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We are living in an era of digitally transforming world, networking billions of smart solutions across and producing a huge amount of data. Article by Kongorpalli Hariprasad, Product Manager, DTS & Wireless Solutions, IA Product Business & System Product Marketing Division, Yokogawa Engineering Asia Pte. Ltd.

 

Applications for the general purpose and industries share a similar objective in seeking to derive useful information from streams of data acquired from sensors. Both rely on a multi-level approach where sensors communicate with a cloud-level application directly or through some intermediate networks.

Though they share similar architectures, there are substantial differences in sensor design and connectivity to the networks considering the nature of their respective requirements. It is important to understand these requirements for industrial IoT networks before considering a solution for industrial use.

Reliability: Industrial IoT networks often operate in remote areas under extreme environments. They must support high availability & should operate reliably to ensure optimal performance.

Security: Security is critical for both type of networks, where industrial network demands more robust measures, as it is handling data of plant assets and conditions.

Scalability: Industrial IoT networks must have the potential to handle a large number of sensors.

Reachability: Many of the plant has very wide premises. It will bring higher usability if a single gateway can cover entire sensors across the plant. Sensors can be installed even in a congested pipe jungle which interferes with clear signal propagation. Radio technology for IoT network has to have the enough performance to satisfy this reachability.

Robustness and Safety: Since sensors are located in the field, they must be tolerant against the environmental stress as same as the traditional sensors for process automation; dust-/water-proof, operation temperature, explosion proof.

Above are a few basic requirements for industrial networks, which can be challenging to achieve with the current available technologies. The data gathered from those interconnected devices in an industrial IoT network is used in a variety of ways, all of which lead to some form of operational transformation. The challenge at present in this process is on how to standardise the collection and transmission of data from these interconnected devices for the purposes of analytics, which is possibly the real innovation in the years to come.

At present, an industrial IoT Network consists of following three major components:

Smart Sensors

Smart Sensors are those intelligent sensors that can sense & communicate information from the field. As mentioned earlier Industrial-level devices exist in much harsh environment. Therefore, sensors for such applications are required to correctly measure and communicate even in such frigid and extreme environments, as well as in the presence of inflammable gases. There are many sensors available for various applications, and they have excellent environmental resistance. However, a closer look at the specifications reveals that their resistance to “severe” outdoor environments is only for farmland or other limited applications, and not where hazardous gases are present.

The Sushi Sensor from Yokogawa is an industrial IoT (IIoT) sensor with excellent environmental resistance and durability. It is dustproof and waterproof (IP 66/67), and explosion-proof (application for intrinsic safety is available in Japan) which are basic requirements for sensors used in plants. The user interviews revealed that nearly half of plant monitoring sensors measure vibration and surface temperature. Therefore, Yokogawa’s first Sushi Sensor XS770A is for vibration and surface temperature monitoring.

Communication infrastructure

Industrial IoT network relies on wired or wireless connectivity from the field devices to the cloud where the choice depends on the use case.  However, the latest trend here is wireless where a number of options are available, including:

  • Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is a local area network (LAN) that provides internet access within a limited range ensuring connectivity for industrial network that run in a local environment.
  • Mesh networks: Mesh topology is a type of networking where every sensor exchange & transmit data. Mesh technologies are easy to install, always available & easily scalable, but they have longer and non-deterministic network latency.
  • Cellular networks: LTE-M and NB-IoT are two cellular networks specifically designed for IoT applications. These energy-efficient technologies are low cost providing long battery life, and high connection density but both are still years away from true global coverage now.
  • LPWAN technology: This technology includes LoRaWAN, which is ideal for long-range communications at a low bit rate among connected sensors while using very little power.

The Sushi Sensor uses the LoRaWAN communication standard for wireless networks. The reasons for selecting LoRaWAN are:

  • LoRaWAN uses a sub-GHz frequency band for which a license is not required, so it is easy to construct both private and public communication infrastructure.
  • Broader range of infrastructure services and related devices are available for LoRaWAN than other standards.
  • The LoRaWAN wireless communication protocol is a relatively simple asynchronous communication method, and strict real-time processing is not required in the firmware. This reduces the power consumption of the processor and the sensor can be made compact and lightweight.

Data Analytics

IIoT platform is another important part of the industrial network where the data collection, primary processing, analysis & storage happen. This platform connects the sensors with smart sensors, data networks to other parts of the value chain, which are the end-user applications. It is almost unlikely to find off-the-shelf IIoT platform that matches user needs perfectly. Existing platforms use proprietary architectures, different protocols, and have limited networking ability making them isolated islands of technology.

Sushi Sensor data are collected, stored, and monitored by a host platform: a cloud server or an on-premise server. In either server, the Sushi Sensor Interface of GRANDSIGHT, a Yokogawa’s cloud-based environment to collect and process sensor data, must be installed. This application not only collects Sushi Sensor data but also provides an interface that transmits and visualizes the collected data to other systems for equipment maintenance or to machine learning and other applications

GRANDSIGHT interface for Sushi Sensor enables plug-and-play operations. Users can add a Sushi Sensor, set it up using a smartphone, and connect it to a gateway, and then the Sushi Sensor automatically starts to collect data and the host system monitors equipment data.

The most common benefits cited from similar industrial networks are improved efficiency, increasing the uptime and improving safety of an industrial organisation. At present industrial network are not widely used, and so the return on investment (ROI) cannot be determined precisely. Low initial cost and operating cost are mandatory for sensors and communication infrastructure to ensure its favourable reception and adoption by various potential industries. Industry experts agree that it makes sense to start now and to make small steps towards the big idea of industrial networks and communication.

* All other company names or product names that appear in this paper are either trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders.

 

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