Society goes to the polls.

07/09/2016

Irish candidate goes forward for most senior role in Automation Society

The polls were opened recently for the election of leadership positions for 2017 in the International Society of Automation (ISA). The ballot is for election of new leaders by direct vote of eligible ISA members.

This year for the first time a candidate from the Ireland Section has been nominated for the position of President-elect Secretary. This position is a commitment for three years, the first year as Secretary of the Society, the second year as World-wide President and the third as Past President.

Those nominated for this (and indeed all officer positions in the Societed) are subjected to a rigorous pre-nomination process before their name is placed on the ballot paper. Nomination for an elected Society leadership position is an honour accorded to only a small percentage of the ISA membership.

Brian_J_CurtisBrian J. Curtis (G E Healthcare) Cobh, County Cork, Ireland (right), is one of the candidates this year. He has an impressive leadership background both in the automation industry and in other sectors industrial, commercial and recreational. He has 35 years Pharmaceutical Control Systems experience.

Speaking recently he told us that he has been a member of the ISA for over twenty years and has served in most offices in the very active local section. “I joined my local section to access ISA technical meetings, technical papers, standards and networking opportunities.” However he was also willing to participate more actively in the running of the Section and later in the greater Society, in Europe and Globally.

Brian served in many portfolios within the Ireland Section down through the years including a term as section president (1999-2000). He became Vice President District 12 of the Society (Europe, Africa & Middle East) in 2013.  He also served on the ISA Executive Board 2013 to date, and also on the important ISA Finance Committee. The various society offices involved visiting sections in Europe and the Middle East as well as attendance at various Society governance and  leadership meetings.  His service through the years has been recognised by the Society, as a recipient of the Distinguished Society Services Award, as well as recognition at Section and District levels. He says “My current challenge is working with ISA on our five strategic goals!”

electVoting in the Leadership Elections is relatively easy. Go to the ISA Home Page and look for the button “Vote Now” and follow the instructions.
Only eligible members may vote. You’ll need your ISA ID information of course.
The Ballot lists the candidates with a link to their Biographical details. The voting is simply a matter of ticking the candidate of your choice.

He shared his vision for the Society: “That ISA Sections and Divisions all work together so that membership and industry feel the benefits, both locally and globally, ensuring “ONE ISA” will prosper into the future.”

“I believe we must nurture the volunteer in the society and encourage sections, divisions and standards to work together across geographic and technical boundaries so as to harness and build upon the strength and integrity of ISA in meeting the automation challenges of the future.”

He is particularly in supporting the ISA’s pioneering work in the emerging area of cybersecurity. Industry and production methods are evolving at a fast pace and it is important to identify emerging trends and seize these as opportunities for our member’s and for automation.

He wants to strengthen the Society by encouraging co-operation and communications between sections, divisions, standards and all areas of ISA around the world. He is not afraid to support the tough strategic decisions that will allow ISA to continue to be the leader in the automation industry. It is important also to promote the lifelong opportunities that automation presents as a career for school and college graduates.

There are two other candidates for this position. They are Eric C. Cosman (OIT Concepts, LLC) Midland, Michigan, USA. He was one of the speakers at the groundbreaking Food and Pharmaceutical Symposium in Cork earlier this year. The other candidate is Glynn M. Mitchell (US Nitrogen) Greeneville, Tennessee, USA.

Although most of the Presidents of ISA since its foundation have hailed from the US there have been a handful of Presidents from other regions of the World.

#ISAuto #PAuto

#EmrEX: All change at Brussell Centraal.

18/04/2016
Emerson User Group EMEA in Brussels, Belgium – 12th – 14th April 2016

“Seems to me that #EMrex is focusing not so much on new technologies, though important, but looking closer at how we do things.”  our tweet on day one.
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Brussels looked lovely on the morning that the Emerson User Group meeting opened. There was little to suggest the trauma that the city had faced just a few short weeks previously as delegates strolled through the sun-lit streets to the conference centre. The security however was markedly tighter as we entered the building however with strict adherence to the best security practices. However once inside the building things were as normal.

 Emerson Exchange Brussels – The Videos!

Other Reports (as they appear)
• Operational Excellence at Emerson Exchange Brussels (Emerson’s Stuart Turner – 20/4/2016).
• Nick Denbow ‘s travel travails: My worst week as an air traveller!  (30/4/2016)

Speaking with the organisers it promised to be a bumper event, stretched as it was over three days examining all aspects of automation, experiences, applications and of course exciting new products and concepts. The attendance was slightly down on the last time in Stuttgart, some were reluctant to travel, others were unable to make it due to the inability of the severely damaged to adhere to a normal service. Those who attended were in part in broad agreement with the message penned by Emerson’s Travis Hesketh – Standing up for Brussels. Indeed the User Group very quickly confirmed after these terrible events that they were going ahead with #EMrex. At several of the social events at the periphery, like the evening reception for publishers and journalists the people who suffered were remembered.

The venue was a modern conference and the one hundred or so presentations and industry forums were stretched over about six floors including an exhibition floor and at the very top of the building was a cyber café and a wonderful panoramic hall with the breathtaking view (featured at the top of this page from a tweet by Emerson’s social media guru – Jim Cahill)

But on to the the meeting!

Peter Iles-Smith of GlaxoSmithKline opened proceedings as chair of the Users Exchange Board. He welcomed the over two thousand delegates from so many countries through out the EMEA who travelled for the event.

Steve_SonnenbergSteve Sonnenberg, President Emerson Process Management (pictured right) and Roel VanDoren, their President in Europe, in a joint presentation entitled “New Reality, New Opportunity” addressed the changes and challenges facing companies in the 21st Century. They did not talk about products or applications but on ways of doing things. Indeed during the presentation we tweeted: “Emerson’s approach – yes equipment, but more importantly perhaps is attitude or culture.”

Nobody does business the way they it was done even twenty years ago, when the internet was a baby and nobody imagined never mind thought possible social media platforms like twitter,  yet in many cases industry is way behind in adapting to change. Possibilities are there which were inconceivable a short time ago and these need to be harnessed for the good of humanity.

Research into these possibilities, new technologies are leading to changes especially the importance of planning including all stakeholders at the earliest opportunity. This thinking is leading to an innovative technology and engineering-based approach for improved capital efficiency such as their Project Certainty approach  which aims to tackle complexity by decoupling the dependencies suppliers have on each other, eliminating bottlenecks and allowing concurrent work streams. In a word it aims to transform capital investment and releasing the frightening amounts of money currently being lost in big and not so big projects.

And these figures are frightening. If the type of approach spoken of here is adopted savings of up to €400 Billion (yes BILLION) would be released to invest in, for instance,  production, reliability, safety, energy, training, security and innovation.

So what is involved?

Xavier_MarchantXavier Marchant, (right), Emerson’s Vice President Process Systems and Solutions in Europe, gave dramatic examples of the possible savings in labour and materials. For instance the decision to use smart junction boxes in a large project could save both money and space (95% in control room space). Spare parts are another area where there is phenomenal waste. He quoted a spokesman from a International Energy and Chemical Company, “On our last construction project we overspent on maintenance spares to the tune of €50,000,000…we just wrote it off….because we did not have a robust spares analysis process.” Reduce the complexity by the involvement of stake holders at the start of planning for a project and allowing them to develop it side by side. One simple idea is to separate software from hardware in the development. The “old way” is to tie them together from the start whereas this way the software can be developed using virtual systems and then later on when the actual operation is seen to work in the virtual world (he called it virtual FAT – Factory Acceptance Test) it may be introduced to the real or concrete world – or “late binding” as he called it.

vFAT
Virtual FAT has far less chance of harming one than the real thing?

He quoted  François Davin of Sanofi “Emerson’s Remote Virtual Office allowed us to collaborate with experts and resources from multiple sites to conduct our Factory Acceptance Test (FAT). The result was less travel and site disturbance to our operations. Also, more operators could participate remotely which improved the new automation system adoption.”

We were introduced to the concept of  quartile performance and their site Top Quartile Performance is a exposé of how they view this as a concept and how it is influencing their thinking as a group.

Peter_Zornio

Of course all these changes would be impossible without the availability and enthusiastic embracing of the so-called “new” technologies. Peter Zornio (right), Emerson’s irrepressible Chief Strategic Officer, gave us an insight into these and how the company is using these and its co-operative involvement with the pioneers in these , the Internet of Everything(CISCO),  Industrial Internet (GE), Smart Planet (IBM) and The Internet of Things (Microsoft). These technologies, and others embryonic or not even conceived of are guiding  the current and future development of technology used in the manufacturing and processing sectors.

Keynotes: The Emerson User Exchanges whether in the USA or EMEA always have exciting and inspirational keynote speakers each day. This event was no exception. Jack Uldrich, a futurist spoke about future-proofing business. The majority of businesses are not ready for what is happening in the real world or for the speed at which it is happening.

Another of these speakers Prof Jan Rotmans who spoke about change. He maintains that we are not living through an “era of change” as a “change of era!” Many of us are in the old era, our mobile phone is just that, we read newspapers, buy books in bookshops. Our kids live on their mobile phones, they are their liveline. We are “old-fashioned” our kids are “cool!” Change is disruptive and the old ways are totally unable to cope. The old top-down certainties are dissolving and the “common man” is taking charge, sometimes violently. Chaos is the name of the game.

Finally a veteran at EmrEX, David Beckman, brought all the thoughts and ideas of New Reality, New Opportunity together. In view of Rotmans’ talk earlier the title he chose was more than relevant as he introduced delegates to the “Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook.” Although he prepared us for worst case scenarios he described real opportunities for industrial automation.

Presentations. The various threads were divided into five headings or sectors, Business & Projects; Operate Safely, Securely and Legally; Process Optimisation; Maintenance & Reliabilitym and, Control System Applications & Migrations and were held through each of the days.

Forums: There were also Industry Forums with panels and general discussions on the various specialities e.g. Life Sciences or Refining & Petrochemicals. These were opportunities for participants to learn and exchange information and experiences with each other.

Training: There were also training  sessions and other sessions (called Roadmaps) on Emerson products and possible future developments.

projcertExpo

ExpoEmrEx16274Solutions EXPO: Of course no event is complete without actually seeing product and EmrEX is no exception. The floor was divided under the same zone headings as the threads of presentations above. (See sketch on left).

There were several unique exhibits. One was the Operations Centre of the Future. This was an imaginative presentation of a plant with a H.A.L. like computer responding (or not) to commands or requests from the operatives. It featured a drone delivery of spare parts and a really effective alarm situation which featured a realistic vibration of the floor. Of course the real message is that though it is the future most of the technology used is possible today.

Of course the Project Certainty concept featured prominently in the Business & Projects area and we were show possible scenarios. They had also rather bravely set up a wall where delegates could post what they consider are the features that should be addressed in projects. This should help “to focus ruthlessly on what’s directly relevent to a company strategy.”

Of course there were actual instruments on display to examine and handle.

Ind1stNotable was this industry first, the Rosemount X-well system, a wireless transmitter, accurately measuring process temperature without need for thermowell. Accurate process temperature measurement is possible without requiring any intrusions or penetrations into the process, allowing for quicker and easier installation along with simplified long-term maintenance. Users do not have to design, size or maintain thermowells. Wake Frequency Calculations are eliminated, as well as time spent determining material compatibility, the right insertion length and the necessary profile.

pressure_gaugeAlso the new Emerson Wireless Pressure Gauge created quite buzz among delgates. Th“This new gauge design fundamentally will change how customers use pressure gauges by helping them make better business decisions!”  It is another industry first. Does this signal the end of the Bourdon Tube?

Energy management is of course critical in all processes. It is effected not only by cost factors but also by legislation driven by concerns on pollution and global warming. Here Emerson demonstrated some prototypes of monitoring and control equipment not yet available. They emphasised savings on space occupied and of course ease of use by operatives.

Jim_CahillAnother very popular item was on the Maintenance & Reliability Zone. Here was an opportunity to experience the immersive training simulator. A goggle like apparatus was placed on the head and using a game-like hand piece the engineer is able to travel through a plant and see where various problems may be without any danger to him or her. It is a fascinating experience and one really feels that one is travelling through the plant rather than sitting or standing in a control room or office.  In this picture we see Emerson’s Chief Blogger, Surface Dweller, Head of Social Media enter the virtual world for real! We can confirm that he returned to real reality afterwards.

Around the periphery of the EXPO were the booths of companies which compliment the Emerson offering – what they call their complementary and strategic partners.

history-passageThere was also a section dedicated to history featuring milestones in science and automation over the years. It was a demonstration of change in the past. What will feature in future shows? The new opportunities taking advantage of the new realities of the past.

Always a major highlight of the Emerson User Group events is waht the call the “Networking Event.” This year was rather unique in that it was a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Magritte Museum. This was an unique opportunity to see the best of Belgian painters – creativity of a different type than that extolled during the day sessions. Artists such as the Brueghels, Rubens, Jordaens and Magritte were enjoyed during this evening. Food and beverages were served – Belgium is famous for its beers of course but it also has its own cuisine and of course it’s chocolate is to die for.

This years event, despite the unexpected difficulties, was on a par, indeed because of these difficulties had perhaps more user participation than previous ones. There were many exciting things to see, concepts to understands and friends with which to share experiences.  And of course fun with a capital F.

Look at this and tell me people weren’t enjoying themselves! (Twitter pic ‏@Julian_Annison)

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Emerson’s Travis Hesketh and Nick Taylor appreciating (?) art.


Our unedited photos from the conferenceon the Read-out Facebook page.

Follow on twitter #EmrEX

The videos here give an impression of each day:
Day One


Day Two


Day Three

• We have written about our travelling experiences to and from Brussels in our personnel blog (Sa Bhaile: (“Home” in Irish). These were relatively smooth if labourious but there is indeed no comparison to the experiences of Nick Denbow of ProcessingTalk which he outlines on their blog: My worst week as an air traveller! 


Previous EmrEX EMEA Events.
2014: Stuttgart: Revving up in Stuttgart!
2012: Duesseldorf: Automation returns to Düsseldorf!

All our reports on EmrEX Events (including North America).


#EMrex #PAuto @EmersonExchange @EmersonProcess #PAuto #IoT

Future factory – a moderator’s impression!

01/02/2016

Read-out was asked to moderate the automation stream at the National Manufacturing & Supplies conference held last week outside Dublin. (26th January 2016). In their wisdom the organisers selected “Future Factory!” as a title for this half day seminar and there were 11 speakers organised to speak on their particular subjects for about 15 minutes each. This was replicated in the the over a dozen different seminars held on this one day.

q#MSC16

Long queues lasted well into the morning to enter the event!

We were a little sceptical that this would work but with the help of the organisers and the discipline of the speakers the time targets were achieved. Another target achieved was the number of attendees at the event as well as those who attended this particular seminar.
In all between exhibitors, speakers and visitors well over 3000 packed the venue. Probably far more than the organisers had anticipated and hopefully a potent sign that the economy is again on the upturn. Indeed it was so successful that it was trending (#MSC16) on twitter for most of the day.

Seminar
But back to our seminar. If you google the term Future Factory you get back 207million links, yet it is difficult to find a simple definition as to what it means. The term automation similarly is a very difficult term to define though the term in Irish “uathoibriú” perhaps is a bit clearer literally meaning “self-working.”

uturefactory.jpg

Good attendance at the Seminar

Background
The world of automation has changed to an extrordinary degree and yet in other ways it remains the same. The areas where it has experienced least change is in the areas of sensing – a thermometer is a thermometer – and final control – a valve is a valve. Where it has changed almost to the point of unrecognisability is in that bit in the middle, what one does with the signal from the sensor to activate the final control element.

From single parameter dedicated Indicator/Controller/Recorders in the sixties which transmitted either pnuematically (3-15psi) or electrically (4-20mA). Gradually (relatively speaking) most instruments became electronic, smaller in size and multifunctional. The means of communication changed too and fieldbus communication became more common to intercact with computors which themselves were developing at breaknech speed. Then transmission via wireless became more common and finally the internet and the ability to control a process from the computer that we call the intelligent phone. There are problems with these latter, internet/cellphone, of course. One is that the reach of the internet is focussed at present on areas of high population. Another is the danger of infiltration of systems by hostile or mischivous strangers. The importance of security protocols is one that has only recently been apparent to Automation professionals.

• Many of the presentations are available on-line here. The password is manufac2016

The Presentations
Maria Archer of Ericsson spoke on the enabling and facilitating IoT in the manufacturing industry. Diving straight into topic she drew on her experience of big data, e-commerce, media, cyber security, IOT and connected devices.

The second speaker was Cormac Garvey of Hal Software who addressed Supply Chain prototyping. The Supply Chain ecosystem is incredibly complex, usually requiring significant integration of each suppliers’ standards and processes to the manufacturer’s. Cormac will introduce the concept of supply chain prototyping, where easy-to-use, standards-based technology is used to wireframe out the entire supply chain ecosystem prior to integration, thus significantly reducing cost, time and risk on the project. This wireframe can then be used as a model for future integration projects.

Two speakers from the Tralee Institute of Technology, Dr. Pat Doody and Dr. Daniel Riordan spoke on RFID, IoT, Sensor & Process Automation for Industry 4.0. They explained how IMaR’s (Intelligent Mechatronics and RFID) expertise is delivering for their industrial partners and is available to those aiming to become a part of Industry 4.0.

Smart Manufacturing – the power of actionable data was the topic addressed by Mark Higgins of Fast Technology. He shared his understanding of the acute issues companies face on their journey to Business Excellence and how leveraging IT solutions can elevate the business to a new point on that journey.

Assistant Professor (Mechanical & Manuf. Eng) at TCD, Dr Garret O’Donnell,   explained how one of the most significant initiatives in the last 2 years has been the concept of the 4th industrial revolution promoted by the National Academy for Science and Engineering in Germany- ACATECH, known as Industrie 4.0. (Industrie 4.0 was first used as a term in Germany in 2011).

Another speaker from Fast Technologies, Joe Gallaher, addressed the area of Robotics and how Collaborative Robots are the “Game Changer” in the modern manufacturing facility.

Dr. Hassan Kaghazchi of the University of Limerick and Profibus spoke on PROFINET and Industrie 4.0. Industrial communications systems play a major role in today’s manufacturing systems. The ability to provide connectivity, handle large amount of data, uptime, open standards, safety, and security are the major deciding factors. This presentation shows how PROFINET fits into Industrial Internet of Things (Industrie 4.0).

White Andreetto

Maurice Buckley CEO NSAI

The CEO of NSAI, the Irish National Standards Authority, Maurice Buckley explained how standards and the National Standards Authority of Ireland can help Irish businesses take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution and become more prepared to reap the rewards digitisation can bring.

The next two speakers stressed the impact of low forecast accuracy on the bottom line and how this coulbe be addressed. Jaap Piersma a consultant with SAS UK & Ireland explained that low forecast accuracies on the business performance is high in industry but with the right tools, the right approach and experienced resources you can achieve very significant result and benefits for your business. Following him Dave Clarke, Chief Data Scientist at Asystec, who mantains the company strategy for big data analytics service development for customers. He showed how are incredible business opportunities possible by harnessing the massive data sets generated in the machine to machine and person to machine hyper connected IoT world.

The final speaker David Goodstein, Connected Living Project Director, GSMA, described new form factor mobile SIMs which are robust, remotely manageable which are an essential enabler for applications and services in the connected world.

All in all a very interesting event and useful to attendees. Papers are being collected and should be available shortly on-line.

It is hoped to do it all again next year on 24th January 2017- #MSC17.

See you there.

@NationalMSC #MSC16 #PAuto #IoT


Beyond smoke and mirrors!

07/01/2016

Three things you didn’t know about IIoT examined by Martyn Williams, Managing Director of COPA-DATA UK.

The human brain is a wonderful thing that works tirelessly from the day we are born until the day we die, only stopping on special occasions, like when presenting in front of large audiences. We’ve been studying the brain for many centuries, but we still know relatively little about the trillions of connections that make it work. Creating a road map of the brain is a bit like trying to map out the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). IIoT is a concept that has intrigued industry for several years now, but much like the human brain, is not yet fully understood.

COP146_3 things-IIoTTo gain a better understanding of the IIoT universe, we need to look at specifics. We need to understand how hardware and software, communication protocols and the human connection come together to support a stable and flexible interaction that enhances production, control and efficiency in industrial environments.

Machines to machines
Every time you form a new memory, new connections are created in the brain, making the system even more complex than before. Similarly, IIoT relies on many-to-many applications or groups of nodes to accomplish a single task. The plural of “machine” is important when discussing IIoT because it highlights the complexity of the system.

For example, on a sandwich biscuit production line, the biscuit sandwiching machine at the heart of the line should be able to communicate with the previous elements of the process, as well as the ones that come after it. The mixing, cutting and baking machines at the very start of the production process should also be able to “speak” to the conveyers, the pile packing sandwich machine, the cream feed system, lane multiplication and packaging machines. This level of communication allows the production line to be more flexible and cater for a wider range of biscuit varieties.

Regardless of whether we’re talking about biscuits, automotive manufacturing or even smart grids, IIoT has communication requirements that go beyond the standard client/server needs and conventional thinking.

Instead, the nodes act as peers in a network, each making decisions and reporting to other nodes.

Besides performing core tasks, the production system is also connected to an enterprise level that can automatically issue alarms, collect and analyse data and even make predictions or recommendations based on this analysis.

A common language
IIoT will only work if it uses a compatible language across systems and industries. To help achieve this objective, industry giants AT&T, Cisco, General Electric, IBM and Intel founded the Industrial Internet Consortium in 2014. The Consortium aims to accelerate the development and adoption of interconnected machines and intelligent analytics.

As IIoT cuts across all industry sectors, from manufacturing to energy, common standards, harmonised interfaces and languages are crucial for successful implementation of the concept. The consortium hopes to lower the entry barriers to IIoT by creating a favourable ecosystem that promotes collaboration and innovation. The next step is to facilitate interoperability and open standards, allowing machines or systems from different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to communicate with each other and with control systems.

The old and the new
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges when it comes to implementing IIoT on a larger scale comes from integrating legacy systems with the latest generation of smart factory equipment.

Learning new things changes the structure of the brain and similarly, in manufacturing, implementing new automation equipment usually results in changes across the entire system. The solution is to use standards-based protocol gateways to integrate legacy systems in brownfield environments. This allows organisations to free data from proprietary constraints and use it for real-time and historical data collection and analysis.

There is as much risk in sticking to a single vendor based on current install base as there is to accepting these new concepts with multiple new vendors and interoperability between intelligent devices. Their concept is something that we have experienced greatly within the energy and infrastructure sector and the concepts behind IEC61850 and interoperability.

Much like the human brain, the Industrial Internet of Things is always changing and there are still a lot of questions to be answered before we fully understand its requirements, implementation and potential. Luckily, these conversations are taking place and new ideas are put into practice every day. The next step is to figure out an easy way of practically implementing IIoT innovations in manufacturing environments across the world.


Air pollution – the invisible roadside killer.

14/12/2015

The VW emissions scandal has helped to raise awareness of the deadly threat posed by air pollution in many of our towns and cities. In the following article, Jim Mills, Managing Director of Air Monitors, an instrumentation company, explains why diesel emissions will have to be lowered and how the latest monitoring technology will be an essential part of the solution.

Background
The World Health Organisation has estimated that over 500,000 Europeans die prematurely every year as a result of air pollution – especially fine particulates from combustion processes and vehicles. Of these, around 30,000 are in Britain; however, experts believe that the figures could be substantially higher if the effects of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) are also taken into consideration.

London Smog - now less visible!

London Smog – now less visible!

Historically, air pollution was highly visible, resulting in air pollution episodes such as the Great London Smog in 1952. However, today’s air pollution is largely invisible (fine particulates and NO2 for example), so networks of sophisticated monitors are necessary.

The greatest cause for alarm is the air quality in our major towns and cities where vehicles (main diesels) emit high levels of NO2 and particulates in ‘corridors’ that do not allow rapid dispersion and dilution of the pollutants. Urban vehicles also emit more pollution than free-flowing traffic because of the continual stopping and starting that is necessary.

As a result of its failure to meet European air quality limits, the Government was taken to the UK Supreme Court in April 2015 by ClientEarth, an organisation of environmental lawyers. In a unanimous judgement against Defra (English Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), the Court required the urgent development of new air quality plans. In September 2015 Defra published its Draft Air Quality Plans, but they have not been well received; respondents have described them as disappointing and unambitious. CIWEM (The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management) , an organisation representing environmental management professionals, for example, said: (the plans) “rely on unfunded clean air zones and unproven vehicle emission standards.”

Some commentators believe that Defra should follow Scotland’s lead, following the publication, in November 2015, of ‘Cleaner Air for Scotland – The Road to a Healthier Future’ (CAFS). Key to this strategy is its partnership approach, which engages all stakeholders. Under CAFS, the Scottish Government will work closely with its agencies, regional transport partnerships, local authorities (transport, urban and land-use planners and environmental health), developers, employers, businesses and citizens. CAFS specifies a number of key performance indicators and places a heavy emphasis on monitoring. A National Low Emission Framework (NLEF) has been designed to enable local authorities to appraise, justify the business case for, and implement a range of, air quality improvement options related to transport (and associated land use).

Traffic-related air pollution
In addition to the fine particulates that are produced by vehicles, around 80% of NOx emissions in areas where Britain is exceeding NO2 limits are due to transport. The largest source is emissions from diesel light duty vehicles (cars and vans). Clearly, there is now enormous pressure on vehicle manufacturers to improve the quality of emissions, but urgent political initiatives are necessary to address the public health crisis caused by air pollution.

A move to electric and hybrid vehicles is already underway and developments in battery technology will help improve the range and performance of these vehicles, and as they become more popular, their cost is likely to lower. The prospect of driverless vehicles also offers hope for the future; if proven successful, they will reduce the need for car ownership, especially in cities, thereby reducing the volume of pollution emitting vehicles on the roads.

Vehicle testing is moving out of the laboratory in favour of real-world driving emissions testing (RDE) which will help consumers to choose genuinely ‘clean’ vehicles. However, the ultimate test of all initiatives to reduce traffic-related air pollution is the effect that they have on the air that people breathe.

Ambient air quality monitoring
Networks of fixed air quality monitoring stations provide continual data across the UK, accessible via the Defra website and the uBreathe APP. Many believe that this network contains an insufficient number of monitoring points because measurement data has to be heavily supplemented with modelling. However, these reference monitoring stations, while delivering highly accurate and precise data, are expensive to purchase, calibrate and service. They also require a significant footprint and mains electricity, so it is often difficult or impossible to locate them in the locations of most interest – the pollution hotspots.

Public sector budgets are under pressure, so the cost of running the national monitoring network and those systems operated by Local Authorities is a constant source of debate. The challenge for technology companies is therefore to develop air quality monitors that are more flexible in the locations in which they are able to operate and less costly in doing so.

Air Monitors’s response

New technology
Air Monitors has developed a small, battery-powered, web-enabled, air quality monitor ‘AQMesh’, which can be quickly and easily mounted on any lamp post or telegraph pole at a fraction of the cost of traditional monitors. Consequently, for the first time ever, it is possible to monitor air quality effectively, where it matters most; outside schools, on the busiest streets and in the places where large numbers of people live and breathe.AQMesh_podAQMesh ‘pods’ are completely wireless, using GPRS communications to transmit data for the five main air polluting gases to ‘the cloud’ where sophisticated data management generates highly accurate readings as well as monitoring hardware performance. In addition, it is now possible to add a particulate monitor to new AQMesh pods.AQMesh does not deliver the same level of precision as reference stations, but this new technology decreases the cost of monitoring whilst radically improving the availability of monitoring data, especially in urban areas where air quality varies from street to street.The flexibility of these new monitors is already being exploited by those responsible for traffic-related pollution – helping to measure the effects of traffic management changes for example. However, this new level of air quality data will also be of great value to the public; helping them to decide where to live, which routes to take to work and which schools to send their children to.

The impact of AI on education.

07/12/2015

Emerging technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are poised to have a big impact on education and are already being used worldwide as an effective tool to enhance the learning experience. AI expert Toby Walsh, a professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of New South Wales (AUS), says developments in this field have already proven that “it’s not difficult to replace a teacher with a machine.”

Toby_Walsh

Professor Toby Walsh

Over the past 21 years, OEB, the global cross-sector conference on technology-supported learning and training, has attained international esteem by presenting eminent experts whose strength lies in identifying new trends in learning and technology. At this year’s event, which opened today with more than 2000 participants from over 90 countries, AI and robotics will be put in the spotlight. World-renowned industry experts will demonstrate and discuss the opportunities presented by these fast-evolving technologies – and their implications.

“We’re seeing MOOCs and intelligent tutoring systems all start to replace some aspects of teaching,” explains Walsh, keynote speaker at the recent OEB 2015 in Berlin (D). He says that in “well-defined domains like maths”, it is already possible to bring AI, in the form of tutoring systems, into the classroom.

In addition to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects, the realm most commonly associated with AI, researchers and developers are experimenting with how it can be used in artistic contexts such as music and dance. On OEB’s Spotlight Stage, which will play host to creative thinkers and innovators, AI pioneer Dr Luc Steels of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel presented the results of a three-year project in which he created a “smarter” MOOC for learning music using artificial intelligence.

Over a period spanning more than two decades, OEB has earned – and sustained – the reputation of being an education conference that is widely recognised as one of the world’s most exciting, challenging, and inspirational. Over the next two days, the future of learning will be explored in over 100 parallel sessions, presented in a range of formats including workshops, plenaries, discussions, debates, labs, demonstrations, and performances. Furthermore, the expansive exhibition area will feature 79 international edtech providers, ranging from established market leaders to emerging start-ups.


A new (3-D) perspective in presence detection.

06/04/2015
Irish/German co-operation in new technologies creating a paradigm shift in the planning of safety for current and future manufacturing systems.

Presence detection is a critical element in the basis of safety for many pharmaceutical and bio pharmaceutical processes. Detecting presence of workers prior to start-up and during operation of machinery and processes is an effective means of injury prevention. Likewise product can be protected from human contamination using collaborative robots allied with relevant 3-D presence detection. The pharmaceutical sector has always had to deploy sophisticated processes and technology in its manufacturing environment while maintaining the highest safety standards.

G-Funktionsprinzip-SafetyEYE-EN-568This is an approach which responds positively to the need for worker safety while minimising production disruption. Process components such as centrifuges and barrel mixers pose a significant risk to workers because of high speed rotational action or agitation. Likewise transportation of storage units such as intermediate bulk containers and the use of automated wrapping and palletising machinery create the need for effective safeguarding. 3D sensing systems provide many advantages through the introduction of barrier-free safeguarding.

SafetyEYE, a 3-D virtual detection system, provides a comprehensive protection zone around such machinery. Developed jointly by the Pilz Software Research and Development team in Cork (IRL) and the Product Development division in Ostfildern (D), the company considers SafetyEYE as an example of new technologies creating a paradigm shift in the planning of safety for current and future manufacturing systems.

Named ‘Safety Company of the Year’ for 2014 by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) Desmond-South Munster Branch, the award recognised Pilz’s commitment to continuous innovation, singling out the development of SafetyEYE as central to this commitment.

Bob Seward, chair of the IOSH Desmond-South Munster Branch, said: “The development of this innovative SafetyEYE technology will make a significant difference in terms of protecting people at work while they operate around machinery danger zones. Our members were very impressed with SafetyEYE and what it can achieve in terms of accident prevention and safeguarding workers.”

The world’s first 3D zone monitoring system SafetyEYE comprises a three-camera sensing device, an analysis unit and programmable control capability.

The sensing unit creates the image data of the zone to be protected and the stereoscopic cameras allow for precise distance and depth perception. Adjusting the height of the camera device allows for varying zone dimensions and areas of coverage. The image data is processed by the analysis unit to detect any intrusion of the defined 3-D protection zone and is relayed to the programmable safety and control system (PSS) for activation of the appropriate safety response.

The avoidance of an obstacle-course of physical guards has obvious advantages for increased freedom of interaction and ergonomics between machinery and humans without compromising safety for both. Because of the highly configurable software a wide range of detection zones can be designed either using pre-defined geometric forms or bespoke shapes. These zones can then be assigned various safety-related actuations with reference to the risk from an audio-visual warning to shut-down.

SafetyEYE can be used to prevent start-up of machinery when persons are in a danger zone or provide warnings and if necessary activate a shutdown if an operator enters a danger zone while such plant is running. The system can be configured to signal a warning as the worker enters the perimeter of the defined safety zone and as he continues further into the zone initiate further safety actions. The machine can remain in this suspended state while the worker completes his task. Once the worker has cleared the area the machine’s activities can resume in accordance with the worker’s egress from the safety zone. This incremental reactive capability allows for minimum downtime and so optimal productivity is maintained. For workers who only encroach on the outer points of the safety zone the triggered warning will uphold the safety integrity of the work space without limiting operation. Likewise, the system can be configured to allow for pre-defined spaces within the protection zone to be breached without shut down. This is especially useful for supervisory personnel who need to access control components which lie within the safety zone. Again they may complete their task safely without the need to disrupt the manufacturing process.

To achieve the same level of safety in such a scenario as this, a whole range of other safety measures may have to be deployed, such as guard-doors, with the physical and visual restrictions these solutions will impose. Safety for workers venturing beyond these guards would then require optical sensors which operate two-dimensionally along a plane and may require a multiplicity of sensors to provide comprehensive monitoring. This mix of solutions can present significant cost implications and their static single-plane positioning will raise costly design challenges. As SafetyEYE is positioned above the manufacturing area it does not present any physical or visual obstruction and it is also far less likely to be interfered with than other ground-level safety measures which are always more vulnerable to intentional or accidental interference. The 3-D zonal capability means that one sensor unit can provide far more safety coverage than the planar sensors. Such imaging-based devices also have a recording functionality so that safety zone breaches can be recorded or production activity monitored to feed into productivity metrics.

These attributes were acknowledged by Bob Seward of the IOSH when presenting Pilz with the award. “With the introduction of this certified technology, safety can no longer be seen as a barrier to work, slowing work down or stopping work. It can be truly integrated in the work system.”

Pilz Ireland managing director John McAuliffe said: “Pilz were honoured to receive this award. The area of safety in which we work is constantly changing and Pilz need to be innovative in order to provide our customers with solutions that achieve safety in lean manufacturing environments.” Providing services from risk assessment, safety design and safety training to customers all over the world the company views continuous development of processes and products, such as SafetyEYE, as vital in meeting the constantly evolving demands of the modern manufacturing environment.

The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI) estimates that 34% of primary pharmaceutical operations in North America by 2018 will be carried out by robots, compared with 21% in 2013. This increasing automation, along with the rapid growth of collaborative robots across all sectors, is heralding a new era of human-robot interaction in manufacturing.

SafetyEYE is especially effective in ensuring the safe deployment of collaborative robots which are ideal for handling materials and ingredients in a decontaminated environment but which require some level of interaction with operators who need to approach to carry out supervisory, control or intervention tasks.

Such are the potential production efficiencies brought about by collaborative robotics in the bulk pharmaceutical manufacturing sector that Health and Safety managers, engineers and suppliers will need to align their safety strategy in line with this new industrial environment.

As with all new technologies care and due process must be exercised in the integration with other plant and machinery. Structured risk assessment considering the specific hazards leading to intelligent safety concepts are the key to successful adoption of such new technologies. Pilz is pioneering safe automation with the continuous development of its services and products, such as SafetyEYE, ensuring that its customers can anticipate the safety challenges presented by industry developments such as collaborative robots.