Imagine that you don’t have people to just stand and observe and take notes over three shifts a day for a week or so. What if you could position a few cameras in strategic locations. The video is captured and run through analytics. Engineers, operators, and managers would not have to manually parse through hours of video. They would be presented with data visualization designed to help them get to root causes of problems, assist worker ergonomics, improve safety, and boost productivity.
That is what the Sensable solution does.
Imagine another scenario. You are an operator on a production line. You have been trying to point out bottlenecks to production on your machine. Then engineers install streaming video pointing not just at a specific point on you or the machine but with wide enough scope to see the larger process. The video analytics point out the bottleneck. Voila. Vindicated. Proof in the data.
The video is not for spying on employees. It is designed to help them. Just what true digital transformation is—an aid to decision making and continuous improvement.
- Missed throughput targets—station utilization lower than expected, unplanned downtimes more than planned
- Low process efficiency—cycle time variability, too many interruptions
- Low operations visibility—safety challenges due to best practices violations, missed inspection or assembly steps
- Manage work area or assembly line—real-time feedback, identify bottlenecks, performance reports by shift/day, remote visibility-ideal for managing off shifts
- Perform long duration time studies—data-driven Kaizen setup/changeover analysis, run/analyzed over weeks, compare across time and facilities, store metrics for Kaizen, perform SMED analysis in large areas
- Identify missed inspection steps with 360 degree analysis—rapidly identify root cause of defects, search for video clips associated with product assembly
- Achieve healthier, safer, well trained workforce—capture near misses and best practice violations, capture the impact of fatigue by measuring throughput at beginning and end of shift, capture and share the best practices for training
- Build realistic engineering standards—capture data for the entire shift or multiple shifts before creating a standard to be enforced
Innovation has not died even at the sensor level of automation. This news from Zebra Technologies features a new line of environmental sensors including the new ZS300 sensor, ZB200 Bridge and Android Sensor Discovery app.
Using these sensors, manufacturers, wholesalers, transportation and logistics operators in the food, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries now have cloud-based visibility into a range of environmental factors, including temperature monitoring and moisture detection. This will enable them to know if products have been maintained within appropriate conditions across the supply chain. The sensors help improve profitability by allowing users to take corrective action in real time and maximize their productivity with a more efficient data logger.
The new ZS300 electronic sensor addresses the current challenges faced with heightened consumer concerns about medications or food being compromised in transit with a secure cloud platform that makes it easy to integrate temperature logging into a wide variety of applications and systems of record. They are available in multipacks and include minimal biodegradable packaging and a no-cost recycling program to help reduce the impact on the environment.
A couple of news items recently pushed my way from the foundation layer of the famous Purdue Pyramid. This one comes from Honeywell, a company that usually talks to me about software and sustainability. This release concerns transmitters for condition-based monitoring of rotating equipment. This is an important layer of data generation for the famous Industrial Internet of Things.
Honeywell March 8, 2023 introduced Versatilis Transmitters for condition-based monitoring of rotating equipment such as pumps, motors, compressors, fans, blowers, and gearboxes that provide relevant measurements of rotating equipment, delivering intelligence that can improve safety, availability, and reliability across industries.
These are a multi-variant instrument based on the low power, long range LoRaWAN protocol known for low power consumption and easy installation. Easy configuration is achieved through a mobile application over Bluetooth.
They can seamlessly integrate with Honeywell’s Experion HS and other SCADA or asset management platforms. When used with Honeywell’s analytics software, this technology can predict equipment failures such as asset imbalance, misalignment, and bearing-related issues before they happen, helping to reduce unplanned downtime.
Still catching up on news I learned at ARC Industry Forum in early February. This one is expansion of the device integration model enabled by the latest version of FDT. Earlier, I wrote about Migrating to FDT 3. I sat in a couple of sessions where a senior engineer at a consumer packaged goods company pleaded with suppliers to make integrating and applying technologies more user-friendly. This is one such technology.
FDT Group announced that the PACTware consortium released its latest software version, PACTware 6.1, based on the latest FDT3 standard. PACTware 6.1 is one of the first FDT3 stand-alone device configuration environments available. The software tool’s source code is available to the PACTware Consortium membership consisting of 22 automation vendors who offer the FDT-enabled hosting product to the user community at no cost.
By leveraging the modern FDT3 Unified Environment for intelligent device management, PACTware 6.1 users will enjoy the ability to support their current FDT DTM install base and support modern FDT3 web-based DTMs that are scalable for IIoT architectures. This release also supports integration with FDI Device Packages.
Suppliers of industrial automation systems and devices want to provide solutions that enable the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). To meet their customers’ needs, it is vital for suppliers to enhance their system and device offerings with standards-based, platform-independent, information-driven business models. The new FDT3 standard is accelerating the digital manufacturing journey by enabling an ecosystem of FDT-based solutions providing a unified environment for industrial device management with IT/OT data-driven operations.
In addition to the new FDT3 standard that fully describes the FDT Desktop environment and FDT web-based device DTM, the standard also defines a cloud-based FDT Server environment for distributed control. The new FDT3 DTM and FDT Server are OPC UA- and -mobile ready without any coding, allowing users an easy to use and scalable migration path of OT data to IT enterprise applications.
No sooner had interest in wireless sensors developed batteries were identified as a weak point. Sending maintenance crews out routinely to replace batteries became a sticking point. For every difficulty lies an opportunity. Technologies to harvest energy from equipment vibrations and other sources went into development.
Here we are many years later and a notice of more kinetic energy harvesting came my way thanks to an exhibit at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January.
WePower Technologies introduced Gemns Energy Harvesting Generator (EHG) product line. The Gemns product line includes three distinct products, each of which use both permanent and oscillating magnets to harvest kinetic energy through electromagnetic induction: the Gemns G100 Integrated RF Switch, the Gemns G200 EHG, and the Gemns G300 EHG.
The kinetic energy transient provided by each of these Gemns products can be used to trigger a sensor, perform a reading, form a data packet, and transmit a radio signal with the range and reliability necessary to advance the RF communication needs of the IoT industry.
The three products are:
- Gemns G100 Integrated RF Switch – A wireless industrial push button, the G100 has been tested to over 1 million activations and has served as the initial proof of concept for the growing Gemns product lineup. The G100 includes space for Gemns’ energy harvesting circuit and another PCB that would typically be the transmitter. Anticipated applications beyond industrial will include automotive, smart home and city, and aerospace.
- Gemns G200 EHG – The workhorse of the Gemns lineup, this is our most powerful EHG. Initially designed for industrial IoT applications in safety and limit switches, the expected applications where the G200 will excel include automotive, home/office IoT, and other higher energy applications.
- Gemns G300 EHG – A high-output device that requires less force to activate, making it useful for consumer products in lighting and smart home devices, as well as in future IoT products where new activation methods will be explored.
The vision and streaming video area seems to be ripe for continued investment and innovation. I’ve discussed a few applications lately that look promising. Here is news of an underlying technology that will boost these other applications.
eYs3D, a silicon-design-AI computer vision solutions company, introduced at CES a state-of-the-art computer vision development platform for next-generation autonomous robotic applications such as AIoT (artificial intelligence of things), smart city, indoor cleaning robots, and outdoor agricultural robots for both industrial and retail sectors.
XINK offers multiple benefits:
- Industry 4.0 application readiness, via high-speed communications and conformance to IEEE 1588 standards
- Effective power management, including with sleep and deep sleep modes for unused blocks, supporting always-on capability
- Superior computing performance through the quad-core Cortex A55 and the 4.6 TOPS NPU in the eCV1 chip, which provides dedicated machine learning instructions, a patented neural network engine, and Tensor Processing Fabric
- Highly flexible image and computer vision processing for domain-specific applications
The platform, called XINK, is both a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) as well as a hardware and software development kit that is a cost-effective solution for design of safe, vision-capable mobile AI products equipped with field analysis, object recognition, obstacle detection, object tracking and following, and route planning functions.
XINK provides all the necessary elements for product development, including high-performance compute power, AI accelerator, I/O controls and Flexi-bus communication peripherals, smart power management and machine vision subsystems. The modular XINK platform takes care of low-level programming, freeing developers to use cut-and-paste coding for application-specific design while reducing design cycles for quicker commercialization.
The platform has H.264 compression for video streaming as well as Imaging Signal Processing (ISP) support features. XINK accepts image data from either an external ISP such as eYs3D’s separate eSP87x series stereo video and depth processor, or from the ISP soft code inside the XINK CPU.
The edge AI processing is powered by eYs3D’s new eCV1 AI chip that incorporates four Core ARM 64-Bit CPUs and a 4.6 TOPS neural processor unit (NPU). An additional low power ARM Cortex M4 processor can be used as an MCU. The platform supports various AI inference tools including TensorFlow, TensorFlow Lite, PyTorch, Caffe, TVM and more.