Sensors and the Industrial Internet of Things

31 May 2016

The Internet of Things (IoT) opens up new possibilities for networking sensors even when they may be spread over long distances. Sensor signals can be provided at exactly the right time in the place where the information contained in the signals can be used profitably.

The  detection of filling levels using modern sensor technology, for example, is possible in most cases. Where containers are spread over long distances, however,  the transmission of sensor signals can be a costly task.

This has resulted in many automated solutions having to be disregarded with filling levels being monitored manually. However, with networking, via the Internet, level data from a large number of sensors, spread over long distances, can be processed centrally and prepared for further processing.

In such an application, Pepperl+Fuchs, with connectavo, has created an application which uses sensors to record the filling levels of the reservoirs of a number of filling machines in use across various production sites and manages these levels centrally via a cloud platform. The replenishment logistics have been simplified as a result and downtimes, due to a lack of materials, can be avoided. In addition, if the filling level falls below a critical point, a message is sent to the mobile phone of the person responsible for replenishment.

Another application has been implemented with SAP. A sensor for type verification of light units for mobile compressors is used in this application and the data from this sensor is supplied in the cloud of an MES system that organises the material flow for the complete assembly of the compressors.

The increase in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is one of the most important benefits of Industry 4.0 initiatives. One application, from Pepperl+Fuchs, TE Connectivity, and Software AG, uses hardware that can easily be retrofitted. This is based on the sensor level of the SmartBridge interface from Pepperl+Fuchs and on the control and fieldbus level of the spark device of TE Connectivity. These two data ports transmit the extracted performance data via cable or via a radio interface to the business platform of Software AG. This platform allows three important added value services within the context of Industry 4.0 through data consolidation with a downstream analysis:

1. Process optimisation: Spark uses the process data from sensors and actuators from the control level and displays this on a dashboard, which also reveals less obvious delays or micro-downtimes with the help of a historical data recorder.

2. Status monitoring: A correlation of historical events with the actual machine runtimes and maintenance recommendations of the manufacturers provide a good picture of the actual (maintenance) status of the machine or plant.

3. Service on demand: Photoelectric sensors from Pepperl+Fuchs can provide information about diminishing detection capability due to soiling of the exit lens or the reflector. This information is extracted from the machine circuit with the help of the SmartBridge interface and transmitted to a service platform via an Internet gateway. The platform evaluates the status information from the sensors and, where necessary, triggers a field service application, which can be completed either by internal or external maintenance service providers.

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