ABB Drops a Bunch of News, Drones, OEMs, and Mills

ABB has moved its media relations, at least the people working with me, to England. Two other major European industrial technology providers also have moved marketing and media relations from the US to England. I have no idea whether this is a statement about the state of the US market or the state of their cost structure. Maybe both.

ABB changed CEOs several years ago and just changed again. These precipitated changes in corporate emphases—divesting several large businesses and adding others. The variety in these three announcements certainly reflects the new diversity of the corporate portfolio.

ABB drone-based leak detection and greenhouse gas measuring system

HoverGuard can help operators of USA’s three million miles of pipeline infrastructure to increase their safety and environmental capabilities in line with the USA 2020 PIPES Act.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the majority of gas shipments in the US take place using the millions of miles of the nation’s pipeline infrastructure. On December 27, 2020, the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act was signed into law in the United States. The Act directs gas pipeline operators to use advanced leak detection technologies to protect the environment and pipeline safety.

Detection of odorless and invisible gas leaks can be challenging and expensive. ABB’s latest addition to its ABB Ability Mobile Gas Leak Detection System, HoverGuard, provides the solution by finding leaks faster and more reliably than ever before. 

HoverGuard is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)-based system that detects, quantifies and maps leaks up to 300 ft from natural gas distribution and transmission pipelines, gathering lines, storage facilities, and other potential sources quickly, safely and reliably. It automatically generates comprehensive digital reports that summarize results and can be shared in minutes after a survey.

The cloud-connected, multi-gas solution is also the first of its kind to quantify the three most important greenhouse gases methane, carbon dioxide and water vapor continuously while flying. Each greenhouse gas affects the environment differently and is present in the air in different amounts. Sourcing individual gases also provides important information to scientists and researchers when studying the complex environmental processes affecting climate and pollution.

Patented cavity enhanced laser absorption spectroscopy detects methane with a sensitivity more than 1,000 times higher than conventional leak detection tools. This sensitivity and speed allow HoverGuard to detect leaks while flying at altitudes of 130 ft, or higher, and at speeds greater than 55 mph. It can cover 10-15 times more land area per minute by operating on low-cost commercial UAV capable of carrying a payload of 6.6 lbs.

ABB calls for more collaboration with OEMs

ABB has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Hitachi Construction Machinery to share their expertise and collaborate in bringing solutions to market that will reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with heavy machinery in mining.  

The companies will explore possibilities to apply ABB’s electrification, automation, and digital solutions to mining trucks and excavators provided by Hitachi Construction Machinery as part of wider efforts with mine operators to electrify all processes from pit to port. Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Hitachi Construction Machinery also brings expertise in driverless operation and labor-saving technologies. The aim of the combined solutions is to enhance the efficiency and flexibility of customer businesses, contributing to the reduction of CO₂ and the realization of a sustainable society.

The collaboration with Hitachi Construction Machinery is one of many that ABB are looking to develop with OEMs to accelerate the transition to all-electric mines.  

“ABB is calling for more collaboration between OEMs and technology companies to fast-track the development of new emissions-reducing systems with electrification and automation of the whole mining operation the goal. We are ready to work more with OEMs to establish a common approach for the market, and through strategic collaboration provide solutions that can help enable a low-carbon society and make mining operations more responsible,” said Joachim Braun, Division President, Process Industries, ABB. “New emissions-reducing technologies can transform the energy-intensive mining industry to achieve an even more productive, but also sustainable future.”

“Today, the challenge of our customers is on electrification of trucks and the time to change is now. But nobody can achieve this transformation alone. Co-creation of solutions with OEMs and mining companies is needed to successfully integrate electrification in mines.” said Max Luedtke, ABB’s Global Head of Mining.

ABB Ability Performance Optimization Service for cold rolling mills

ABB has launched its new ABB Ability Performance Optimization Service for cold rolling mills, offering steel, aluminum, and other metals manufacturers opportunities to reach new levels of operational performance through technology, boosting their processes and profitability.

The new service – part of ABB’s metals digital portfolio and Collaborative Operations for Metals suite – combines continuous performance monitoring using ABB Ability Data Analytics for cold rolling mills, with real time support from ABB experts. ABB will work alongside customers with the vision of continuing to transform the metals industry.

The data analytics component uses process-specific algorithms based on a century of metals domain expertise to collect high frequency data from mill control systems and discover trends, benchmarks and other performance factors, sending alerts to operators and maintenance when opportunities to optimize performance are identified.

Alongside this, ABB experts are available to provide onsite or offsite support, recommending actions to ensure the mill maintains its performance targets against key performance indicators (KPIs) for productivity, quality and yield. Leveraging the collective strengths of metals producers and ABB experts, access to dashboards is shared, enabling all parties to drill down to individual coil level.

In addition, ABB experts can provide customers with detailed reports at regular intervals describing areas for improvement, identified trends, or problem areas found in historical data, allowing for continuous improvement over time.

Key benefits include continuous collaboration and access to experts; increased productivity through improved asset performance and reduced downtime; higher yield and quality resulting from immediate corrective action when problems occur; reduced risk of equipment failure; the ability to leverage insights across the enterprise and reductions in wastage, energy and other costs.

ThruWave recruits Pieter Krynauw as new CEO

I’ve recently heard about millimeter waves in relation to 5G cellular. Here is a different use from a company I just heard about. What’s it been, 10 or 15 years ago, when RFID was all the rage for logistics. Wal-mart was going to require it on packages. Journalists wrote about it like it was the neatest thing since sliced bread—when I kept reminding them it was old technology, even then, One problem was that you couldn’t scan a whole pallet of boxes down to the individual item. I have not seen this in operation, but it sounds like a step in the right direction.

ThruWave, the pioneer of 3D millimeter wave (mmWave) imaging for logistics and supply chain automation, welcomes Pieter Krynauw as Chief Executive Officer effective March 1, 2021. Krynauw joins ThruWave from Honeywell where he served in multiple roles in the US, China and the Middle East in the Performance Material & Technologies (PMT) and Safety & Productivity Solutions (SPS) groups. Most recently he served as President of Honeywell Intelligrated, a world leader in supply chain automation.

Unlike existing X-ray inspection systems, ThruWave’s sensors use human-safe millimeter waves to enable safe operation alongside human workers in busy warehouses and fulfillment centers and beyond. ThruWave’s analytics layer automatically interprets images to identify objects, measure cube utilization, count items, and detect missing or damaged items, all at high speed.  ThruWave systems can automatically image and analyze up to 20,000 boxes or totes per hour.

“Consumer expectations are constantly changing, resulting in increasing pressure on supply chains and business operations. Over a career of nearly twenty years spanning multiple industries, I’ve seen and felt the challenges this creates for our customers and the role technology can play to lead the way in solving problems in a new and better way. ThruWave’s outstanding team is developing innovative products that solve key challenges for critical infrastructure security and supply chain visibility,” said Krynauw. “I look forward to leading the team as our solutions deliver compelling value for customers seeking unprecedented visibility and efficiency in their operations. Today, ThruWave lets our customers see through physical barriers, to the items inside, enabling the measurement of cube utilization, item counts and anomaly detection, all without opening sealed packages. Tomorrow, this level of perception will yield a new way for machines to see the world and help people make decisions ultimately reducing operating costs, improving safety and security as well as reducing carbon footprint.” 

“We look forward to Pieter’s leadership and experience across multiple verticals in sensing and automation, as ThruWave delivers our ground-breaking 3D millimeter wave (mmWave) sensing and analytics solutions”, said ThruWave founder and Chief Scientist Matt Reynolds, adding “Pieter brings an outstanding global business perspective to ThruWave, and his leadership of high-growth, customer success-focused technology organizations will be an incredible asset as we serve our global customer base.”

Calvin Chin, Director and Managing Partner of ThruWave’s lead investor E14 Fund added, “Pieter shares our vision for ThruWave as he’s been on the front lines of serving the world’s largest and most demanding customers. ThruWave is transforming the way supply chain decisions are made by replacing sampling and guesswork with actionable intelligence that customers just could not get before. This will be another exciting chapter in ThruWave’s deployment of innovative supply chain solutions that enable customers to maximize accuracy and efficiency while minimizing their environmental impact and carbon footprint.” 

Based in Seattle, Washington, ThruWave makes the invisible visible with human-safe, 3D millimeter wave imaging. ThruWave sensors and software analytics are an easy retrofit for existing conveyor and robotic material handling systems, enabling supply chain and logistics customers to measure and improve their inbound and outbound item handling.

About E14 Fund

E14 Fund is the early-stage venture capital firm for the MIT Media Lab community. E14 Fund invests in deep tech startups that are transforming traditional industries across a broad array of market-ready, scalable innovation such as sensors, AI/ML, robotics, health, synthetic biology and more. Officially affiliated with MIT, E14 Fund builds and supports a vibrant community of founders and companies with resources from across the MIT ecosystem.

PAS Releases Sensor and Data Integrity

New capability ensures configuration data integrity and signal tracing to improve process safety, reduce cyber risk and support digital transformation

PAS (now PAS Global, part of Hexagon) has long provided some valuable and interesting solutions for process automation. Its Integrity series of configuration management tools now integrated with its cyber security work offers many benefits. This announcement was highlighted at our meetings (virtual, of course) at the 2021 ARC Industry Forum.

PAS Global announced Sensor Data Integrity, a new Automation Integrity module, which enables industrial organizations to ensure configuration data integrity for smart and traditional sensors with signal tracing and validation. This addition to Automation Integrity helps reduce both process safety and cyber risk in support of digital transformation and Industrie 4.0 initiatives.

As industrial organizations expand their deployment of smart sensors, it is becoming increasingly more complex to manage configuration consistency across field device management, distributed control systems (DCS), programmable logic controllers (PLC), safety instrumented systems (SIS), historians and other operational technology (OT). Managing the complex configuration of millions of multi-vendor sensors consistently has become a major challenge for industrial companies. The lack of effective sensor management also puts digital transformation initiatives at risk of falling short of their intended benefits, potentially wasting multimillion-dollar investments.

The new Sensor Data Integrity module provides multi-vendor:

  • Discovery of smart, industrial IoT, and traditional analog sensors
  • Visibility to the complete inventory and potential cyber vulnerability for sensors
  • Creation of templates to define approved configuration for each sensor type
  • Automated detection of configuration errors
  • Automated identification of devices that don’t match assigned templates
  • Cross-checking of parameters (ranges, units, etc.)
  • Support for large-scale, multi-site sensor deployments
  • Sensor signal tracing, validation and visualization

The information provided by Sensor Data Integrity can also be leveraged by sensor asset management systems (AMS) to support instrument calibration and can feed PAS Cyber Integrity to support cybersecurity vulnerability assessments.

“PAS has a strong history of customer-led innovation and the development of Sensor Data Integrity builds on that tradition,” said Eddie Habibi, PAS Founder. “The expansion of smart sensors is making it increasingly difficult for operations teams to monitor for configuration drift and inconsistencies. This means teams are spending more time trying to find issues instead of correcting them, which increases the risk of poor plant performance and cyber vulnerabilities. PAS, now part of Hexagon, is the first technology provider addressing this challenge with a multi-vendor solution that works across OT systems.”

With Sensor Data Integrity, industrial organizations will:

  • Reduce manual effort in reconciling sensor and field device configurations
  • Improve plant performance and reduce safety risk (e.g., fewer unit trips due to bad configurations)
  • Reduce sensor configuration drift and errors by more than 40%
  • Enhance decision-making with higher-quality sensor diagnostics
  • Leverage sensor data for vulnerability assessment and obsolescence planning
  • Reduce sensor-related cost overruns before startup (e.g., accelerated loop check out)

“Multi-vendor sensor configuration management is a long-standing challenge in the industrial sector and the problem is only getting worse with the proliferation of smart sensors,” said Larry O’Brien, Research VP ARC Advisory Group. “In a 2017 study, ARC estimated the process industries lose as much as $1 trillion per year due to unplanned downtime. Misconfigured or inconsistent sensor configurations are key contributors to these events. We are pleased to see PAS, with support from key customers, has introduced sensor data integrity to address this pervasive and growing problem.”

IoT Starts With Sensors, Here Is a Bunch of Sensor News

Sometimes similar news comes in bunches, a little bit like a graph of an FFT. News from Swift Sensors and ABB take us from Covid to Space and back.

Swift Sensors Launches Sub-Zero Temperature Sensor to Meet COVID-19 Vaccine Monitoring and Storage Requirements

24/7 cloud-based wireless monitoring ensures vaccines are stored throughout the cold chain in the required sub-zero temperature ranges down to -100°C.

Swift Sensors, a provider of industrial IoT sensor solutions, launched a secure wireless vaccine storage unit monitoring and alert system to enable medical facilities and pharmacies to remotely monitor COVID-19 vaccine storage temperatures, automate data logging, and respond quickly in case of an equipment problem or power failure.

As vaccine suppliers and public health agencies expand the number of locations for vaccine delivery, pharmacies and clinics must quickly and safely store the vaccines to preserve the vaccines’ efficacy, prevent waste, and comply with data monitoring regulations. Swift Sensors has developed a wireless sensor system to achieve these goals.

“Data loggers have historically been used in cold-chain monitoring of vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and other critical perishable items. However, they lack the low cost, simplicity, and connectivity of wireless sensors connected to the internet,” said Ray Almgren, Swift Sensors CEO. “Our new sub-zero temperature sensor delivers an all-in-one, cost-effective solution for the safe and fast distribution and delivery of much-needed vaccines.”

Each Swift Sensors vaccine package includes at least one wireless remote temperature sensor to relay storage temperature data to an included wireless gateway.

The gateway sends data to a secure cloud-based Swift Sensors Console account. Pharmacy and clinic managers can view temperatures in real time on their computer or mobile device. They can also receive instant alerts via text, voice or email if the storage unit temperature exceeds established thresholds.

“Pharmacies and clinics can use our new sub-zero temperature sensor to monitor the super-cold temperatures the Pfizer vaccine requires or use our standard wireless remote temperature sensor to monitor Moderna vaccine storage conditions,” Almgren said. “Installation typically requires only a few minutes, and the device batteries last six to eight years.”

The Swift Sensors Console stores historical temperature readings so pharmacies and clinics can easily comply with CDC and state health department data logging requirements, without having to spend employee time manually recording or updating temperature data. 

ABB sensor onboard SpaceX rocket to detect greenhouse gas emissions 

An optical sensor manufactured by ABB was deployed with the successful launch of satellite Hugo from GHGSat, the emerging leader in greenhouse gas sensing services in space.

The ABB supplied optical sensor can map methane emissions from space at a resolution that is 100 times higher than any other sensors. Whilst previously only larger regions could be surveyed, for the first time the new greater granularity now allows the identification of the source of emissions. An additional nine units are currently under manufacture at ABB to be launched by the end of 2022 ready to be on-board across the first private satellite constellation dedicated to emission measurement.

Space offers the ideal location to freely monitor emissions across jurisdictions and quantitatively report on improvements. The ABB sensors will provide valuable insights which will enable governments and industries around the world to meet their emission reduction targets and reduce the negative impact on global warming.

With its involvement in the Canadian SCISAT mission and the Japanese GOSAT series of satellites, ABB has been at the forefront of the field of greenhouse gas sensing from space for more than two decades. ABB optical equipment already in space cumulates more than 100 years of reliable operation. The SCISAT sensor tracks long-term subtle composition changes in the earth’s atmosphere down to parts per trillion of more than 70 molecules and pollutants since 2003. Weather agencies across the world base their predictions on ABB equipment flying onboard the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather satellites (NPP and JPSS), which saves lives by improving the timeliness and accuracy of weather forecasts for up to seven days. 

ABB is also a global leader in earthbound continuous emission monitoring with over 60,000 systems installed in more than 50 countries worldwide. Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) continuously record and evaluate emission data across all industries. They provide important information for the environmental and economic operation of production facilities. The range includes the ACF5000 that accurately and reliably monitors up to 15 gas components simultaneously.

New ABB emission monitoring solution helps the maritime industry achieve decarbonization targets

The launch of ABB’s CEMcaptain will help shipping comply with the sulphur emission regulations that were enforced in 2020 and keep in check their CO2 footprint.

In January 2020, the low sulphur and nitrous oxide emission limits in the International Maritime Organization regulations became effective worldwide. CEMcaptain is a powerful emissions monitoring system from ABB designed to help the maritime industry meet these new regulations and become more sustainable. Its measurement and digital capabilities increase on-board safety, provide process optimization and substantially reduce ownership costs. By consistently achieving 98 percent and more uptime, the new system not only requires less maintenance effort but also saves time otherwise spent on handling non-compliance issues. 

Designed with busy mariners and a regularly changing crew in mind, CEMcaptain is a multi-component analyzer system that continuously provides real-time data offering reliable measurement of emissions with the highest stability. Operating in even the harshest of conditions it integrates analyzer modules and sample handling components in a standalone cabinet, making installation easy.  

Equipped with ABB’s renowned Uras26 non-dispersive IR gas analyzer, CEMcaptain simultaneously and continuously measures sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) in line with regulation requirements. Each analyzer has two separate gas paths to allow for continuous CO2/SO2 measurement of separate streams, with up to four different components per analyzer module.

Fast fault reporting, diagnosis and repair are achieved via the on-site and remote digital services which help operators get closer to 100 percent availability for their gas analysis instrumentation. Dynamic QR codes are integrated into the ABB CEMcaptain system display panel. All relevant diagnostic information can be collected from the analyzer via a scanned code and transferred to ABB support. This means that maritime instrumentation technicians can send real-time information to an ABB service expert to get immediate guidance on appropriate maintenance. ABB Ability™ Remote Assistance with secured connectivity direct to ABB support is also offered for real-time solutions to problems. These features reduce the costly training of changing crews as well as the number of experts required on board. They also increase on-board safety by reducing crew exposure to emissions. 

CEMcaptain GAA610-M is approved by all major classification societies (DNV GL, ABS Group, Lloyds Register, Bureau Veritas, ClassNK, Korean Register). 

Adoption of AI-based Machine Vision Is Growing


Machine vision technology and applications continue to hold a spot in my heart even though it became less interesting to me over the years. My $25K system from 1993 went to $10K by 1996 to $5K and under by 2000, all the while becoming more powerful and easier to use. However, I’ve lately talked with a company working on Artificial Intelligence for machine vision. It seems to be getting some traction. Here are two recent releases.

Landing AI and the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) have released a report from a survey covering a range of topics, including the level of adoption, benefits, and challenges of implementing AI-based visual inspection. 

“As evidenced by the survey, AI-based machine vision is already creating value for the manufacturing industry, with proven benefits including improved accuracy, flexibility, and reduced cost,” said Dongyan Wang, Vice President of AI Transformation at Landing AI. “The availability of easy-to-use AI tools specifically designed for visual inspection will drive further industry adoption and bring the benefits of AI to more organizations.” 

The report from Landing AI and A3 found that companies have a high degree of confidence in the effectiveness of AI, with 55% of respondents saying their overall opinion is either high or very high. The survey showed that 26% of respondents have adopted AI-based machine vision while 41% say they plan to in the future. Of those who are using AI, improved accuracy is the top benefit (62%).

While implementing AI, the primary challenge is scarcity of data on which to train AI models, noted 62% of manufacturers. Companies were also concerned about scalability as solutions moved out of pilot programs, with 27% saying they struggled when moving from proof-of-concept to initial deployment. 

Additional findings from the Landing AI and A3 report include:

  • In a heavily automated sector, manual inspection is still playing an important role, with 40% saying their inspection is either completely or mostly manual.
  • The confidence level of businesses regarding AI effectiveness is high with 26% saying they are already using AI for visual inspection.
  • When it comes to using AI, scarcity of data, complexity of integrating AI within existing infrastructure, and the inability to achieve lab results in production are the top three challenges. 
  • Most businesses prefer to have ownership of their AI projects either by developing in-house or by working with a vendor. 

AI Visual Inspection Platform to Improve Quality and Reduce Costs

Meanwhile, Landing AI unveiled LandingLens, an end-to-end visual inspection platform specifically designed to help manufacturers build, deploy, and scale AI-powered visual inspection solutions. 

“AI-powered visual inspection solutions have demonstrated clear advantages over conventional methods, yet the overall adoption is slow as many companies get stuck after some small-scale proof-of-concept projects,” said Andrew Ng, founder and CEO of Landing AI. “LandingLens, developed with the know-how and expertise from building and shipping many visual inspection projects, is best positioned to bridge the gap and enable teams to succeed. With an intuitive interface, Landing AI’s visual inspection platform allows even non-AI experts to train and deploy a model with a few clicks, putting the ownership of the solution in the hands of users so they can build and update the solutions without being beholden to a third-party AI team.”

Features

  • Defect and Data Management: A robust data preparation module helps customers improve efficiency and produce more accurately labeled data, resulting in better performing models in less time. 
  • Model Iteration: Training and evaluation tools enable users to rapidly develop a deployment-ready model. 
  • Continuous Learning: Inference and monitoring modules allow users to scale their AI solutions by enabling them to deploy production-ready models to the edge with ease, while continuously monitoring those deployments from a central location.

Benefits

  • Reduced Project Lifecycle: Reduces the AI project development life cycle time by up to 67%.
  • Cost reduction: Reduce the overall AI development and deployment costs by up to 60% 
  • Improved Accuracy: Improves accuracy of Machine Learning models through more accurately labeled data
  • Scaling: Enable users to effectively scale to multiple production lines across many factories

TRUMPF and SICK Develop First Industrial Quantum Sensor

In a continuation of Sensor Day at The Manufacturing Connection, here is an announcement about an Industrial quantum sensor development.

  • Cooperation agreement on development of industrial quantum sensor signed
  • Successful functional test of the world’s first quantum optical sensor for serial production
  • First sensors in industrial use from 2021
  • Experts estimate total market for quantum sensors at about EUR 1.1 bn. by 2023

The wholly owned TRUMPF subsidiary Q.ANT and sensor specialist SICK will in future work together on the development of quantum optical sensors. Representatives of the two high-tech companies signed a cooperation agreement in early November 2020 to make quantum technology for sensors available for industrial use. 

Quantum sensors enable measurements with unprecedented accuracy. The signing was preceded by a successful functional test of the world’s first quantum optical sensor for serial production. 

“SICK is expanding its position as a worldwide technology leader in the sensor sector by embarking on the production of quantum sensors. Quantum sensors are a key technology for the future of industry,” says Robert Bauer, Chairman of the Executive Board of SICK AG. 

As a market and technology leader for industrial sensors, SICK will be responsible for application development and sales of the product. As a specialist in quantum technology, the TRUMPF subsidiary Q.ANT takes on production of the measurement technology – and thus the sensor’s core technology. 

“Quantum technology is an enormous opportunity for German and European industry. This will be the first time that the partnership between our two high-tech companies will involve a product for serial production. The quantum sensor enables highly accurate measurements and will provide insights that will lead to completely new industrial applications,” says Peter Leibinger, Chief Technology Officer at TRUMPF. The first use of the new quantum sensors is planned for 2021.

Highly precise measurements of the smallest of particles 

Quantum sensors have hitherto mainly been used in research. For the first time, Q.ANT and SICK have now successfully completed functional tests for an industrial application. 

“Quantum technology enables, for example, ultrafast measurements of the movement and size distribution of particles. With industrialization of these sensors, not just us but Germany – as a high-tech location – takes a major step towards the commercialization of quantum technology,” says Michael Förtsch, CEO of Q.ANT. 

Using laser light, quantum sensors permit highly efficient measurements that would be impossible with conventional processes. 

“Quantum technology is the next level for sensors because it shifts hitherto firmly established technical limits. Using quantum effects, additional details can be perceived from signal noise where, up to now, no specific signals would have been measureable. This enables the measurement of particles that are about two hundred times smaller than the width of a human hair,” says Niels Syassen, Senior Vice President R&D at SICK and responsible for the project there. The quantum sensors will initially be used for analyzing substances in air.

Industrialization leads to increased market volume

Quantum sensors could in future become everyday equipment in various industries: For example, they could be used in civil engineering to visualize underground structures before construction work begins; in the pharmaceutical industry they could make it easier to determine the best composition of tablet powder; in the electronics sector circuits could be inspected through surfaces; and highly accurate measurements could be made in industry in general. The market for quantum sensors could grow steadily with industrialization. Experts at Germany’s National Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech) estimate the worldwide market volume of industrial quantum sensors at about EUR 1.1 bn. by 2023.