 

In recent years, there has been a plethora of media coverage and awareness campaigns to encourage and praise the small number of women working in the engineering industry. As a result, female engineers are finally starting to be held in high regard.

A number of recently launched initiatives such as the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and the Women in Science and Engineering campaign (WISE) suggest that the engineering industry is successfully bridging the gender gap. Yet still, only six per cent of Britain’s engineering workforce is female.

There are a myriad of barriers preventing women from entering the engineering sector and inevitably, the gender stereotype remains a large factor. >From a young age, gender conditioning teaches us that hands-on, practical activities like LEGO and Meccano are not for girls. So it comes as no surprise that just 20 per cent of all A-level physics students are girls and that nearly half of UK state schools do not send a single girl on to study higher education physics at college or sixth form.

Perhaps more worryingly, even women who are currently working as engineers have acknowledged the gender gap associated with the industry. Results from the British Engineering and Manufacturing Census state that 75 per cent of the 300 female engineers surveyed still consider engineering to be a ‘male career’.

Although small in numbers, there is an army of proud and exceptional female engineers in Britain. In fact, 98 per cent of female engineers consider their job to be rewarding. These engineering women have built a strong network of support to praise and encourage women in industry. Launched in 2014, The National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) celebrates the achievements of female engineers across the country. Similarly, the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) presents the annual Young Woman Engineer Award to acknowledge the work of exceptional female engineers under 35.

Much like the legendary shieldmaidens of the Viking era, successful female engineers are held in high regard beside their male counterparts. Industry awards and increased media coverage have elevated the importance of the ‘female engineer’ to nationally recognised status, encouraging ambitious young women to conquer the engineering stereotype – perhaps with less pillaging and more programming.


The road to Wireless – which wireless standard suits you best?

17/08/2015

WiFi, Bluetooth or Zigbee? Tom McKinney of HMS Industrial Networks offers a review of the available short range wireless standards for industrial applications.

Tom McKinney, Business Development Manager at HMS Industrial Networks

Tom McKinney, Business Development Manager at HMS Industrial Networks

Recently the buzz around Industrial IoT has grown to a deafening roar. The market for IIoT devices is projected to grow exponentially over the next several years as businesses start to capture more data regarding their operations. That data will be used to monitor and optimize processes, and as companies learn to use the data they capture to improve processes, the result will be increased productivity. Beyond internal productivity, this data may lead to improved company-to-company operations benefiting both the producer and the customer.

Multiple technology advancements have converged to make large-scale Industrial IIoT deployments possible. These advancements include reduced cost of data storage, lower power RF solutions and higher levels of network accessibility. Another important enabler for Industrial IoT is wireless standardization.

Wireless is nothing new
Wireless networks have been used for over 30 years in the industrial market. In the past, these networks were typically sub 1GHz proprietary systems. The solutions used simple modulation techniques like amplitude-shift keying (ASK) or frequency-shift keying (FSK). Radios that supported these types of modulation could be created easily with a handful of discrete parts. The drawback of these solutions were a complete lack of security and limited bandwidth.

Over the last twenty years, several standards have been developed to define robust radio solutions. The most recent standards are secure enough for broad deployment. In addition, several new free-to-use frequency bands where introduced in the 80s including the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Deploying a standardized radio solution today is a cost-effective secure way to both monitor and control devices in the field or factory. Given the number of wireless standards to choose from, the question becomes which standard is the right standard to deploy.

Summary
1) WiFi
a. Pros
i. Highest Bandwidth up to 600Mbits/s with 802.11n
ii. Fixed 25 MHz or larger Channels
iii. Support for 2.4 and 5GHz channels
iv. Extensive security features
b. Cons
i. Range is lower with higher data rates and 5GHz
ii. Not a good match for battery powered sensors
2) Bluetooth/BLE
a. Pros
i. Very low power
ii. Massive deployed
iii. Very good performance in congested or noisy wireless environments
iv. Ease of use, no frequency planning or site map requirements
b. Cons
i. Max data rate of 2Mbits/s
ii. No automated roaming standard
3) Zigbee
a. Pros
i. Very low power
ii. Fixed channels between WiFi channels in 2.4 GHz band
iii. Support for sub 1GHz bands
b. Cons
i. Complicated mesh network
ii. Max bandwidth of 250Kbits/s

So let´s take a look at the three most common wireless standards deployed in the 2.4GHz band: Bluetooth, WiFi and Zigbee.

WiFi
WiFi or IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n is the widest deployed consumer and enterprise wireless TCP/IP network solution. WiFi is short for Wireless Fidelity and is a standard used to identify Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) devices. The committee managing this standard is aims to create the best possible wired TCP/IP network replacement. The committee prioritizes security and speed over all other tradeoffs. As a result, 802.11n has the highest bandwidth of any short range wireless standard. The drawback is power consumption and processing power required to effectively manage the 802.11 stack. These drawbacks created a gap in the market and several standards have emerged to address the very low power wireless market.

Bluetooth
Bluetooth and Zigbee were both introduced to address markets not serviced well by WiFi. The Bluetooth standard addressed the needs for a low power Personal Area Network (PAN). A PAN is defined as the network that surrounds a person or a smart device. The requirements include fast association, simple human-to-machine interfaces and low power. In a PAN, multiple transmitters can be placed very close together – Bluetooth includes timing to ensure device transmitters don´t overlap. Bluetooth was also designed under the assumption it would have to co-exist with WiFi and includes a frequency hopping algorithm to ensure Bluetooth messages can get through even when multiple WiFi channels are active. Finally, because Bluetooth uses a very low power transmitter, it is less sensitive to multi-path compared to WiFi. As a result, Bluetooth can be deployed successfully without extensive RF site reviews and planning. The system is very resistant to noise and interference.

Zigbee
Zigbee is based on IEEE 802.15.4 which is a general-purpose, low-power wireless radio standard that allows different protocols to be built on top of the standard radio. Zigbee set out to support low power sensor networks capable of covering a large area. Zigbee uses meshing networking and a very aggressive power profile to meet the needs of this niche market. Zigbee´s protocol is designed for quick turn-on and turn-off, thereby saving power. Several other protocols have been built on top of 802.15.4 including ISA100, WirelessHART and 6LoWPAN.

Bluetooth Low Energy
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) was introduced as an update to the Bluetooth standard. Leveraging some of the techniques used in 802.15.4, BLE was able to achieve even lower power points when compared to Zigbee and support many of the features originally created by the Zigbee standards effort.

Selecting the standard for you
So which standard is the right standard to deploy? That depends on the system requirements. In summary, WiFi has the highest bandwidth and most comprehensive stack but Bluetooth, BLE and Zigbee offer features ideal for particular applications. For example, if monitoring battery-powered sensors over a very large area, Zigbee would be the ideal standard. Bluetooth/BLE works well as a cable replacement point-to-point technology or for monitoring sensors over a smaller area. BLE has a huge installed base of tablets and phones making it an excellent choice for human-to-machine interfaces.

Although technology standards may vary, there is no doubt that more and more applications will be wirelessly connected in the near future. With the advent of Industrial IoT, billions of devices will need to hook up to the Internet, and many of these connections will undoubtedly be wireless.


Powering cathodic protection.

11/08/2015

Steve Hughes of REO UK explains how cathodic protection can adapt to become more controlled and efficient than ever before, in line with industry 4.0.

Often dubbed the inconspicuous killer, rust costs the global economy $2.2 trillion dollars every year. It accounts for anywhere between 3.5 to 4.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and is responsible for the structural failure of steel frames around the world. From bridges and cars, transcontinental and marine pipelines, to industrial machinery, tools and parts, rust contributes significantly to plant downtime the world over.

REO142Whether it’s steel pipelines or corrugated sheets in highly saline marine environments or reinforced concrete structures, impressed current cathodic protection (ICCP) is used widely to protect iron and steel structures against corrosion. Embedded anodes are connected to a control panel where the system produces an electrical current to suppress the naturally occurring electrochemical activity. In effect, the metal surface being protected becomes the cathode.

Often used over large geographic areas, cathodic protection systems have traditionally incurred high costs as engineers are required to perform extensive field surveys to ensure the system is working.

With the advent of concepts such as industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) business leaders are increasingly pushing for increased transparency of business intelligence. Features such as remote monitoring, accurate control and measurement are now necessary to increase business process efficiencies in multinational organisations.

To overcome these challenges, REO has developed the REOTRON SMP-CP, a robust transformer rectifier power supply range specifically designed for cathodic protection applications. Built with the latest primary switch-mode technology, the REOTRON SMP-CP can be controlled from zero to maximum voltage or current.

This controllability is essential for cathodic protection applications. In newer installations that don’t require a high degree of electrical power availability, if a power supply isn’t driven to low voltages, over protection can lead to gas formation. This can contribute to surface bubbling and corrosion.

Voltage and current levels can be controlled through the range using an integrated keypad, external potentiometers, by using analogue control signals (0-10 VDC, 0-20 mA), RS232 serial communication and, most excitingly, by industrial fieldbus interfaces such as Profibus, CAN, DeviceNet or EtherCat. The enhanced fieldbus network control allows easy integration with existing supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, opening up the use of remote monitoring, a vital feature especially for geographically dispersed operations.

Using the latest primary switch mode technology, the REOTRON SMP-CP units offer a high level of efficiency, easy maintenance and very low output voltage ripple packed into a lightweight and compact housing. Providing a 4-20 mA feedback, the unit achieves a proportional output for current and voltage. This makes metering easier and eliminates the need for current shunts.

They say rust is the longest battle but with accurate, highly controllable and remote monitoring of ICCP applications, engineers may one day win the war.


Still fun, still irreverent and still Jim Pinto!

09/08/2015

Some years ago Nick Denbow, happily still involved with the Automation Insiders publication, wrote an article with the thought provoking title Who are the automation thought leaders?  Among those was the irrepressible Jim Pinto, who, to quote somebody else and out of context “hasn’t gone away you know!”

True he did retire after a fashion and commenced what he called his bucket trips, trotting around the globe with the lovely Deb at his side. Of course he did not give up writing and sharing is thoughts with us. As he said himself “But, I’m a writer. As my friend Jack Grenard said, ‘a writer cannot not write.’ So, I’ve decided to continue to write the “irregular and irreverent” JimPinto.com eNews.” And he does. We marked his chage of direction in our piece “Floreat Jim Pinto!” in 2012.

This week, on one of those bucket trips, they hit the medieval and very lively city of Galway, about 20 miles east of the Read-out hub on Galway Bay, on where, in the words of the Bing Crosbie classic, the sun goes down!

Eoin Ó Riain and Séimí Pinto!

Eoin Ó Riain (Read-out) and Séimí Pinto! (The prince formally known as Jim!)

Now when somebody of eminence in automation visits our neck of the woods we do try to meet up and make them welcome. I guess it’s an Irish thing! And so we did.

And we changed his name for the occasion to the Irish version of Jim, “Séimí!” His sur-name, like the man himself, is untranslatable!

So how to describe Jim Pinto’s impact! Dick Morley (another automation thought leader), said of his writing, “When you read Jim, you have the feeling that you’re looking through a telescope’s magnifying end. With Jim you get to use the telescope with the microscope in the right direction: you see clearer, and you see things you cannot see with the naked eye.”

Pinto’s Books
Leabhair_PhintoAutomation Unplugged: Pinto’s Perspectives, Pointers & Prognostication! (Published 2003: ISA Best Seller in 2004! pdf format only available)
Pinto’s Points: How to Win in the Automation Business. (Published 2006)

And for answers to all those questions you wanted to ask but were afraid to, just go to his website!Jpinto.com

Jim honoured me some years ago to right an introductory piece for a section of his 2006 book, “Pinto’s Points: How to win in the automation business!” and I think perhaps I could repeat some of what I said there. It is part biographical but mostly it described the impact of this man whom I first “met” on-line 20 years ago when the internet was but a babe! I had been visiting the US on and off for about ten years. I lamented the fact that Americans in jobs like maintenance engineers etc seemed older and more tired in comparison with what I was used to, Professional people were inclined to be as well but worked in perhaps a more dedicated and serious way, and for longer hours. There was one thing missing. That something was – humour.

“Like a breadth of fresh air in the frenetic rush-rush of the world of automation burst Jim Pinto. Like most of us who received the benevolent influence of Mother England’s domination, he managed to make her language his own, and – combining this with an incisive mind and a superb gift of observation – he earned the title of ‘Poet Laureate of Instrumentation and Automation.’ Everythinh he touched was fun. He called his company Action – and so it was. And when the internet finally started to infiltrate even the most conservative of companies, he was ther with the wonderul URL of actionio.com. Wonderful!”

I pointed to a word, among many that I learned from him – “DISINTERMEDIATION – it is a Pintoism that has stuck in my mind. It is a word typical of the man. It is a word which makes us smile before we ask, ‘What does it mean?’

“This I think is the essence of the Jim Pinto. And it is nowhere more evident than in his poetry. It is funny, but it is serious!”

This week Read-out met the man and sat down and chatted face-to-face. And we have a photo because as somebody said “If there isn’t a picture it hasn’t happened!”

Thanks for the fun Jim, and may your list of bucket trips never be exhausted! And may you never cease to be irreverent but always full of fun and laughter!

PS: DISINTERMEDIATION? Don’t know what it means? Let Jim tell you! As he told us 15 years ago.


Wireless production test.

07/08/2015

The Wireless Test System (WTS), is a solution from National Instruments (NI), that dramatically lowers the cost of high-volume wireless manufacturing test. Although faced with the rising complexity of wireless test, companies can confidently reduce test costs and multiply throughput on the production floor with a system optimised for measurement speed and parallel test.

wts_05_bdr“Megatrends, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), will push more devices to include RF and sensor functionality, which has traditionally been expensive to test. But test cost shouldn’t limit innovation or the economic viability of a product,” said Olga Shapiro, Program Manager for Measurement and Instrumentation at Frost & Sullivan. “To remain profitable in the future, companies will need to rethink their approach for wireless test and embrace new paradigms. Because the WTS is built on the industry-proven PXI platform and backed with the market expertise of NI, we expect it to have significant impact on the profitability of the IoT.”

The WTS combines the latest advances in PXI hardware to offer a single platform for multi-standard, multi- DUT and multi-port testing. When used with flexible test sequencing software, such as the TestStand Wireless Test Module, manufacturers can significantly improve instrument utilization when testing multiple devices in parallel. The WTS integrates easily into a manufacturing line with ready-to-run test sequences for devices that use chipsets from suppliers like Qualcomm and Broadcom as well as integrated DUT and remote automation control. With these features, customers are seeing considerable efficiency gains from their RF test equipment and further reducing their cost of test.

“We tested multiple wireless technologies ranging from Bluetooth to WiFi to GPS and cellular all with the same equipment using the NI Wireless Test System,” said Markus Krauss, HARMAN/Becker Automotive Systems GmbH. “The WTS and NOFFZ’s RF test engineering expertise helped us significantly reduce test time and the time it took to get our test systems up and running.”

The WTS is the latest system from NI built on PXI hardware and LabVIEW and TestStand software (see the Semiconductor Test System launched in 2014). With support for wireless standards from LTE Advanced to 802.11ac to Bluetooth Low Energy, the WTS is designed for manufacturing test of WLAN access points, cellular handsets, infotainment systems and other multi-standard devices that include cellular, wireless connectivity and navigation standards. Software-designedPXIvector signal transceiver technology inside the WTS delivers superior RF performance in the manufacturing test environment and a platform that can scale with the evolving requirements of RF test.


Innovative biosensors incite use in non-traditional applications.

07/08/2015

Besides healthcare and food, biosensor devices are penetrating the mobile, security and automotive segments, notes Frost & Sullivan

Click image  for complimentary access to more information on this research.

Click image  for complimentary access to more information on this research.

The biosensors market is proving highly attractive as it exhibits continuous growth in applications, penetration into newer sectors, and development of devices resulting in higher revenue year after year. The global biosensors space has seen the entry of multiple participants each year with none having exited the market so far.

Recent analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Analysis of the Global Biosensors Market, finds that the market generated revenues of $11.53 (€10.54) billion in 2014 which is estimated to more than double to $28.78 (€26.31) billion in 2021. Though innovation has facilitated biosensor penetration into a number of diverse markets, healthcare and food pathogen detection are currently the largest application segments.

“With health and wellness becoming a priority for all concerned in the value chain – individuals, governments, healthcare institutions, diagnostic device developers, system integrators, the medical fraternity and insurance companies – biosensors are acquiring more importance,” said Frost & Sullivan Measurement & Instrumentation Industry Principal Dr. Rajender Thusu. “For instance, strict food safety regulations enacted by federal governments to improve the health of consumers, require the use of biosensors for compliance monitoring.”

Under these regulations, meats, milk and milk products must be tested for the absence of a number of pathogens before being processed and supplied for consumption. Along with the rising trend of testing fresh vegetables and processed food for the presence of different pathogens, these norms are fuelling the adoption of testing kits.

Significantly, the use of biosensors is expanding to diverse end-user markets. While security agencies are using biosensors to detect drugs, banned substances and explosives, biosensors are also a valuable tool for monitoring health of soldiers.

Realizing the benefits, biosensor manufacturers have started to move to mobile platforms which will enable users to monitor key health parameters in real-time. Biosensor relevance in automotive applications will grow with the use of cognitive biosensors to boost driver alertness and enable safety.

Manufacturers must strive harder to meet the stringent and specific requirements of a number of industries such as wearable medical devices, food processing, environmental, bio-defense, and automotive.

Biosensor manufacturers must also look into other issues such as the long detection times associated with existing test methods in some applications. As samples need to be enriched in some cases before one can test for the presence of pathogens.

“Several companies are investing in R&D to innovate and improve biosensor technology, make it highly sensitive, and develop technology platforms to reduce detection time appreciably,” noted Dr. Thusu. “Since the long development cycle of biosensor devices is another challenge, manufacturers are trying to address this by deploying both optical and non-optical technologies.Rapid detection biosensor devices are the need of the hour for a number of applications.”

Further, manufacturers are developing nano-biosensors, with features to detect pathogens at a concentration as low as one cell per five milliliters of water. Advanced-stage research is also being conducted to create unique biosensors that can detect cell-to-cell interactions in therapeutic monitoring.


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