KROHNE emphasises networking R+D with new CTO Attila Bilgic

The Advisory Board of the Krohne Group has appointed Dr Ing Attila Bilgic as CTO and Managing Director of Ludwig Krohne GmbH & Co KG. He assumes global responsibility for research and development (R+D) and extends the managing board of the Krohne Group alongside the existing Directors, Michael Rademacher-Dubbick and Stephan Neuburger.

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New Krohne CTO Dr Attila Bilgic

Dr Bilgic’s main task is the “digitization” of the Krohne measuring devices and measuring systems, their networking and their integration amongst themselves, as well as with and into the digital systems of the users. The area of “smart sensors”, which Krohne has already pioneered with various research projects under his leadership, is also of particular significance. With more than 350 employees, The Krohne Group currently employs about 10% of all staff in research and development, with more than 350 R+D employees and a budget of approximately 8% of the total group turnover (in 2015 the turnover was approximately EURO 500 million).

The topic of networking has been the major topic in the previous career of Dr. Bilgic: prior to joining Krohne, he held various positions in the “Communication Solutions” division of Infineon Technologies AG from 2000 to 2009, most recently as Director of System Engineering. From 2007 to 2009, he was head of the Department of Integrated Systems at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Since 2016, he has been a member of the board of the VDI / VDE Society of Measuring and Automation Technology. He is also a member of the German Physical Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

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!

49% of UK Engineers want to change jobs in 2016

This is the conclusion of “Investors in People”, the UK organisation that tries to promote better ‘People Management’ in industry. A OnePoll survey of 2000 individuals employed in the Engineering and Manufacturing sectors organised at the end of November found that 25% of employees are currently ‘Quite or Extremely Unhappy’ in their jobs. One in five of the respondents were already actively job hunting. Investors in People consider that 49% of engineers will be looking to move jobs in 2016, as the UK economy improves.

Paul Devoy, Head of Investors in People said: “Small things can make a big difference. Feeling valued, understanding their role in the organisation and how they can grow with an organisation are all big concerns for UK workers.  Saying thank you, involving employees in decisions and giving them responsibility over their work are basic ways to make staff happier, and more likely to stay. Employers also win, with a more committed workforce, higher retention and a clearer view of the future.”

Investors in People have produced a new report “Job Exodus Trends in 2016”, which is available from their website. It shows that one in 5 workers in the engineering and manufacturing sectors are complaining the lack of career progression (21%), a similar number (22%) say they don’t feel valued as a member of staff and nearly a quarter are unhappy with their levels of pay (23%), prompting a potential mass exodus.

The survey tested the respondents’ attitude by asking them to choose between two scenarios – a 3% pay-rise, in line with recent UK increases, or a different non-remuneration benefit:

  • Over a third (36%) said they would prefer a more flexible approach to working hours than a 3% pay-rise;
  • Nearly a third (32%) said they would rather have a clear career progression route;
  • A similar number (29%) would rather their employer invested in their training and development more.

When asked what their employer could do to increase their happiness in their current role,

  • One in 11 (9%) just wanted to be told ‘thank you’ more often;
  • One in 9 (11%) simply wanted more clarity on what their career progression options were.

Without addressing some of these problems, many employers run the risk of losing their valuable, skilled staff, as the economy improves in 2016, concludes Investors in People. See www.investorsinpeople.com/jobexodus2016.

Life Goes Full Circle

Now approaching the ripe old age of 70, your Editor was delighted to see a solution announced to the first research project he undertook when fresh out of University. This was in 1967, when starting work at the sensor/detection systems research laboratory of Plessey Electronics at West Leigh, near Portsmouth. The project was on advanced detection aids for the Home Office Police R&D Branch, and the broad feasibility studies looked at methods of improving Police search methods by introducing scientific aids.

One notable idea was that possibly hidden bundles of banknotes might be recognized and located by using an adapted form of ground radar to detect the resonance of the dipole formed by the metal strip embedded in UK banknotes. Various experiments were undertaken that involved dangling bundles of GBP100 in GBP1 notes within a radar beam, but the effective reflective area was still insignificant compared to the background clutter. The conclusion was that detection might be possible if the metal strip was built with an embedded diode junction, which might enable some sort of mixing of dual frequency waves, but this was dismissed as impractical.

TWIPR Twin Inverted Pulse Radar

A Report by Jason Ford in the Engineer suggests that a new type of radar could be used to detect hidden surveillance equipment, explosives, or any other tagged items. Developed by a team led by Prof Tim Leighton from Southampton University’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the idea is based on the technique used by dolphins to help their sonar signal processing. Their system, called TWIPS, twin inverted pulse sonar, can enhance scattering from a linear target, such as a fish, while suppressing non-linear scattering from oceanic bubbles. The technique uses a transmitted signal consisting of two pulses in quick succession, one identical to the other, but phase inverted. The Engineer reports:

“The Southampton researchers teamed up with Prof Hugh Griffiths and Dr Kenneth Tong of University College London and Dr David Daniels of Cobham Technical Services to test the proposal, by applying TWIPR radar pulses to a ‘target’ (a dipole antenna with a diode across its feedpoint – typical of circuitry in devices associated with espionage or explosives) to distinguish it from ‘clutter’ (represented by an aluminium plate and a bench clamp). In the test, the target showed up 100,000 times more powerfully than the clutter signal from an aluminium plate measuring 34cm by 40cm.”

Useful Applications

In fact, it is said that TWIPR would work the opposite way round to TWIPS, in that it would look for non-linear scattering by the target. Given that the diode target measured 6cm in length, weighed 2.8g, cost less than €1 and requires no batteries, it allows the manufacture of small, lightweight and inexpensive location and identification tags for animals, infrastructure, and for humans entering hazardous areas. These tags could also be tuned to scatter-specific resonances to provide a unique identifier to a TWIPR pulse.

The technique could also be used by skiers, to enable quicker location after avalanche burial, although the technique could be adapted to look for resonances from within standard objects like mobile phones.

 

 

Optical TDLAS process analysers

A new PR from UK instrumentation distributor Quantitech provides a wake-up call, on many levels. Hopefully readers of the INSIDER will already have been woken up to the technology awarement level.

Quantitech has been appointed the exclusive UK and Ireland distributor for Focused Photonics Inc, a supplier of process gas analysers based on tuneable diode laser absorption spectroscopy. TDLAS is one my favourite technology adaptations that has made significant recent progress in process industry instrumentation: maybe on fairly specific difficult applications it’s true. Yokogawa were out there in front, buying the technology developed by Dow Chemicals in 2007, or maybe earlier (believe me I had to look this up on this blog); Endress +Hauser has invested in it for years, big time, and then bought SpectraSensors too, in 2012; predictably, Emerson bought someone in 2014 (Cascade Technologies, a UK technology start-up. And again I had to find the name from an earlier article on this blog). Quantitech MD Keith Golding sees much wider application for these products, on the basis that Focused Photonics already have a world-wide installed population of over 8000 instruments.

The only other report that has quoted decent numbers was one earlier this year, and someone quoted hundreds of TDLAS units offshore measuring the moisture content in North Sea gas, – but the blog has failed to tell me who it was, on that one.

Golding also adds: “Developed out of Stanford University California, the cradle of TDLAS commercialisation, FPi was established in China in 2002 and now employs over 3,000 staff. We have visited a number of LGA installations and were very impressed by the standards of quality and reliability being delivered by these instruments.”

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The FPi factory

Indeed the FPi website confirms the above comments: they have a factory in Hangzhou, China, and claim “FPi is the world leading integrated solutions provider of process control and environmental monitoring. Since being established in 2002 by two elite graduates of Stanford and UC Berkeley, FPi has specialized in analytical instruments innovation and manufacturing.” The two key personnel appear to be Dr Jian Wang, the Chairman, General Manager and Chief Engineer, plus Naxin Yao, another General Manager and Director.

“As a world class innovator in gas, water and particulate analysis technologies, FPI has been acknowledged for its expertise in DLAS (diode laser absorption spectroscopy), DOAS (Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy), UltraViolet, Near-Infrared, Atomic spectroscopy, Molecular spectroscopy, Chromatography, spectrophotometric colorimetry and electrochemistry.” The applications quoted include flue gas monitoring and CEMS systems, air and water quality monitoring, lab analysis and metal analysis systems, as well as process analytical instruments.

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The FPi sensor for duct monitoring

So here we have technology expertise developed by Western (US in this case) universities, then taken up by foreign research students, who, all credit to them, establish a business based on this in China, backed by Chinese investors, and the resulting products, and jobs, arise from this Chinese investment in start-up technology. Not quite what UK PM Cameron sees as the end result of UK University technology expertise leading to high-tech UK jobs. But just what China wants to invest in, to enhance their industry.

Typical FPi applications include ammonia slip control, HCl measurement for sorbent injection optimisation, furnace oxygen, flue gas monitoring in FCC catalyst regeneration, trace H2S and H2O in natural gas, H2S measurements in sulphur recovery, and cross-duct CO monitoring for electrostatic precipitator safety.

Update May 2016

Quantitech have announced that their company has been acquired by Helsinki-based Gasmet Technologies (www.gasmet.com). Quantitech has acted as the Gasmet sales and service partner in the UK and Ireland since 1995: the Gasmet products are used in regulatory monitoring, process control and environment/safety applications. Quantitech will continue to operate from Milton Keynes, retaining the name and their current product range.

Low power, low voltage circuits

Keith Taylor, Vice President of Licensing and Acquisitions for InventionShare, has announced that InventionShare is now looking for licensing partners to license ‘Circuit Seed’ circuit designs as an alternative to traditional low power analog devices.

Taylor said that traditional analog devices can be made to function at very low power levels, however, there are many short comings with these devices as these circuits are complicated and difficult to design and manufacture.  They require a large area with matched pairs and current mirrors while they use very large transistors.  They will generally not work on the small sub 40nm integrated circuits where analog IC process extensions do not exist or there is sufficient voltage swings available with power supplies in the sub 1-volt range.

He also suggested that most circuits are also slow, susceptible to parametric changes and higher noise impacting accuracy, yield and performance.  They generally have insufficient dynamic analog signal swings and operate much slower than digital devices they are associated with.  These analog circuits are designed for specific narrow purposes and manufacturers of these devices often need a large product family due to the limited performance and frequency ranges.

In contrast, Circuit Seed circuits will operate down to less than 0.1V using a 100% digital process.  The circuit designs are much simpler and do not require matched pairs or current mirrors and will function on 40nm and smaller Integrated Circuits.  The overall circuits are also extremely insensitive to parametric changes making precision designs without precision parts a reality.  These circuits also run at logic speed, are self-biasing, and are not subject to parametric changes.  They generally work over a very large frequency range, sensitivity, and accuracy reducing the number of designs necessary by supporting a wide range of applications.

Taylor said “we have a game changer with Circuit Seed, Instead of designing low power analog circuits that barely work in a very limited range, you could be using Circuit Seed, a simpler design with fewer limitations, better performance, higher stability, and greater dynamic range that will reduce the time and cost to design, test, manufacture and support low power circuits.”

InventionShare is now looking for companies that are currently using traditional analog design processes and looking to for a better design, lower cost process for analog circuits.

About InventionShare
InventionShare provides inventors with funding, talent, expert processes to accelerate innovation, patent creation and monetization. Respecting that each of our inventors is the architect and the mastermind behind the invention, we work with our inventors in a professional manner as partners helping them take their inventions to market.

Sensors and Signal Processing at University of Edinburgh

An Academic Industry Meeting day (AIMday) on Sensors & Signal Processing, is being planned at the University of Edinburgh, for companies looking to find an innovative solution to challenges in this technology area..

Sensors & Signal Processing is a key area of expertise at the University: questions about relevant industrial problems submitted in advance will be discussed, each for a one hour period, on the day, by several of a group of academic experts. They will outline several possible pathways to a solution to the problem posed: in the past these AIMday events have proved successful in establishing collaborations and identifying new solutions to challenges facing industry today. The multiple discussions throughout the day will allow companies to assess the strength and depth of expertise at the University of Edinburgh in several areas of sensor and signal processing technology.

The organizers comment that “The announcement of an AIMday focused on the topic of Sensors & Signal Processing is great news for Edinburgh as it coincides with increased emphasis on this sector within Scotland – a sector which generates over GBP2.5Bn ($3.75Bn) for the UK economy. Companies and suppliers within this sector are increasingly looking to R&D to extend their existing products and to reach into new markets. The AIMday event will provide a source of innovative and multi-disciplinary thinking to companies who rapidly need to meet the latest challenges in the market place.”

While the AIMday will not take place until 7th October 2015, to submit your questions for consideration for discussion on the day, the deadline is Friday 17th July. Please submit these via the AIMday website, www.aimday.se/sensors-edinburgh-2015/