Wireless mesh networking has been the source of technology and market battles for years in industrial applications. There is one that’s seldom discussed among engineers in this sector, though—Bluetooth. There exists a Bluetooth mesh standard. It’s been out a year. At this point there are more than 65 Qualified Bluetooth Mesh Products.
The dominant application to date is smart lighting systems. Smart home applications are coming along. The Bluetooth SIG talks of other industrial applications. We’ll have to see what develops. If I were an active engineer, I think I would take a look at possibilities. Bluetooth has some longevity and stability. We all use it with our smart devices. Interesting possibilities.
Following is news from the press release. Bluetooth mesh plays a role in the development of emerging markets such as Smart Building, Smart Industry, Smart Cities, and Smart Home. In the year since the release of Bluetooth mesh, more than 65 products with mesh networking capability have been qualified from leading silicon, stack, component, and end product vendors.
Bluetooth mesh networking enables many-to-many (m:m) device communications and is optimized for creating large-scale device networks. Designed to meet the scalability, reliability, and security requirements of commercial and industrial environments, Bluetooth mesh is powering smart building and smart industry implementations where tens, hundreds, or thousands of devices need to communicate with one another effectively. From factories to hospitals, airports, retail stores, and the home, Bluetooth mesh supports building services that bring real value to owners, operators, and occupants.
“Bluetooth mesh is one of a number of fundamental enablers of future IoT markets, allowing for robust, secure and scalable connectivity across the smart home, commercial building automation, industrial environments, and beyond,” said Stuart Carlaw, Chief Research Officer, ABI Research. “Bluetooth mesh, in conjunction with Bluetooth beacons, can propel these environments towards greater automation, increased sensorization, and enable valuable RTLS services. Nearly 360 million annual Bluetooth Smart Building device shipments are forecasted by 2022.”
Lighting control systems have served as a key use case driving the increase in Bluetooth mesh implementations. A building’s lighting system provides a natural grid through which all devices in a Bluetooth mesh network can pass messages and establish whole-building control, monitoring, and automation systems within a facility. This wireless lighting solution can also function as a platform to enable indoor positioning and location services – including point-of-interest solutions, indoor navigation, asset tracking, and improved space utilization.
“Bluetooth mesh has fundamentally altered the conversation around connected lighting by providing a complete, high-performing solution that allows lighting to serve a greater purpose in industrial and commercial spaces,” Mark Needham, Vice President, European Sales at Fulham Co, Inc. “A lighting system that can both help visitors find their way and allow building operators to pinpoint the location of assets within a building or collect a vast range of data from various building sensors for analysis and utilization is only the beginning of what is possible.”
In one year alone, Bluetooth mesh has paved the way for wireless lighting control solutions and has been a driving force in realizing the concept of lighting as a platform. According to ABI Research, annual commercial smart lighting equipment shipments are expected to increase fivefold by 2022.
“We are really excited about the rapid progress our member companies have made using Bluetooth mesh in just one year,” said Mark Powell, Executive Director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. “The Bluetooth member community dove straight into developing with the new technology, creating a growing list of product innovations that will steer the evolution and direction of commercial and industrial markets for years to come.”
I met with the representative of an interesting company with a different take on indoor location services. Years ago I listened to a podcast called the Gillmor Gang and a famous (at the time) blogger Robert Scoble was always extolling the virtues of beacons. They will be everywhere and do all sorts of things, he repeated like a mantra.
Things got quiet, then I met Quuppa at Hannover Messe 2018. They have a beacon that has multiple antennas that does a better job of location than trying some of the older triangulation technologies.
The company has just announced a partner event, something that gives me an excuse to point you toward something interesting. I’m assuming that few if any of my readers are heading to Finland any time soon.
Quuppa, a Finnish company that delivers indoor positioning technology, announced its second annual partner event will take place June 5-7 in Helsinki, Finland. With a theme of “Defining the Future,” the event will feature speakers from Quuppa and its partner ecosystem, networking events and a Solutions Showcase Expo that demonstrates the current and future capabilities of real-time, global indoor location services and solutions. The event demonstrates the success Quuppa has had delivering on its go-to-market strategy that centers on providing an open positioning platform both in terms of hardware and software APIs, where each company focuses on what it does best, helping speed time-to-market.
The event will also highlight a day of presentations featuring “success stories,” with case study presentations that showcase the wide range of use cases for Quuppa’s unique indoor location technology. Featured success story topics include improving efficiency and customer experience in retail, asset tracking in large scale, Industry 4.0, manufacturing use cases from Japan, safety in a secure environment, generating business KPIs from location data, and employee safety indoors and outdoors.
Quuppa utilizes a unique combination of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and the Angle of Arrival (AoA) methodologies, as well as advanced location algorithms that have been developed over the course of more than 15 years, to calculate highly accurate indoor positioning.
The Quuppa Ecosystem includes more than 70 best-of-breed companies worldwide that deliver best-in-class software solutions, tags and installation services, as well as system integrators and solution providers that offer end-to-end solutions. Companies across a wide range of industries, including manufacturing and logistics, retail, healthcare, sports, law enforcement and security, government and others rely on Quuppa and its ecosystem partners to unlock the full potential of indoor location-based services without compromising accuracy, compatibility or cost.
“Quuppa’s ecosystem continues to thrive, and our partner event is a place to gather and share expertise and best practices for global indoor location services,” said Fabio Belloni, head of Quuppa’s Partner Ecosystem. “What we are seeing more of as the ecosystem expands is partner companies seeking answers from their peers—not just from Quuppa—on wide-ranging topics such as how to launch a large-scale deployment, how to forge partnerships to grow in new geographic areas, how to best conduct a demo, and more. Companies are realizing they no longer need to develop everything on their own, they can choose best-of-breed solutions from our incredible ecosystem partners. It’s amazing to see how quickly the Quuppa Ecosystem is growing and the unique partnerships that are forming because of it.”
One such partnership that has emerged within the Quuppa Ecosystem is between Japanese motor manufacturer Nidec Corp. and Synapses Lab, an Italian technology design company. The companies work together utilizing Quuppa’s precision location technology, Synapses’ platform for tracking and 3D modeling, and Nidec’s electronics and engineering expertise to develop autonomous solutions that will deliver improved productivity and security in the manufacturing industry.
“Building a solid and reliable ecosystem is essential for our company,” said Domenico Mariotti, CEO and cofounder of Synapses. “Such a system enables us to tackle new challenges and different use cases every day, sometimes beating any expectations we ourselves had for our solutions.”
“In the Japanese manufacturing industry, some early birds are now trying to introduce IoT to their factories,” said Hiroshi Mochizuki, Small Precision Motor and Solutions business unit at Nidec. “They do not allow position data to have jitter, so Nidec decided to select Synapses’ platform utilizing the Quuppa Ecosystem. Synapses has successfully developed its platform, of which the filtering capability and database structure is duly optimized for Quuppa’s technology. Nidec strongly believes that problem-solving requests by its customers will be soon made, and good results in increase of productivity and security are expected to become visible in a short period of time, thanks to the availability of Synapses platform.”
An enterprise computing and IT infrastructure company user event seems a weird place for a discussion of the Internet of Things and the Refinery of the Future. But there I was moderating a bloggers’ Coffee Talk with Doug Smith, CEO, and Linda Salinas, plant manager, of Texmark Chemicals, along with an executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and one from PTC (ThingWorx).
HPE invited me to Madrid, Spain, (and paid my expenses) as an Operations Technology blogger to participate in Influencer sessions, interview a number of technologists, and experience its Discover Madrid user conference. Several times during each of the three days November 28-30 we participated in coffee talks. These were Live Streamed by Geekazine. This is a link to the first day. My session was toward the beginning of the first day, and I appear at the end of day three.
Telling the IoT Story
Texas toll manufacturer Texmark Chemicals teamed with HPE and Aruba to build a Refinery of the Future featuring advanced IIoT capabilities. The results: better process analytics, increased up-time, uninterrupted productivity, satisfied customers, and safer workers.
Every IoT implementation I have seen so far relied on predictive maintenance as the justifying application. Here, the first priority was safety. Then came predictive maintenance, improved operations, and consistent quality.
Texmark produces dicyclopentadiene (DCPD), a polymer precursor for everything from ink to boats. DCPD manufacturing processes involve flammable materials requiring stringent safety measures — and as demand increases, so does the complexity of the supply chains that rely on it.
Its manufacture involves heat and highly reactive chemicals, making safety a top priority. And as demand for DCPD grows, the global supply chain becomes increasingly complex, requiring ever more stringent controls, granular visibility, uninterrupted productivity, and regulatory oversight. Texmark must ensure its workers adhere to Process Safety Management (PSM) procedures at all times, and that its facility is managed in ways that put worker and community safety first.
As a contract manufacturer, Texmark must be prepared to adapt to customer requirements, which can change with little advance warning.
And it must continually drive plant efficiency and productivity. Historically, Texmark has depended on physical inspections of process equipment to ensure all systems remain in working order. However, these plant walk-downs can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. Texmark has 130 pumps in its plant, and spends nearly 1,000 hours a year on walk-downs and vibration analysis.
Depending solely on physical inspections also carries risk, because it relies on employees who — based on years of experience — can tell if a pump is starting to malfunction by recognizing slight variations in its noise and vibrations. But what happens if an employee with that skill is out sick, or reaches retirement age? Texmark needs ways to institutionalize that type of intelligence and insight.
Texmark’s vision for next-generation worker safety, production and asset management hinges on the emerging promise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): sensored devices combined with advanced analytics software to generate insights, automate its environment, and reduce the risk of human error.
The IIoT architecture must eliminate the need to transmit device data over a WAN, but instead support analytics at the edge to deliver real-time visibility into equipment and processes.
Texmark launched a multi-phase project to implement an end-to-end IIoT solution. Phase 1 and 2 established the digital foundation by enabling edge-to-core connectivity. Aruba deployed a secure wireless mesh network with Class 1 Div 1 access points and ClearPass for secure network access control. Aruba beacons provide location-based services for plant safety and security purposes. The wireless solution cost about half of what it would have cost to deploy a hardwired network.
For its edge analytics, Texmark selected the HPE Edgeline Converged IoT platform, an industrialized solution that supports robust compute capabilities. HPE Pointnext implemented the system as an HPE Micro Datacenter, which integrates its compute and networking technology within a single cabinet. HPE also upgraded Texmark’s plant control room to enable seamless edge-to-core connectivity and high-speed data capture and analytics, and to meet Texmark’s safety and security standards. The Edgeline system runs Texmark’s Distributed Control System software, integrating its operations technology and IT into a single system.
Phase 3 builds on the foundation established by these technology solutions to support Texmark’s use cases: predictive analytics, advanced video analytics, safety and security, connected worker, and full lifecycle asset management.
Texmark’s new IIoT solution will help make its workers even safer. It can monitor fluid levels, for example, reducing the risk of spills. It can alert Texmark immediately if a system starts to malfunction, enabling the company to respond before workers or production are endangered. And in the event of an emergency, it can help protect workers by ensuring Texmark knows their precise location and movements within the facility.
Other benefits will improve the company’s bottom line. Texmark can use data from IIoT sensors to identify which systems require hands-on evaluations, for example, so it can conduct physical inspections in a more focused and efficient manner.
The new IIoT solution makes it easier for the company to plan inspections and maintenance. To work on distillation columns, Texmark must often take systems offline and erect costly scaffolding. Improved maintenance planning will reduce these associated costs by at least 50%.
Remember the wireless sensor network “wars” from ten years ago, or so? Harry Sim left Honeywell Process to head up a new endeavor of Cypress Semiconductor to exploit these networks in a variety of different environments. I told him at the time that I thought he had a good chance for success.
Yesterday he wrote to me with an update. I thought I’d share it–partly as a positive example for you budding entrepreneurs out there.
New York City: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere! For our company, there is a lot of truth to that phrase, since Cypress Envirosystems technology retrofits existing buildings – and New York has more buildings than any other US city.
Back in 2012, we eyed NYC from our perch in Silicon Valley…it is the largest city with the densest concentration of existing buildings, with perhaps the fiercest business competition. As the CEO of our startup company, I had a personal goal to build a strong business there – just to prove that we have what it takes to win in the toughest market.
Now, five years later, we have completed the upgrade of over 50 buildings in New York City, including schools, hospitals, universities, office buildings, and courthouses. These include iconic structures such as the majestic courthouses at Civic Center, the 65 story Deutsche Bank headquarters on Wall Street, the venerable CUNY campus in Lower Manhattan, Kings County Hospital, and K-12 schools in all five boroughs. In addition, our WPT technology is deployed at 3.5 million square feet at the Weiss and Javits Federal buildings, the tallest government buildings in the US, housing the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, Social Security, Customs and Immigration, General Services Administration and other agencies.
And our pace is accelerating. In the next six months, another 31 buildings are already planned for upgrade. The NYC government has independently tested and vetted our WPT technology – and it is now included in municipal retrofit specifications (see press release from New York City DCAS Commissioner Lisett Camillo here).
Cypress Envirosystems’ solutions use patented non-invasive technologies to make existing buildings smarter, more comfortable, and more efficient with a minimum of cost and disruption (these days, it is called the Internet of Things – see MSN/Tech Republic interview here). I now have the satisfaction to know that we can make it in New York, and we play an important role to help this world class city become more efficient and sustainable.
Despite our progress however, we have barely scratched the surface of what can be done. New York City alone has over 4,000 municipal buildings, and another ten times that many in the private sector. Not to mention Chicago, LA, Philadelphia with similar building stock. The majority of them will benefit from the same unique technologies we have already deployed over the past five years – but our challenge will be to do 100 times more, and faster, over the next five years. The exciting journey continues for us…thank you for taking this moment to allow me to share our story with you.
Connecting things to the Internet, or to the Cloud, or whatever app. The Internet of Things is nothing without connection. Almost every piece of news or interview I’ve seen or had over the past month or two has dealt with Internet of Things platforms. Here is news from a company new to me dealing with getting legacy devices into the system.
Amir Haleem, CEO of Helium, explained the technology and products with me yesterday in relation to an announcement regarding launch of its latest product suite.
This product suite is a comprehensive low-power, long-range networking solution for IoT devices. The new offering streamlines the ability to prototype, deploy and scale a long-range wireless network that connects thousands of end devices, giving companies a simple way to intelligently and securely deliver data from device to the cloud and application layer.
The system consists of end devices called Atom that are wireless (802.15.4, but in star not mesh topology) that attach to legacy sensors and field devices typically via serial. These connect to Access Points which in turn aggregate and send data to the cloud.
“Connectivity is extraordinarily complicated when dealing with resource-constrained embedded devices,” added Haleem. “Helium has taken a process that normally takes months of labor-intensive work from a large team and simplified it to a process that can be achieved in minutes with minimal staff, and provides the visibility and control needed to manage at scale going forward.”
Automating device management and updates through a central dashboard
As companies continue to build and scale their IoT deployments, it becomes especially crucial that they ensure full control and management of their operations. Helium allows companies to manage and update their systems from a central console, the Helium Dashboard, eliminating the need to visit every sensor in the field, which is a common challenge of remote field monitoring. Helium Dashboard also serves as a central point for Helium Channels, the setup and integration of the cloud applications and data stores used to assess and take action on these physical data.
“Although there has been great progress made in the areas of IoT hardware and cloud software, there are still major technical and economic challenges in getting connectivity to the edge point to gather and deliver data,” said Rob Bamforth, Principal Analyst at Quocirca. “Simplifying and lowering costs of connectivity deployment would remove a significant barrier to mass IoT adoption in several industries.”
A new economic model for deploying, managing and scaling IoT networks
Helium will simplify everything that goes into purchasing, deploying and managing a long-range, low-power IoT solution, up-ending the traditional carrier-based model, which often does not provide reliable coverage where it is needed. It’s products will work out of the box with all existing sensor hardware and a wide range of IoT cloud applications with little-to-no configuration. With hardware as low as $19 per Helium Atom module, $29 per Element Access Point, and a simple $1.99 per month per installed Atom with no usage or data fees, Helium eliminates upcharges and most add-on costs. Helium’s open standards will ensure that it will support IoT hardware and software regardless of the IoT technology companies are using today or in the future.
Key features include:
• Zero configuration for simple installation and setup at scale
• Compatibility across hundreds of hardware providers
• Extremely long range connectivity, on the order of many city-blocks in dense urban applications and hundreds of square miles in sparse rural settings
• IEEE standards-based hardware provides maximum flexibility for changing business demands with no proprietary lock-in.
• Hardware-based security to ensure data is encrypted and devices authenticated, end to end
• Over-the-air updating and bi-directional communication to provide future-proofing, up-to-date software and further protection from security risks
• Helium Channels provide interoperability with all major cloud solution providers such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS IoT, and Google Cloud Platform IoT Core
• Full visibility and management enabled by Helium Dashboard