IoT Starts With Sensors, Here Is a Bunch of Sensor News

Sometimes similar news comes in bunches, a little bit like a graph of an FFT. News from Swift Sensors and ABB take us from Covid to Space and back.

Swift Sensors Launches Sub-Zero Temperature Sensor to Meet COVID-19 Vaccine Monitoring and Storage Requirements

24/7 cloud-based wireless monitoring ensures vaccines are stored throughout the cold chain in the required sub-zero temperature ranges down to -100°C.

Swift Sensors, a provider of industrial IoT sensor solutions, launched a secure wireless vaccine storage unit monitoring and alert system to enable medical facilities and pharmacies to remotely monitor COVID-19 vaccine storage temperatures, automate data logging, and respond quickly in case of an equipment problem or power failure.

As vaccine suppliers and public health agencies expand the number of locations for vaccine delivery, pharmacies and clinics must quickly and safely store the vaccines to preserve the vaccines’ efficacy, prevent waste, and comply with data monitoring regulations. Swift Sensors has developed a wireless sensor system to achieve these goals.

“Data loggers have historically been used in cold-chain monitoring of vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and other critical perishable items. However, they lack the low cost, simplicity, and connectivity of wireless sensors connected to the internet,” said Ray Almgren, Swift Sensors CEO. “Our new sub-zero temperature sensor delivers an all-in-one, cost-effective solution for the safe and fast distribution and delivery of much-needed vaccines.”

Each Swift Sensors vaccine package includes at least one wireless remote temperature sensor to relay storage temperature data to an included wireless gateway.

The gateway sends data to a secure cloud-based Swift Sensors Console account. Pharmacy and clinic managers can view temperatures in real time on their computer or mobile device. They can also receive instant alerts via text, voice or email if the storage unit temperature exceeds established thresholds.

“Pharmacies and clinics can use our new sub-zero temperature sensor to monitor the super-cold temperatures the Pfizer vaccine requires or use our standard wireless remote temperature sensor to monitor Moderna vaccine storage conditions,” Almgren said. “Installation typically requires only a few minutes, and the device batteries last six to eight years.”

The Swift Sensors Console stores historical temperature readings so pharmacies and clinics can easily comply with CDC and state health department data logging requirements, without having to spend employee time manually recording or updating temperature data. 

ABB sensor onboard SpaceX rocket to detect greenhouse gas emissions 

An optical sensor manufactured by ABB was deployed with the successful launch of satellite Hugo from GHGSat, the emerging leader in greenhouse gas sensing services in space.

The ABB supplied optical sensor can map methane emissions from space at a resolution that is 100 times higher than any other sensors. Whilst previously only larger regions could be surveyed, for the first time the new greater granularity now allows the identification of the source of emissions. An additional nine units are currently under manufacture at ABB to be launched by the end of 2022 ready to be on-board across the first private satellite constellation dedicated to emission measurement.

Space offers the ideal location to freely monitor emissions across jurisdictions and quantitatively report on improvements. The ABB sensors will provide valuable insights which will enable governments and industries around the world to meet their emission reduction targets and reduce the negative impact on global warming.

With its involvement in the Canadian SCISAT mission and the Japanese GOSAT series of satellites, ABB has been at the forefront of the field of greenhouse gas sensing from space for more than two decades. ABB optical equipment already in space cumulates more than 100 years of reliable operation. The SCISAT sensor tracks long-term subtle composition changes in the earth’s atmosphere down to parts per trillion of more than 70 molecules and pollutants since 2003. Weather agencies across the world base their predictions on ABB equipment flying onboard the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather satellites (NPP and JPSS), which saves lives by improving the timeliness and accuracy of weather forecasts for up to seven days. 

ABB is also a global leader in earthbound continuous emission monitoring with over 60,000 systems installed in more than 50 countries worldwide. Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) continuously record and evaluate emission data across all industries. They provide important information for the environmental and economic operation of production facilities. The range includes the ACF5000 that accurately and reliably monitors up to 15 gas components simultaneously.

New ABB emission monitoring solution helps the maritime industry achieve decarbonization targets

The launch of ABB’s CEMcaptain will help shipping comply with the sulphur emission regulations that were enforced in 2020 and keep in check their CO2 footprint.

In January 2020, the low sulphur and nitrous oxide emission limits in the International Maritime Organization regulations became effective worldwide. CEMcaptain is a powerful emissions monitoring system from ABB designed to help the maritime industry meet these new regulations and become more sustainable. Its measurement and digital capabilities increase on-board safety, provide process optimization and substantially reduce ownership costs. By consistently achieving 98 percent and more uptime, the new system not only requires less maintenance effort but also saves time otherwise spent on handling non-compliance issues. 

Designed with busy mariners and a regularly changing crew in mind, CEMcaptain is a multi-component analyzer system that continuously provides real-time data offering reliable measurement of emissions with the highest stability. Operating in even the harshest of conditions it integrates analyzer modules and sample handling components in a standalone cabinet, making installation easy.  

Equipped with ABB’s renowned Uras26 non-dispersive IR gas analyzer, CEMcaptain simultaneously and continuously measures sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) in line with regulation requirements. Each analyzer has two separate gas paths to allow for continuous CO2/SO2 measurement of separate streams, with up to four different components per analyzer module.

Fast fault reporting, diagnosis and repair are achieved via the on-site and remote digital services which help operators get closer to 100 percent availability for their gas analysis instrumentation. Dynamic QR codes are integrated into the ABB CEMcaptain system display panel. All relevant diagnostic information can be collected from the analyzer via a scanned code and transferred to ABB support. This means that maritime instrumentation technicians can send real-time information to an ABB service expert to get immediate guidance on appropriate maintenance. ABB Ability™ Remote Assistance with secured connectivity direct to ABB support is also offered for real-time solutions to problems. These features reduce the costly training of changing crews as well as the number of experts required on board. They also increase on-board safety by reducing crew exposure to emissions. 

CEMcaptain GAA610-M is approved by all major classification societies (DNV GL, ABS Group, Lloyds Register, Bureau Veritas, ClassNK, Korean Register). 

Book Shows The Many Reasons Students Should Consider Smart Manufacturing Career

I’ve been acquainted with Mike Nager for many years through business. We ran into each other a few years ago when he had switched from product management to leading the education team for an automation supplier.

He sent a copy of a book he’s just published for Kindle, The Smart Student’s Guide To Smart Manufacturing and Industry 4.0. It’s a subject I’m deeply interested in, so I checked it out.

I rate this book highly because the author accomplishes what he set out to do–“This book will introduce you to exciting career opportunities that smart manufacturing provides today.”

He continues, “Manufacturing output, which is essentially the amount of goods made in America, rises every year. The U.S. now produces more products than at any other time in history. Smart Manufacturing, also referred to as Industry 4.0, is starting to shake up the previous worldwide business model of off-shoring manufacturing operations to areas with low labor rates by making labor rates less relevant. You have an opportunity to join the industry as it reinvents itself.”

It reminds me of books given to me to read when I was in high school to entice me into an engineering career. It is understandably basic, but it is also inclusive. There is so much more to manufacturing and engineering than when I was making that decision. And Nager covers all the facets from highly educated process engineers to skilled technicians. And how to get there.

Half of the book is devoted to persuading students about the importance of manufacturing–both to the country’s defense and to the economic health of the area and country. Becoming an important part of manufacturing is not only a great career for the student, it also enables the student to be a contributing member of society. The remaining part discusses the wide variety of engineering and technical areas a student could choose from according to their interests and talents.

Nager covers technologies involved including hardware products and software concluding with a review of the so-called “soft skills” such as leadership that are essential to success no matter what the career path.

Get this book, order many. Pass them along to every junior high and high school student you know who could even remotely be interested in a manufacturing career.

Amazon a Predictive Maintenance Supplier with AWS?

Amazon popped up on a recent post regarding Amazon Web Services. This news came to me from the analyst firm Interact Analysis. I’ve talked with executives there a few times, and I generally like the approach they take. I’m amused that IT companies think maintenance when they think manufacturing and then add predictive analytics, which they all have, combining them into predictive maintenance looking for a killer app. 

Anyway, this analysis by Blake Griffin, senior analyst at Interact Analysis, has food for thought. Just what is Amazon up to with the manufacturing space?

  • “The full development of Amazon’s industrial digitalization offering represents the first time a supplier has the ability to provide both the cloud storage and analytic capabilities under one entity”
  • “If customers are looking to utilize the cloud for their industrial digitalization initiatives, Amazon would represent the fewest number of touchpoints between customer and supplier during the sales process”
  • “Additionally, many manufacturers may already be using AWS for cloud storage but have yet to invest into further industrial digitalization technology. In these scenarios, Amazon would already have a ‘foot in the door’”
  • Amazon offers an on-premise version of AWS for low latency applications – AWS Outpost: “In our opinion however, outpost will also serve as an option for customers looking to implement predictive maintenance who may be shy of hosting their operational data on the cloud… AWS Outpost will be regularly updated and patched… which ensures that users are still able to take advantage of the scale at which AWS operates”

On December 1st, 2020, Amazon announced a suite of new AWS machine learning services. To many, this announcement appeared to be Amazon’s launching off point towards being a major supplier of predictive maintenance solutions. However, this announcement follows a long history of Amazon carving out its capabilities in industrial digitalization. Since the ecommerce behemoth’s 2018 release of AWS IoT Sitewise, a service which enables its users to gather and organize asset health related data housed in repositories such as a historian, Amazon has consistently added to its industrial digitalization offering.  Now, the company has a highly competitive solution with one capability completely unique to Amazon.

Amazon’s Industrial Digitalization Offering Has Been Developing for Years

In some ways, Amazon’s announcement of its new suite of machine learning services represents a rounding out of a predictive maintenance offering rather than a jumping off point. When manufacturers are looking at implementing predictive maintenance into their facilities, they are asking these fundamental questions:

  1. Which assets do I have visibility into already? How can I leverage this data?
  2. Which assets do I not have visibility into? What can I do to change that?

The announcement of AWS IoT Sitewise was Amazon’s solution to the first question. Many manufacturers in process industries generate large amounts of data from the devices controlling their machines. This data is often stored in a historian and without the tooling necessary to effectively manage and analyze such data, much of its value can be lost. AWS IoT Sitewise was developed so manufacturers could more effectively utilize this data for condition monitoring/predictive maintenance purposes. The solution is deployed through software housed in a gateway which then communicates the collected data to the AWS cloud. In our opinion, this marked Amazon’s true entry into the predictive maintenance market. Strategically, this was a logical first move. Amazon already had a wealth of analytical tools it could deploy to make use of data housed in a historian, the only thing needed was a mechanism for gathering and organizing that data to be analyzed.

Fast forward to Amazon’s recent announcement and we see the company moving to provide a solution to question two. One asset that is cited often as being “offline” from a condition data perspective are the mechanical portions of a motor driven system i.e. induction motors, gearboxes, bearings blocks, etc. These components are numerous throughout factory floors and their failure can represent significant loss of production if they are part of an application critical process. The industry has responded to this need by offering smart sensors, a wireless enabled sensor which can be connected to the side of a motor for purposes of gathering data on vibration and temperature behavior. These two data points, when combined with machine learning algorithms, can quickly illuminate what kind of stress motor components are facing and alert its users of problems ahead of failure.

One of the services announced in late 2020 has been coined Amazon Monitron. The solution utilizes smart sensors and gateways produced by Amazon to offer up data on the health of motor system equipment; effectively solving the problem of gathering data on assets not being monitored via historian data. This solution is in direct competition with predictive maintenance providers like ABB, Siemens, SKF, etc. In our view, the announcement of Monitron means Amazon now has a solution which fully addresses the needs of manufacturers looking to invest in predictive maintenance as part of a broader industrial digitalization initiative. Amazon’s utilization of data housed in a historian, combined with its smart sensor offering and vast analytics capability offered through AWS, make this solution as competitive as any on the market. Amazon does however have one distinct advantage over competition however: being a provider of cloud storage.

Amazon’s Unique Capability: Cloud Storage Ownership

Every platform offered by the major providers of predictive maintenance are built on cloud storage technology offered largely by either AWS or Microsoft Azure. ABB Ability cites Microsoft Azure as the landscape in which Ability operates. Similarly, Schneider Electric’s Ecostuxure platform utilizes Microsoft Azure. Siemens Mindsphere has developed the capability to be used with either AWS or Azure, announcing its compatibility with the latter in 2018. The full development of Amazon’s industrial digitalization offering represents the first time a supplier has the ability to provide both the cloud storage and analytic capabilities under one entity.

It is difficult to foresee what impact this will have on the partnerships AWS has in place with current industrial digitalization providers. What is easy to see however are the numerous advantages Amazon will have in potentially winning the business of those investing into industrial digitalization for the first time. If customers are looking to utilize the cloud for their industrial digitalization initiatives, Amazon would represent the fewest number of touchpoints between customer and supplier during the sales process. Additionally, many manufacturers may already be using AWS for cloud storage but have yet to invest into further industrial digitalization technology. In these scenarios, Amazon would already have a ‘foot in the door’ which would yield them an advantage when the time comes for users to begin evaluating providers of digitalization.

Amazon’s AWS Outpost Helps Overcome a Major Barrier to Predictive Maintenance Adoption

One of the largest barriers facing suppliers of predictive maintenance solutions is manufacturers’ reluctance to host its operational data on the cloud. Recently, Interact Analysis partnered with the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI) to produce a white paper and accompanying survey pertaining to adoption of predictive maintenance technology within the packaging industry. The whitepaper and survey results are available for download for free via this link. One of the questions asked in the survey looked at the adoption of predictive maintenance within OEM and system integrator offerings. “Our customers will not allow remote access to their machinery” received the second highest weighted score according to the survey.

Question: To what extent are the following statements describing the adoption of predictive maintenance (PdM) technologies at your company, true or false?

  1. We are not familiar with PdM technology.
  2. The added cost of PdM technology is too high to justify.
  3. We do not want to have to pay for an ongoing subscription to access sensor data from an automation vendor.
  4. The technology is too new.
  5. We currently offer machines with PdM technology
  6. None of our customers have expressed interest in PdM technology
  7. Our customers will not allow remote access to their machinery (remote monitoring)

This hesitancy by users to allow access to operational data has led suppliers to develop solutions which, instead of aggregating and analyzing data in the cloud, host their data for analysis onsite.

Amazon has addressed this concern by offering an on-premise version of AWS. This on-premise version of AWS, termed AWS Outpost, was released in 2019 and is designed to serve applications requiring low latency. In our opinion however, outpost will also serve as an option for customers looking to implement predictive maintenance who may be shy of hosting their operational data on the cloud. Keeping data onsite as opposed to in the cloud ensures the door to the OT network remains closed; something many manufacturers are keen to maintain.

Having the power of a modular cloud system like AWS on-premise is an incredibly powerful development in the predictive maintenance market. AWS Outpost will be regularly updated and patched by a regional AWS team which ensures that users are still able to take advantage of the scale at which AWS operates. This is an important consideration when working with machine learning algorithms which become more accurate when deployed at scale. Current on-premise predictive maintenance solutions sacrifice this accuracy in favor of the increased security which on-premise brings. With AWS Outpost, users will no longer have to make that sacrifice. 

Additionally, if you define an edge device as the point at which data is pushed to the cloud, this solution effectively eliminates the need for such devices thus simplifying the overall architecture.

Final Thoughts

At the very least, this announcement should be taken as a signpost of future growth within an already fast-growing predictive maintenance market. Amazon does not enter markets which are expected to appreciate modestly; it enters markets whose opportunity could one day be worth billions of dollars. The amount of time spent developing, releasing, and improving upon Amazon’s industrial digitalization offering should be indicative of the faith the company has in the future of this market.

Inductive Automation Achieves AWS Outposts Ready Designation

Inductive Automation’s Ignition Users Can Run AWS Infrastructure and Services On-Premises

Amazon has made some interesting moves in the manufacturing space lately. Many companies are porting their software to run on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Then in December Amazon touted its Monitron, Panorama, and Lookout at its developer conference. We can only imagine what sort of impact this company will have in the Industrial Internet of Things and Digital Transformation markets. 

Especially when it entices established partners such as Inductive Automation. This week’s announcement I believe is just an initial announcement. I perceive much more potential for the two companies to work together. But then, I always see potential outcomes. This one should pay off in the future. Keep an eye out.

Inductive Automation announced January 20 that it has achieved the AWS Outposts Ready designation, part of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Service Ready Program. This designation recognizes that Inductive Automation has demonstrated successful integration with AWS Outposts deployments. AWS Outposts is a fully managed service that extends AWS infrastructure, AWS services, APIs, and tools to virtually any datacenter, co-location space, or on-premises facility for a truly consistent hybrid experience. 

Inductive Automation is a fast-growing industrial automation software company. Its key product, Ignition by Inductive Automation®, is used in a wide variety of industries, in more than 100 countries. Ignition is an industrial application platform with fully integrated tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), manufacturing execution systems (MES), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Achieving the AWS Outposts Ready designation differentiates Inductive Automation as an AWS Partner Network (APN) member with a product fully tested on AWS Outposts. AWS Outposts Ready products are generally available and supported for AWS customers, with clear deployment documentation for AWS Outposts. AWS Service Ready Partners have demonstrated success building products integrated with AWS services, helping AWS customers evaluate and use their technology productively, at scale and varying levels of complexity. 

“Customers are looking for ways to make their production plants run more efficiently using sensors and machine learning,” said Joshua Burgin, general manager of AWS Outposts, Amazon Web Services, Inc. “We are delighted to welcome Inductive Automation to the AWS Outposts Ready Program. Inductive Automation can help these customers modernize their plant operations using cloud services and do it with the low latency these customers need, by running Ignition on AWS Outposts at the plant location.”

“We’re very proud to achieve AWS Service Ready status,” said Travis Cox, co-director of sales engineering for Inductive Automation. “We’re ready to help organizations achieve their technology goals by leveraging the agility, breadth of services, and constant innovation from AWS.”

To support the seamless integration and deployment of AWS Outposts Ready solutions, AWS established the AWS Outposts Ready Program to help customers identify products integrated with AWS Outposts and spend less time evaluating new tools, and more time scaling their use of products that are integrated with AWS Outpost deployments.

Data Platform Brings Order to Data Lake Query Acceleration Chaos

New standard in data virtualization enables organizations to support interactive analytics on the data lake by leveraging Varada ‘dynamic indexing’ technology that automatically accelerates and optimizes analytics workloads with ‘zero data ops’

Data Ops is hot right now. We have our data lakes and ponds and clouds and probably rain, but how to find, break silos, and manipulate all that stuff requires work. This company just crossed my horizon. Varada has built and released a Data Platform to help you out. Check out its press release.

Varada unveiled its data virtualization platform which helps organizations instantly monetize all of their available data with a predictable and controlled budget. Using a dynamic indexing technology, the Varada Data Platform enables data teams to balance performance and cost of queries at massive scale, without ceding control of their data to third-party vendors.

The Varada Data Platform, available today, offers advantages compared with other data virtualization tools:

  1. Embrace the data lake architecture, allowing organizations to retain full control of their data and avoid vendor lock-in. Because the Varada Data Platform sits atop a customer’s existing data lake, there is no need to move data or budget for additional ETLs and storage, which reduces both cost and complexity while enabling data teams to keep data secure under consistent policies.
  2. Offers “glass box” visibility into how workloads perform. Data teams get deep visibility into workload performance and cluster utilization. They can easily define workload priorities, business requirements and budget. Varada automatically optimizes workloads to meet those performance and budget requirements. Even without the input of data architects, Varada continuously monitors workloads to identify heavy users, hotspots, bottlenecks and other issues and, using machine learning, elastically adjusts the compute and storage cluster. Alternatively, data teams have the option to exercise fine-grained control of budgets and business requirements, so they can gain full control and flexibility.
  3. Applies unique “adaptive indexing” technology to effectively accelerate queries. The Varada Data Platform drastically reduces query execution time and the required compute resources. The key is Varada’s proprietary indexing technology, which breaks data across any column into nano blocks and automatically chooses the most effective index for each nano block based on the data content and structure. This unique indexing technology is what makes queries extremely fast without the need to model data or move it to optimized data platforms.

“The beta period for this product has proven two things,” said Eran Vanounou, CEO of Varada. “First, that organizations are desperate for a way to simplify data ops management while getting the cost of query acceleration under control. Second, the path we’ve chosen is striking a chord: Varada is a ‘zero data ops’ approach that eliminates data silos by serving many workloads from one platform. And because all queries will run atop the data lake, there is a single source of truth that eliminates the need to move or model data. With several dozen early users on the platform, it’s time to bring this innovative approach to a market that’s ready for it.”

Pricing and Supported Data Sources 

The Varada Data Platform currently runs on AWS and supports reserved, on-demand and spot instances. Pricing is per-node, based on a predefined scaling group. The Varada Data Platform is available on AWS Marketplace with integrated billing through AWS, or via AMI (Amazon Machine Image). Enterprise support is also available from Varada.

The platform supports a wide range of data sources and formats, including:

  • Data Formats: ORC, Parquet, JSON, CSV and more
  • Data Catalogs: Hive Metastore, AWS Glue
  • Additional Data Sources: PostgreSQL, MySQL and more

Coming soon are support for GCP and Azure.

About Varada 

The Varada mission is to enable data practitioners to go beyond the traditional limitations imposed by data infrastructure and instead zero in on the data and answers they need—with complete control over performance, cost and flexibility. In Varada’s world of big data, every query can find its optimal plan, with no prior preparation and no bottlenecks, providing consistent performance at a petabyte scale. Varada was founded by veterans of the Dell EMC XtremIO core team and is dedicated to leveraging the data lake architecture to take on the challenge of data and business agility. Varada has been recognized in the Cool Vendors in Data Management report by Gartner Inc.

Industrial Internet Consortium Launches IIoT RFP Toolkit

Free Step-by-step Wizard Creates RFP Content to Jumpstart IIoT Projects

Two problems consistently present themselves for open, collaborative, and even open-source projects to gain wide adoption. The specifications must be adopted as a corporate standard. The buying authorities, whether corporate or plant, must define the specification as part of the bid package.

Each of these is a hurdle. The first can be overcome by including as many end user corporations as feasible in the standards development process. The second can be a major roadblock, especially if the purchasing authority is decentralized and perhaps not technically aware and more apt to be influenced by the local specified supplier sales team.

Those influences make it imperative that the standards bodies make it as easy as possible to specify the standard as part of the bid package. I’ve seen failure upon failure because of this one roadblock. That makes this new toolkit from IIC that much more valuable.

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has released its IIC RFP Toolkit, a collection of best practices and online tools to help guide IIoT project managers and procurement managers and buyers through the process of procuring all the different components and resources required for a complete end-to-end IIoT solution.

“Digital Transformation (DX) projects require unique procurement skills to navigate the considerations needed when building an RFP. The procurement process for a typical IoT project is quite different from that of an enterprise software project,” said Dirk Slama, Director of the Co-innovation Hub at Ferdinand-Steinbeis-Institute.

“This IIC toolkit helps IIoT project managers and procurement managers/buyers through the process of procuring all the different components and resources required for a complete end-to-end IIoT solution. The RFP wizard helps users create and manage effective RFPs for IIoT solutions, helping to ensure that users of IIoT technology are using the right partners and getting the best possible IIoT solution for the most affordable price,” said Transforma Insights Founding Partner Jim Morrish.

The IIC RFP Toolkit is comprised of six modules, developed by the IIC member ecosystem of IIoT technology users, vendors, and consultants. These modules are:

  • Challenges, risks, and mitigation
  • Project planning
  • RFP creation
  • RFP wizard
  • RFP distribution and vendor selection
  • Expert advice and discussion

“As companies struggle to ensure they are successfully setting up their digital transformation projects it becomes more important to see what the rest of the market is doing and that’s exactly what we’ve provided with the IIC RFP Toolkit. Our ecosystem of members, from across the IIoT landscape, provide insights and lessons they learnt from their own projects and created the modules in the RFP Toolkit. The IIC ecosystem is unparalleled in its ability to crowdsource solutions and share best practices to solve IIoT and digital transformation challenges,” said IGnPower Executive Vice President Bassam Zarkout.

The IIC RFP Toolkit is accessible for free on the IIC Resource Hub, a central repository for the collective resources of the IIC community. Conversations about common challenges and crowd-sourced answers from IIC members can be found on the IIC Community Forum, the space for industry experts to exchange ideas, to discuss Industrial IoT (IIoT) problems in need of solutions and to network.