Innovative and Durable Telemetry Monitor

Digi International PR has been working overtime sending news to me. This news regards remote monitoring and control.

Digi International introduced Digi Connect Sensor XRT-M designed to deliver reliable and seamless remote monitoring and management. It offers customers both edge and cloud-based control options, with a management platform equipped with an intuitive interface for streamlining data management and enhancing operational efficiency.

Infrastructure monitoring applications include:

  • Critical infrastructure and civil engineering projects
  • Water/wastewater monitoring and remote management
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Industrial automation and control

Key Features of Digi Connect Sensor XRT-M include:

  • Extended battery life with lightweight cloud connection and dual 14.5 Ah batteries
  • Rated for industrial environments with wide temperature range, C1D2 certification with NEMA enclosure
  • Device health and sensor data stored in Digi Axess
  • Configurable read and report intervals
  • Connect to and power multiple sensors
  • Compatible with a wide range of industry-standard sensors
  • Modbus protocol support
  • Global cellular coverage

Addressing the Increase in Wireless Demand with Frequency-Hopping Metasurfaces

We all know that the Industrial Internet of Things and other wireless devices are straining the wireless spectrum. Spectrum turns out to be a scarce resource. With continually growing communication requirements, both data and voice, this is a problem searching for a solution. (Unlike many things floating around these days that are solutions searching for a problem.)

I am publishing this entire release regarding research into something called metasurfaces that could provide some of the solution to our spectrum strangling problem.

Recent advances in communication systems, such as the increase in mobile phone users, the adoption of Internet-of-Things devices, and the integration of smart sensors in applications ranging from smart homes to manufacturing have given rise to a surge in wireless traffic. Similar to how a roadway becomes congested with vehicles, the rising wireless traffic is resulting in congestion in the available frequency bands. New frequency bands have been introduced to accommodate more communication signals to operate wireless devices without severe interference with each other.

However, supporting a broad spectrum is challenging. There are only a limited number of frequency bands available. Additionally, it increases the complexity of wireless devices and infrastructure. One possible solution for accommodating signals within existing frequency bands is to tune them in a way to further distinguish them.

Now, in a new study published in Nature Communications, a team of researchers from Japan, led by Associate Professor Hiroki Wakatsuchi from Nagoya Institute of Technology, along with co-authors Ashif Aminulloh Fathnan and Associate Professor Shinya Sugiura of the University of Tokyo, has designed a metasurface that can distinguish wireless signals based on their frequency and pulse width.

In simpler words, metasurfaces are engineered surfaces that can manipulate incident electromagnetic waves to achieve specific modifications leading to the generation of different signals. This ensures that signals are separated and do not interfere with each other, reducing the likelihood of congestion-related issues. These materials can be integrated into radio-frequency devices like antennas and filters to accommodate more users and devices within the same frequency spectrum.

The metasurface developed by researchers in this study distinguishes signals more effectively than traditional materials. “Conventionally, when the number of frequencies available was N, electromagnetic waves and related phenomena could be controlled in N manners, which is now markedly extended to the factorial number of N (i.e., N!),” explains Dr. Wakatsuchi.

The developed metasurface consists of several unit cells that respond to specific frequencies. By activating multiple unit cells, it becomes capable of handling signals across multiple frequency bands. The metasurface can be thought of as a filter that selectively transmits signals based on specific frequency sequences. The researchers liken this to frequency-hopping, where devices switch frequencies rapidly to avoid interference. However, in this case, the metasurface can be tuned to alter incoming signals based on their frequencies. This property makes it possible to receive and distinguish a variety of signals of different frequencies from wireless devices.

As a result, with the new metasurface, the number of signals that can be distinguished grows from a linear relationship to a factorial-based one. “If four or five frequencies are available, the number of signals to be distinguished increases from four or five to 24 or 120,” remarks Dr. Wakatsuchi, adding further, “Going ahead, this could help in more wireless communication signals and devices being made available even with limited frequency resources.”

According to the researchers, the number of devices connected to wireless networks per square kilometer is projected to increase from a million in 5G to 10 million in 6G by 2030. This substantial increase will inevitably strain existing frequency bands. However, with their capability to distinguish wireless signals, metasurfaces represent a novel approach to operate numerous Internet-of-Things sensors and communication devices without severe interference.

In the long run, this will be important for next-generation communication services, such as autonomous driving, smart factories, digital twin, cyber-physical systems, and behavior recognition systems!

Dr. Hiroki Wakatsuchi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering at Nagoya Institute of Technology (NITech), Japan. He completed his Ph.D. from The University of Nottingham, UK whereupon he did his postdoctoral research at UC San Diego, USA. His research interests include electromagnetics, electronics, and communications. He has so far published 62 papers (49 papers between 2005 and 2023) with over 800 citations to his credit. Dr. Wakatsuchi was also a part of the Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and Technology (PRESTO) in the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) until March 2023. Currently, he is involved with Fusion Oriented Research for Disruptive Science and Technology (FOREST), another JST program.

WePower Demos Energy Harvesting Generator Prototypes at CES 2024

WePower introduced itself to me (and the world) at CES 2023. Way back when process instrumentation companies were developing wireless sensors (remember the “wireless wars”?) the big question was battery life. I was just searching for the first energy harvesting company I interviewed. I guess it was published at Automation World rather than my blog.

Technology progresses. WePower unveiled some cool energy harvesting generator (EHG) tech last year. They are back at CES this year with three additional products.

Wireless, batteryless Gemns EHGs from WePower harvest energy from motion and convert it into usable electricity for small-scale data transmission devices like sensors across a wide range of applications. This waste-free transient power generation is critical to the growth of the IoT, especially in the United States where consumers throw away more than three billion batteries a year.

  • G100 Push-Button Switch: This 22mm push-button switch uses permanent and oscillating magnets to capture kinetic energy at a rate of more than 30 times that of the competition, and convert it to usable electricity, enabling a transmission output exceeding 8 dBm. This extra power enables data transmissions of significantly larger size, complexity, and distance across most advanced communication protocols, including ISM, Bluetooth, LoRa, Z-Wave, Thread, and Matter. The G100 push-button has been tested for a lifespan of over one million activations and is ideal for applications in industrial settings, smart home, and smart building environments.
  • G150 Vibration-Activated EHG: This continuous operation EHG component draws power from vibrations to drive its functionality as a sensor. WePower will demo this component using a speaker with variable vibration to showcase the product’s ability to harvest energy continuously while also registering and communicating the vibrations’ magnitudes. This combination of functionalities make the G150 EHG an ideal solution for applications in the mining and automotive industries where any variation in production line performance must be caught and communicated.
  • Industrial Limit Switch with G200: Designed to integrate seamlessly with industrial limit switches, the G200 EHG powers secure wireless transmissions across a diverse range of chips and is compatible with most advanced communication protocols. The principal unique benefit of the G200 is its substantially higher power output compared to current market offerings, enabling a game-changing two-way communication in industrial settings. This capability allows networks to confirm the receipt of safety-critical transmissions, ensuring that vital communications are both uninterrupted and verified, wirelessly and without the need for batteries—ultimately streamlining operations, reducing risk, and cutting down on waste.

Betacom, Google Cloud and Ingram Micro Create Innovation Showcase for Industry 4.0 at MxD

Betacom executives have been talking regularly with me about the company’s many wireless projects especially in manufacturing. This news release highlights working with MxD (Manufacturing x Digital), the National Center for Cybersecurity in Manufacturing along with Google Cloud and Ingram Micro. A case for partnerships advancing applications for practical use.

Private wireless pioneer Betacom, along with Google Cloud and Ingram Micro, today unveiled an exhibition of Industry 4.0 innovations at MxD (Manufacturing x Digital), the National Center for Cybersecurity in Manufacturing, that are redefining efficiency, productivity and competitiveness in manufacturing and supply chain industries. From smart automation and machine vision to predictive analytics and real-time inventory tracking, the technology leaders are showcasing real solutions for some of today’s most in-demand use cases, powered by private 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud technology.

The interactive exhibit is part of a collaborative effort to equip manufacturers with digital tools and expertise needed to increase productivity and strengthen U.S. manufacturing. By bringing together diverse technologies and device manufacturers on the Factory Floor Lab, Betacom, Google Cloud and Ingram Micro aim to accelerate manufacturers’ automation and digitalization initiatives by demonstrating complete solutions that are available today.

Betacom became a partner of MxD in 2022 to provide the organization’s Chicago headquarters with a fully managed private 5G network built on Zero Trust design principles. The network, one of the first indoor private 5G deployments in the U.S., is the foundation to develop and enable technologies that power Industry 4.0, including several application areas on display in this joint showcase:

  • Smart Manufacturing – How machine vision, AI, data analytics, robotics, 5G and other technologies are revolutionizing manufacturing processes through automation to improve the efficiency, output quality and uptime of modern production lines.
  • Digital Workforce – How mobile devices and productivity tools enabled by AI, machine learning and assisted reality capabilities can streamline worker tasks, automate visual inspection and enable new levels of remote collaboration on and off the factory floor.
  • Resilient Supply Chain – How cloud based data analytics can help manufacturers understand  supply chain risks to improve demand planning and optimize execution, as well as how wireless technologies are enhancing inventory and asset tracking applications to provide end-to-end visibility from production to delivery.
  • Safety and Security – How today’s solutions are protecting critical assets and data from physical and cyberthreats, as well as creating safer workplaces for employees in hazardous environments.

The exhibit is open year-round. Learn more about the technology exhibit or to schedule a meeting for an onsite demonstration with our experts.

Siemens Private 5G Solution for Industry

TV with advertisements seldom plays in my house. But I just saw a cable provider advertising 10G connectivity. That, of course, it a completely made up marketing phrase. But 5G is a real thing. I’ve written several times about the potential, and some real applications, of private 5G networks. Infrastructure supporting such networks continues to be built out. This news from Siemens discusses their new 5G infrastructure solution specifically to support automation.

Main points:

  • Infrastructure for private industrial 5G networks with a focus on automation applications
  • The solution is already in use at Siemens plants and pilot customers like Salzgitter AG
  • 5G is crucial for mobile robots, autonomous logistics, driverless transport systems, and edge devices

Siemens is launching a private infrastructure developed in-house for the 5G mobile communications standard. The solution enables industrial companies to build their own local 5G networks that will provide optimal support for automation applications. 

“By building their own 5G networks, industrial companies are launching the next stage of connected production,” says Axel Lorenz, CEO of Process Automation at Siemens. “5G is crucial for applications like mobile robots, autonomous logistics, and driverless transport systems in factories. Siemens’ private 5G infrastructure also gives users sole control over the data in their 5G network at all times, and they can custom-configure the network for their applications.”

Other scenarios for industrial 5G wireless technology include the integrated use of connected tablets, VR glasses, and smart tools. In addition, edge devices can be used flexibly: for example, in brownfield applications where it’s difficult to lay cables. In contrast to other wireless technologies, private 5G networks use a licensed frequency band and can therefore be operated without interference.

Siemens has developed its 5G infrastructure specifically for the requirements of industrial customers and industrial applications. It consists of a 5G core and a radio access network (RAN). The RAN includes the central unit (CU), the distributed unit (DU), and the radio units (RUs). Different 5G end-devices can connect to the 5G infrastructure and communicate in the private network. The all-in-one 5G solution is also designed for use in harsh industrial environments.

Before the market launch, Siemens extensively tested its private 5G infrastructure in real production environments like at the Siemens production site in Karlsruhe. By implementing and operating the prototype network in its own production facilities, Siemens was able to extensively test and refine the technology, ensuring that it can withstand the requirements of industrial production environments and support industrial applications. The private Siemens 5G infrastructure is now available in Germany, and other countries will follow. 

One of the pilot customers for the complete 5G solution is the German steel group Salzgitter AG: “We don’t just want to build any 5G network, we want an industrial 5G that meets the enormous requirements of the steel industry,” says Gerd Baresch, Chief Technology Officer at Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH. “Wherever we need to wirelessly transmit data reliably and securely – from real-time camera images to safety-relevant emergency-stop signals for driverless transport systems – we need future-proof communication technology. Siemens has been a longstanding reliable partner for network solutions, and this is precisely why we decided to work with them.”

Private 5G networks, also known as campus networks, are 5G networks restricted to a defined company premises, a defined area, or an individual building. From Siemens’ point of view, private 5G networks offer many advantages for industry: Companies build them locally at their locations and can precisely modify them to meet their needs and applications. Companies also have full control over their data, because private 5G networks use their own local 5G spectrum. A private 5G infrastructure like the one offered by Siemens is required for building a local 5G network and making the 5G signal available on the company’s premises.

Siemens has been offering industrial 5G routers like the SCALANCE MUM853-1 and MUM856-1 for connecting robots, AGVs, and other industrial devices to a private 5G network since 2021. These routers are the final components necessary for efficient wireless connectivity in industrial environments.

Rockwell Automation Partners with Everactive For Condition Monitoring

I had just about given up on more news and innovation on the sensing side of automation and IoT, and then news arrives from Rockwell Automation about another hardware partnership. The company is partnering with Everactive for wireless and battery-less condition monitoring solutions.

Everactive’s solutions will complement Rockwell Automation’s Dynamix product line. The integrated system will provide data to Rockwell’s FactoryTalk MaintenanceSuite for asset monitoring, condition-based monitoring, and predictive maintenance programs.

“We’re excited about this partnership with Everactive. The data produced by Everactive’s condition-monitoring sensors can be used by our FactoryTalk analytics, monitoring and maintenance platforms, to increase uptime, quality, and customer profitability,” said Brian Merdes, vice president & general manager, sensing, safety, and industrial control, Rockwell Automation. “Additionally, Everactive’s energy harvesting technology allows sensors to run continuously with zero battery maintenance, which ultimately decreases our customers’ carbon footprint.” 

“We are thrilled to join forces with Rockwell Automation, addressing the difficult problem of monitoring balance-of-plant assets,” says Bob Nunn, CEO, Everactive.”Solutions developed by Rockwell and Everactive will provide sustainable options for wireless condition monitoring users looking for productivity in their operations. Together, we can generate more insights from more places within an operation, bringing unparalleled efficiency and sustainability to enterprises globally.” 

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