RoboSkin Human-Like Sensing for Robots and Prosthetics

Technology adapting robots to ever more interesting applications advances almost daily. I’m not concerned with the dystopian robots taking over for humans meme, but we are definitely in the age of robots and humans working closely together to accomplish more and better tasks.

This advancement in sensing technology comes from BeBop Sensors—smart fabric sensor technologies.

A NERVOUS SYSTEM FOR ROBOTS

  • Less than 1mm Thick Advanced Fabric-Based Sensor Skin 
  • Exceeds Human Abilities for Spatial Resolution & Sensitivity
  • Fits Any Body Part of Humanoid Robot or Prosthetic

BeBop Sensors, www.bebopsensors.com the world leader in smart fabric sensor technologies, announced RoboSkin line of skin-like coverings for tactile awareness for humanoid robots and prosthetics. A true nervous system for robots at less than 1mm thick, RoboSkin is the only technology that fits all robotic body parts: limbs, fingers, feet, head, and torso, to make robots “feel” better. RoboSkin’s advanced fabric-based sensor skin can be shaped to any surface allowing quick tailoring to fit any robot, with spatial resolution and sensitivity that exceeds human abilities for a true partnership between humans and their robot helpers.

Why we need not fear robots replacing humans—we’ll need them.

The Census Bureau predicts that for the first time ever, there will be more Americans over the age of 65 than under 18, with Japan having the oldest population with 30% over 65. In addition, “The Great Resignation” shows no sign of slowing down, with record numbers of people leaving the work force. Human-like robots are stepping up to this urgent need, augmenting humans in the workplace, hospitals, and homes; with roles in healthcare, as domestic help, in manufacturing, distribution, biohazards, and even in entertainment and companionship roles. A human shape ensures a robot should be able to perform any human task; to fit through any door and use every human tool. Robots do not need to have the environment made around their needs — robots can do jobs humans want to avoid.

Founder Keith McMillen said, “I have been working with roboticists refining our RoboSkin for 10 years. We are pleased we can make this important contribution to the worldwide effort to bring humanoid robots into our lives to help people live longer, healthier, and more enjoyable lives.”

RoboSkin is available immediately for a variety of applications in robotics and prosthetics, including biohazard, digital health, IoT, VR/AR, automotive, law enforcement, testing, and more. For more information, see the video.

BeBop Sensors’ Founder & CTO, Keith McMillen started and sold two companies in his 40+ years innovating in the sensor and audio market. Zeta Music revolutionized stringed instruments and was sold to Gibson Guitars in 1992. Octiv, started in 2000, received funding from 3i and Intel Capital and was sold to Plantronics (NYSE:PLT) in 2005. McMillen is the inventor on numerous patents, has released hundreds of profitable products and published dozens of scholarly papers; as well as winning a Guthman Award in 2010. He received a BS in Acoustics from University of Illinois at Urbana.

Monitoring Methane Emissions

Sustainablility talk has been a focus everywhere I have been this past month. Companies are diligently working on technologies to reduce emissions, capture carbon, improve batteries, recycle plastic, and more. Corporately this makes sense from a public relations and investor relations point of view. But also these problems  are also waste. And we Lean aficionados hate waste.

One solution I heard a couple of times was methane leak detection. This solution comes from ABB using optical sensors mounted in a satellite. 

GHGSat equips its existing satellite constellation with three more ABB-built optical sensors, increasing the frequency of observations and capacity to precisely pinpoint the source of methane emissions

ABB-built methane detection optical sensors can map industrial emissions from space at a resolution of 100 times higher than comparable technologies currently in operation 

Monitoring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from space supports meeting the world’s climate change targets

Canadian company GHGSat, which specializes in high-resolution GHG monitoring from space, launches three new ABB-built optical sensors into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, doubling capacity to monitor methane gas emissions.

With ABB’s technology, the GHGSat team is able to precisely locate and measure methane emissions from any given industrial site on earth. The launch of three new ABB-built high-resolution methane sensors doubles the company’s capacity to monitor customer sites. In addition to the three units being launched – Luca, Penny and Diako – six additional units are under fabrication at ABB.  

According to the International Energy Agency, methane is responsible for around 30 percent of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, and rapid and sustained reductions in methane emissions are key to limiting near-term global warming and improving air quality.

 

Updates from Honeywell

I am in a hallway of the JW Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando attending my first Honeywell User Group meeting in several years. I missed a couple before the pandemic shut things down. More than 1,200 people here, so it’s a lively return to conference season. 

There were several announcements in CTO Jason Urso’s usual high energy product keynote this morning. The one I am reporting today deals with sustainability—of which they had much to say. Other announcements will discuss the future of process control and other goodies. I was also sitting on an update from Honeywell Forge (software) that I’ll tack on to the end of this report.

Honeywell Introduces Emissions Control and Reduction Initiative

This initial offering will focus on the detection and reporting of fugitive methane emissions to help users reduce production losses, improve productivity and comply with ongoing legislation.

Honeywell announced an Emissions Control & Reduction Initiative designed to help customers achieve carbon neutrality in a wide range of areas. The initiative will initially focus on helping oil and gas customers with upstream, midstream and downstream operations to monitor and reduce fugitive methane emissions, which are more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

By combining its portfolio of fixed, portable and personal gas detection solutions with gas cloud imaging cameras, Honeywell will provide customers with early detection of fugitive methane emissions, including the precise location of any leaks and associated data analytics and trends. Equipped with this data, users can act quickly to address leaks and other identified risks to minimize production losses and maintain compliance with legislation.

The solution – which combines wireless gas detector technology with enterprise-wide data management solutions – works in tandem with existing Leak Detection & Repair (LDAR) testing methods to improve the accuracy of reporting and increase productivity by enabling users to find production losses faster.

Honeywell’s methane detection capability will be available to customers in Q4 2022.

Honeywell Introduces Honeywell Forge Connected Warehouse

Honeywell announced the Spring 2022 release of new offerings and enhancements to Honeywell Forge, the leading enterprise performance management software solution, designed to assist customers in accelerating the digital transformation of their operations. This class of offerings, which includes Honeywell Forge Connected Warehouse, will help organizations simplify operations and lower costs by providing increased visibility to data as well as real-time insights, monitoring and automation. 

“Our new Honeywell Forge Connected Warehouse offering brings a scalable and cloud-based solution to help distribution centers accelerate their productivity, predictability and transformation strategies,” said Kevin Dehoff, president and CEO of Honeywell Connected Enterprise. “We are proud to also introduce several enhancements to our current software solutions across the aerospace, smart buildings and industrial sectors, enabling enterprises to optimize asset performance and drive operational savings.”

Honeywell Forge Connected Warehouse provides organizations with two modules that provide real-time visibility across their warehouse site operations and advanced analytics to reduce unplanned downtime, address recurring challenges and automate legacy processes. The Site Operations module features a dashboard that indicates how sites are performing against plan and helps managers identify repetitive bottlenecks and proactively address issues that may impact performance. The interface, which is optimized for tablets, enables enterprise benchmarking, monitors areas such as picking and shipping and makes recommendations to achieve daily targets. Users can use the Honeywell Forge Connect edge solution to connect devices and integrate with standard warehouse systems.

Honeywell is launching enhancements to other software across the aerospace, smart buildings and industrial sectors.

• The all-new Honeywell Forge Pilot Connect mobile app is our latest aerospace offering, designed to improve fuel savings while engaging flight crews in their companies’ sustainability and efficiency initiatives. The easy-to-use app works with Honeywell Forge Flight Efficiency to provide pilots with briefing information like historic fuel averages, debriefing information like trajectory analytics, and customizable KPIs and targets.

• For the commercial real estate industry, Honeywell Forge Predictive Maintenance provides near real-time visibility into buildings’ health & performance, and service cases in order to prioritize asset issues based on safety, operational and quality risks.

• Additionally, Sine occupant experience solutions provide frictionless access to buildings via mobile Bluetooth. Other improvements include new scheduling and capacity planning features along with occupant experience enhancements such as better feedback, information and wayfinding.

• UniSim Design now provides a common simulation platform for upstream oil and gas, downstream processing and sustainability. It contains new features for modeling Green H2, CO2 capture, transportation and storage. 

• Honeywell Forge Inspection Rounds offers new features for industrials customers that allow the capture of images and videos during task execution and the creation of reusable checklists to drive standardization across an organization. Other additions include GPS-enabled monitoring of worker proximity, enhanced capabilities for gaining insights from historical data trends and improved asset identification through NFC tagging.

• For OT Cybersecurity, Honeywell is rolling out a new Cyber Care services offering to supplement its Process Control Network (PCN) Hardening Service. After completion of the initial PCN hardening services to help industrial companies reduce their OT attack vectors, Cyber Care provides an option to purchase bi-annual onsite Cyber Care visits by Honeywell consultants for maintaining previously implemented networking hardening benefits and identifying potential additional PCN hardening settings for enhanced protection.

Honeywell Forge is a purpose-built software solution on a native edge-to-cloud, data-driven architecture designed to accelerate digital transformation of operations. Explore the Spring Release, learn more about Honeywell Forge, request a demo and follow Honeywell Forge on LinkedIn for the latest news.

Festo Auto Teach Proximity Switch

I’ve sold many proximity switches in my life. I remember taking the first steel-face proxes around with a piece of 2×4 and 10-penny nails. The prox was installed in a steel rod. Give it to the customer. Have then drive the nail into the 2×4 then still sense the steel. Is that the last innovation in proxes? No. Here is one from Festo with an auto-teach function. From the press release:

Festo introduces the SDBT-MSX – the first programmable proximity switch with automatic switching point setting. With an initial detection range of 20 mm, the SDBT-MSX is easy and reliable to install and commission, especially in applications where mounting is difficult. The switch is ideal for all standard applications, including factory automation and the electronics industry/small parts handling.

Only two steps are required for installing an SDBT-MSX. The user simply fits the switch in the approximate end stop position within the 20 mm detection range (which is marked on the sensor) and connects the cable to the controller (PLC). No power supply is needed during installation. During first operation, the proximity switch detects the end position of the piston stroke and automatically learns and remembers the switching point. This is an industry first for a solid-state positioning switch.

Alternatively, the switching point of the SDBT-MSX can be taught manually using the capacitive control button. This button also allows the user to select PNP, NPN/ NO, or NC, and the switching window can be set from 2 … 15 mm. This flexibility can also reduce the variety of sensor types needed to be kept in inventory. 

SDBT-MSX fits in all drives with a T-slot. It pairs best with drives from Festo, such as the DSBC ISO cylinder, DFM guided drive, DSNU round cylinder, ADN and ADN-S compact cylinders, and DGST mini-slide. Such pairings enable users to access the full capabilities of the switch.

An informative video on the SDBT-MSX can be viewed on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIEZL3b8ibA

Wireless IoT Sensors Lose the Batteries

In the beginning of wireless IoT sensors on the supplier side was the concept of inexpensive wireless sensors beaming process and environmental data to the enterprise. In the beginning on the user side was the fear of sending maintenance technician on annual rounds with pockets full of batteries sort of like the annual reminder to change the batteries in your household smoke detectors.

These thoughts were soon followed by engineers tinkering with a variety of methods for generating electricity from the process or perhaps the inherent machine vibration thus eliminating batteries.

Recently I learned of a company called Everactive that has released a wireless sensor product suite that eliminates batteries. They use energy harvesting for power, their own wireless network in which each sensor reports back to the gateway. Some impressive use cases.

The publicist’s pitch related to sustainability (and Earth Day). Some examples:

With tools like Everactive’s real-time Steam Trap Monitoring, a single sensor’s impact = avoiding $1,000 in energy costs, 10+ tons in annual excess CO2 emissions, and 1,800+ therms of energy.  That’s the equivalent of removing 2 passenger cars from the road for a single year or making 5 US homes energy net-zero for a full year.  When you consider that an average manufacturing facility has hundreds to thousands of traps and there are tens of millions of these throughout industry, the impact multiplies rapidly.

With real-time Machine Health Monitoring, B2B customers are able run machinery much more efficiently and avoid extremely costly downtime events.

In general, there are hundreds of B2B IoT applications where wireless IoT devices can be put to work in the service of far more impactful uses — to curb energy usage, reduce waste, lower emissions, improve air quality, and do it using renewable energy.

Examples of Everactive’s Customers/Technology Impact on CSR

Anheuser Busch reduced its CO 2 emissions by an estimated 7,561tons of CO 2 per year using the Everactive always-on solution, which is equivalent to taking 1,644 passenger vehicles off the road each year.

Hershey Since implementing the STM (Steam Trap Monitoring), the Hershey’s plant has already saved several thousand dollars in steam system savings. The maintenance team are now piloting Everactive’s new solution for Machine Health Monitoring (MHM).

Colgate-Palmolive During the first several months of using 230 Everactive steam trap sensors in Colgate-Palmolive’s Ohio and Indiana manufacturing facilities, on-site managers received email alerts about four critical steam trap failures. Teams were able to quickly replace the malfunctioning traps. Everactive says that Colgate-Palmolive recouped its subscription-based fees for service (including installation of the sensors and use of Everactive’s web data  platform) in just three months. Everactive also estimates that as a result of the sensor-based monitoring, Colgate-Palmolive is saving 20,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions yearly.

Merck For this customer, the advantages have been manifold. Everactive delivers steam trap insights second-by-second, rather than once every six months, and does so conveniently, with intelligent notifications and easy to navigate mobile and desktop interfaces.”I was able to get on my phone real quick and read what the condensate temperature was, so we could determine if there was live steam going into [the trap],” notes the plant’s Facilities Engineer. “[That was] pretty neat.”

Software-Definable Flash LiDAR Complements Software-Defined Vehicle

The types of news releases and calls I’ve received over the past few years have signaled a shift in technology and applications. Sensor news was sparse, now new generations with new applications have emerged. Take this news of a software-defined LiDAR for autonomous vehicles. Think not only cars on the highway, but think also of autonomous material handling vehicles in our factories and warehouses.

PreAct Technologies, an Oregon-based developer of near-field flash LiDAR technology, announced that its patent pending T30P flash LiDAR is the industry’s first sensor designed to be software-definable and integrate easily into a complete autonomous driving system stack for automakers, as well as trucking and robotics applications.  Vehicles with software-defined architectures require sensor technology that can support over-the-air updates throughout the life of the vehicle, allowing OEMs to generate ongoing revenue by offering powerful new features and functionality.

“We are excited to bring our software-definable flash LiDAR to market, furthering the advancement of autonomous mobility across multiple industries,” said Paul Drysch, CEO of PreAct Technologies.  “We’ve spent the last three years creating a solution that fulfills the need of software-defined vehicles, providing the most value for Tier 1s and OEMs over the long term by making any ADAS application relevant for the entire life of the vehicle.”

As nearly every OEM is integrating high-performance computing into their vehicle and planning for the future, PreAct is committed to working with carmakers on future-proofing vehicles by delivering more sophisticated ADAS and safety applications throughout the life of a vehicle.  PreAct’s flash LiDAR architecture is based on modulated waveforms that can be optimized for different applications via over-the-air updates, along with an application stack that resides on the edge.  The flexibility of a software defined LiDAR allows Tier 1 suppliers and OEMs to package one sensor for multiple use cases – everything from true curb detection and gesture recognition to self-parking and automatic door actuation – that can update to meet their changing needs as more user and sensor data become available.

T30P, with a frame rate of 200 fps and QVGA resolution, is also the fastest flash Lidar on the market making it well suited for ground and air robotics or industrial applications – systems which all share a need for fast, accurate and high-resolution sensors that can reliably define and track objects in all environmental conditions.

PreAct’s T30P Flash LiDAR sensor suite will be available in July 2022.

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