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
Remember the wireless wars of about 10 years ago? No? Good.
But Emerson was the leader of the WirelessHART camp. One or two other companies led the ISA100 camp. The technologies are quite similar with just enough differences to make them incompatible. A movement to converge the standards faltered.
Then the entire issue went away. Just as I told them all at the time, the market will decide. And it did.
Both wireless technologies, and products supporting each, still exist. So, Emerson has released a new product to bridge the gap.
Emerson announced a new dual-mode wireless gateway which supports both IEC 62951 WirelessHART and ISA100.11a industrial wireless communications standards. This latest addition expands Emerson’s wireless portfolio and provides customers an easy way to take advantage of WirelessHART technologies from many suppliers.
“With our new dual-mode gateway, we’re excited to give ISA100.11a users an easy path to the improved operating performance they are seeking,” said Bob Karschnia, vice president and general manager, wireless, Emerson Automation Solutions. “WirelessHART has proven in 10 years of successful deployments around the world to provide the highest reliability and most robust self-organizing, self-healing network, for the lowest cost.”
With more than 31,000 WirelessHART installations worldwide and over 9.1 billion operating hours, Emerson leads the automation industry in wireless networking. Emerson’s wireless portfolio helps customers extend their automation ecosystem for improved operating reliability with sensing, monitoring and control technologies such as temperature, pressure, level, corrosion, flow, acoustic, gas and vibration, plus wireless adapters for valve positioners and digital valve controllers.
Serving as the backbone of a wireless infrastructure, wireless gateways and access points increase the amount of real-time information available to automation systems, applications and analytics tools to help organizations improve responsiveness and decision making. Critically, they must possess robust, “always-on” security to limit network vulnerability. When deployed efficiently, they can require the least hardware necessary to keep costs low while operating reliability high. Lastly, customers consistently seek ease-of-deployment as a key consideration.
A future release of Emerson’s dual-mode wireless gateway will be integrated into the Cisco 1552WU, a combined WirelessHART and WiFi solution for industrial hardened wireless, and will seamlessly integrate into Emerson’s industry-leading security and network management tools, including Emerson’s Plantweb Insight applications for Industrial IoT which help industrial facilities improve operations and maintenance by simplifying asset monitoring.
The “Wireless Wars” are long over. We just don’t hear much about wireless sensor networks anymore. They work. People use them. However, one of the dreams of these included the thought of spreading low-cost sensors around the plant so that managers, operators, and engineers could have more knowledge of the status of the plant.
Dave Smith (CEO) and Chuck Micallef (CMO), a couple of gentlemen I’ve known for years, stopped me at the ARC Forum a few weeks ago to tell me about a new, lower cost wireless sensor system.
Wireless Industrial Networks (WIN) announced a cost-effective wireless process sensing and condition-based monitoring solution. The wireless products include a Gateway, Universal Transmitter and selection of measurement sensors. WIN’s wireless solutions are designed to change the way the industry thinks about industrial wireless.
The products are simple to select, easy to use and have a significantly lower price than most other alternatives. Wireless applications are easier to justify and faster to start-up than wired. The communication transmission is industry standard 900 MHz, is license free, and has a range of 5,280 feet. The self-configuring communication network is “plug & play” and will be working in minutes rather than hours and requires no prior wireless experience. The complete price for a single measurement starts at just $1,300.00!
“Our products are designed to address the general purpose, condition-based monitoring applications which make up a large percentage of all automation applications,” says Smith, CEO and Owner of WIN. “Our cost-effective wireless solutions give you everything you need and nothing that you don’t! Not all applications require expensive explosion-proof devices so why pay for what you don’t need? Our customers want simple, easy-to-use, cost-effective wireless measurement solutions to address the ever-increasing need for additional measurement without the high engineering and wiring cost.”
The WIN wireless solution consist of 4 items:
- Wireless Gateway – a small, lightweight, 900 MHz communication gateway with standard Ethernet output and supports 200+ transmitters located 5,280 feet away.
- Universal Wireless Transmitter – battery (replaceable) powered transmitter accepts up to 3 universal sensor inputs, mix of any sensor measurement types, 900 MHz, IEEE 802.15.4 standard radio, frequency-hopping, auto configure and AES 128-bit industry standard encryption in a small light-weight NEMA 4x enclosure.
- Sensors – a complete line of measurement sensors using our V-Bus patented technology uniquely characterizes each sensor with a pre-programing calibration curve eliminating the need for on-site calibration, Sensors include temperature, pressure, 4-20 mA, current voltage, humidity/temperature, dual temperature, vibration, discrete, proximity and more.
- DataManager and Web Dashboard – these PC-based software applications are included with the gateway and provide a clear, simple to understand status of all network sensors and is an intuitive navigation tool used to access sensor details and measurement history. Features include: scaled engineering unit, alarm settings, bright easy-to-see measurement status indicators, measurement groups, email/text message for alerts and more.
Common applications include: motor temperature and current draw, pump vibration, bearing vibration or temperature monitoring, conveyor vibration monitoring, exhaust and cooling tower fan monitoring, filter monitoring and many more. The products are flexible and reliable.
Imagine what you could know about your plant or factory if you could get many more sensors around the area. This was the dream behind the development of robust wireless sensor networks for industrial and manufacturing applications.
Here is a new entrant bearing much promise. Swift Sensors Inc. debuted Dec. 8 as an Industrial IoT company providing a cloud-based wireless sensor system for industrial and commercial applications. The company fundamentally replaces a hodge-podge of manual processes and disparate sensors with a low-cost, unified sensor system delivering real-time actionable data — dramatically transforming business process efficiency and reliability. Swift Sensors technology monitors temperature, humidity, vibration, motion, activity, location, electric voltage and current.
“Businesses are frequently limited in their ability to efficiently monitor critical equipment and processes because of expensive, manual traditional systems. Swift Sensors extends the reach and efficiency of sensor monitoring, while offering new opportunities to enhance performance using analytics and optimization,” said Sam Cece, CEO of Swift Sensors. “Our low-cost, instant deployment allows businesses to rapidly adapt to regulatory compliance initiatives and commence predictive maintenance programs.”
Swift Sensors released its cloud wireless sensor system after 18 months of development and successful deployment with various customers, including Kraft Heinz, Sysco Foods, and McDonalds.
“We deployed hundreds of wireless sensors from Swift Sensors to upgrade our existing sensors and automate our manual monitoring processes. My team now focuses their time on important daily tasks rather than manually checking temperatures or equipment status. We’ve saved hundreds of hours in productivity during the past year and improved operations,” said William Thacker, Engineering Supervisor at the Kraft Heinz Company.
Swift Sensor’s next generation cloud wireless sensor system includes customizable real-time monitoring, alerts and analytics. The company’s mission is to improve business efficiency and reliability by making actionable data and analytics globally accessible; providing businesses a way to actively avoid disasters rather than passively waiting to remedy costly failures.
A variety of industrial, commercial and service businesses can now take advantage of Swift Sensors affordable, scalable sensor system, integrating their sensor data across multiple areas for maximum impact. Sample sectors include:
- Food chain (including FSMA compliance)
- IT Data Centers
- Research & Development
Low Cost & Scalable, with Actionable Data
Swift Sensors gives companies a cost-effective way to accelerate a broad range of business goals:
- Companies place the Swift Sensors plug and play matchbook-size wireless sensors wherever they would like to capture data and insights from their physical environment.
- The sensors transmit the relevant data via either Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or RF to a Swift Sensors Bridge, a small appliance that connects the sensors to the secure Swift Sensors Cloud using Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and/or cellular communication.
- Administrators then utilize the Swift Sensors web-based dashboard to configure the sensor system for data monitoring and analysis from any location.
Authorized company employees use the cloud-based dashboard to access sensor data and, based on their role, sophisticated analytics using their desktop and mobile devices. Businesses can create reports and send notifications via email/SMS/phone call based on customizable thresholds.
Pricing and Availability
The Swift Sensors Cloud Wireless Sensor System is available immediately. Individual sensor and bridge appliance pricing start at $79 and $349, respectively, with a low monthly cloud subscription fee for access to the Swift Sensors Dashboard with an unlimited number of users.
Swift Sensors Founding Team
Swift Sensors was founded in May 2015 and began development immediately. The three founders are Dean Drako – Executive Chairman, Sam Cece – CEO, and Dr. Kelly Jones – CTO.
Dean Drako has founded and run several successful companies. He is best known as former president and CEO of Barracuda Networks, which he founded to solve the spam and email security problem, growing the company from a concept to become a cloud and IT security industry leader with more than $200 million in annual sales, 1000 employees, and 150,000 customers.
Sam Cece was previously CEO of Virtual Bridges and CloudTools, acquired by Nimboxx and SolarWinds respectively. As CEO of StrongMail Systems, he expanded the company’s initial customer base to hundreds of business customers; StrongMail was named to the 2012 Forrester Wave Report shortlist.
Kelly Jones was Engineering VP for Virtual Bridges/Cloudtools. Previously, he was a Director at Dell, managing technology teams supporting the majority of Dell’s operational public cloud environment and accounted for 80% of Dell’s SaaS revenue. Jones was also: VP of technology for Message One, acquired by Dell, meeting all delivery dates and achieving 99.999% service availability; founder of PANACYA, acquired by Research in Motion; and Chief Security Scientist for Computer Associates Int’l.