Operational efficiency is key to the success of any small business, and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) essentially helps you achieve that by turning your offline processes to online through a connected environment. Instead of your local SCADA system that collects performance data offline, IIoT gives you more flexibility, connecting your machines to the internet, making it easier to access critical performance data in real-time from anywhere, on any device. With a more modular infrastructure, the opportunity for modbus support, and modularity with analog sensors provides a better alternative for connectivity in a wider range of applications.
In this article we’ll cover:
Best practices to successfully implement IIoT
How to Make a smooth transition
Understanding your requirements and selecting vendors
1.Best practices to successfully implement IIoT
If you're planning to bank on the benefits offered by an IIoT setup, follow these best practices so that a connected environment helps you achieve more with the data you really need. Establishing clear completion criteria for your implementation will also improve success by avoiding “data overload,” and setting realistic response time expectations with stake holders.
Going overboard with data: Data remains at the core of the small business IIoT setup. When starting, you might get tempted to collect every bit of data to create a comprehensive database. However, too much data and a high frequency of data collection can have a negative effect, and you'll be left with a massive database with a ton of irrelevant data. You'll eventually find it challenging to analyze and interpret such volumes of data, leading to delays in decision-making. The best way to approach data gathering is to collect only the information that is relevant to your process and measurement. For example, there is no point in sending temperature reading every minute if there is no significant change in the value.
Expecting instant response: When designing and implementing the IIoT application, you must understand the limitation of the platform and have realistic expectations out of it. The real-time data update is certainly possible, but it is nowhere instant. The response time depends on the edge computing capabilities in place.
Scope: The IIoT setup must be capable to not only collect data from the new sensors added after the implementation but also remain compatible with the existing equipment.
Data management: As already discussed, the sensors you employ are going to generate data, and the more devices you have, the more will be the data inflow. Hence, data management should be the top priority for an IIoT application. With tight control over data, your IIoT setup remains effective as well as efficient.
Data traceability: The data collected must also be traceable. In other words, you must have a clear idea of when the data was recorded, which device it came from, and additional relevant information that allows you to pinpoint the data source accurately.
Data integrity: Data loss is a real challenge in IIoT due to the harsh environments the sensors have to work in. For data integrity, it is essential to set up a robust infrastructure in the first place. Take the necessary steps to set up data recovery options so that lost data can be retrieved.
2. Making a smooth transition is key
Going from a traditional offline setup to an online one where you can monitor different processes through sensors involves many dependencies. And, based on the business size, the transformation process can become even more challenging and complex.
The suggested way to transition to an IIoT-enabled environment is to create three implementation phases. The first being the Requirements phase, this should be for understanding the data points. Next, the deployment phase, and the last phase is for optimization: learning from your insights and making improvements.
Run a proof-of-concept first to identify processes that you can optimize with IIoT and measure the outcome. A validated concept will not only help you establish a roadmap for full-scale implementation but will also provide a better understanding of the timeline and cost.
3. Understanding your requirements and selecting vendors
Make sure you do your research before finalizing the vendor for your IIoT equipment. Here are some of the points you should consider when selecting the vendor.
Ease of integration: Integration can become a headache if there are many instructions to follow. Look for vendors that offer plug and play sensors that are easy to integrate.
Data assurance and security: Make sure to verify that the devices you purchase have all the security measures to ensure proper data capturing, relaying, and processing. Also, find out how good the devices are when it comes to data traceability and recovery.
Support and training: Look for a vendor that offers reliable support and training materials to help you through the integration process.
Long term viability: A connected environment will likely require scaling over time as you install new equipment or implement new processes. Selecting a vendor that offers solutions for the breadth and depth of IoT applications will ensure peace of mind as you look forward to gaining more out of your IIoT setup.
When can I see the results?
Expecting positive results once you implement IIoT for your small business is dependent on several variables. However, you should start seeing the benefits of switching from a manual mode of data collection to an automated one within a few months. Although, more complex results such as predictive analysis and AI monitoring across multiple data sets for process improvement need more time.
However, these results only matter if you are clear on the business goals you want to achieve with the IIoT implementation. IIoT is not just an efficient way to collect data; the real value lies in the potential of doing more with that data. An IIoT setup lets you understand the data trends, allows you to control your processes and introduces invaluable insights to identify performance bottlenecks.
As such, when implementing an IIoT setup for your small business, you must first understand 'WHY' you need to collect the data and build a business case around it to see the results that matter the most for your business.
In this article, we’ll outline the setup of an experimental application in which we use a pressure transmitter to measure the amount of pressure that’s being exerted by a column of water in a water bottle, and from that measurement, the pressure transducer can automatically calculate the water column’s height.
We’ll be measuring hydrostatic pressure with a fixed volume. This measurement is unaffected by surface area of the water column; it depends solely on its height.
Besides the water bottle and pressure transmitter or a pressure transducer, the experimental setup requires a few additional accessories. These include a 1/4-inch PT adapter and a latex pipe to connect the pressure transmitter’s port to the bottom of the water bottle. Because the PX3005 has an M12 connection, we also need an M12 cable assembly. To power the pressure transmitter, we use a 24-volt DC power supply.
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Begin by connecting the PX3005 to the power supply using the cable assembly. Once connected, the unit will turn on.
Next, connect the latex tube directly to the high side of the the PX3005. Leave the low side open to the atmosphere.
To specify the units in which you’ll be reading the pressure exerted by water column, follow these steps. Press the middle “M” button until you see “U” followed by a unit of pressure on the display. This might be “U PSI” or “U bar,” depending upon the unit’s initial setup.
Once you see “U PSI,” press the “Z” button. Once the “Z” button has been pressed, the display should show “set.” Now press the “S” button, and the device should show you a list of available units that you can scroll through. In this case, we want the reading to be in inches of water column, so stop at “INH20.” Press the “M” button once to save this setting. The unit should display a “U” followed by “INH20” and five bars. Now keep pressing the “M” button all the way until you see a reading of six, which is 00 offset. This indicates that no pressure is being applied. The pressure units should now be displayed in INH20.
To confirm the offset, which should always be zero when no pressure is being applied, hold down the “S” and “Z” buttons at the same time for five seconds. The display should show “PV=0.” Then the unit should return to run mode.
The next step is to fill the water bottle. We will be able to verify the pressure transmitter’s result by measuring the column of water with a ruler and comparing the two numbers. In this case, the ruler shows a water column height of about 6.4 or 6.5 inches.
Read the water column height measurement on the pressure transmitter’s display. For this experiment, it’s 6.623, since the water bottle’s shape isn’t perfectly uniform. Though not completely accurate, this result is close enough to show that our experimental setup can be used to measure the height of a water column.
With a uniform container, the PX3005 can be used to measure the height of a water column in many other applications.
If you have additional questions how to pressure transducers or pressure transmitters in applications, contact us today. A member of our team will be happy to help.
Hydraulic fracturing method of collecting natural resources. (via WIS)
Countries all over the globe are consuming vast amounts of energy, most of which is provided by fossil fuels. The processes of extracting oil (shale, crude, heavy crude, tar sands, etc.) and other fuels including natural gas, coal and even uranium for nuclear power can have long-lasting damaging effects on humans as well as the environment. The levels of those effects are dependent on what process is used to extract the fuel as well as where it’s being extracted. Technology has certainly played a huge roll in drilling and mining operations by making it easier to locate those fuels sources as well as making the extraction processes more efficient, thereby lessening the overall damaging impact on the surrounding environment. Drilling, mining and hydraulic fracturing are the current methods used to extract those fuels from the earth but is any one method better than the others when it comes to negative environmental impact? Let’s go through a few and see how they stack up against each other in terms of damage prevention and what technology is helping to curb both the short and long-term effects.
Coal: the most abundant fossil fuel on the planet.
One of the most abundant fossil fuels on the planet is coal and it can be found on almost every continent. Its use began in the 18th century at the start of the industrial revolution and coal is still widely used for fuel today, however the methods of mining the material have been dramatically reformed since then. Gone are the days of using a pick and shovel to extract the coal by hand, which were replaced by coal-cutting machines in the 1880’s, which in turn, by 1912 were replaced by steam shovels powered by the coal itself for use in surface and underground mining. As it stands today, coal mining in more developed parts of the world has acquired updated technology, such as continuous mining machines (among a host of others) and conveyors that allow workers to chew through 5 tons of rock per minute (the same amount mined in a day back in the 1920’s). Safety standards have also improved with modern mines now using sophisticated ventilation systems that lessen the risk of coal-dust explosions. Natural gas/methane detection and ventilation systems are now in place as well, which not only lessens the chance of explosions but also can be reclaimed to power gas engines that generate electricity. Workers also have specialized equipment such as coal-mining dust masks that reduces or eliminates altogether the issue of ‘black lung’ (pneumoconiosis) disease acquired while working in the mines over long periods. While coal may be abundant, the excavation and mining process of the fuel has significant impact on the environment. Surface mining destroys the soils genetic profile, eliminates any vegetation, destroys wildlife habitations, drops air quality in the immediate area and permanently changes the topography (erosion) of the area mined. Ground water and aquifers are also affected with directional flow changes, poor water quality due to mine drainage and toxic elements leaching into the water sources. There is also the possibility of underground fires that can rage for years or even decades (Centrailia, Pennsylvania for example) and leave cities uninhabitable. Burning the fuel is another matter altogether, as it causes air pollution, which has recently been linked by the WHO to both global warming as well as cancer.
Uranium: mined for nuclear power plants and reactors.
Steam rising from the Susquehanna nuclear power station. (via Nuclear Power)
In many respects, uranium mining for use in power stations and reactors is similar to that of coal mining. Like coal, uranium is mined using several techniques including open-pit, underground and other methods such as heap and in-situ leaching (chemically extracted uranium). Much of the same technology used in coal mining is employed for uranium as well, including massive excavators and cargo vehicles but depending on the grade of the uranium, technology that is more sophisticated is used. In open-pit operations where high-grade ore is present, the concentration of radon gas and particles are higher than normal and therefore require the use of ‘suppression and dampening systems’ using water to keep dust levels down (not so high tech) along with radiation-proof shacks workers can use to keep radon exposure to a minimum throughout the work day. In more extreme cases where ultra-high grade ore is mined, robotic ROVs are used for mining purposes. Most open-pit and underground mining operations also have an on-site mill where the ore is crushed and chemically treated with sulfuric acid to separate the ore from other rock and minerals. The waste rock is then dumped back into the pit or cavern when mining operations are completed, so there is a reduced impact to the environment over traditional mining of metals. Uranium mining isn’t without its faults however, as some workers contract lung cancer (due to high levels of radon particles) at higher rates than those in coal mining operations. The environmental impact is also high, water (now irradiated to some degree) tasked for dust dampening is usually pumped back into nearby rivers and lakes, which contaminates the surrounding soil as well. Underground uranium operations vent radioactive particles and radon gas into nearby areas, which can have adverse effects to residences living nearby. The refined uranium fuel rods that power nuclear plants and reactors can have devastating effects over large-scale areas when damage occurs, as recently demonstrated by Japan’s Fukushima breached reactors. The long-term effects of which are still unknown but could be devastating not only to land-based environments but to sea life as well rendering local regions uninhabitable.
Oil: the fossil fuel that makes the world go round.
Oil is the one fossil fuel that has been in demand since the beginning of time. The earliest known modern approach to drilling and tapping this resource was done in China around 347 CE. The wells were drilled to an astounding 800 feet using drill bits attached to bamboo poles. Fast-forward to the 21st century and those bamboo rigs have since been replaced with computerized systems that allow for drilling both on land and off shore. Detecting the fuel was typically done by using exploratory drilling (still widely used today) denoted by geologists who look for the ‘right’ conditions where oil may be found. Thanks to technology upgrades, those geologists now have access to sophisticated devices to search for oil, such as gravity meters and magnetometers that can detect oil by measuring micro-changes in the Earth’s magnetic fields. Satellites are often used to look for geological formations that have the telltale signs that the fuel is present, unless, of course, the oil is under water, in which case hydrophones are used. Air guns are also employed when exploring in water, which ‘shoots’ pulses of air into the water that produces a seismic shockwave that can be measured for density. New developments in drilling lessen the overall wells needed to siphon off the oil deposits, which includes horizontal drilling that allows more oil to be extracted from a single well. Drilling isn’t without its problems however, as exploration can divert wildlife from their natural migration paths as well as destroying their habitats resulting in diminished populations. Toxic chemical runoffs due to the ‘mud’ used for drilling can destroy the water quality of nearby rivers and lakes, however the biggest problems come with offshore drilling operations. As an example consider the BP oil spill back in 2010 where 200 million gallons of oil was discharged into the Gulf of Mexico. Efforts were taken to contain the spill using controlled burns (causing air pollution), floating booms and Corexit oil dispersant. The results of the damage caused is still under debate, however it is clear that extensive damage was caused to marine life in the Gulf, which in turn affected commercial fishing. The chemical Corexit (made up of over 50 separate chemicals) is thought to be a cancer-causing agent with five of those chemicals being carcinogenic. The chemical also destroyed all plankton in the area, which is vital to marine life and the Gulf food chain. Tthe full extent of the damage caused by the Depp Water Horizon spill and what effects it caused in nature may never be known.
Hydraulic Fracturing: a revamped process of an old technique for fuel extraction.
While some may think hydraulic fracturing to access fossil fuels is a new technique, it was actually demonstrated in 1947 and put in wide-scale use in 1949. The process of harvesting oil and natural gas using the ‘fracking’ method involves pumping fluids at high pressures to fracture rock and shale to access those fuels. The chemicals are usually mixed with sand, which allows the crack formations to remain open allowing for a more efficient extraction of fossil fuels. Three different types of chemical makeup are used depending on the type of fuel being harvested, including a foam, gel and slick-water based proponent. The most popular, slick-water, is comprised of hydrochloric acid (for dissolving rocks), guar gum, biocides, emulsion breakers/emulsifiers as well as radioactive tracer isotopes to determine fracture locations. To determine the fuel’s precise location, geologists use 3D and 4D seismic imaging software that creates a detailed picture of where the fuel is located as well as how much of it there is. Fiber-optic sensors are also employed to measure temperature and pressure information, which helps maximize the extraction process. The potential environmental problems associated with fracking are extensive and include chemical runoff that can destroy ground water and aquifers in the surrounding areas, causing sensory, respiratory and even neurological damage in wildlife as well as humans. Runoff and waste fluid is often left in open-air pits to evaporate, which release volatile organic compounds into the air, creating acid rain and ground-level ozone making it difficult to breath. An estimated 300,000 barrels of oil and natural gas are produced on a daily basis in the US, making the process inefficient compared with other methods especially when factoring in the damage caused. Fracking seems like a desperate attempt to wring out the planet. Desperation leads to pursuing the goal “by all means necessary,” and crushing the environment in the process is the result.