By Cliff Ortmeyer, Global Head of Technical Marketing at Newark
Sensors are one of the most critical elements of electronic design for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications as, without them, devices have no input (beyond manual human intervention). The good news is that design engineers can now access state-of-the-art sensors that can radically transform their end designs, creating never before seen capabilities when it comes to sensing.
Companies can modernize legacy industrial controls by retrofitting operations with large arrays of sensors collecting data for transmission over the Internet to a central, cloud-based computing resource. Analytics software running on cloud computers can reduce the huge volumes of generated data into actionable information for applications such as predictive maintenance and asset tracking.
But when designers embark on their projects, they face a bewildering array of smart sensors and device applications to consider. These new devices typically feature more advanced digital interfaces and yield more valuable information than traditional industrial sensors. Three quick examples show how technology can reshape industrial automation.
Edge control technology
A new class of smart sensors with edge control technology is a good first example. These sensors bring critical data to you when you need it, wherever you are, via the cloud. The new devices – such as Layer N Smart Sensors from OMEGA – utilize internal sensing elements to accurately measure environmental conditions such as temperature, light, humidity, and barometric pressure for a range of industrial applications. Reports, history, and e-mail alerts from the cloud can be delivered to any internet-connected device to keep you informed on the status of all the company’s vital processes.
For large industrial settings, they can also extend IIoT capabilities farther than conventional sensors. The devices use Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) technology to provide long-range communications for up 1.2 km using standard AA batteries as a power source, and up 3.2 km when powered by a standard 5V micro USB cable.
Smart vibration sensors
Another significant advancement in IIoT solutions is smart vibration sensors. These devices are used to monitor vibration and implement preventative maintenance for crucial equipment. A good example is the Advantech WISE-2410 LoRaWAN Wireless Condition Monitor Sensor, which can detect the vibration of equipment 24 hours a day by monitoring its surface temperatures and autonomously calculating its vibration characteristics. And these sensors can immediately diagnose anomalies per the ISO 10816 vibration monitoring standard to evaluate machine vibration by measurements, without requiring users to code it.
Designed with IP66 protection, this new class of smart sensor is ideal for Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) applications such as HVAC systems, pumps, motors, and facility monitoring. Users can quickly view and understand the utilization rates of all devices to maximize their capacity. The higher level of intelligence provided by these sensors can prevent unexpected downtimes and point to root causes of problems for better preventive maintenance planning.
Smart photoelectric sensors
Smart photoelectric sensors, such as smart position sensors, are a final exciting advancement to consider. These sensors – typically used in aerospace, medical and industrial applications – can detect patterns in an object structure and any changes in them. Pattern detections happen autonomously in the sensor, rather than within the central processor of a local PLC, thereby reducing the PLC’s load.
Next-generation photoelectric sensors can significantly improve manufacturing flexibility. The sensors can be remotely programmed with suitable parameters every time a product change is required. Production, inspection, packaging, and dispatch can be set for even single-unit batch sizes at mass-production prices so that each consumer can receive a personalized one-off product.
Some solutions such as the SPS-L075-HALS Smart Position Sensor can self-calibrate themselves using an array of MR (magnetoresistive) sensors to accurately and reliably determine the position of moving objects such as elevators, valves, or machinery.
These sensors also tick other IIoT smart sensor requirements. Their small size allows installation where space is at a premium, while IP67 and IP69K sealing options allow deployment in harsh environments. They are smart enough to be used as an alternative to using several sensors and switch components together with the extra wiring, external components, and connections also previously needed.
Sensors are key to the success of modernizing industrial automation, and conventional sensor types, which convert physical variables into electrical signals, may not provide enough information in the new world of IIoT. New, state-of-the-art smart sensors maximize the potential advantages that IoT and cloud computing now offer and have evolved to provide unprecedented levels of intelligence and communications capabilities to extend the useful life of legacy industrial equipment.