The Future for the IIOT

Technews in South Africa has recently published their 2016 Industry Guide to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT). The whole publication is available on line, despite being a massive 60 page publication, with many and varied articles on this all-pervading topic. This Annual Supplement to the SA Instrumentation and Control magazine draws on example applications from Europe and the USA, as well as from suppliers who provide the technology capability. This industry guide can be downloaded from the SAIC Archives, on http://www.instrumentation.co.za/archives.aspx.

The challenge the Editor, Steven Meyer, gave me, was to comment on the future direction of the ‘Internet of Things’, so inevitably I turned to some of the new gurus of the industry, who seem to be given the label “Futurists”, or “Trendwatchers” – and it is a growing discipline!

What these guys say

The latest trend evident in the presentations at conferences and corporate presentations, such as those organized by automation suppliers like Emerson and Yokogawa, is for a look into the future, and speculation as to what is to come in the next 15 years. Apart from the information about their new products, and new applications of their systems enabling better automation, these conference organizers also now offer a presentation from a “Trend-watcher” or “Futurist”. Inevitably basing their arguments on the way technology has grown, in relation to computing power, mobile phones, and the Internet, these presentations try to explain the IOT, Internet Of Things, of today – to then discuss what the IOT will really provide, and what will be accepted as normal, in ten years’ time.

Richard van Hooijdonk, a ‘Trendwatcher’

For the Yokogawa European conference, their Trendwatcher was Richard van Hooijdonk, from the Netherlands. A well-known Radio lecturer, Richard is also a lecturer at the Nyenrode & Erasmus University (maybe they made a new subject area for him?). Entitled ‘Trends 2030’, his presentation linked the IOT with the growth of robots; with wearable and injected (into the body) electronics; with ‘Big Data’; with 4D printing and with cybercrime.

NARIM Congres 2015 foto: Robert Tjalondo; www.rockinpictures.com 2015

Richard van Hooijdonk, Trendwatcher

Van Hooijdonk backs up what he says with his actions, at least enough to make us stop and think. He has had an RFID code implanted into his arm, which not only establishes his body with an IP address, but provides the access code to the electronic lock on his apartment, so that he is recognized and the door is unlocked when he turns the door knob. The unit also is programmed with the number for his Bitcoin account. While admitting that the injection process was not painless, his whole approach was that such technology will become smaller and cheaper, with future volume application. So the injections will be less painful, at least!

Personal sensors vs robot automation

Probably everyone in the audience understood and could relate to different parts of Richard’s view of the major future developments likely. Certainly I could understand the function of some wearable electronic systems that monitor heart rate, temperature and blood pressure, etc, but lost the plot when this device was also bio-chemically analysing data from an internal pill or pills that circulate around and analyse the blood and other fluids, to look for symptoms or diseases that need treatment, and then automatically call the Doctor!

However I could relate to the emphasis placed on robot automation, which particularly included advanced drones that can now use optical imaging to identify sections of fields or crops which need spraying with insecticide or seeds or fertiliser etc: the drones are self-programmed to fly over the field in a regular search pattern. Automated and self-checking robots for window cleaning, lawnmowers, carpet cleaning and floor polishing, litter picking and hoovering are all about to take over such manual jobs. Robotics will then take over other duties, like planting out seedlings and watering individual pots in garden centres. In the kitchen the fridge will know when it has run out of specific items like eggs, milk and butter, and order them automatically from the grocer, on a schedule.

Relating this to IOT

In terms of automation the IOT offers the interlinking between multiple devices, pieces of home equipment for example: the alarm clock rings, after having consulted your schedule, weather and traffic reports, to decide when you need to be awake: the curtains open, or alternately the lights are switched on, the bath is filled and the coffee pot or kettle switched on to brew a drink. But these actions may not have to be programmed, the devices themselves, and other sensors, will have been fed into a big ‘consequences’ database in the cloud somewhere, that uses pattern recognition to learn repeated sequences, and can then take over and run these sequences automatically. This ‘Big Data’ processing facility, using pattern recognition, creating artificial intelligence that can process all this data, is a necessary adjunct to the simple sensors – we can’t look at all that mass of information ourselves. Such data processing can be seen in a small way already, when the supermarkets collect your purchase pattern information, and use this to predict when you will buy these same goods again: if you don’t buy them when the computer thinks you should, it can send you a reminder, or even a special offer, to tempt you back to the store. Alternatively, look for a price for a flight on-line: suddenly adverts for that flight appear on every web page you access, and alongside your emails that mention keywords like ‘holiday’.

Jack Uldrich, a ‘Futurist’

The Emerson European User Group conference on the other hand, brought Jack Uldrich over from the USA. Jack started life as a naval intelligence officer, and developed an ability to talk American almost as fast as my brain can translate the words being used. He now describes himself as a Futurist, and consults for many major investment groups, plus is a regular guest on CNN and CNBC. In his website (jackuldrich.com) he presents a paper describing the ten ways IOT will “Open up a Future of Opportunity”.

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Jack Uldrich, a Futurist, looking over his own shoulder?

Jack sees the alarm clock wake-up routine quoted above as the simplest use of IOT: a more comprehensive view is that sensors in your pyjamas, mattress, home lighting systems and the kitchen monitor everything from your diet to your sleep pattern, and tell you to modify your behaviour to improve your lifestyle – for example tell you to reduce the caffeine intake after 6pm, and tell your bedroom lights to slowly get brighter as soon as you come out of REM sleep – whatever that is!

I leave you to read the rest of the paper: but Uldrich takes IOT with Big Data as just one of the major triggers for change. The other factors he lists are Social media, robotics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, AI and renewable energy, which will all coalesce to focus on the intelligent automation of our lives.

New opportunities  

Jack Uldrich sees some major business entrepreneurs emerging as a result of the technology changes around us already, identifying Spacex in satellite launchers (the re-useable ones that now land on ocean barges); Tesla new designs of electric cars, and their plans to develop a 0.5 million units a year production facility for the required car batteries by 2020; GE producing 3D printed aero-engine parts (such as turbine blades) by 2020; and Deloitte recently moving into an office building in Amsterdam that can use IOT sensors to automatically reduce energy consumption by 85%. Richard van Hooijdonk also pointed to disruptive new ideas overturning established markets, mentioning Uber in taxi services; BnB in renting holiday houses; Spotify in music; and Netflix in taking over the video rental market digitally.

These Trendwatchers/Futurists do have a place in business. In fact, van Hooijdonk teaches companies how to anticipate and deal with major changes that might disrupt their business, by creating their own internal disruption team. In this way they may avoid the fate of Kodak, Blockbuster, and Proctor & Gamble. There are obviously many profitable careers opening up in presenting trendwatching lectures, some forecasting IOT scenarios for the future.

But what about the IOT?

Gartner, a leading information technology research and advisory company, forecasts that 6.4 Billion ‘things’ will be connected to the Internet by end 2016, up 30% from 2015, and that this number will reach 20 Billion by 2020. These devices will generate a market for service spending of USD235 Billion in 2016, so this spend will be approaching USD1000 Billion worldwide by 2020. Admittedly only around a third of these connections will be in business operations, two thirds will be in consumer areas. But the major market demand will be for services, where businesses employ external providers to design, install and operate their IOT systems. In reality this means processing the information available using Big Data techniques, to allow the client to get on with his own business, yet benefit from new technology. “IOT services are the real driver of value in IOT, and increasing attention is being focused on new services by end-user organisations and vendors,” said Jim Tully, vice president and analyst at Gartner.

So the attention Gartner speaks of can already be seen coming from the major automation suppliers, who are offering 24/7 services to analyse the data available from industrial internet based sensors, or from plant sensors connected over a VPN link via the Internet. The GE, Emerson and Yokogawa companies of this world see their customers using their products, but that these products have far more capability than the customer can absorb, so they need to be the supplier who provides the expansion and development services. Otherwise someone else will jump in and pinch the client’s attention, and the work.

We already have GE supporting their aero-engines with wear and condition monitoring systems, then extending this to their compressors and pumps on LNG liquefaction plants, with teams of GE people monitoring and reporting back to their clients. These teams might only be in three or four places around the world, all linked by the internet, but they can control their maintenance staff on site. These guys are directed to the machine or plant area that needs attention: and the whole contract is no longer measured in man hour charges, but in percentages of the plant output capability, when the equipment availability is maintained above X%. Similarly we see automation companies developing similar contracts, where they use the IOT inputs to enable plant performance improvements, so that a South African plant benefits from operational experience learned from a similarly linked up Canadian plant: and the payment is a proportion of the performance improvement.

There are opportunities also for specialists to develop expertise in their own specific areas, eg for machine manufacturers to link all their own machines worldwide, and be the leaders in offering the most efficient, reliable widget production machinery: but eventually these will be linked into a major supplier of widget production and business services.

The IOT benefit will come from collaboration and learning, matching patterns and experience from knowledge gained elsewhere: it needs AI, which could be ‘artificial intelligence’, or may be ‘Automated Intelligence’ – and it will come from Big Data, from multiple small sensors, interconnections, and collaboration!

Total Exploration and Production chooses Emerson maintenance services

Emerson has been selected by Total Exploration and Production Services to provide control and safety system maintenance services that will support Total’s upstream oil and gas operations around the whole world.

The ten-year frame agreement is part of Total’s Integrated Control and Safety Systems standardisation strategy. It is the first of its kind between Total and an automation systems provider and formalises the already robust relationship between the two companies.

Emerson will be responsible for servicing, maintenance, obsolescence planning, on-call application support, spare parts management, and reporting activities relating to integrated control and safety systems used in selected Total onshore and offshore sites. This includes Emerson’s DeltaV distributed control systems and DeltaV SIS safety systems, along with its AMS asset management software.

“This agreement strengthens Emerson’s excellent relationship with Total and enables our services team to support Total in its continuous efforts to optimise the efficiency of their operations and ensure high safety performance,” said Mike Train, president of Emerson’s Automation Solutions business. “We appreciate being trusted to maintain critical automation systems that will help Total continue to run their operations safely and reliably.”

Platon/Roxspur acquired by TT Electronics

It’s always interesting when your old company gets taken over, once again! Particularly when you thought it was being screwed up, by the acquirers. So I was disappointed to have missed a news release nearly 15 years later, about a subsequent take-over in 2014.

The event was that Roxspur Measurement & Control was acquired by TT Electronics for GBP8m in July 2014. The good news was that the TT annual report for 2014 suggested that Roxspur provided a GBP0.4m operating profit, included in their results at the end of 2014.

Roxspur was absorbed into the TT Electronics Industrial Sensing and Control division,  which had a sales revenue of GBP61m in 2015, and an operating profit of GBP11.4m. So Roxspur is now a small-ish cog in this much bigger wheel.

TT Electronics describes itself as manufacturing a comprehensive range of temperature, pressure, flow and level products designed for aerospace, industrial, oil and gas, power generation and water management applications through its Roxspur sub-brands Brearley, Platon, Sensit and Nulectrohms. The TT Electronics total sales revenue in 2015 was reported as GBP524m, with an operating profit of GBP30m. So Industrial Sensing and Control is in fact a very significant part of the whole.

I, and everyone else, have to hope that the succession of acquisitions that were imposed on the Platon  variable area glass and metal tube flowmeter measurement business after 1999, have brought some of the employees some benefit.  Over the previous 8 years the Basingstoke based team had built the flow measurement business, which included the well known pre-Internet Flowbits catalogue, into a GBP10m business. So this small part of the corporate group at that time was probably worth more than GBP8m. It faced the biggest business trading profile challenge ever, with the arrival of the Internet, just as it was hyped into a broader paper based catalogue for industrial engineers, renamed as “Controlbits” by the new acquirers.

There are still paper catalogues around, in 2016, but hyped up earnings expectations appeared to kill off the Platon catalogue. The chaos catapulted me, after a year recovering from being made redundant, into a new career, which I do not regret. It also spawned some spin off start-up companies, which have done well. Even the Platon Pension scheme, which had to be the subject of a Government funded rescue, has at last started to pay out some of the pensions due, as from 2015.

So there were benefits! Ironically I did, at that time, and maybe still have, a minimal number of shares in TT Electronics!

 

Yokogawa invests into Silicon Valley fog computing

 

Yokogawa Electric Corporation announces that it has invested in FogHorn Systems Inc, a Silicon Valley start-up that is a leading developer of fog computing* technology. Yokogawa aims to foster development of fog computing technology through its investment in this company. In so doing, Yokogawa hopes to expand the range of solutions that it provides.

Due to the continued growth of cloud computing services and the huge number of devices that have access to cloud resources, there is a growing concern over issues such as network congestion and data processing delays. Fog computing is gaining traction as a technology solution to this problem.

Co-Investors with Yokogawa

FogHorn Systems, a pioneer in the development of software for fog computing applications with outstanding expertise in this field, has attracted the interest of various companies that are promoting IoT. Led by March Capital and GE Ventures, the company has succeeded in raising $12 million in funding from multiple investors, including Yokogawa, Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH, and Darling Ventures. There is also a group of investors who invested in the company prior to this round of fundraising. Yokogawa’s stake in the company is worth $900,000.

Yokogawa offers a wide range of control solutions that help its customers improve the safety and efficiency of their operations and make the most effective use of their assets. These solutions include field instruments, control systems, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and management information systems. Industrial IoT (IIoT) technology is making rapid inroads in the control field, and it is expected that fog computing’s enablement of real-time and distributed processing in edge computing applications will significantly accelerate its adoption.

Through this investment in FogHorn Systems, Yokogawa will gain access to the latest fog computing technologies and will also make available its knowledge and expertise in process control and plant operations that will help this company further refine its fog computing technology. Yokogawa aims to make use of fog computing to strengthen the solutions that it provides.

‘Process Co-Innovation’ from Yokogawa

Yokogawa has drawn up a long-term business framework and formulated a vision statement that reads: “Through ‘Process Co-Innovation’ Yokogawa creates new value with our clients for a brighter future. ‘Process Co-Innovation’ is a concept for an automation business that will utilize all of Yokogawa’s measurement, control and information technologies. Accordingly, Yokogawa will seek not only to optimize production processes but also the flow of material and information within and between companies, including their value and supply chains”.

Yokogawa is committed to working with customers to create value through the effective use of IIoT, a key to ‘Process Co-Innovation’. Tsuyoshi Abe, Yokogawa vice president and head of the company’s Marketing Headquarters, said of this investment: “Highly reliable and stable communications are an essential requirement in manufacturing and many other fields. Fog computing is a breakthrough that helps to enhance the use of cloud resources. It is also expected to provide Yokogawa many more opportunities to utilize IIoT in its control business. In line with our corporate brand slogan of ‘Co-innovating tomorrow’, Yokogawa will use FogHorn’s technology to develop new solutions and create new value in collaboration with its customers and partners.”

* Fog computing:

Fog computing is an architectural concept for the realization of edge intelligence and the suppression of communications with the cloud by establishing a ‘fog’ distributed computing layer between the cloud and devices in the field. Fog computing eliminates communications delays and fluctuations by locating the processing of certain data near the field devices that generate the data and sending only essential information to the cloud. As such, there are high expectations that this technology will lead to a number of new IoT applications.

2M EM Flowmeters in 40 years

Since 1977, Endress+Hauser has produced over two million electromagnetic flowmeters. The company claim this is more than any other manufacturer, and that E+H is the market leader in electromagnetic flowmeter technology. “This magic number stands for high-quality measuring technology and, above all, satisfied customers in all kinds of industries,” says Bernd-Josef Schäfer, Managing Director of Endress+Hauser Flowtec AG, the center of competence for flow measuring technology.

The Endress+Hauser success story as a manufacturer of electromagnetic flowmeters began in the middle of the 1970s. In order to enter the water and wastewater market which was emerging at that time, E+H purchased the company ‘Flowtec’ in Bern, in 1977, and moved it to a new location in Reinach (Basel-Landschaft, Switzerland). This is where Endress+Hauser started to produce flowmeters with just three employees, in a former military barracks.

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The 1977 production unit at Reinach

Then, work was done on an on-demand basis. “Whereas today,” says Bernd-Josef Schäfer, “our production spans six sites around the globe – in Switzerland, France, the USA, China, India, and Brazil – and boasts state-of-the-art logistics. This infrastructure is what has enabled us to produce two million electromagnetic flowmeters to date in accordance with required quality standards.” These two million electromagnetic flowmeters could measure a volume corresponding to four times the flow rate of the Amazon. Each production site also features precise calibration facilities which are regularly checked by national accreditation bodies and which guarantee consistently high measuring quality for each individual device.

Constant innovation for customer satisfaction

The company’s success, which spans almost 40 years, is due to many factors. In particular, its inventive talent has enabled Endress+Hauser to keep offering its customers new, groundbreaking devices capable of measuring all kinds of fluids, such as water, milk, acids, alkalis, or ore slurry, with the greatest accuracy. With clever innovations such as the precision measurement of difficult fluids (Autozero, 1981), microprocessor control (Variomag, 1984), two-wire technology (Eximag, 1987), or the operating matrix (Tecmag, 1990), Endress+Hauser has always managed to stay one step ahead of the competition.

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In 1985, 800 and 2000mm bore flowmeters were produced for monitoring drinking water supplies delivered around Algiers

In 1993, all of these device variants were brought together to form a single product family under the name of “Proline”. Alongside this family, however, Endress+Hauser also produces flowmeters for very particular applications – for example, filling bottles at one-second intervals.

Looking to the future with Proline

Since 1993, the Proline device family has undergone constant development to ensure that it meets the prevailing requirements in a wide range of industries. Following the second generation launched in 2000, the third and most recent Proline generation (2012) offers a multitude of unique functions and device properties. This means that system operators will not only be able to retrieve measurement and diagnostic data via display, WLAN, web server, or fieldbus, but will also be able to monitor the process comprehensively and, if necessary, check the functioning of a flowmeter during operation.

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One modern production line for Proline electronics units

Bernd-Josef Schäfer sees the future of Endress+Hauser optimistically: “Innovations such as these enable us to align our product portfolio consistently with the needs of every industry. We are looking ahead to our three-millionth electromagnetic flowmeter with great confidence.”

This E+H release was first published by Eoin O’Riain in Read-out.net in Ireland

Water Use Cut 75% at IoT Connected Farm

Avocado trees monitored around the clock by a Spirent Communications system are given water only when needed; the farmer uses soil moisture meters, IoT technology, LoRa WAN communications and cloud computing to control the irrigation, reducing his annual water consumption by 75%.

It takes 74 gallons of water to produce one pound of avocados, and drought-stricken California produces 95 percent of avocados grown in the United States. Nearly all are grown in Southern California, in a five-county region that straddles the coast from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Like the rest of the state, the southern coastal region is locked in a drought and largely cut off from the flow of surface water from the state’s big irrigation projects. Avocado groves have been hit badly with sky-high water costs and reliance on water pumped from underground aquifers.

Water consumption is regulated in California with the state entering its fourth year of drought resulting in water regulators imposing sweeping and draconian restrictions on the use of water. The State Water Resources Control Board has even urged Californians to let their lawns die.

Some avocado farmers in California feeling the heat have turned to new methods in growing avocados such as higher density planting which enables some to produce twice as much fruit for the same amount of water. But a new initiative from Spirent Communications in bringing about connected avocado farms might just be the perfect solution to make further inroads into lowering spiralling water costs.

Useful day-job expertise

It just so happens that Kurt Bantle is a senior solution manager at Spirent Communications and at home has some 900 young avocado trees planted in his “back garden” in Southern California. Within his work remit, which is to develop Spirent’s IoT offering, he decided to experiment into how avocados could be grown using less water through soil moisture monitoring, by using this as an input to automate the irrigation, using a just-in-time approach.

Bantle divided his farm into 22 irrigation blocks and inserted two soil moisture measurement units into each block. The units contain a LoRa (www.lora-alliance.org) unit for narrow band data communication to a LoRa gateway which has a connection via a broadband cellular uplink.

The gateway also contains an Oasis (a partner company with Spirent) re-programmable SIM which becomes the enabler in remote water provisioning. All soil moisture data from the avocado trees is collected in a cloud and visualised by a presentation layer. When a tree needs to be watered, the solution turns the sprinklers on automatically to get the correct level of soil moisture for each tree. It then turns them off when the correct moisture levels are reached. The connected trees are monitored constantly day and night. In all Bantle spent $8200 for LoRa stations, gateway and cellular backhaul, moisture sensors, and irrigation valve controllers.

“Avocado trees typically take 4 acre feet (1 acre foot = 326000 gallons) of water per acre per year. This is not only to supply the needed water, but also to leach the salts which build up in the soil,” says Bantle: “The soil moisture sensors let me drastically reduce water usage by telling me when to water and how deep to water to push the salts past the bulk of the rooting zone. The majority of the roots are in the top 8 inches of soil so there is a sensor there and one at 24 inches so I can see when I’ve watered deep enough to get the salts out of the rooting zone”.

The previous annual cost of watering his 900 trees was $47,336. By connecting this IoT technology, his annual bill dropped to £11,834, a 75% reduction. The hardware investment was recouped in the first 6 months.

“The case study showed a water usage reduction by 75%, but the usage will climb as the trees get bigger. The goal is to reach a 50% reduction of water usage when the trees are fully grown. By keeping the salts in check along with keeping nutrients supplied, stress on the trees is reduced and they are able to have better crop production,” says Bantle.

Future Consequences: both positive and negative

The downside for Bantle in harnessing the power of IoT to reduce water consumption was that he was placed under state surveillance for suspected meter tampering, when his water consumption reduced so dramatically.

The connectivity solution provided by Spirent together with its IoT ecosystem partners for avocado trees applies to every other type of vegetable and fruit farm, which would include almonds, olives, apples, oranges and tomatoes.

IoT technology pioneer Spirent Communications plc is leading the charge with its open eco-system partners such as Oasis Smart Sim through its connectivity and embedded subscription business and recently showed various such connected solutions at the IoT World exhibition.

Spirent’s Embedded Connectivity solution will be launched during 2016 in a phased manner so that the commercially available solution conforms to the corresponding GSMA specification releases.

Spirent conclude with the message that the Internet of Things (IoT) is destined to touch every aspect of human endeavour making factories smarter, supply chains intelligent ….and now farms such as this first IoT connected avocado farm more water efficient, saving farmers vast amounts of water (and therefore money) in the avocado growing process.

The original story from Spirent was first published by WaterActive.co.uk in their July issue.

The Yokogawa User Group conference in Budapest

The “User Group” conferences, which provide a meeting place for automation and control managers and engineers from different companies and industries to meet and share their operational experience, started in the USA, and have blossomed in Europe in the last few years. Usually hosted by a major supplier, they encourage their clients to come together in a way that is more cost effective, for them, than a standard commercial exhibition and conference. But they always gather their normal specialist sub-suppliers as partners, to also show and talk about their products, and explain how they can interface together to create a total plant system, in the mini-exhibition running alongside meal and coffee breaks.

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The conference dinner was held in the Hungarian National Gallery, by the side of the Danube 

The Yokogawa European User Group meeting took place this May in Budapest. It attracted around 200 engineers and interested editors from all around Europe: from Spain to Norway, from the UK to Turkey, to hear about recent new applications, and the latest product developments.

 

“Transformation 2017” is the current Yokogawa business plan, covering the three years from 2015-17: the year 2015 also happened to be the 100th year since the foundation of the company. So their anniversary year plan focuses on customer interfacing and “Co-Innovation”, which was the main conference theme for the presentations.

Yokogawa appears to have developed a different approach recently, and have become keen to bring in ideas, products and even make acquisitions to broaden their expertise base. They did this previously, but there is a greater emphasis now, it seems. They are also the ISA100 wireless sensor technology leader, amongst the main automation companies, and are helping more small sensor manufacturers to develop this capability.

Wireless sensors to ISA100

Yokogawa have produced wireless versions of their own temperature and pressure transmitters, as you would expect, plus have the routers and base stations necessary to complete the site system. More interesting, they have developed a wireless module, which can be integrated with other (third party supplier) sensors, to create a new wireless measurement sensor. They also have a battery pack that can be exchanged in a hazardous area, when needed, often only after ten years, but maybe after two years if that battery also powers a third party sensor and needs a fast data response time.

In a presentation about a Richter Gedeon Group pharmaceutical plant in Romania, Yokogawa described a wireless sensor installation that monitored the groundwater levels around the site, in 20 wells over an area 1500m x 600m, with some wells actually outside the factory fence. The historic weekly manual monitoring was not felt to be sufficiently frequent, and current environmental standards required an improvement, to at least 4 times a day. Standard HART submersible pressure sensors were used for the level measurement, powered by the battery pack in the Yokogawa wireless module, which communicated digitally with the sensors and then sent the data over ISA100 links. This provides hourly reporting data from each well, and allows the sensor to be put into sleep mode between readings.

The large area of the site, the topography and pipe bridges, provided a challenge for the wireless links. To achieve the transmission distances involved, Yokogawa planned the site layout with four of their independent wireless Routers, to gather data from the local sensors at the extreme distances, and then use the superior range achievable from the Router to the base station to deliver the data. This was then displayed by the pre-existing site ABB 800XA control system, to present any alarm data to the operators, and archive the records.

The IIOT and “Sushi Sensors”

Yokogawa say they have been working on the development of low-cost, small, battery operated wireless sensors, perhaps aptly named as “Sushi Sensors”, for ten years, as well as learning what associated data analysis is required to come to a meaningful conclusion about what the data – “Big Data” – is saying. So it was good to see their Sushi sensors on display, in different colours (as you might expect: blue, yellow/gold, and silver) – all with a little stub aerial. But turn these little bugs over and there was an empty shell – nothing there yet! Nevertheless, the work is going on, initially to produce temperature sensor systems: watch that space.

On other stands the GasSecure GS01 hydrocarbon gas detector was on show, which is another ISA100 wireless sensor from Dräger, marketed by Yokogawa for LNG and oil and gas facilities.

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Spirax Sarco STAPS

Next, Spirax Sarco presented their latest wireless sensor, used for monitoring steam traps on petrochemical plants. Available only recently, from March 2016, this sensor uses the standard ISA100 system, and is called STAPS (which stands for Spirax Total Acoustic Performance Solutions). The acoustic sensing uses a PZT sensor clamped to the outside of the steam line, alongside the trap, and can indicate when the trap is blocked, and when it has failed open, and is leaking live steam. Not only does the STAPS sensor calculate and transmit the rate of steam loss, so the operator can assess the cost and therefore the urgency needed to make a repair, it can analyse the actual type of trap failure. This is done within the sensor electronics, by measuring the emitted acoustic signatures in multiple bands between 5 and 40kHz, to suggest whether the problem is dirt, or a sticky valve, or a damaged valve seat. The STAPS sensor is available intrinsically safe, for petrochemical applications: Spirax previously offered a different wireless sensor for standard industrial plants and boiler rooms, which used a Zigbee communications link.

Customer software and Co-Innovation

There have been two Yokogawa acquisitions in the field of ‘management’ software, which are focused on making the computer based control systems supplied by Yokogawa for plant and process control provide the overview data required by management, improving the connectivity between plant and office, and optimising business operations. First they acquired Industrial Evolution Inc, in January 2016, who provide cloud-based plant data sharing services, or DaaS (Data-as-a-Service). Yokogawa renamed this business Industrial Knowledge: this service has been used in a broad variety of applications such as the sharing of data on oil and gas field operations among authorized users at multiple companies, and the real-time sharing of data with investors on facilities that are operated by third parties. For example when an oilfield is jointly owned by three oil companies, but only one of them acts as the main operator.

Then in April Yokogawa acquired KBC Technologies, a successful provider of software and consultancy focused on achieving operational excellence and improving profitability for both the upstream (oil production) and downstream (oil refineries and petrochemicals production) segments – advanced software for process optimisation and simulation. Originating with three process engineers who started life at the Exxon Fawley refinery, KBC also now incorporates the original Honeywell HPS reactor technology expertise, acquired in 1998, and the chemicals processing technology developed at Infochem, acquired in 2012.

Combining KBC and Industrial Evolution into their Industrial Knowledge business, Yokogawa is expanding its advanced solutions service business by engaging with its customers in a co-innovation process, to add value, using company-wide optimisation of the business operations.

Co-innovation with the specialists

Oil fiscal metering using specialist skids at oil tanker batch shipping terminals is a major application area for Coriolis meters. Yokogawa have just upgraded their Coriolis product line to improve their performance, using modern electronics and sensor technology. The pressure drop for a given flow rate has been greatly reduced, and on-site accuracy enhanced to meet the laboratory tested specifications. Also tube condition monitoring enables on-site checks to confirm that the process conditions have not affected the measurement tubes.

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M+F skids in use at a tanker terminal

Unlike other Coriolis suppliers, Yokogawa do not offer an in-house fiscal metering skid production facility, but rely on the knowledge of their specialist customers to achieve the total package offer. So via their chosen skid supplier customer, M+F Technologies of Hamburg, they have supplied meters for terminal management systems, tank truck loading systems, aircraft and ship supply across the world. The M+F MFX4 batch flow computer has been supplied for blending, leak detection and terminal operations in Latin America, Russia, EU, and Cuba. The latest Yokogawa Coriolis meters, the TI product range, has enabled M+F to reduce the size of the gas separators involved, reducing the skid footprint, and also M+F have reduced the maintenance costs associated. Using TCP/IP communications the system has 24/7 remote maintenance available, essential for 24 hour terminal operations.

Conclusion

The two or three conference days crammed in a lot more than was described above: the delegate just chooses the topics of major interest on his plant. Further announcements showed that Yokogawa is to now construct complete Analyser house systems in Spain, in addition to their existing facilities in Singapore and USA, to serve the European market primarily. Here they act as the site systems supplier, perhaps in contrast to their approach to fiscal metering described above. Yokogawa are also collaborating with Cisco Systems over the Shell SecurePlant initiative, which is to be rolled out over 50 Shell plants, and have developed an interesting collaboration with StatOil, to use wireless sensors to monitor the on-site sound noise level on offshore oil platforms, to ensure personnel safety and monitoring.

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An Analyser house supplied by Yokogawa

The next Yokogawa User Group meeting will be in South Africa in October, for three days in Johannesburg, which should be well worth attending.

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